The space between: An iron way with soup
The second time I listened to Magali Babin’s CD, “Chemin de fer” I was making soup. She scraped and rubbed sound from metal pans; I chopped garlic. She rustled metallic grains in a swirling stew of strangely un-abrasive sounds; I sliced carrots and stirred them into my big metal casserole. She conjured dark, incessant rhythms from improvised gongs and beaters; I remembered I should have put in salt (and my heart missed a beat). She cooked up a storm of sound, while I tried to cook quietly, so as to listen to the metallic weather coming out of the speakers. She and I were both out there in the rain of sounds, invisible to each other – but together in some tactile way. Without my noticing, my chopping had accelerated to match her controlled mayhem, I was slicing away fast and loud. On one side of the chopping board, the potatoes cowered in anticipation.
Her recipe is an exploration of all kinds of sonic spaces. It’s the space between listening and sensing. For her audience it’s listening, seasoned with an understanding of how that sound is happening. Even on CD she’s there, performing. Yes, I kind of know what she’s up to now: here a sliding skein of grains, slipping through the fingers; there a thumb pressing a gong into action. And there’s the scrabbling inquisitive microphone, close-up against these incongruous objects, yielding and sharing secrets. It’s entertaining to start from such ordinary beginnings, and be taken such a distance from them. You can be surprised at what combinations taste good, but you need to understand your ingredients. (I could take lessons from Magali Babin.)