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Rolf Julius - Raining

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Artist: Rolf Julius

Album: Raining

Label: Western Vinyl

Review date: Jun. 13, 2012

Rolf Julius, who passed away in January 2011 just shy of his 72nd birthday, did his work where visual art, music and environmental sound intersect. It’s a quiet place, where not much happens, but nothing stays the same. Much of his work was for installations that combined very familiar natural components — water, dirt — with precisely placed small speakers emitting barely-there sounds. The German-born artist delighted in both challenging and drawing attention to one’s perceptive processes.

That holds true on “Raining,” the nearly hour-long piece after which this CD is named. Originally developed for an installation called “Drawing (Dot),” it stands quite well on its own, so long as you don’t require it to do anything.

Rain, of course, is involved; you can hear water strike water, as well as water flowing against something that might be wood, while other wood-generated sounds creak away. Behind them is less elemental material. High pitches, like the squeaks of an ill-oiled swing-set, peep in the background, and every once in a while you hear a cow moo. How much of this sound is captured and how much is manufactured is uncertain, but really, none of that matters so much as the experience one derives from the piece. It is simultaneously placid and teaming with action, like a Zen garden that constantly rearranges itself while you’re looking without ever betraying its essential stillness. Raining’s other two pieces are shorter, but similar in the way they place natural processes and human actions in a harmonious coexistence, with nature the dominant party.

Raining is the third entry in Western Vinyl’s Small Music series, which is named after a record that Julius made in 1994 but is devoted to previously unissued work. All three share a quality of stillness in the presence of constant change that feels like a real class stance in the face of the vulgar demands that existence in the digital age places upon one’s attention.

By Bill Meyer

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