Review: Weiwei Liang – When I Am Not Listening to Music (Auris, Jul 15)

“Listening” is more than just hearing sounds that were meant to be heard. In the words of sound artist Loren Chasse, listening is “wondrous and personal,” and places the decision of what sounds “good” on the end of the listener. Weiwei Liang’s new tape When I Am Not Listening to Music presents sound situations that sounded good to her, a classification loosely defined by the artist as having notable abstract qualities such as texture, rhythm, distance, movements, and self-formed composition. This latter characteristic is one with which I especially identify; there’s an amazing subliminity when you hear a random sound or group of sounds that seems to have a natural beginning and end. The situations recorded for When I Am Not Listening to Music – anything from “crickets in the tall grass by the river” to the sound of a “1300°C Kiln” – display it exceptionally well, and the pairing of their own organic dynamics with artificial ones created by their sequencing is something really special. Liang’s is just one perspective, and while I think she has an incredible ear for picking out sounds there is nothing that can match the beauty of hearing something on your own, an isolated event with an audience of one. Thankfully, this tape allows for an audience of many more.