U23 | Frédéric Nogray | Merua
format : CD ltd to 200 hand numbered copies
all copies come with an additional art card on 300gr satin paper
release year : 2014
length : 39’25
status : still available
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(Belgium) : 13 € (inc.postage)
(Europe) : 14 € (inc.postage)
(World) : 15 € (inc.postage)
: info :
Merua is a magic place for the Garifunas, and also one of awe. Only those considered as initiated go through this sanctuary. It’s a refuge for the spirits of the Ancestors from the beliefs of this mixed culture that finds its roots both in Africa and South America. It’s a plot of dense jungle, a snakes’ nest, intact despite its small size and the fact that its perimeter is occupied by humans. A perimeter composed of two villages (Triunfo de la Cruz and La Ensenada), the mangrove and the lake at its feet, and the sea that borders it for almost half of its circumference.
The beliefs of the buyeis (spirit leaders of the Garifuna traditions) are among other things a blend of African voodoo and shamanism stemming from the Amazonian basin.
To narrate Merua, I’ve thus drawn on my memories: the experience of my encounter with the Amazonian shamanism. Or maybe, it’d be more correct to say that to tell my Amazonian experiences, I use the matter and feelings of those trips into Garifuna land.
The shamanic experience (as I lived it) is uncomfortable, intoxicating, powerful and uncompromising. One can’t go through it with hands in the pockets, like a tourist. It takes its roots into the depths of our body and being to reveal us. From the darkness and its acceptation surges the light, the understanding. The experience is all but calm, and it’s nonetheless a way to reach a deep peace. The grace is offered to the one who dares to face his fears, questions his own systems of beliefs. Getting through the illusions of who we believe to be to find ourselves. The trance is demanding. It’s a leap into the unknown. The one that hides itself in what we already believe to know about.
Merua, the sound piece, is a reflection of that passage. We think we hear something. But it’s something else that is at play into the sounds and the listening experience, something that defies our perceptions. If we don’t pay attention we only hear a succession of exotic landscapes. In fact movements of forces bind and unbind, interweave till the loss of landmarks. Elements used are natural, the way they are given to be heard is not. The sound matter becomes energy. Manipulation of energies creates a new matter across the fog of our perceptions.
For that, it’d have been much easier to start from abstract elements (the use of field recordings orientates necessarily the listening). Though, on the contrary, I’ve chosen to use this experience in Honduras and the sounds I brought back from these two trips on the spot. It’s over there, at the foot of Merua and its surroundings that I found back into my body, into my guts, the sensations I encountered in Amazonia.
This composition is a transcription attempt of an experience lived in a specific place and at a given moment via the use of a sound matter coming from another space, recorded 7 years later, thus with an acoustic color, fragrance which is the one of this Caribbean coast.
All sounds were field recorded at different venues on the North Coast of Honduras, between the cities of Tela and La Ceiba in August 2012.
(Frédéric Nogray, September 2014 – translation supervised by Daniel Crokaert)
Merua est un lieu magique pour les Garifunas, et lieu de crainte à la fois. Seuls ceux considérés comme initiés pénètrent dans ce sanctuaire. C’est un refuge pour les esprits des anciens de ce peuple issu du métissage entre des esclaves africains évadés (les nègres marrons) et des autochtones Caraïbes et Arawaks. C’est une parcelle de jungle dense, un nid à serpents, in-touchée malgré sa petite taille et le fait que tout le pourtour ait été investi par l’homme. Un pourtour composé de deux villages (Triunfo de la Cruz et La Ensenada), la mangrove et le lac qui s’étirent à ses pieds, et la mer qui la borde sur près de la moitié de sa circonférence.
Les croyances des buyés (chefs spirituels des traditions garifuna) sont entre autres un mélange de vaudou de l’ouest africain et de chamanisme issu du bassin amazonien de l’Amérique du Sud.
Pour raconter Merua j’ai donc puisé dans mes souvenirs, le vécu de ma rencontre avec le chamanisme amazonien. Mais il serait plus exact de dire que pour parler de mes expériences amazoniennes j’utilise la matière et les sensations de ces voyages en terre Garifuna.
L’expérience chamanique (du moins telle que je l’ai rencontrée) est inconfortable, enivrante, puissante et intransigeante. On ne la traverse pas les mains dans les poches, en touriste. Elle prend dans les entrailles même de notre corps et de notre être pour nous révéler. Des ténèbres et de leur acceptation surgit la lumière, la compréhension. L’expérience est tout sauf paisible, c’est pourtant un chemin qui peut nous inviter à expérimenter des états de calme profond. La grâce est offerte à celui qui ose traverser ses peurs, ses propres systèmes de croyances, traverser les illusions de ce que nous croyons être afin de se retrouver. La transe est exigeante. C’est un saut dans l’inconnu. Celui qui se cache dans ce que nous croyions déjà si bien connaître.
Merua, la pièce sonore, est un reflet de cette traversée. Nous pensons entendre quelque chose mais c’est autre chose qui se joue dans les sons et dans l’écoute. Quelque chose qui se joue de nos perceptions. Là où nous pourrions, si nous n’y prêtions pas attention, entendre seulement une succession de paysages sonores exotiques, ce sont des mouvements de force qui se lient, se délient, s’entremêlent jusqu’à la perte de repères. Si les éléments sont naturels, la manière de les donner à entendre ne l’est plus. La matière devient énergie. La manipulation des énergies créé une nouvelle matière à travers le brouillard de nos perceptions.
