on steve roden’s a thousand breathing forms

Steve Roden – A Thousand Breathing Forms (2017)

Note: This is a modified and expanded version of a review, originally published by SoundOhm.

Steve Roden is a fascinating figure. Over the last thirty years, he has risen as a singular voice, attacking and advancing the highest challenges of the avant-garde – those blurring the lines between creative fields, moving outwardly toward the boundary with every day life. A visual and sound artist, his output spans painting, drawing, sculpture, film/video, sound installation, and performance. Since the early 90’s, when recordings began to appear under the moniker In Be Tween Noise, Roden has been incredibly prolific. His discography is sprawling, though most works were issued in tiny editions, and remain nearly impossible to find. As a form of remedy, last year the French imprint Sonoris released Every Color Moving, a brilliant six CD collection of rare and unreleased recording from the period between 1988-2003. They’ve returned, carrying on the work with A Thousand Breathing Forms, a further six CDs covering his output between 2003 and 2008.

A pioneer of Lowercase music, a movement which uses amplification as a means to address the quiet and unheard sounds of objects and environments, Steve Roden is one of the great contemporary successors of John Cage. Looking beyond the shadow cast by Chance and Indeterminacy, much of his work departs from the composer’s most original, radical, and often neglected idea –  the value and beauty of the sounds of non-instrumental sources and every day life. Through subtle intervention and the elevation of the discrete, he has illuminated the path for a rising generation of artist working in sound – defying of the constraints of context and categorization, working as comfortably in a museum or gallery, as the environments of music. Guided by rigorous conceptual parameters and concerns, across A Thousand Breathing Forms, the axis of Roden’s work snaps into view – the monumental presence of the smallest moment and sound.

A Thousand Breathing Forms – collecting Roden’s unreleased and hard to find works from the incredibly prolific period between 2003 and 2008, is drenched in musicality. Centered around loop based works, it pulls relentlessly and democratically from a seemingly endless world of source – samples of records from an array of cultures, field recordings, instruments, object, and environments. It is a body of work, which, for being birthed electronic process, appears stunningly organic – steeped in humanity and touch. An intimate realm, with the discrete appearing at a towing scale. A world to be inhabited, burrowing deep – taking residence in the ear. As its sounds, resonances, and structures intertwine, Roden appears as a vision of the future, and a bridge to the past – a breaking of dogma, and a reconciliation of the schism between Minimalism and the conceptualism of Cage. Guided by ideas, presenting the profound beauty, meaning, and importance of sound, across its six CDs, A Thousand Breathing Forms is a revelation – a lens into the practice and work of an artist of incredible significance, as much as an opening to the larger field. Capturing and advancing some of the most important and difficult ideas of the last hundred years with elegance, accessibility, and grace, it grows at every turn. Check out two tracks below. It’s available from Sonoris direct, or via Soundohm.

-Bradford Bailey



Steve Roden – Calmem (2008)


 Steve Roden ‎– Stars Of Ice (2008)
















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