[ reviews ]

buildings [new york]23. building [new york] [ rec. 2001 ]

> rel. 2001 - V2_Archief, The Netherlands ()
Francisco López "Buildings [New York]" (CD - V2_Archief, The Netherlands, 2001)
Considering the tragedy that happened only a few days ago in New York, the release of this CD comes at a somewhat unhappy moment. But that is of course something that nobody could have anticipated in advance. Again the CD comes with a closed booklet, to be read only if one desires so. So I didn't. These recordings are the direct result of a commission by Creative Time for a project in and around Brooklyn Bridge Anchorage. López has recorded sounds of buildings in New York, much as he recorded sounds in the La Selva Forest in Costa Rica for the CD La Selva, that was released by V2_Archief as well. The design of both is very similar and so is the approach of the work. As with La Selva, Buildings is one long piece, that slowly evolves and changes over time. One big difference is the nature of the sounds; on La Selva it was quite clear that the sounds were recorded in a natural environment. On Buildings the sounds have a somewhat more abstract character: whizzing and whirring and other obscure sounds are less easily related to concrete (living) objects such as birds or cicadas. On the other hand it could be said that most people are probably just as familiar with these sounds as with natural ones, which might reduce the abstraction. So, back to the piece. I think that it would not go too far to state that López again offers us a total listening experience. It is very easy to get completely immersed in the world that he puts before our ears, drifting from one space to another in anonymous buildings, that have actually become huge machines for living (or should I say: living machines?). In all its richness, this work is pretty overwhelming and once more López has proven his artistic capacities. Address: www.v2.nl/archief Vital Weekly (The Netherlands, 9/01)

Francisco López "Buildings [New York]" (CD - V2_Archief, The Netherlands, 2001)
Another amazing environmental immersion from this groundbreaking performer and composer. He is redefining the idea of the meaning of sound. No Pigeonholes (USA, 2/02)

Francisco López "Buildings [New York]" (CD - V2_Archief, The Netherlands, 2001)
A rare, unprocessed release from the maestro of "profound listening." Those who have experienced his other widely-available disc of straightforward field recordings, La Selva, recorded in aural hot spots of the Costa Rican rainforest, will find a striking similarity in this project, which takes us into the beating heart of New York's man-made wilderness.
As with La Selva, López presents what may superficially resemble the illusory fantasies of natural sound purists: here is New York with nary a human voice or automobile sound. But instead of "untrammelled nature", we are immersed in the subtle, airy ambiences of machine rooms, elevator shafts, and heating systems of the city's office and residential buildings.
What is most striking is the ways that the rhythmic pulses, bursts of activity, and droning backdrops resemble the similar layers of sound heard in the "wild." Yet as always, López' intention is not to create a documentary experience, but to offer our ears a singular listening experience, one in which we may step outside the known and enter directly into an auditory relationship with the world, or perhaps more to his point, with sound.
The disc, like La Selva, is presented as one long unbroken piece, consisting of shorter immersions of 3-7 minutes each, with crossfades between them. A booklet contains López' standard warning against reading it (suggesting an unmediated listening as the ideal experience), as well as a concise statement of his philosophy regarding environmental recordings, and an essay by noted eco-philospher Evan Eisenberg. www.earthear.com (USA, 2002)

Francisco López "Buildings [New York]" (CD - V2_Archief, The Netherlands, 2001)
I think that it would not go too far to state that López again offers us a total listening experience. It is very easy to get completely immersed in the world that he puts before our ears, drifting from one space to another in anonymous buildings, that have actually become huge machines for living (or should I say: living machines?). In all its richness, this work is pretty overwhelming and once more López has proven his artistic capacities. Vital Weekly (The Netherlands, september 2001)

