Novi_sad: Inhumane Humans
Sub Rosa

Aside from the recording's suggestive title, the first clue that this new work from Greek composer Thanasis Kaproulias (aka Novi_sad) will be more provocative than usual comes from the fact that it's released as part of Sub Rosa's New Series Framework. Recorded and produced in Athens and Ancient Olympia during the summer of 2008, Inhumane Humans presents two field-recorded soundscapes of dramatically contrasting character, the first a harrowing setting whose thematic focus concerns the Srebrenica genocide and the second a powerful setting assembled from aircraft-associated sounds.

Based on field recordings made in the Ancient Oympia area in Greece, “Srebrenica” begins as a peaceful portrait of the natural world, dominated as it is by a wealth of cicada chirps and rumbling sounds that issue forth during its initial moments. But five minutes into the twenty-six-minute setting, the mood grows considerably darker when a metallic drone appears, gradually building in strength and volume as it's peppered by blips of Mose Code-like design, abrasive tearing noises, and the violent creak and clatter of barn doors. Just before the halfway mark, a human presence surfaces in the form of a woman's speaking voice and screams (amplifying the unsettling tone of the material even more, the female voice is of a woman who was raped repeatedly while pregnant during the Bosnian civil war and who is recounting her experiences to psychologists). As if to push the nightmare to an entirely new level of intensity, a brutalizing blast of digital noise suddenly appears, burying all other sounds within a cyclonic mass until they're all but inaudible. That wave eventually subsides, allowing the submerged elements to once again reassert themselves though now scarred by the ordeal.

Using aircraft sounds recorded during flights through Canada, Europe, and the United States (or, as Kaproulias wrly notes, Air Canada, Lufthansa, and Delta Airlines were some of the companies who were “gently audio hijacked” for the piece), “Aircraft Noises” roars at a loud pitch from its opening moment, with the total sound suggestive of multiple aircraft layers having been melded into a seething, rippling mass. Other sounds filter in—the bleep of a seat-belt signal, the booming transmission of flight safety instructions, and war aircrafts taking off and landing at war airports in Greece—to add more sonic bricks to an already immense wall. The piece remains at that unrelenting pitch for its full thirteen-minute run yet never crosses the line to become harsh and unpleasant. Though by no means easy listening, both works follow clearly delineated, even conventional trajectories in their narrative arcs and consequently hold together despite their combustible character, but even more notably, Novi_sad has created in the pieces—“Srebrenica” especially—soundscape worlds never before encountered.

June 2011