Regionality, according to Yui Onodera, is much more than just locale. It is a lens through which we look at life, through which we experience, process and create. Worried by the negative effects of cultural standardisation, he has embarked on a journey to observe the relevance of "environment, geography, and cultural background" guided by a fundamental conviction: "The meaning of a sound and the way it is used is different in each country. And I think it should naturally be apparent in the sound of their work, if artists work on it consciously."
To prove his point, Onodera has invited fifteen producers from eleven nations and asked them to contribute their perspective on the topic of vernacular. On a first listen, the results are impressive: Although this double-disc compilation restricts itself to experimental sound art, there are myriads of gradations, nuances, variations and concepts on display here, endlessly differentiated approaches to the shaping and sculpting of acoustic elements. As one zooms in on the conceptual considerations, meanwhile, questions start welling up. Is Hior Chronik's subliminal, fragile sense of harmony and texture really typically 'Greek'? Can TU'M gently droning soundscapes genuinely be characterised as 'Italian'? Kenneth Kirschner's minimal post-piano-étude "July 10, 2012" could certainly be regarded as following in the footsteps of fellow New Yorker Morton Feldman – yet others around the globe have been similarly inspired by his legacy.
As Onodera rightly argues in the booklet, meanwhile, "it's not simply about environmental sound in certain places." And even if were, there might still not be any clear-cut answers. I've frequently asked artists about the relevance of cultural influences for almost ten years now and they tend to agree that these influences are undeniable, but impossible to disentangle. The entire concept of vernacular, it appears, has transformed and turned from a regional concept to an aesthetic one.
The mere fact that the strikingly diverse contributions on Vernacular – ranging from complexly layered field recordings to ultra-minimal microsoundscapes – feel strangely related already proves how much diversity there can be within this small pocket of the music spectrum. To be governed by free choice, creative affiliation, similar production values and a shared vocabulary rather than border demarcations certainly seem preferable to the old paradigms as well.