There’s a difference between sampling a Nina Simone song and sampling a forest. The wind and trees have no lawyers waiting to stake a claim on the composition that results. The composer John Luther Adams, for example, doesn’t wake up in the middle of the night, sweating, worried that he’ll be hauled into Alaska’s Supreme Court to face charges of pilfering the recordings that have served as the bedrock of some of his works. The Park Service isn’t trolling whosampled.com looking for litigation fodder.
So, if there’s nothing to hide, then what is there to gain? To what extent does it matter, does it help, for a listener to know the source of a field recording appearing in music that takes that field recording and manipulates it, transforms it? The question isn’t central to “Pathways in the Inverted Forest” by Will Thomas Long, but it does linger.
For 20 minutes, the lulling track, a drone that shift this way and that, like a moored boat, gives one plenty of time to think. The brief liner note at the relatively new netlabel Absence of Wax informs us that the piece consists of synthesized sounds and field recordings, and was created in Tokyo, Japan, this past month.
We don’t, from the way the information is phrased, technically know that the field recordings are from Japan, or even from a forest — they’re implications of the title and cover image, but that is all. It’s worth spending time listening through the piece for its sample source. Are there telltale wind currents, textures, some aural fingerprint?
More on Long at thesingularwe.org and devinsarno.com/absenceofwax. He is best known as half of Celer, the duo he established with his wife, the late Danielle Marie Baquet, who passed away in 2009 a few weeks short of her 27th birthday.