V/A Sounds Like Silence (CD Gruenrekorder)

From what I gather, this disc was released to coincide with an exhibition of the same name that ran for several months in Dortmund, Germany, until early 2013. Both, as one might suspect, honour(ed) John Cage’s own ‘silent’ meisterwerk, ‘4:33’, and indeed the very concept of ‘silence’ the piece was designed to explore. Silence, of course, does not exist, yet constantly remains a motivation for us (as John Gray illustrates all too clearly in his excellent book, The Silence of Animals). Cage himself proved this before ‘4:33’, a piece inspired by his ongoing interest in Zen Buddhism and, more particularly, the anechoic chamber at Harvard University, which he visited in 1951 and understood after that despite the said chamber’s ability to absorb sound, his own blood circulation and other bodily sounds could still be heard.

This notion, and indeed a very clear playing on it via the title itself, is what forms the basis of this collection of carefully selected pieces collected by curators Dieter Daniels and Inke Arns. Mostly formed around a radio play that’s unfortunately (for me, at least) in German. Each part (or ‘room’ as they are here called) toys with different aspects of silence, its perception and its purported opposite in sound. Utilising interview snippets, concert recordings and the like that themselves include Cage, Dave Allen, Stephen Vitiello, Brandon LaBelle and Einsturzende Neubauten, amongst others.

The segments in English, of course, make for an interesting listen, but so much is lost due to the German language. All the same, it serves as a great taster to what is both an intriguing concept and, indeed, an exhibition I’m certain would be worth visiting anywhere. Silence, after all, at least translates in any language. RJ

Contact: www.gruenrekorder.de