A distorted voice, murmuring poetry, wafted eerily through nebulous layers of ambient vibrations. It echoed chillingly through the room, combining with strange sound waves, to fill the Horn Gallery with an unearthly atmosphere. The voice belonged to Colombian musician Lucrecia Dalt, whose visit to Kenyon this past Saturday marked the first Horn show of the 2019 spring semester.
Dalt, a former geotechnical engineer, pushes the conventional boundaries of music, experimenting with ambient sound waves to explore ideas about a natural and supernatural world that she finds intriguing and mysterious. Her inspiration comes from a variety of sources from geology to film to myth. For example, one of her pieces is inspired by a Colombian myth about a monster dwelling in the jungle.
“This monster takes its victims and squeezes them until the insides become pulp, and then he takes the insides out and then these bodies become like inflatable bodies,” Dalt explained. “So I was using that myth to think about extreme love, in the way that I want to possess the other so badly that I want to take the insides and kind of feel the skin.”
Much of Dalt’s music explores a fascination with the unknown, often by evoking the natural world and its secrets.
“I wrote this lyric which talks about the speculative idea that we could be living in analog mountains of accumulated stuff that we do not know about,” Dalt said. “Because as much as we can explore the underground we cannot explore it all, and we do not know all the truth about the earth unless we can really dig inside of it.”
Dalt performs her lyrics in a spoken-word style that meshes with her music. Many of her songs have no lyrics; sound alone makes a sufficient impact. As Dalt played, her pieces flowed together so that one could not distinguish when one stopped and the other began. This fluidity, however, did not signify monotony; several different arcs of sound presented themselves throughout the evening.
At times, electronic tones filled the air, building into consuming and suffocating crescendos of sound. At other moments, loud bursts of noise descended into more intricate rhythms that alluded to the sounds of the natural world, like water dropping, or wind howling through a cave.
Dalt’s concert was preceded by a performance by Sawyer Hiton ’19. Though more concretely melodic than Dalt’s music, Hiton’s performance followed a similar flow, with each song melding seamlessly into the next. Hiton’s music at times also bordered on the ambient, funneling viewers into a fitting mindset for Dalt’s performance. As Hiton played, a video, projected onto the wall behind him, displayed a wide range of footage. The video included everything from clips of farming and agriculture to videos of children in the 1950s crossing the street. This unlikely compilation of video footage intertwined in a surprisingly complementary way with Hiton’s music, so much that the two began to feel like one.
Though at times Dalt’s intense sound waves may strike an unsettling chord with some listeners, it would be hard to deny Dalt’s music is affecting as an art form.
When Dalt first sat behind her table full of gear with its vast tangle of cables, the crowd in front of her stood at attention. As the evening wore on, people began to sink to the floor one by one, under the spell of Dalt’s hypnotic sounds. Dalt finally broke the spell with an abrupt but quiet “thank you.” The lights came on and people slowly rose to their feet, still dazed by Dalt’s unparalleled ambient sound.