sculpt in hopeless silence

The time I burned my guitar, it was like a sacrifice.
You sacrifice the things you love. I love my guitar.
~ Jimi Hendrix

If you’re trapped in the dream of the other, you’re fucked.
~ Gilles Deleuze

The longer one dwells in the fields of the music written about here [and there, cf. the honor roll to the right of this page], the more likely it is that one will lose his grasp on just how near-invisible all this work really is. The internet meme, sparked by that increasingly fetid banner-bearer of modern music out of London, states that about 150 folks regularly attend to these fields, world-wide. Whatever the scope of the thing, I like to remind myself of this-not at all because I confuse esoteric with virtuous [obscurity, Napoleon famously said, is forever!], but because I esteem highly those who labor principally for the sake of the work.

One such laborer is the Lisbon-based guitarist, Pedro Chambel. Chambel holds a doctorate in medieval history, works in academic research, and issues his solo works at the rate of three-per-decade, a refreshing antidote to the unfettered prolixity of many of his fellow improvisers.

From the first, the 2001 release Anamnesis, a work of unspooled, unstable micro-sounds that seem to consist of a guitar’s entrails and viscera, to last year’s exacting listen, Utpote, Chambel has drilled and distilled his guitar into the smallest pools and eddies of sound possible.

Utpote approaches Sachiko M’s sine work in its focus and rigor. He is working with only the sparest reference to the guitar’s historical characteristics, creating a substrata of noises that rise and fall around a continuous, 38 minute burred, possibly e-bowed, tone. Utpote seldom rises, the steady-state, spinal-tone aside, above nearly inaudible. Press up closer, and there’s a world of febrile activity at work-pliant, tactile and aflutter, what is striking about these recondite sounds is how many of them issue from Chambel’s hands themselves. You can hear his caresses, fussing and flickering over the instrument’s body, the ceaseless tonal hum and what is at play around it more like some sort of light cast, than music.

Chambel, like Sachiko M, and a few other contemporaries, trusts his listeners to find in the sparest of sound worlds the evocative and vital, albeit heard quite often only if you incline carefully to sift through the sonic shavings and silt. The self-limits and rigor of his approach over the past decade, to say nothing of the modest release schedule, is intriguing to me. Chambel is dreaming his own sound; we should pause now and then, and consider the sacrifice.

Fractal Sources, for information on Chambel’s three releases – Anamnesis [2001], bruit [2005], and Utpote [2010]. I recommend all three, as, considered together, Chambel’s narrative is distinct, his distillation, starting from zero, the more impressive.

Let us sculpt in hopeless silence
all our dreams of speaking

~Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet

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