Despite all the talks about “new silence” and its derivates, this is a surprising album - not the least because the title is as self-explanatory as one can get. In fact, the CD contains an exact hour of contemplation between activity and nonbeing, where the environment is not only host but often claims the role of principal character.
The piece is entirely centred around a fundamental parameter, a refrigerator-like hum which remains constant the whole time. Upon this fixed presence, external urban noises (typically, engines of vehicles in transit) and somewhat far-off human presences punctuate an otherwise silent background. The shoes of someone who walks across the room are heard, most probably from the protagonist(s). At times we distinctly detect the subtle breathing of one of the two, characterized by an equally typical micro-whistle of the nose.
Instruments do appear, if extremely sparely: Naoshima slices the air open with mixer board-generated frequencies usually moving in the over-acute regions of the aural range, Kahn alternates stillness and restricted emissions from a collection of unspecified percussions, the whole appearing more as a series of ritual gestures than a “performance”: the closeness, the intensity, the innate introspection of the act are mind-relieving. Describing how these timbres materialize is rather senseless. Some gently snapping wooden cluster, short ringing bursts, small portions of metallic scraping. This music deals with “existing”, not “playing”.
A work whose bareness will keep superficial listeners at a safe distance, In A Room doesn’t present inaccessible complexities yet necessitates of absolute concentration and awareness of where we stand in a particular moment. Learning to listen to the inherent qualities of apparently extraneous factors – and to be even more thankful for quietness - is the name of the game.