Claire Rousay: sometimes I feel like I don’t have friends Album review


“What if?” may be a trap to hell. Waiting on the other side of this interrogation hides paranoid delusions and chimerical dreams, both powerful mood oscillators. In sometimes i feel like i don’t have friends, San Antonio composer Claire Rousay explores the subject of friendship through a spiraling self-examination full of dangerous assumptions. “Why does someone want to be around me? Rousay wonders in the 28-minute play’s mission statement. “How to have friends? Do I deserve it? ” The ambient soundscape, like all of Rousay’s work, is assembled from field recordings, inventive percussion, and captured conversations. Here, Rousay seeks the marrow of friendship, and in turn presents the mechanics of the mind: its tendency to wander, to scrutinize its host, and sometimes to appease.

In opening steps, wind chimes float and tree branches sway and creak. sometimes i feel like i don’t have friends plays like images of a windy seaside, although it is possible that these sounds – recorded in San Antonio, Chicago and Rotterdam (the only coastal location) – have nothing to do with the sea. Rousay does not trace not the origin of every field recording, perhaps because she knows the mind is quick to build a scene for everyone. What passes for surfing can be a highway overpass or garbage blowing around an empty parking lot. The tables change with each listening; is it really a wind chime, or is it a bicycle bell? What’s interesting is that such disparate sources can produce such quiet sound. Rousay, who once said The New York Times, “I basically record all my life”, is intrigued by the multiple sonic properties of everyday things. Listeners can get lost in the limitless panoramas she conjures up, only to learn that they come from the sound of a can of pop.

Images of windy beaches and blown leaves come in and out as a piano halo, played by Emily Harper Scott, calms the spirit. But when Rousay’s voice rings out after three minutes, it sounds like a guided meditation gone wrong. “How many friends do you have?” she asks. “Have you ever said something bad about someone you would call a best friend?” (You may find yourself answering these questions silently and inadvertently.) “What if they said I said something bad about a best friend?” Would they forgive me? Each “what if” creaks on your nerves, pulling you out of hypnosis. Rousay spirals lower, taking us with her: “What if everyone turns their backs on me one day?” Am I ready for this? To be completely alone?

At the start of his monologue, Rousay sneaks into a growling drone. He grows stronger and ignites the feeling of unease stirred up by his interrogation. But Rousay is an excellent mood and mood manipulator, and she is quick to save her listeners from egocentric despair. The remaining minutes are filled with bar chat, a car radio and snatches of conversation between Rousay and his friends. The subjects are light and banal: an 80-year-old Vietnamese tailor “obsessed” with Anthony Bourdain; a student who returned poorly formatted homework. Rousay drowns his anxieties in worldly chatter, which ends up disappearing under a rain of wood and metallic percussions. Scott’s piano returns, and a wave of violin (courtesy of Rousay’s real best friend, Mari Maurice, aka More Eaze) restores a sense of calm. In this serene passage, the questioning voice is silent.

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