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CD Feature/ Richard Francis: "Together Alone, Together Apart"

img  Tobias

Most of the time, we walk around with our sensory system only partially activated. Lost in thoughts, just a small amount of the astounding richness in images and sounds around us reaches our consciousness, while the rest is filtered out as unnecessary, superflous data. To Richard Francis, this loss of information is a waste. In fact, his musical cosmos experiences its  big bang each and every instance his mind picks up a fascinating emmanation, a hollering sound or a subtle noise. His art can be seen as an act of sharing  - and on „Together alone, together apart“ he allows the listener to partake in three short, but vivid street scenes from the city of his memory.

For it is a process of remembering, reconstructing and recontextualising which puts the pieces of the puzzle together. Francis is either not interested in simply carrying a microphone with him wherever he goes or aware of the inbuilt difficulty of capturing a sonic impression on tape. Recordings of indoor and outdoor events and spaces can therefore serve as a spark or a valuable basis to start the compositional process with, but they are never an end in themselves. Different materials, such as Wood, Plastic and various fabrics carry an equal importance in realising his vision, as do old-fashioned record players. The composer, in the eyes of Richard Francis, needs to become truly active again and make use of his own hands to shape the immaterial images of his memory into music.

Even though I greatly appreciate the work of the manifold field recording labels out there, there is a lot to be said for returning repertoire-responsibility to the artist not only in terms of the finished product but also in terms of its physical sound realisation. In the case of Francis at least, the direct physical contact with his materials turns a music full of hiss, grinding, white noise and granular events into a human and  emotional art. While a thick layer of static covers up many of his manipulations, it never serves as a cloak to hide his true face, but rather as a blanket to keep the body warm. Even when there seems to be nothing happening, one instinctively attributes this to the active will of the performer of following the natural breath of the piece.

On two of the three tracks contained in „Together Alone, together apart“, this leads to silent textures moving as delicately as a curtain caressed by the evening wind. Track two, with its nervous subcurrent, is the exception, albeit a nuanced one – in the gentle undulation of its insectoid frequencies, all edges loose their sharpness. It is an associational style, its skin bearing resemblances to processes like rain: Never resting, yet always calm.

Richard Francis' approach is a remarkable renunciation of the general tendency of experimental music of seeing the world holistically. His works instead search for the hidden meanings contained in every atom, their implications and emotive effects. This is also why they can take up to ten minutes to describe moments, which may have lasted no longer than a couple of seconds. The reason is obvious: Time is irrelevant for a composer, who wants his oeuvre to be accurate but not objective.

In the end, both concepts will undoubtedly come to the same conclusions. But it seems important to have someone out there who keeps both eyes open all the time, searching for those singular diamonds lost all too often in our daily lives.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Richard Francis
Homepage: CMR Records

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