Ezekiel Honig, “Object Music”

Based on the idea that everyday objects quietly stash away memories that are only accessible by later making contact with them, New York’s Ezekiel Honig has produced four short musical pieces using some of the most mundane items he could lay his hands on.  Accompanying them – and available to purchase with the music as part of an expensive package – are pieces of visual art created using the self-same items. So “Object Music #1,” for example, involves graph paper, coins and a piece of aluminium tin; “Object Music #2” was made from a CD case, an envelope, a metal fastener and a piece of wood, and so on.

The presumption is that listeners will gaze upon Honig’s objects when listening to the sounds he coaxed from them, thus imbibing them with thoughts and ideas the music brings about, and that they will be automatically recalled next time you see the collages. It also works vice-versa: hearing the music will hopefully stir-up memories of the objects, the art they helped make, and the thoughts you had when looking at them.

It’s an oddly romantic idea no different to the fact we think of certain people and places when we hear our favourite songs, albeit reduced to the level of a Rick Moranis experiment gone madly wrong.  This is Honey I Shrunk The Flashback – your enjoyment of any of it will depend on how much importance you attach to the component parts and, let’s face it, if you’ve just spent the best part of £3000 on “Object Music #1” you’d better inject it with some pretty major importance.  Thankfully, you can put your wallet away – the music is freely available to hear through Honig’s online platforms and perfectly enjoyable without the requirement to clear wall space.

If this all sounds like I’m down on it, I’m actually really not. Being the person I am, I’m all for these highfalutin dispatches – the higher they falute, in fact, the keener I generally am.  Now, I’m not about to drop mad stacks just to get in on this, but I can’t pretend I don’t at least like the music Mr Honig has made from his humdrum objects, and I do think there’s beauty in the thought a paperclip can hold something precious inside until the right person happens to pick it up. We’ve all done it, right? Cleared out a drawer of junk and stopped to reminisce at some seemingly unimportant bit of tat buried for years at the bottom?

As an EP, Object Music is over in around 15 minutes.  The four tracks are all fleeting enough to impact themselves upon your consciousness just so, but they’re surprisingly forthright in their construct. Many in Honig’s shoes would fall into the stale old trap of mic-ing up the various objects up and leaving them to resonate elusively; instead, Honig pulls them apart, scratches them and bends them. In this way, he says, he can “recontextualise” them and the psychological impressions they’ve made to “open up an audiovisual story in the mind’s eye.”

“Object Music #1,” then, sounds strangely subaquatic as it mumbles, creaks and roils, and “Object Music #2” builds a beat that clicks and whirrs like a malfunctioning camera before breaking down into the kind of clipped, aerosol pulse Ryoji Ikeda makes hay with.  Most striking, though, are the latter two pieces.  “Object Music #3” is Aphexian in the way a tuning fork’s warm hum is repeatedly severed by the insectoid roll of a six-sided dice, and “Object Music #4” (cork, metal plate, buttons, rubber) throbs dumb and damp, like the inside of a headache.

Truthfully, the more I tried to connect to the concept, the muddier I found my reception became. My mind’s eye remained largely unopened bar the trite parallels I normally draw when listening to music of this ilk (see above paragraph), and none of this was to do with the materials Honig used. I was especially impressed on a compositional level by his use of the dice throughout “Object Music #3,” and the Lustmordian gloom of “Object Music #4”  is undoubtedly evocative.  Had I fondled a paperclip at any stage*, or even considered Honig’s collages themselves, I doubt it would have improved things any, but that’s only because the music is good enough as it is. Whether you buy in or you don’t, that shouldn’t change a thing.

*No paperclips were fondled during the writing of this review.