LISTENING MIRROR – On The Passing of Chavela

DRONARIVM, DR-02, CD, ltd. 93

Dedicated to Chavela Vargas (1919-2012). One hour long journey through the fields filled by voices of dead and alive, invisible touches of night shadows, crickets singing and echoes of sleeps… Highly recommended to listen in the night time.

“This is my tribute to Chavela Vargas, the voice and the heart of Mexico.
What a voice she had!
Rough hewn by cigar smoke and tequila, Chavela’s voice was perfect for the songs of love, death, joy, heartbreak and revenge that were her trademark. Songs that until Chavela, had only been sung by men.
Born in Costa Rica, but adopted by her beloved Mexico. As a girl she roamed the streets of Mexico City with a gun in her belt and a song in her heart. A free spirit. A strong and powerful woman. A legend.
She was part of the riotous Mexican art scene of the 1930’s and 40’s that included her friends Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera and lived a life that would have sent many a lesser mortal to their graves a long time earlier than the 93 years that she was blessed with.
If ever a voice reflected a life, then that voice was Chavela’s.
When I awoke, one Sunday morning, to learn of her passing, I took a deep breath, played ‘Paloma Negra’ one more time in her honour, and reached for my guitar…………”

Written and produced by Jeff Stonehouse on the morning of 6 August 2012.
Equipment – “Wind driven” Electric Guitar, Rotary Fan, Ableton Live, Macbook Pro.

Listening Mirror is the collaborative ambient/drone project of Jeff Stonehouse.  Jeff has been making noise of one kind or another for most of his life. He has no musical training, his background is in sound recording, generation and manipulation. Listening Mirror is an attempt to extract some beauty from the noise that surrounds us all every day.


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6 thoughts on “LISTENING MIRROR – On The Passing of Chavela

  1. Review by Noisetopia

    Pastoral and panoramic are two words I would use to describe the atmosphere being built by Listening Mirror. The drones are omnipresent, at times akin to distant choir like voicing, while at other moments somewhat inorganic and inhuman. These unique characteristics of organic and inorganic matter help strengthen the piece, that tension between what is reality and what is not is key. With On The Passing Of Chavela you are never quite sure, and that is what it makes it so very gripping.

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  2. Review by Kevin Carnaille at Have Faith in Sound.

    À la fois doux et parfaitement imprégnant, sombre mais étincelant, statique et pourtant élégant, l’album restera un hommage très personnel, émouvant et sincère, dont le ton profondément aérien ne manquera pas de se hisser vers la regrettée concernée qui nous regarde de tout en haut.

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  3. Review by James Catchpole for Fluid Radio

    A Zen saying goes, ‘When things fall apart, make art’. So has Jeff Stonehouse created an incredible piece of music that calls to the spirit and the heart of Mexico, and of Chavela, saluting a musical and cultural icon. A lasting note to add was her now immortal debut at Carnegie Hall. At the age of 93, her performance ended with the song ‘Hacia La Vida’, a song that delved into the struggles of life, but of the ultimate choosing of life over death. She fought death for the pure love of life.

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  4. Review by maeror3

    Chavela Vargas passed away in Mexico on August 5, 2012. She was a famous singer and a woman of interesting fate where there were lots of striking, sometimes provocative and scandalous moments which reflected here love of freedom and an independent lifestyle. Having heard of it, on August 6th an English musician Jeff Stonehouse created an hour-long composition in memory of the deceased by improvising on the guitar and processing different sounds with sound editors. This way the sad but natural event (the deceased was 93) became an emotional incitement for creative work, and its results are presented in the form of a new album “Listening Mirror”.
    Although Jeff created “On The Passing Of Chavela” in the morning (according to himself), the mood of this long composition suits more to evening walks around city outskirts where untrodden nature and the even ground surface can still be found, and it is possible to see how the sun disappears below the horizon. However, this sentimental-melancholic walk is prepared at home, even, probably, from the moment of awakening. The first minutes of the album are filled with the deep vibrating hum which make walls, glasses, things and thoughts resonate and immerse a listener in some strange, somnambulistic state. Chirring of cicadas, which one will follow throughout the album (or are these mechanical sounds?), slow audio streams, phantom voices and snatches of melodies, heard through a turbid invisible veil…even the sound of rotating fan blades are slowed down as much as possible and break air flow up with no hurry at all. Then this drowsiness is gradually driven away by the guitar; slow running over the strings helps to collect thoughts and start out; but it could be that these audio threads, stretched though audio texture, even more surely immerse the listener in the Morpheus’ kingdom, and the so-called walk will finally turn out to be a real sleep. But it’ll be a quiet, deep sleep, a chain of consecutive visions, where sunset mirages on the horizon, distant darkening skies, street noise, children’s cries coming from open windows and many other sounds, which form a continuous melody of life, will merge into a single whole. And among these sounds the voice of Chavela Vargas is heard, as well as voices of all people, the living and the dead, and of those who is only going to come into this world.
    “On The Passing Of Chavela” is the album with a very particular mood. One needs to tune in to it, and then this slow music will reveal itself it all its beauty, with no emphasis on sadness and sorrow, characteristic of the selected subject matter, but making to meditate while listening on something undoubtedly important.

  5. Review by Peter van Cooten at Ambientblog

    It conjures images of Chavela’s spirit hovering over Mexico’s vast and rough landscapes.
    It’s a contemplation, or meditation, on the power of her ‘free spirit’ and the impact she has had on the world around her.

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  6. Review at Music Won’t Save You

    Più che un inno o una lamentazione, “On The Passing Of Chavela” rappresenta una sorta di manifesto emotivo, che proprio nelle sue tenui modulazioni droniche sintetizza un raccoglimento solenne e rispettoso della figura alla quale è dedicato.

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