International sound art label Flaming Pines has collected 24 singles in the Tiny Portraits series to form this pay what you want compilation of music dedicated to overlooked places. Each artist was asked to examine a physical space or location, and create a portrait of that space using whatever mode of creative inquiry they have in their toolbox. As an album, the music veers through manifestations of sound, with peaks and contours that are mostly peaceful in character. The result is an evocative, varied collection, with each piece a startlingly unique contribution to the whole, to be enjoyed as part of a journey through physical reality.
The elements of composition used are primarily field recordings, soundscapes, ambient effects, and embellishments from acoustic instruments and noise makers. The field recordings include found sounds, human, animal, and insect activity, birdsong, heavy machinery, radio, and the chatter and clatter of life in a modern city. Some of these pieces are abstract, evoking moods and emotions without the rigidity of structure. Others have a strong narrative arc to the piece, tracing the story from start to finish with more explicit musical elements.
Some of my favorites are "My Childhood Is My Only Home," a lounge ambient song with saxophone, keys, and meandering thoughts in jazz; "Andrejosta. Rudens Vilcieni (October sketches 2015)," a dark, slinky mishmash of upright bass and field samples, like the banging of grocery carts and emptying delivery trucks in a big box parking lot; "The Same Sun," field recordings from the streets of Cairo interrupted with chanting in unison, perhaps in prayer; and "Dean Clough C2," a beautiful flute and running water piece that calls to mind the compositions of Oliver Messiaen.
Tiny Portraits includes the work of composers from across the globe, as far as Australia, Canada, Latvia, Ukraine, Egypt, the UK, and more. While it bears the name of a complete compilation, it shares no overlap with the Tiny Portraits collection that Flaming Pines issued on CDR in 2013. These pieces have surfaced over the years since but all have been inspired by the same conceptual prompt. It's a wonderful way to experience some of these remote locations in this difficult point in time when travel is limited.