Tellus Jewel Box, 1992
A Harvestworks 15th anniversary production
Cover art by Kiki Smith
01 Anne LeBaron ‘Blue Harp Study 1’ (4:39)
02 Laetitia Sonami ‘Story Road’ (10:00)
03 Sussan Deihim ‘Navai’ (5:50)
04 Bun Ching Lam ‘EO-9066’ (15:21)
05 Catherine Jauniaux & Ikue Mori ‘Smell’ (4 :10)
06 Sapphire ‘Boys Love Baseball’ (2:30)
07 Mary Ellen Childs ‘Ruler Etude: a work in progress’ (2:15)
08 Michelle Kinney ‘Coordinated Universal Time’ (12:25)
09 Anne LeBaron ‘Blue Harp Study 2’ (6:57)
Harvestworks’ Artist-In-Residence program allowed edible artists using sound to benefit from a New York professionally equiped studio called Studio PASS, whose technicians in 1992 were Alex Noyes and Brian Karl. This is were the pieces on this CD were conceived, some making full use of the studio facilities (rerecording, sampler), so that the ‘Jewel Box’ of the title might as well be the studio itself.
Teheran born Sussan Deihim‘s Navai is an a cappella song making full use of the rerecording technique to create a small choir duetting with Deihim’s own leading vocals. Her warm voice sends chills to one’s spine, as in the landmark 1986 album ‘Desert Equations: Azax Attra’ (with Richard Horowitz). Bun-Ching Lam‘s EO-9066 is another vocal exploit, using fragments and sampler recombinations of voice samples. With wind sounds a permanent feature, the soundscape thus created is bleak and depressed, though actually an elegy to the internment of Japanese americans in the US during WWII. The most complex and ambitious piece on this CD. Ikue Mori deploys her usual devilish drum machine programing on her duo with belgian singer Catherine Jauniaux delivering a poem of her own on the subject of odors and… Smell. There’s something of Jean Dubuffet in these experiments with words and sonorities. I had never thought a humble plastic ruler would produce such gorgeous sounds, as in Mary Ellen Childs‘ Ruler Etude. It sounds like musique concrete’s basic experiments from the 1940s (Pierre Schaeffer: Etude aux objets, Etude aux chemins de fer, Etude aux casseroles).
Several contributions on Jewel Box are based on storytelling of one kind or another. From the plain text reading by Sapphire, to the elaborated Laetitia Sonami narratives (from texts by writer Melody Summer), it is interesting to notice how much these composers refer to the oral tradition of story telling. I might conjecture they were trying to emancipate themselves from the forefathers of US experimental music to explore lesser known territories with less references. This should be the rule for any musician, as far as I’m concerned.