Saturday, 5 March 2011

Untitled with rain

John Fahey's instrumental Untitled with Rain, timing in at just under 24 minutes, is a mesmerizing piece. It is included on his final album Red Cross recorded shortly his death in 2001. The sparse instrumentation consists of guitar, bass and organ, accompanied by the sound of rain. Fahey's plaintive guitar playing builds an introspective mood, at 2'30" the organ sound begins to shimmer and becomes louder, heightening a sense of emotional tension, at 4'36" a voice calls out "Hi there John" and the atmosphere of a small club is invoked on a dark rainy evening. At 6'32" some gentle chimes denote the minimal use of percussion and by 6'52" the music has faded to nothing - we are left with complete silence for nearly 17 minutes. Yet symbolically we are still within Fahey's musical space just as John Cage brilliantly recast the meaning of silence with his 4'33" in 1952. Fahey's Untitled with Rain is a meditation on presence and absence. It is an ambient soundscape that draws everything in and then vanishes to leave only our imagination.

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