Documenting Sound is a new series that will archive recordings made during these tumultuous months by an invited selection of artists from different disciplines and locations around the world. The series will hopefully provide a snapshot taken from the perspective of artists whose world we wanted to inhabit and then encapsulate in physical form for posterity. The only proviso was that the material should be recorded at home or its surroundings, without too much pre-planning or concern for convention. We encouraged artists to experiment with field recordings, found sounds, improvisation, spoken word, songwriting, collage - whatever felt appropriate and real. We were hoping we’d get to hear meaningful and unexpected work, but we also entertained the possibility that we'd get sent a lot of hastily recorded, throwaway hard-drive dumps. We couldn’t have predicted the creatively brilliant twists and turns that would unfold as the material started to come in though - the submissions have been properly inspiring. Over the next few weeks and months we’ll be sharing these highly personalised works of art with you, starting this week with the first instalment; recorded Spring 2020 in Los Angeles by Sarah Davachi.
In Sarah’s own words:
"I've been going through various stages of movement – some days I can't be motivated to do anything and other days I can spend long hours working on music and going deep into it. When I've been able to sit with making music, it's been incredibly meaningful and reconfiguring for me at this moment. I'm thankful to have the time in my studio, a room that is calm and quiet and feels quite distant from the outside world, and this cassette is essentially a reflection of that interiorized state of being.
The music on this cassette is a series of studies and sketches that extend the ideas of two different albums: one that is completed but yet to be released, and another that is in the process of development. The material here is mostly improvised and unedited. The A side is a collection of three acoustic studies for harpsichord, harmonium, and piano. My harpsichord has been my main instrument these past few weeks – I'm working on a record that will use a few different historical temperaments, and right now I've set it to a standard quarter-comma meantone, which is what you hear in this piece. These Renaissance tunings have such depth, a house of endless hallways, and it's been great solace to disappear into them temporarily.
The completed album I referred to is entirely composed of organ – different kinds, larger pipe organs and smaller reed organs and some electric organ – and lately I've really been enjoying the intimacy of smaller organs. I think that it's through this particular organ, a chaplain's foot-pumped harmonium which I acquired in 2014 and featured on Pale Bloom, that I've mostly developed my style of playing organ. My piano, an uncommon Mason & Hamlin model from 1886, is not something I record with often because it's about a half-step out of tune and in need of regulation. She's a special being, though, and in my normal daily routine I play her most mornings for an hour or so.
The B side is a collection of three electronic studies for Mellotron, electric organ, and synthesizer, all with tape echo. These are my chosen electronic instruments, and the ones through which I've always found the highest degrees of stillness and transformation. My Mellotron and my electric organ, a Korg CX-3, are especially frequent tools and the curiosities in those particular tones have kept me at rest over the years. I usually pair them together, but I decided here to go a bit solitary and spend time with each one alone. My synthesizers are like old friends, they were my first passion when I started collecting instruments, and this period of time has been a nice excuse to revisit some of them. Each one is unique, but my EMS Synthi AKS is the one I feel most closely connected to in terms of how it sounds and how it feels. My house in Los Angeles has some peculiarities, and I noticed while working with the Synthi that I was getting some radio interference – in order to bypass it, I had to turn the volume knobs up quite high. Some parameters on the Synthi tend to behave in an unusual manner when their knobs are pushed beyond around 7 or so, but I often like to incorporate that saturated quality so it worked out well."
Sarah Davachi / Los Angeles / Spring 2020