Martin Kay: Courtyards
Can't afford a trip to Paris? For an extremely modest sum, you can at least visit many of its courtyards via the latest work by Australian phonographer Martin Kay, which presents an hour's worth of field recordings captured at shared spaces in the city. Recorded during the summer of 2013, Courtyards' sounds will resonate immediately with those who've walked Paris's streets, breathed its air, and absorbed the speech interactions of adults and children alike. In these settings, sounds of kids running and playing and domestic activity abound, each piece a mini-portrait of a particular space within the city; Kay's even used actual addresses as titles, just in case you feel inclined to visit the place yourself.
Don't think that one courtyard's the same as another, by the way. As Kay's recording shows, some are noisy and boisterous (“40 Rue des Amandiers, 75020”), others sedate and subdued (“83 Rue de Bagnolet, 75020 Paris”), and a pretty strong impression of the social dynamics within the different neighbourhoods emerges as the release progresses. By Kay's own description, his sound works are “constructed primarily from un-mixed and un-edited environmental sound recordings,” so the field recordings are generally presented in a raw and untainted form. Kay, in other words, doesn't treat the field recording as an element to be added to with an instrument or transformed in some radical manner. For him, the details that emerge within the field recording—traffic noise, a siren, a baby burbling, a flute-player practicing, people talking and laughing—are, it seems, enough.There is one unusual thing about this otherwise straightforward recording (at least the digital version sent to me): the inclusion of a protracted gap of silence between the tracks. Such breaks certainly do accentuate the contrast between the high level of activity in the setting proper and the silence that follows, but they do tend be longer than necessary (often about a minute).