Among an extensive range of approaches to field recording both by Jason Kahn and in the material on this release’s label, Winds Measure Recordings, we are here offered a narrative proxy. Jason Kahn describes in English his experience in two separate and rather disparate locales in Japan. The observations are both mundane and insightful and the events that unfold are similar to what would be recorded in each place every other day. While questions of framing and the risk (or pleasure) of alienation continually arise around the practice of unadulterated field recording, the further subjectification of a space to a single narrated perspective brings these issues into very sharp focus.
‘Shibuya’ in particular shatters the listener’s conceptions of what such a space must sound like when all of the descriptions flow in an evenly delivered linear fashion. My intuition would describe Kahn as more novelist than sound artist here – the connotation of fiction is perhaps not accidental. While a field recording would at first seem more documentary, giving a wider swath of input for an audience to consume, the physical alienation of the space from the listener makes a claim of comprehension no more or less absurd than one based solely on Kahn’s 18 minute descriptions of his hours spent there. Indeed, Kahn’s vocal recreation of the space as a physical and psychological witness to it (and therefore a co-producer of it) is perhaps more accurate than the unobtrusive presence of a inanimate object faithfully capturing hertz or frames. For those familiar with his past works, this plays well as a counterpoint to Kahn’s performance of Manfred Werder’s 2005¹, both conceptually and acoustically.
Beyond such rhetoric, the two pieces make for engaging listens in their own right. ‘Daitoku-ji’ is quietly contemplative and pretty in the mind’s eye, while several of the character descriptions in ‘Shibuya’ will have the listener laughing out loud. Recommended.
You can read Kahn’s own notes on the work (as well as purchase the release itself) at Winds Measure Recordings.