Thibault Jehanne shapes sound like builders shape metal. Farol may be a tribute to Lisbon’s 25 April bridge, but its reverberations seem otherworldly and unknown. After hearing the recording, we’re not sure we’d want to drive across the bridge; it seems desperately unsafe, ready to collapse, haunted by specters of sound.
It is said that the bridge is inescapable; no matter where one resides, one can see it. Casting a shadowy presence on the capital, it almost becomes the capital, like an evil overlord. The bridge is described as loud: the closer one gets, the louder the bridge gets. Traffic mixes with the friction of wind on exposed surfaces; nearby planes interject their engines.
The opening minutes ebb and flow, but possess a sense of foreboding. Hammering disturbs the drones in the ninth minute, but who is hammering? And then, at the ten-minute mark, the piece turns musical, with plodding percussion conveying a sense of inevitability. Two minutes later, the pounding cedes space to the passing of cars and trains.
A conference of drones, breath and flies converges at the quarter-hour mark. The impression is that of an acrid seance. One imagines this CD will not be used to attract tourists. By amplifying such sounds, Jehanne exposes the underbelly of the bridge’s existence: the pervasiveness of the hum that prevents some people from sleeping and haunts others’ dreams. Impassively, the bridge stands, now twice its original size, thanks to a lower platform added for trains. One might call it a marvel of architecture; and yet, it creaks and groans, unwilling to let people relax. 625 feet is a long way to fall, or jump.
Voices appear in the 25th minute, then chanting: Viva la revolución! The Carnation revolution of 1974 toppled Salazar and prompted the change of names: the slow buzz of humanity, the desperation for turnover, and eventually the carnations placed in muzzles, the danger spent.
Clearer sounds begin to emerge: a whooshing train, the lapping of water against a buoy or pier, a bird shaking its wings. The transition is akin to that of a dictatorship giving way to a democracy. Soon the water sounds become pristine. A great cacophony emerges, then bursts, giving way to quiet running water, to birds and more distant echoes from the bridge. The danger is over, the time of peace has begun, the bridge has a new name, the children frolic in the fields.
And yet, from beneath the metallic drone, one can still hear the groans of ghosts.
A Closer Listen, Richard Allen, 2020