Joanna Brouk – Hearing Music (Numero Group, June 2016)

Hearing Music. What do they mean? Music for hearing, or something about the experience of hearing music? Hearing versus listening, or hearing voices, audio-illusions, sonic spectres, the feeling of being haunted? A number of delicate and deep records appeared this June that seemed to be imbued with the energy of ghosts, fairies, supernatural beings. The Ihor Tsymbrovski on Offen Music, the Af Ursin on Blackest Ever Black, and this Joanna Brouk collection on Numero Group, which is outstanding and also highly recommended for ear detox.

Joanna Brouk, one of a host of little-known American experimentalist women, was one of those composers who pushed the envelope formally while sinking into the cosmic philosophically: that kind of non-sociological taste for the soundscape that has a spiritual edge seldom heard in the work of European counterparts. Recorded between 1981 and 1985 in the Bay Area, these pieces for flute and electronics fuse a dreamy New Age with an especially committed academic solemnity.

Whatever exactly was informing these pieces – her abstract poetry, geo-scores or sidereal meditations – Joanna Brouk was flirting with all kinds of canons, unafraid of heights both mythologically ancient and seriously futuristic. The freshness of the acute flute, the brave ethereal female voices sparkling like clean silver; these compositions of Brouk’s are like splashing your face in a gush of mountain-cold water. You’re alone, you feel pure. Every now and again, the water turns day-glo, starts to form sparkling shapes before your very eyes. And nobody’s there to check you’re not hallucinating.