Seth Cluett: Objects Of Memory (Line)
Seth Cluett’s pieces here are incredibly subtle. He combines traditional instruments with appropriated objects and mis-used materials to generate very minimal layers of sound. Instead of sounding like deliberate arrangements, these often result in sounding like overtones and incidental sounds. The first three extended tracks are a clever albeit understated combination of traditional arrangements with found sounds or otherwise concrete or field recordings. “Objects In Stillness” is a piece for bassoon, viola, guitar, percussion, and four sine tones that slowly evolves; I find it to consistently teem with tension, especially as it builds in volume. “A Radiance Scored With Shadow” is even more sublime, recorded with bass drum, bowed vibraphone, amplified paper and compressed air. Of all the pieces here, it’s perhaps my favorite, in just how subdued it is; its shifts in sound are almost imperceptible, nailing what Cluett is going for conceptually — that inability to necessarily perceive change while the parts are actually in constant motion. "A Murmur Which Redoubles,“ on the other hand, is less subtle, though still sparse, arranged for 4 sine tones, three guitars, and electric bass. But all three initial tracks share that same exploration of space and sound, both "traditional” (coming from musical instruments) and unconventional (field recordings, textures, objects). The last two are less organic in arrangement, but no less so in form, continuing the theme of slowly evolving sound that feels at once constant and changing, none more so than the untitled title track (yes, you read that right). It fades in and out of audibility with hums, tones and drones over the span of 26 minutes, mostly from sine tones, feedback and cassette players. Turn it up and soak in it — and then wonder if that ringing in your ear is part of the recording or not… it just might not be.
Here’s Cluett’s more formal introduction to this body of work, as cut and pasted from the Line website:
These works occupy a position between an expanded notion of composition and a gallery-based art practice. The content of the works presented on this disc produce a slow series of gestures that give the illusion of stillness amidst a texture of continually developing material. The central concern in all of these pieces (the three fully scored works, the installation documentation, and the live-performance) is the construction of a sound world that is able to be environmental rather than temporal, proceeding slowly enough that it might be explored without the anxiety that it will move away too quickly. Like much of my output, I am interested in providing the listener with material that allows for an active agency of perception and that affords the ability to move through the sound autonomously. Whether the work is gallery-based, conceptual, or created for a concert hall, I am interested in viewing simple, everyday actions at extreme magnification, acknowledging failure by amplifying impossible tasks, and exploring the role of memory in forms that respect the contract between the composer, performer, and listener.