, March 6th, 2017 12:57
For human nature, the concept of the void is something so terrifyingly ungraspable that to try and dodge it is the only possible way to even come close to dealing with it. From Aristotle to Mario Praz, the philosophy of horror vacui tells us that we must fill every single inch of empty space to avert facing that which is it both finite and infinite – unexplainable yet so brazenly there before our very eyes that the mind is shocked in its presence. Even the term "avoid" has an inherent etymological link to the obscure concept of emptiness.
Though theorists focused their studies on physics and art, this is also true when it come to sound. If "deafening silence" is one of the most clichéd oxymorons, it is because silence itself is one of the most intolerable noises on Earth: in a soundproof anechoic chamber, the closest on the planet to deep space's cosmic stillness, a human can lose his mind in less than an hour.
But what if silence becomes the only possible way to preserve one's body from an illness? Something one is obliged to seek to allow the physique to heal?
This is the starting point for Peter Silberman's work on Impermanence. Forced by a hearing impairment, which led to a temporary hearing loss and hypersensitivity to sound, the Brooklyn musician was forced to retreat from the throng of the city to a quieter place in upstate New York. There, living through the different stages of his condition, the Antlers' member got in touch with silence and its always-different shapes and possibilities.
But removing all sonorousness from his life, including that of his own voice, didn't prevent tinnitus from constantly resonating in his ears, subtracting the intrinsic emptiness from the hush he was seeking: "Once silence ceased to be available to me, I came to think of it as the luxury of well-calibrated perception. We mistakenly perceive it as nothing, but it’s precious, a profound entity. It became obvious to me why many prayers are silent, performed in immaculately quiet spaces."
It's in the interstices, in the pauses, in the "notes that are not played," that Impermanence's structure is built: after stripping down the world of all the audible, Silberman worked in negative when re-approaching music after getting back sonance in his everyday existence.
A white noise, a hiss, an electrostatic sound: the uninterrupted ringing that haunted the musician's ears echoes all through the album; imperceptible at first, it is essential to support the fragile frame of the six tracks, standing on the singer/songwriter's cleanly picked and sustained electric guitar, and his vibrating voice, free and powerful, easily ranging from a profound speech to open, moving falsettos –– a texture remiscent of Jeff Buckley's most intense and unique moments. Soft drums and choirs add dimension and depth to the basic outline, enhancing it without interfering with the intimate and minimal narrative.
A physical and spiritual journey unravels in the 37 minutes of the record: from the wrenching search for compassion of the opening ‘Karuna’ to the most cinematic song of the album, ‘New York’, the onomatopoeic recounting of the surprise of discovering the sonic sphere of one's own town; paying attention to an often overlooked aspect of living; to the multifaceted, instrumental title track, closing the album with the full sound of a grand piano overseeing stops and reprise of the background noise, before giving way to "real" silence – impermanent, as the human experience.