jeph jerman

"The Second Attention"


Anomalous Records
catalog number: NOM 7
released May 29, 2001
edition of 500 copies

recorded live at jack straw studios, seattle, wa on 8-26-99 by doug haire, as part of the othersounds concert series.
digital transfers by steve botterweg at multi-purpose recording studio, cornville, az
photos by eleanor gallagher and jeph jerman
layout eric lanzillotta (after cover design by jeph jerman)

"on the surface, a quiet, textural sound improvisation utilizing natural objects acoustically. beautifully recorded by ace engineer doug haire in a very quiet room. these sounds are one outcome of a process that i've been involved with for a long time, namely, the attempt to give up control of the sounds. trying not to impose an a priori design or structure as regards placement, repetition, exposition etc. and accepting the outcome. what you hear is what happened.

at times, when i am making sound in a room with people listening, i can reach a point where there are no thoughts in my mind and i am just noticing that my hand is moving and the sound that is coming out of these stones is connected somehow with other sounds in the room, they seem to be anticipating and answering each other. with careful listening, some of these connections can be heard on this disc.

after attempting for years to get a really good recording of one of these sound improvisations, i gave up, only to have the perfect circumstance handed to me." Jeph Jerman 4/21/01

for several years now, Jeph Jerman has been making a minimalist music that is beyond styles like 'lowercase-sound'. using no computer, no editing, and even no amplification, he has turned to acoustically playing natural objects - carefully chosen rocks, shells, driftwood, branches, seed pods, and pine cone. from these simple and often overlooked objects, he deftly coaxes minute and often unexpected sounds. far from a novelty exposition of odd noises, his music is played with skill and purpose. his is a music to be played live, and so far only has been. partially this is due to the difficulty of recording all details of his performance, while not also capturing the disturbances that are inherit in most situations. but after many unsatisfactory attempts, we finally have a recording that lives up to the quality of sitting quietly next to Jeph Jerman and experiencing his sounds.

ED PINSENT wrote about it in The Sound Projector (9th issue):

"Jeph Jerman is the American musician who, as Hands To, released the gorgeous record of 'cactus music' which we reviewed in issue seven. He's an elusive artist whose singular approach to his work means that is virtually impossible to record satisfactorily; indeed the label has taken some pride in stating that an acceptable and effective recording of his unobtrusive work has finally been realised (in this instance by Doug Haire, in 1999). Jerman is not an artist who exists simply to create product. Most of his rustic performances have been before an audience of nil, as he played found objects (stones and wood) out on his jaunts across the American countryside. He's a determinedly non-electric musician, and often refuses amplification for his minimal work.

The ideal situation for hearing this music would be simply sitting next to Jerman as he gently agitates his stones, his shells, and other natural forms. The Second Attraction comes close to a realisation of that intimate situation, and it's a short but completely entrancing record. Though some may be sceptical of his semi-mystifying observations about the sounds of his stones 'answering' sounds within the room, these are based on a deep understanding of acoustic properties, and if you listen carefully you will find he's not lying....and they have translated well to this record. His claim to be an improviser is valid; 'I can reach a point where...I am just noticing that my hand is moving', he states, suggesting he enters intense trances of playing through communing with his chosen instruments. And chosen is the right word here; he doesn't simply pick up any old piece of flotsam from the ground. Only the correct stone, seashell, or branch will do the job; he clearly has a set of highly developed (and very personal) criteria for how to recognise natural forms for their acoustic properties. If we all tried similar exercises, the chances are we could learn to develop a closer relationship to nature. Heaven knows we need one. I recently saw an awful family in the park near where I live, who'd broken off dozens of daffodil heads just to hand them over to their filthy offspring, to use as playthings. Needless to say, these flowers were trampled into the dirt within seconds. People think nature is 'free' garbage, which they can pick up and throw away, because it belongs to nobody. We need a Jeph Jerman to help us appreciate the real beauty and value of some of nature's finest gifts, and remind us that the earth belongs to all of us; we should act as good custodians of the earth, not careless tenants."

a review from Aquarius Records:

"After making Borbetomagus-like muscular free jazz in Blowhole and doing experimental tape manipulations as Hands To, Jeph Jerman has begun releasing work under his given name, to produce a primitive response to the technologically driven 'lowercase sound' of minimalism (i.e. Bernhard Gunter, Steve Roden, Loren Chasse, etc.). While he has been known to use some amplification in his work, 'Second Attention' is a piece of minimalist texturalism that is based solely upon how the microphone picks up Jerman's striations of natural objects. Pine cones, seed pods, shells, hollowed out drift wood, and carefully chosen rocks are scraped and tapped together to create a subtle field of pure texture. Difficult work to get into, but well worth the effort."