Tomas Senkyrik Slavik (Nightingale).
Tomas Senkyrik Slavik (Nightingale) Skupina.
Text: EN. Recorded: 1978, 2017, 2018. Published: 2019. TT: 48:27.
1 MC and digital release, https://skupina.Dandcamp.com/album/slav-k
After a three-year break, this newest work by the Brno-based collective Skupina presents field recordings by sound artist Tomas Senkyrik. This new album is an in-depth exploration of the musical dimension of the song of the nightingale, one of the most famous singers in the animal kingdom. The recording is available as a digital download and a limited edition cassette. Side A captures the song of the nightingale in three locations near Zidlochovice in southern Moravia, combining into one track recordings from 1978, 2017, and 2018. Side B presents recordings from the same locations, but sans nightingale, capturing the rustle of trees and the crackling of ice on the Satava river. At a time when bird numbers are rapidly falling for unknown reasons and speculations include electromagnetic radiation, pesticides, aridity, intensive agriculture, and aviation, Senkyrik's recording inevitably takes on an environmentally critical dimension. It is not simply a commentary on the wider contexts of the life of a single species of bird, however. The musical dimension of birdsong has been developed by a number of composers, and in the case of field recordings, it is an overused natural phenomenon which easily acquires a kitschy character, especially when the artist wants to instantly teleport the listener to an imaginary space of virgin nature. Especially on the second side of the cassette, the layers of sound make it crucially complicated what we can admit as natural and as artificial. The rustles gradually layer over one another, acquiring unusual forms: the rush of water transforms into repeated plane fly-overs or the distant hiss of cars. All this makes it apparent that this is not a musical recording in the traditional sense of the world - not even repeated listenings allow one to get deeper into the recording and the sonic stream remains incomprehensible, which is what gives it its unnatural attraction. Senkyfik's recording thus avoids kitsch, as it does not try to present the nightingale as soothing ambient sounds, instead gaining its engagement by pointing out the impossibility of identifying with inhuman birds. This thought is also extended by the text appended to the recording, in which Vit Bohal develops the ideas of Vilem Flusser. This philosopher, whose fate was very similar to the dynamics of migrating birds, is often referred to primarily as a theorist of visual media, despite the fact that he also worked on sound and music (see the mono-thematic double issue of Flusser Studies magazine). Flusser's work - in addition to radically disrupting the idea of philosophy as a primarily academic discipline for a few initiates - provides many impulses for thinking about the sonic dimension of language. He demonstrates that a musical conception of various forms of speech manifests itself when we don't understand: it's sonic and potentially musical component is developed when the recipient fails to decode a set of signs and ascribe meaning to them. In the case of birds - and perhaps in the world of different music in general - it holds true that we have to not understand first in order to truly know the music hidden in the sounds around us.