Francisco López "Buildings [New York]" (CD - V2_Archief, The Netherlands, 2001)
When people ask me about my taste in music, I tell them, somewhat facetiously, that I've gone beyond banal things like rhythm and melody and lyrics moved on to pure noise: recordings of elevators, washing machines, refrigerators, and blenders. Granted, I only tell them this to shut them up and leave me the hell alone. But there is some truth in it. While I do enjoy the occasional beat and melody, when I go to my computer, shuffle through iTunes looking for something to listen to, I find myself more often than not gravitating towards works like Francisco López's Buildings [New York], a work composed entirely of sound fragments López procured while wandering around big buildings in NYC. This is environmental music in its most elemental form: music that has not been processed or altered or edited, just recorded. What's amazing about the disk is the variety of sounds López managed to stuff onto the work's single, one-hour long track. It's remarkable how similar many of the sounds found here are to sounds on other disks by artists who use computers to create, edit, process, reprocess, and otherwise manipulate sound. There's no obvious rhythm, and there's no obvious melody, but there's obviously music floating around in those buildings in New York.
Of course, there's a difference between going to a building in New York (or any city) and listening to the sounds of elevators, air conditioning systems, cables, pipes, air ducts, boilers, clocks, thermostats, video cameras, and so on, and listening to a recording of these sounds that has been carefully compiled by an artist of López's caliber. First, López listened to these sounds before I did; he studied a variety of sounds and chose these specific sounds to include on this disk. I don't know how long he spent doing this, but I'm sure it was longer than an hour.
So there were probably lots of boring sounds in those buildings, and he only picked the interesting ones for this disk. Second, if I were in the building listening to these soundsóeven the good onesóthe sounds would (for the most part) have a clear referent. I would know what object created what sound, or, at the very least, I would know where the sounds came from and could then guess their origin. Because, on a disk, there is some separation between myself and the events recorded, and because I do not know what makes what sound, I can imagine that a droning, hissing sound is the sound of electronic hamburgers grilling on a hot stove, or that the intense humming sound that just builds and builds and builds until it cuts off in mid hum is the sound of a fat man plugged into an electric chair, bursting at the seams until he bursts, all his organs splattering everywhere. I can imagine anything I want on a disk like this; that's much harder to do when I'm face to face with the crashing elevator doors or the humming air duct.
Now, the great problem most people have with music like this is that it is so obviously experimental, so obviously designed not for listeners but to prove a point or explore a concept that belies the actual listening experience. In other words, music like this was made by and for elitist snobs who think that they are better than everyone else because they're willing to sit and listen to this shit. To an extent, I am sympathetic to that particular point of view. As I work in the academic world, I have encountered my share of snobby assholes and have detested every single one of them. The thing is, Francisco López is not one of those assholes, and his music is anything but a challenge or a dare. It is, quite simply, a fun disk because there's so much here to listen to and enjoy.
Sure, it's music culled from everyday life, but that's what makes it so interesting. Who knew modern, lifeless buildings could sound like this? López's work puts an acoustic mirror up to our own lives, and challenges us to listen to the noise of our world in a different way. And that's interesting, no matter what your taste in music might be. www.stylusmagazine.com (2003)

Francisco López "Buildings [New York]" (CD - V2_Archief, The Netherlands, 2001)
Francisco López is a leading light in the world of experimental or avant-garde music. He is especially renowned for his minimalism and systematic presence of silence inside his compositions. On this new release of the Dutch V2 Archief label, you can hear the resulting work realized under the commission of a project around Brooklyn Bridge Anchorage (by the way, listen also to the John Hudak "Brooklyn Bridge" CD on Alluvial to hear another approach).
Here no presence of silent segments but instead a long piece of manipulations of urban backgrounds recordings. The music is one piece slowly and constantly evolving between discrete town sounds (as building site noises) and more abstracts parts composed by buzzing and whizzing sounds. Sometimes you have the sensation that you just have heard the same fragment 10 minutes ago.
And here I think lies the magic of this record : López delicately arranges and plays with environnemental sounds that are so familiar to every human being living in towns, that is, almost everybody. Eventually he manages to transcend the daily urban sound spectrum in an memorable way. Moreover, this CD could be considered as the urban counterpart of his preceding record on V2, "La Selva" which was a soundwork based on tropical natural field recordings. In conclusion, this CD is really excellent and should be considered by any fan of field recordings artworks. www.bobmorlock.com (2003)