Tuesday, January 07, 2014
Johann Johannsson and the sound of peace and quiet
Fordlandia is a piece inspired by an industrial community Henry Ford tried to establish in the Brazilian Rain forest in the 1920s. He did it in the hope it would supply enough rubber to reduce his company's dependence on the products of Malaya. It didn't work. The local pests killed the rubber plants. The workers didn't like Ford's regime. The Brazilian government didn't cooperate. It's been a ghost town since the thirties.
Once a composer like Johannsson has chosen to tell us that his music's about Fordlandia then something magic happens in our heads; we can instantly see the boats coming upstream with their crew of sweating, fly-swatting petrol heads. We can smell the decay. We can snigger at this triumph of nature over petty, striving, greedy man. Had he chosen to call it something different we would be seeing something different again. At school Mr Grimshaw used to herd us all into the lecture hall, get out the old wood-panelled record player, some classical recordings and then ask us if we could see the sea or trees moving in the wind or war of whatever it was that the piece of music was supposed to be inspired by. We would nod and say we could. I think what we were mainly enjoying was the peace and quiet.
Johannsson is in the UK in March. Dates here.