Stillness Soundtracks II
1. Stillness #6 (Lemaire Channel, Antarctica)
2. Stillness #7 (Antarctic Sound, Antarctica)
3. Stillness #8 (Labeuf Fjord, Antarctica)
4. Stillness #9 (Hanusse Bay, Antarctica)
5. Stillness #10 (Antarctic Sound, Antarctica)
cd/dl/stream on Glacial Movements, January 2020
Order on Bandcamp,
or to order
Soundtrack for Sillness - Brash IcePack Ice, Growlers, Bergy Bits and Icebergs, a series of cinematic landscapes by Esther Kokmeijer.
The cd comes in a digipack with 16 page photo booklet.
When Esther Kokmeijer asked Rutger Zuydervelt (aka Machinefabriek) to score the second installment of her ‘Stillness’ video series, he didn’t have to think twice. After all, when working on its first volume, the duo found out soon enough that the images of floating icebergs and desolate sea scapes were a perfect fit with Rutger’s glacial sounds (as heard on ‘Stillness Soundtracks’). For that first set, the score was quite lively and layered, as if the music was adding a narrative to the static imagery, suggesting that things were unfolding outside of the screen. For the second ‘Stillness’ installment, the focus is more on what can be seen within the frame – an attempt to capture the solemness of the images – to find beauty, but also sadness in the mesmerizing quality of Esther’s films. This makes ‘Stillness Soundtracks II’ a more sombre and subdued album and one that’s a fitting soundtrack to these alarming times with climate change being a more serious threat than ever.
Esther Kokmeijer: “Stillness” depicts tranquil, gliding images of icescapes from the North and South Pole. I filmed these landscapes during my biannual visits to Antarctica as an expedition photographer. The meditative images invite reflection on the unparalleled beauty of this glacial ecology, which appears both vulnerable and resilient.”
A Closer Listen
When we talk about movie sequels, the consensus is that few are as good as the original. Here’s one that is: Esther Kokmeijer’s Stillness – Brash Ice, Pack Ice, Growlers, Bergy Bits and Icebergs. This stunning film is a marvel of cinematography, and makes a silent witness on climate change ~ silent, that is, save for the gentle drama of Machinefabriek‘s score. These two artists teamed up for the first installment as well, and the release on the Glacial Movements label is ideal.
Perhaps an equally fitting title for the project would be Slowness. Neither music nor image are still; each possesses a subtle, inexorable forward motion. The principle applies not only to the determined cutter ship of “#1 – Lemaire Channel, Antarctica 2014” but to the acceleration of climate change. As the ship plows a path through snow and ice, it unleashes surprising splashes of azure and rust. Finally it breaks through to open water. It’s tempting to view this opening segment as a parable of hope, although it lends itself equally to the opposite reading. In contrast, the word stillness speaks of a feeling, an impression when faced with the great expanse of blue and white: the great majesty of the Antarctic, so important to our future yet so often unseen. And although neither artist suggests this reading, stillness may also be seen as the human reaction to glacial melt; few contemporary issues have been the subject of so many words and so little meaningful action.
One is able to push such thoughts away while enjoying the music and the visuals. Machinefabriek introduces the project with low, slow drones and hydrophonic bubbles, signifying weight, volume and mass. The sense of scale is enormous. Swirling tones, like an awakening orchestra, surge forth at the end of the opening track, as if rallying behind a cause. Midway through the second movement, a larger bubble seems to break the surface from the abyss, along with a suggestion of tonal wobble which one may interpret as the distortion of a crucial message. But with sudden clarity, the sound of running water leaps to the foreground, like truth slicing through a lie.
A cold wind blows through the middle piece, a reminder of the harshness of conditions at either pole. Meanwhile, Kokmeijer reminds us of other phenomena as well: the fact that there are waves in the region (we tend to think of everything as frozen), and the similarity of snowy landscapes to billowing clouds. The teaming of sight and sound seems so instinctive that one feels a great unity of design. She calls the landscape “vulnerable and resilient,” a curious dichotomy, but one in which we participate. Together, Kokmeijer and Zuydervelt remind us of an under-publicized angle: that the natural world is itself great art. And no cohesive argument can be made for its destruction.
What’s left to say? Stillness Soundtracks the suggestion that there may be a whole left undiscovered, hinting at something beneath the surface that isn’t instantaneously recognisable. Rutger Zuydervelt’s journey into the remote landscapes of sound is far from a solitary one as the music, mysterious as it is, invites you into its imagination as expectations reveal themselves. Sometimes blissful, sometimes altogether darker in temptation. This soundtrack to the visual artist Esther Kokmeijer’s exploration of Antarctica terrain is also an intensely private affair between you and what springs from the speakers. Five pieces form the moments and although it would be unfair to highlight one in particular the warm rushes of emotion and melodic textures emanating from Stillness #9 (Hanusse Bay, Antarctica) are very appealing. Leaving you with the concluding Stillness #10 (Antarctic Sound, Antarctica) by also equalling the charm, this time via choir-like poignancy which is quite breath-taking, the score completes. The accompanying artwork is typically striking, likewise from Glacial Movements, which is incidentally just as well as Rutger Zuydervelt designs them all.
In 2014, Esther Kokmeijer and Machinefabriek released their multimedia project Stillness: a 5-part video documenting Kokmeijer’s trip to the Arctic and the Antarctic. The original USB (video-)release was later followed by the audio-only release of the soundtrack: Stillness Soundtracks.
Stillness “depicts tranquil, gliding images of icescapes from the North and South Pole” Kokmeijer “filmed these landscapes during my biannual visits to Antarctica as an expedition photographer. The meditative images invite reflection on the unparalleled beauty of this glacial ecology, which appears both vulnerable and resilient.”
Six years later, the story of this journey is retold from a somewhat different perspective. This time, five different locations from Antarctica are pictured. Stillness Soundtracks II is, of course, the audio-only version of their collaboration: for those that want to enjoy the video versions, there’s a USB-version still available from Esther Kokmeijer‘s website.
Compared to the first soundtrack, Machinefabriek (Rutger Zuydervelt)‘s soundtrack feels somewhat more emotional, possibly due to “these alarming times with climate change being a more serious threat than ever.”
For sounds as ‘glacial’ like this, there could not be a more fitting label than Glacial Movements, the label that also released the first soundtrack edition. This is indeed a chilling soundtrack. Literally.