Recommended Listening: Ben Seretan - Cicada Waves
After writing that "absolute silence doesn't exist" in her book Transcendent Waves, Lavender Suarez goes on to explain that "even if silence is unattainable, we can still be receptive to what approximations of it we can find, utilizing them as open spaces to reflect our surroundings, sensations, emotions, and inner monologues." Well it's too bad that Transcendent Waves wasn't published about six months sooner, because Ben Seretan had to figure this out for himself.
Last summer, Seretan traveled to the base of the Appalachian Mountains for a two-week artist residency. He had been given the opportunity to record a solo piano album on a vintage Steinway, and the musician/composer was very much looking forward to capturing his pristine key strokes in a silent setting, devoid of extraneous noise or pesky distractions.
What Seretan found upon arrival was quite different than the peaceful image he had imagined. Creaky floorboards. Rain pelting the roof. Rolling thunderstorms. Cats. Birds. BUGS. Turns out that the forest is quite noisy. Cacophonous, really. So Seretan did the only thing he could: he pivoted. The artist writes:
"It was clear the moment I hit 'record' that any sound I captured from the piano would always carry some other sound with it. There would be no silence whatsoever. So I gave in—I threw open the windows and let the world in."
And the results are stunning. I mean, this is coming from someone who leans in to catch the microwave beep on Grouper's Labyrinth, who appreciates the candid banter and field recordings sprinkled throughout Grace Fergusen's Voler, and who recently praised a track which blended popcorn noise with an otherwise uninterrupted piano melody. But seriously, the imperfections, the little sounds found on Cicada Waves only add to the beauty of Seretan's album. His piano provides the arcing melody, but the textured background completes his work.
The song titles take away the mystery of what you will hear on Seretan's album: cicadas, rain, thunderstorms, crickets. But knowing the piano + _____ equation ahead of time does not at all detract from the listening experience. Each of the seven long constructions are captivating. I joked with my partner that this was an album made for me, what with its minimalist piano and field recording blend, so check it out his Bandcamp page on April 30th (released through NNA Tapes) to see if it's your jam too. Hear a preview track below.