The latest work by minimalist sound sculptor Robert Curgenven—a meditative ambient record—sprang from the same stimulus as the video for one of 2015’s biggest pop hits: Drake’s “Hotline Bling”. That is, both the Australian experimental composer and Canada’s crown jewel of hip-pop drew inspiration from California-born artist James Turrell’s work with light and space.
For Curgenven, it was Turrell’s Skyspaces that informed his Climata album, a double CD that arrived via Dragon’s Eye Recordings and his own Recorded Fields imprint in August. Since the 1970s, Turrell has travelled the world to build over 80 Skyspaces, which are carefully designed architectural structures where the walls are painted a neutral color and lined with benches so onlookers can gaze through a portal in the ceiling at the expanse above. Curgenven visited 15 of these locations across nine countries and created 200 individual field recordings at each site. He layered them on top of each other to create the six 19-minute tracks on Climata, and so the listener can “hear” the Skyspaces and the surrounding terrain that shape the airflow Curgenven makes audible on each song; beneath and around a hollow ringing tone there’s an ambient hush like breath or waves and noises from birds outside.
Just as Curgenven layered the individual recordings to create various combinations between the different Skyspaces, so too can the listener play both CDs in any order or at the same time. And we’ve taken this idea one step further with the interactive map above, which Curgenven developed with programmer Paddy Horgan, that allows users to play recordings made at each Skyspace and recombine the “notes” Curgenven used to make Climata. Horgan’s map marks the location of each Skyspace Curgenven visited with photos from the site and links it to a sound recorded there that you can activate, shut off and layer over another. For example, try playing 13 (National Gallery of Australia) then 7 (Kunsthalle Bremen, Germany) then 5 (Museum der Moderne in Salzburg, Germany) to get an idea of the sounds interacting with one another, and you’ll really be able to hear the air moving as the recordings modulate each other.
Cover photo of the Twilight Epiphany Skyspace via James Turrell’s website.