Andreas Bick: Fire and Frost Pattern

Despite the polarities associated with fire and ice, the sounds that emerge during this recording's two pieces are such that at times they could as easily respresent one as much as the other (a trudging rhythm that emerges in “Fire Pattern” could pass for someone trudging through snow, for example). In accompanying liner notes, Andreas Bick makes the same point in acknowledging that the sounds associated with the two elements—the loudest ones linked to volcanic eruptions and colliding icebergs—are sometimes indistinguishable. In the recording's two twenty-six-minute pieces, the Marl, Germany-born sound artist, known for writing music for films and radio plays, explores the full spectrum of sounds associated with the elements, from the loudest (eruptions and tremors) to the softest (the almost inaudible noises made by snowflakes and coals). Though some degree of modification was applied to the raw material, the integrity of the originating sounds is preserved in the recordings.

“Fire Pattern” opens with the repeated sound of a volcanic eruption that's as fierce as a granite structure collapsing or an amplified wave crashing. That initial episode is followed by skittering figures that suggest fire igniting, and as the piece continues, convulsions and crackling appear, often woven together so that alternating contrasts of loud and soft emerge. Near the end, a deep, guttural drone appears that, strangely enough, sounds as much like Tuvan throat singing as it does anything fire-related. Like the first piece, “Frost Pattern” opens with violent sounds, in this case stemming from an iceberg collision, after which oscillating pitches of creaks, crackles, and groans surface. At certain moments, dribbling sounds identify the source material as water-related, but at other times the sounds assume a more elusive quality that makes them sound less associative though still elemental.

What's especially impressive is how Bick takes such natural sounds and sequences them into field recording compositions, as opposed to merely presenting them as unrelated streams of varying sounds. As a result, one hears the two pieces as compositions of an unusual sort that are in some strange way suggestive of classical form in their structural design. Equally fascinating are Bick's detailed descriptions (in the booklet that comes with the recording) where he writes about “singing flames” (within glass tubes, gas flames are tuned to specific notes), “ice sizzle” (as glacial ice melts in the sea, bubbles of air create an explosive popping noise that becomes a multi-voiced sizzle), and the crackle of snowflakes and the creak of cracking ice. Ultimately, the two pieces on this fascinating recording unlock some of the sonic mysteries of the earth's primal elements by granting such an up-close perspective, and they also serve as a reminder of their indomitable status.

January 2011