A FEW weeks ago we blissed into Sunday with New York songwriter and composer Ben Seretan’s absolutely luscious “Fog Rolls Out Rabun Gap”, the hero and protagonist of the piece at the piano and very much also in the world, his environment at the artist’s residency he was undertaking in the small community of that name in the Georgian Appalachians very much meshing and part of his piano study; rather marvellous.
With an album for NNA Tapes, Cicada Waves, due in a fortnight (and more on how to obtain that may be found below), he’s unveiled a video for another track of soundscape-in-landscape, “Rain & Cicadas”, the introspective beauty of the keys at one with the susurration of the weather system outside. Now this is how solo piano works should be done.
It comes with a transporting, retro CGI-animated video courtesy director Bahareh Khoshooee, who used The Sims as his visual source, and who says: “A nod to Seretan’s videos and images that were made during his residency, this work explores the sensation of retrieving a memory, an intrusive thought, a deja vu, or perhaps a dream.” Partly familiar yet also not, Bahareh conjures a hyperreal ecological vision in accompaniment.
During the heights of the pandemic Ben decided to squirrel himself away at an artist’s residency at the base of the Appalachians in Rabun Gap, Georgia, to lay down the piano recordings he’d always wanted to: bright, crisp, evocative, clean. He spent a fortnight, just him and an antique Steinway in contemplation, far removed from it all.
And what he encountered in that far-removed dance studio was the actual sounds of the environmental silence – the sound of a living wood, the creaks, the birdsong, the rain and – making their way to the album title and guesting on several tracks – enormous swarms of cicadas.
“It was clear the moment I hit ‘record’ that any sound I captured from the piano would always carry some other sound with it,” Ben says.
“There would be no silence whatsoever. So I gave in – I threw open the windows and let the world in.”
Cicada Waves fully embraces the happy accident, the environment of the recordings, and warmly welcomes them across the threshold; it’s more often than not the sound of a piano not being played; it’s the sound of wings or wind or water doing what they will. And as you can here from the deep serenity and perfect capture of the track herein, it’s absolutely gorgeous.
We’re told that these recordings are shared with as little artifice as possible; there are no edits or comped parts, no mixing, no second takes. The album is, more or less, simply and exactly the sounds that happened in the world at that moment.
Ben Seretan’s Cicada Waves will be released by NNA Tapes digitally and on limited edition cassette on April 30th; you can order a copy from Ben’s Bandcamp page.