Review: Francisco López – Presque Tout (Quiet Pieces: 1997 – 2013)

Francesco Lopez - Presque ToutA pair of sunglasses crashes to the floor as I’m listening to Presque Tout, and in the midst of such a subtle and gently rotating soundscape, the impact feels like the loudest sound I’ve ever heard in my life. The collection is a remarkable demonstration of how hearing adjusts focus to accommodate its subject; many of these pieces uncurl under intense and prolonged concentration, as my mind stoops into the low volume to observe the detail that is otherwise too minute to register. To re-emerge into the “real world” is to undergo the process in reverse, and where I’ve spent seven hours accustomed to soft, curvaceous texture – rising outward with the speed and grace of flowers opening up – I must now recalibrate to a harsh, angular soundscape of serration and sudden event.

At points, I have to stop moving completely to hear what is happening. In one frenzied moment, I consider switching off my fridge to cease the intrusion of its limping motor whirr. I consider requesting that the traffic of the dual carriageway divert for the day, and that the seagulls jeering in the distance take their business elsewhere. The second piece sounds like someone shifting a miniature bookcase through my skull, as shuffles of low frequency announce the lurch of wooden feet grinding against the carpet; there are points at which I think the piece may have ceased entirely, until a gently hum brushes against the silence like a pendulum on downswing, or a tiny shadow perceive in the very corner of my eye. Something is still stirring.

Elsewhere, I hear the air circulating round an empty church as an idle convection current, sliding against stained glass and rushing through stone arches; a solitary bee navigating the phased, hollow wind of a labyrinthine metallic vent (occasionally coming to the foreground as a reverberant, muffled buzz); paper sliding against itself; simultaneous electronic computations skipping and jittering; glaciers throbbing as they break up beneath me. It unfolds and unfolds again, from an illusion of quiet into the presence of various flickering points activity, which in turn bears earthly texture and context under the delicate, unwavering nurture of attentive ears.