A little relief: soothing sounds for uncertain times

Here at The Calvert Journal, if we had to describe 2020 in four succinct words, it would probably be “autoscrolling apocalyptic news dump”.

18 March 2020
Top image: Bruce Collier

Since the recent Covid-19 outbreak, many of us have seen our worlds become much smaller, much quicker than we’d ever expected. Not only are our newsfeeds a 24/7 assault on the senses, but many of the things we would have done for respite in times of stress — a drink with friends, a workout at the gym, a trip to the movies — are off the table indefinitely.

Which is why, just for an hour or so, we want you to come with us on a virtual vacation. There’s no need to leave your house, or your room, or even your desk. Instead, just plug in your headphones. This week, we’ve selected some of the best playlists and podcasts from both The Calvert Journal and elsewhere, ready to transport you to other worlds — even when borders stay closed.

Image: Bruce Collier

Nominated by UNESCO as a “Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity”, Albanian choral singing is unique for its inclusion of iso — a long, continuous monophonic drone that resonates beneath a polyphony of voices. British/German filmmaker Dan Shutt captured the phenomenon in his directorial debut, Washed by the Moon, set against a backdrop of the dreamy mountains of Labëria in southern Albania.

“The best thing about iso is that anyone round the table can join in, as long as they can hit that note,” says Shutt. This makes it a very community-spirited type of singing, which is its inherent value and why it still exists.”

Image: Andi Elloway

Listening to Sophia Saze’s intricate two-part record, Self, you get a sense that the Tbilisi-born techno DJ purposefully adds pockets of home comfort into her tracks.

Her songs aren’t just inspired by memories; they are memories — unfettered, unreliable, colliding with one another. In her own words: “I really wanted to put you in that headspace, when you’re being sidetracked by different thoughts.”

“Today, we feel super connected when actually a lot of us are disconnected,” she says. “Looking back on nostalgic memories can be a brief remedy for this feeling.”

Image: CES Creative Education Studio

Sleepers, Poets, Scientists is the first LP from the CES Creative Education Studio, an experimental school specialising in sound, audio, and design, which has been running for more than seven years in Tbilisi.

This is a gentle, healing record; it draws you into a soothing sonic world, which beautifully marries ambient, atmospheric, and classical music.

Delicate and peaceful yet completely uninhibited, the record forces you to focus on individual elements, whether it’s drifting saxophone, the gurgling of hardware, or chirping bird song.

A road through the Caucasus mountains. Image: Konstatin Malenchev under a CC licence

Our friends at the Caucasus All Frequency platform and podcast take a holistic look at musical culture in the Caucasus, publishing in both English and Armenian. The team works not just to document and preserve the music itself, but also to try and find a better understanding of the roles that music plays in one part of the world. Recorded earlier this month, this edition looks at lullabies — because just as the team says, “what everyone needs during this difficult time is reassurance.” We couldn’t agree more.

Image: Alisa Aiv

Berdsk is a small town to the south of Novosibirsk. Living in these parts, you get used to being surrounded by sylvan greenery and open expanses — in winter, the reservoir freezer over and metamorphoses into a vast snowy field. The pace of life here is far from blistering; peace and tranquillity, bred by a silence so profound you can make out the merest rustle. The music released by Shalash — a local record label that drew inspiration from the ambient sounds and natural innocence of the world outside its creators’ windows — engendered the same sensations over its modest 11-month lifespan, catching attention far away, in the likes of Moscow and St Petersburg.

“I don’t need much — I have my room, and what I’ve built for myself here might be a museum, it might be a lab, or it might even be a crypt,” says co-founder Yegor Klochikhin. “Maybe it’s an old-fogey kind of existence, but I just don’t feel the need to rush out somewhere to do stuff.”

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