Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Helen Mirra and Ernst Karel, Maps of Parallels 41N and 49N

From Portugal's avant label ShhPuma comes a most unusual project, Maps of Parallels 41N and 49N (ShhPuma 013CD) by Helen Mirra and Ernst Karel. It is an electroacoustic-instrumental work that literally turns space into time.

It is the offshoot of a film Helen Mirra did abstracting the terrain of a map of the world, translating physical features into colors. For the musical version Helen and Ernst Karel map out the world starting at latitudes 41 degrees N and 49 degrees N. The movement across the surface of the earth is reproduced by sounds within a time scale corresponding proportionately to what one encounters when travelling in a straight line. Land is represented by a guitar motif, railroads by a 16mm film rewind crank, deep water by bass guitar, winds by analog noise generator and filters, and rivers by silences.

So in essence we travel the world in sound for 59 minutes. The scale is 10 seconds for every one degree of movement.

And the sound essay places us with durations of sound that shift with the terrain, in an absorbingly stark abstract work which reproduces the world in very concrete ways.

It is a work that fascinates, mesmerizes, and literally puts you on a journey across our planet. This is not something you would whistle coming home from work. It is in the end a very modern-post-modern essay in sound.


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