Field recordings are memory vessels. They contain latent energy with a potential of transportation, of instant teleportation into a different space and time. A particular sound can transfer a particular person to another location – a past situation. A possibility conditioned by the existence of a particular, often intense, memory. Perhaps, it is a virtual geopsychology of re-visitation. The oldest field recording used on this album appears as the building block of the first track. The etymology of the word “orkhestra” traces its meaning to the Greek word for the part of the theater where the chorus would dance. The introduction is an invitation to dance, a statement about the beginning of a movement, of becoming emotion.
Very early in her life, rouge-ah knew that the things she wanted to do were visual art and playing the harp – an ancient instrument that can be traced far back in time and found across all continents. Interestingly enough, harp playing in Latin America is associated almost exclusively with male players, whereas in European (classical western) music, the harp is largely played by women. In rouge-ah’s work, this gender stereotype is subverted. “I like to work with sounds that are in contrast to the angel music cliché,” she tells me, pointing out her disdain for ornamentation palette of embellished soothing sounds most often associated with this instrument. Perhaps, this decided direction towards a more empowered sound resonates as resistance against the current state of affairs in the world. “Why is something as virtual as money so much more important than something as concrete as trees? Just imagine how many people had to feel unloved and unwanted, considering that the exertion of power and domination over others is manifested today as it is.”
It would not be false to say that at least the majority of this album is about pain. The bulk of the album’s tracks travel through a spectrum of negative emotions, echoing aching: fear, terror, heartbreak, sadness. The dramaturgy of the album, however, contains a declarative frame: opening and closing statements exude a willingness to fight and face the pain and darkness of the inner and outer worlds.
The momentum of the last two tracks exhibits a force aiming for a breakthrough, a winning battle that would result not in victorious destruction of the opponent but in accepting the pain and attempting to discover ways of coping with the starless night. Playing an acoustic instrument, music-making, and deep listening seem such possible strategies. Music, and harp in particular, is an actual therapeutic tool. It creates a space where fragility can be explored, and since it exists in the physical space, it also offers an opportunity for perseverance. It has been said that “art is resistance”, and perhaps this musical work connects the dots between intimate expression and direct daily action. The little, immediate things do matter: “It’s the way the world can and does change,” she says. “I’m not an activist, a preacher, but a feminist in the way how I approach the things and people around me.” She points at phenomena that occur in the act of communication (radio or local music scene) and highlights the influence they have on the distribution of thoughts and attitudes. These are the effective points, a source to which small-scale but continuous pressures can be applied so as to create a rupture. Without these small, ongoing, everyday changes that happen both internally as well as in relation towards our close ones and our community, “we would be left with nothing but despair”.
Despite virtually nonexistent musical practice in her family, rouge-ah‘s formal music education started really early. Despite having opportunities to cross the borders, leaving home at 14 years of age seemed too difficult. Musical training is riddled with many obstacles, including the rigid teachers, incapable of showing sensibility in conversation, which resulted in her resistance to continue, especially in the absence of peer support. But rouge-ah was pulled back into playing the harp by being offered opportunities in the local electronic dance music scene and finally, new horizons of music creation started expanding. New connections were formed, local collaborations ensued, recordings were made, and performances played. Her lifelong passion that has been suppressed, was now released.
“For me, harp also means a relationship. Do you think the hours you spend practicing and the discipline you have to put in don’t leave a permanent mark on you? It’s a powerful bond you’re pulled into, so powerful that you learn and grow through it. You develop a relationship that is much stronger than most of the connections you wind up in. And to play an acoustic instrument and persist with it even through the hard times… For me, there’s no better way of staying sane.”
Her hometown, Ljubljana, is a city where all the concert venues are accessible either by walking or biking. While nobody at home played an instrument, next door to her place was a legendary pub dedicated to music. “And I had a father who would buy me tickets for any concert I wanted to see.” Seeing numerous concert performances covering a wide range of genres, “you can’t look back and say it wasn’t formative to a quite crucial extent!”
However, don’t be too quick to think that this music comes only from this one city in a tiny little country. Studying in Reykjavík, Iceland, has brought an important expansion of horizons in terms of artistic creativity, musical genres, contexts of sound-making and deep listening, as well as more concerts and an interdisciplinary, historically-grounded thinking about music. Another international exploration that took place in Leipzig, Copenhagen, and Berlin can tell a story of the formation of rouge-ah‘s solo expression, equipped with abundant music production knowledge and noise-making tricks, a computer, and instruments. “It all gave me a better understanding of what I would like to create and express through my art”.
The final context of these nine compositions is deeply personal. It’s a sonic self-image that has arisen out of written notes and some field recordings. The latter possibly won’t work for everyone, perhaps anyone, in the ways they work for the author. However, subjective and intimate, these compositions are firmly grounded in affective materiality of emotions, specific written fragments and stories, from which moods, vibrations, and ambiances took their shapes. Fixed as recordings, they are now free and out in the open for interpretation and resistance. Forming a personal disclosure signaling that voice is not enclosed anymore, a sonic self-portrait of this kind is an act of laying bare, an opening of the flesh, and a contribution to the world for anyone to relate, create, and resist.
— Luka Prinčič