Written by Jesse Silbert
Sound environments are constructed like complex physical systems - cars, footsteps, industrial hum. Different moving parts live out separate melodies and rhythms but manage to synchronize into a single, cohesive soundscape. What distinguishes these naturally-occurring soundscapes from an orchestra is the latter’s deliberate construction and composition by the human hand. In his 2014 record “The Garden,” Iranian experimental sound artist Porya Hatami attempts to manipulate “found,” or naturally occurring sounds in the same way that a traditional composer brings together the brass with the woodwinds and the strings.
There are three distinct elements that make up Hatami’s intricate soundscapes: raw field recordings, processed audio, and synthesized electronics. The juxtaposition that he creates is like a jigsaw puzzle. Upon close examination, pieces become distinct, but when seen in their totality, they seamlessly transition into a fluid unified image.
Opener “Firefly” has blips and bells that flow seamlessly into collective swells of sound that shift and transform. Its consistent yet amorphous quality allows the listener to settle into the ambient tone without being able to anticipate what’s coming next. It’s largely for this reason that Hatami’s sonic environments come so vividly to life — think not of a still photograph of a forest, nor of a dynamic video moving quickly through the trees, but rather, a film with one, long and stationary shot of a wooded area. Similarly to how Hatami’s music explores complex yet subtle changes in an environment, the film would follow the wind rustling the leaves or the sunlight moving across the ground.
On “Snail,” the field recordings come through a bit stronger. The listener can distinctly hear the buzzing of insects, the calls of birds, and the trickling of a stream. In line with Hatama’s style, however, vast and resonant synths sustain throughout the track, evolving ever so slightly in a studied progression. “Lady Bug” envelops the listener in a blanket of ephemeral crackles and clean, overlapping drones that persists throughout the entire eight minute track. The components of this song are particularly synthetic; the sounds are chopped and shuffled around, losing much of what would make them feel natural on their own. However, Hatami composes these varying sounds into a structure which breathes and manages to feel undeniably organic. Perhaps this ability and focus is Hatami’s greatest accomplishment on “Garden” - the making of circuitry and electronics into something refreshingly natural, wild, and alive.