All The Birds And A Telephone Ringing is the new solo album of Portuguese, Stockholm-based trumpeter Susana Santos Silva, and it marks a new direction in her musical career. Silva, who has worked with pianist Kaja Draksler, Mats Gustafsson’s Fire! Orchestra, bassist Torbjörn Zetterberg, Fred Frith and Anthony Braxton, in addition to leading several bands of her own, currently studying electro-acoustic composition at the Royal College of Music. The new album expands her sonic palette, far beyond the extended breathing techniques for the trumpet, and offers intriguing sound collages that meticulously blend field recordings, electronics and her suggestive trumpet playing that stress her interest in narrative and wordless storytelling.
The title of the album was inspired by a line in John Cage’s seminal book Silence (Cage also composed a piece, Telephones and Birds, 1977, for three performers, telephone announcements, and recordings of bird songs, originally used as music for the choreographed piece by Merce Cunningham, «Travelogue»), and Silva embraces many of Cage’s theories on sound and listening. Silva’s album is about the relationship between nature and humans, how we interact, how we affect the world around us and affected by the climate crisis. «What we hear around us is already music itself», she says.
Silva began investigating this new sonic path when she was approached in 2019 by the Belgian imprint Matière Mémoire to contribute a piece to its MMXX series to compose an electronic piece. She followed with the shape-shifting organ-drenched meditation, From The Ground Birds Are Born (Superpang, 2021). All The Birds And A Telephone Ringing was recorded and mixed by Silva in Stockholm and Porto between August and December 2021, with additional field recordings by Swedish composer-sound artist Rosanna Gunnarson and Zetterberg. Silva is complementing the album with a series of videos for each piece using footage shot with her phone, a kind of visual analog to her field recordings.
The music is intimate and still sounds spontaneous, despite the meticulous recording and mixing process and the new, experimental, explorative approach, and radiates an engaging logic of its own and an intuitive freshness. Silva attempts to find a compassionate and organic common sonic ground that would resonate the field recordings and innocent nature’s sounds with the sounds of human interventions with nature. Her trumpet playing highlights her lyrical imagination, but now becomes even more adventurous when she submerged the bell of her horn beneath the surface of the water on «As One Comes to the World», with a pair of hydrophones capturing her blobby gurgles and unpitched breaths, or converses gently with bird calls in «All The Birds» and sketches a timeless folk song in «For Reasons A human Cannot Divine». The suggestive cover art by Canadian-American visual artist Jeannie Hutchins («who uses photography to explore life’s unanswerable questions») solidifies the touching, vulnerable essence of this beautiful, highly immersive listening experience.
Susana Santos Silva (tp, Irish fl, field rec), Rosanna Gunnarson (field rec), Torbjörn Zetterberg (additional rec)