Silo Rumor – May 2016
Given the ubiquity of music, perhaps now even more than at any time in human history – and music has been an integral part of life for as long as we know, in ever-evolving forms – it’s something that is generally taken for granted. Few consider the function, or functions, of music, and those who do are more often than not academics: the average individual is unlikely to devote a great deal of time to dissecting precisely why they listen to the music they do, or what it is that specifically draws them to music. That said, the more avant-garde and theory-based the art becomes, so more consideration is given to its purpose, and in some respects, this seems somewhat paradoxical given that much of the work in this sphere is not what the majority would necessarily consider ‘music’. And so we have Jonathan Uliel Saldanha’s Tunnel Vision, a collection of pieces recorded in and around the tunnels of Porto. Part field recording collage, part abstract, part ambient soundwork, the album’s seven segments are not overtly musical, in that they do not feature any of the conventional features of ‘music’.
While the concept of ambient music is now well established, and the theories around it also representing well-trodden territory, it’s still worth considering the purpose of an album like this. What kind of experience does it offer the listener? Specifically, what is the point? After all, Tunnel Vision is, ostensibly, little more than drones, moans, hums and thuds with occasional snippets of voices. And if anything, it’s not really ambient: it’s far too tense and unsettling for all that.
‘I’m what some people call The Tunnel. Whereas most are drawn to what’s on the surface, in the skies, or in space, I’m drawn to what’s beneath the surface,” says the anonymous speaker on the tile track. He continues: “Space seems exotic, mysterious, because it’s distant, far away enough not to fear… the underworld is a void that sits right beneath our feet. It evokes fear…” And while Tunnel Vision is concerned broadly with the use of ‘resonant spaces’, the overall mood and texture is very much of the space below than the space above and around. The purpose of this music is to evoke the space which frightens us, which pricks those subconscious fears through the medium of sound. It’s about conjuring the unfamiliar and appealing to the senses in a way which unsettles them by means of the concordance of the rumbling of distant thunder which rolls beneath a shifting soundscape of mournful brass and unexpected clashes of sound.
The three tracks which occupy side two are noticeably longer, than the four on side one, and feel more formed, building on the atmospheres which emerge through the layering of long, low hums and drones, twittering flickers snippets of voices and thuds and clumps.
And so it is that one does not listen to Jonathan Uliel Saldanha’s Tunnel Vision for its musicality, or for entertainment. Nor does one interact with music on this level for relaxation purposes, but instead to confront subconscious and primal fears. To marvel at the mind which could create such sonic challenges, and to feel a sense of discomfort that’s essential to moving out of one’s comfort zone and instead be shaken into feeling something that evokes a response beyond immediate comprehension.