Il m’aurait été plus simple de partir d’éléments sonores abstraits. L’utilisation d’enregistrements de terrain peut facilement orienter l’écoute vers des dimensions documentaires voir anecdotiques. Au contraire j’ai choisi d’utiliser cette expérience au Honduras et les sons que j’en ai rapportés lors de ces deux voyages sur place. C’est là-bas que j’ai retrouvé dans mon corps, dans mon ventre, les sensations rencontrées en forêt amazonienne, là-bas au pied de Merua et ses environs.
Cette composition est une tentative de transcription d’une expérience vécue à un endroit et à un moment donné par l’utilisation d’une matière sonore provenant d’un autre espace et enregistrée sept années plus tard avec une couleur, une odeur acoustique qui est celle de cette côte des Caraïbes.
(Frédéric Nogray, Septembre 2014)
: reviews :
I remain somewhat at a loss as to what I can say about field recordings like this one. Recorded in Honduras, one experiences the lush, bird-filled sounds of jungle or near-jungle life, occasionally intruded upon by man-made activity like a rumbling boat motor. There’s a richness and density in play that I imagine is the result of post-recording construction on the part of Nogray, though I’m by no means certain of that. As is all too often the case, I can easily understand engaging in a deep listening situation were I in this place, within the extended space of the environment but have less patience for it listening over a stereo system. There may well be more going on structurally than I’m able to parse but I tend to read this “naturalistically”, if you will and more, get somewhat put off by the, to Western, urban ears, exotic nature of the sounds. Nogray writes of encounters with local shamans (buyeis) and their mystical traditions which, admittedly, puts me off a bit as well, so I’m doubtless not the ideal recipient of this work. This past fall, I caught a lovely, very sensitive performance by Nogray on tuned glass bowls and have heard other excellent music from him but this side of his work doesn’t do as much for me. For pure field fans, though, there’s much to enjoy, everything, from birds to mosquitos, is recorded with extreme sharpness and detail. Maybe I just desire more ambiguity.
Merua begins abruptly, with a grinding noise like that of a rusty propeller. The sound disappears rapidly, exposing a sonic bed of insect activity. The listener has been warned ~ this field recording will not be entirely placid.
Recorded in Honduras, the soundscape is drenched in the sounds of both jungle and sea. The Amazonian refuge of Merua is rich in sonic possibilities, and Frédéric Nogray is expert at drawing them out. Already by the fifth minute, we hear what may be monkeys on a waterfall; the mind creates its own pictures. Nogray is attempting to recreate his own sonic experiences, despite the fact that his first tapes turned out blank; in this recording, two expeditions become one.
In his introduction to the piece, Nogray writes about the practice of shamanism as it relates to the understanding of the area. This ages-deep practice may be considered superstition outside the region, but within the Amazon, it retains a suggestive power; even Nogray is affected. Despite what modern minds may think of this spiritual custom, its theme of connection to land and ancestors is universal. The pursuit of peace – and as Nogray puts it, grace – also resonate with the modern mind, although the interpretation of “trance” may vary from person to person. In the classic, sense, Merua is a trance-inducing recording. Listeners may feel a sense of intense relaxation, combined with an increased awareness of sound that can be applied anywhere, even in an urban setting.
To test one’s reaction, one may ask, “Is the mind free from distraction?” At various points in the recording, the opportunity for distraction exists: in the distant hum of machinery, the buzzing of a fly, the sudden shock of the opening second. The challenge is to integrate such sounds into one’s personal sound map. The single fly is no less a part of the natural soundscape than the local lake; the transport vehicles jockey for space and in so doing become part of the scenery. This being said, the elements unique to the setting (especially the animals of the 21st minute and beyond) provide Merua with its finest moments. The cries that seem natural to Hondurans (is that a snoring ape?) come across as otherworldly to those listening at home.
A slow rail ride begins in the 29th minute; one imagines one’s self on this train, perhaps asleep, as it travels through this fertile land. As such, the train becomes a metaphor for the sonic traveler. How much of our own local soundscape would we recognize if heard in this way? Have we been lulled into complacency through repetition? By opening a window on this train, Nogray allows the aural richness to seep through. Following a stretch of silence at 35:48, we emerge from the trance, hearing the same sounds, yet in a different way.
A Closer Listen
French composer Frédéric Nogray stayed in Honduras in August 2012. To be precise, he stayed on the Caribbean North Coast of Honduras between the cities of Tela and La Ceiba and near the Garifuna people. ‘Merua‘ is a mountain where Nogray recorded some sounds but upon returning home there was nothing on the soundcard; such is the way of the local Buyei, a local shaman. However Nogray recorded other stuff and composed a piece out of those sounds. This piece, close to forty minutes, is one of great power. It seems to be constructed entirely (almost entirely) of insect sounds and nothing much else, but these recordings are cleverly put together and make up dense patterns of high-pitched sounds. Now, you could all too easily think this comes without much variation, but that’s not true. It seems to be shifting back and forth around various sounds; sometimes it seems Nogray created a rhythmic element in these sounds, especially after the twenty-fifth minute mark. Not in a techno sense, but it’s slow yet repetitive. ‘Heavy’ is perhaps a word one doesn’t use all too often when dealing with this kind of music, but this is all quite heavy I would think. The on-going high chirping, the deep ends, almost bass like sighing I heard and the endless amount of layers of sound together. Only the final bit is very soft, as a kind of coda. A great release this one: play this loudly and you’ll be dealing with the best noise release in some time.
Frans de Waard