JEFF TALMAN: Nature of the Night Sky (2011) – New Domain Records

by | Nov 22, 2011 | Classical CD Reviews

JEFF TALMAN: Nature of the Night Sky (Sounds of stars in the forest night) (2011), New Domain Records Binaural CD, 50:22 [www.jefftalman.com] ****:
This was probably the most difficult recording to decide on a category due to its extreme experimental nature. Jeff Talman is an artist working in various media including sound, light, video, sculpture, graphics and photography.  He trained as a composer but after repeated visits to the St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague he determined that Room Tone, or the ambient sound of a space, is sufficient to active the resonance of the space, providing unique sonic perceptual data of the site. He has created installations based on this in such places as Chicago’s St. James Cathedral, a marine center on the Mediterranean, a wind turbine site in Finland, and this CD is a sound example of his recent night time installation in the Bavarian Forest of Gibacht. NPR did a piece on the project back in August.
Talman addresses the inherent spatial resonance not as though it is unwanted interjected foreign sound, but rather to amplify aspects of the sound of the site that offer direct acoustical knowledge of the space itself. For the Bavarian forest installation, he used the stellar sonic resonance of 15 stars, working in collaboration with astrophysicist Daniel Huber of the Sydney Institute of Astronomy in Australia. They used radiation and gravitational data from the stars and shaped it into music we can hear. The installation used five-channel audio with tree-mounted speakers above a natural forest amphitheater, and took place nightly after sundown from May 7 thru September 18.
Talman’s original intent was to release the recording as a 5.0-channel SACD, but he found SACD so prohibitively expensive to produce that he decided on creating the binaural information in the software and issuing the CD as a standard two-channel source, but designed to listen to via stereo headphones for a 360-degree surround effect in binaural. That also greatly increases the number of persons who are able play back the recording.
So what does it sound like?  A Bavarian review referred to a whirring, buzzing, roar, waterfall, Gregorian chant, and summed up that it is “simply not of this world.”  I could agree with that.  The sounds are continuous, mostly high-pitched (though they go up and down), and glassy-sounding. Sometimes they reminded me of thousands of tones from signal generators. I only auditioned them on headphones, but I would think the difference information preserved in most binaural recordings would also translate to a good surround sound effect using ProLogic II or something similar.
—John Sunier

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