In August 2022, Australia-based, French born fourth-world music legend Ariel Kalma was invited to participate in BBC Radio 3’s Late Junction series of special collaborations. The program pairs artists who have not previously worked together to create new music cooperatively.
Kalma was quick to suggest working with two musicians whom he had never met – International Anthem recording artists Jeremiah Chiu & Marta Sofia Honer, whose critically-acclaimed duo debut 'Recordings from the Åland Islands' had been released just a few months earlier. An invitation was sent to Chiu and Honer, which was received with great enthusiasm, as Chiu had long been a fan of Kalma’s work, even citing him as a major influence on his approach to electronic music composition.
The essential structure of the Late Junction collaboration was that the artists would work together to create around twenty minutes of music. They began passing music back and forth, some that Kalma had started, and some that Honer & Chiu had started, with each adding to or editing the track before returning it to the other. The music would only go back and forth a few times before being finalized.
After meeting their twenty minute goal for the program (four pieces total), the three musicians were satisfied in what they would present and sent along their work to the producers of Late Junction. However, there was a nagging suspicion that this wasn’t the end of the story. There were several pieces that they had nearly completed but that weren’t sent for inclusion in the radio program, and there were many ideas for refining those pieces that had. With this in mind Kalma, Chiu and Honer agreed that they would continue to work together to try to push the music further. The freshly minted trio felt like there was much more to be said and more work to be done. The Late Junction program was broadcast in September of 2022. Simultaneously, Kalma, Chiu and Honer began expanding upon the music they had started for the purpose of the broadcast, working diligently on the music for several months.
Their collective approach to this work was born in improvisation and realized via collage-based editing. The end result brings several distinct musical moments — recorded sometimes decades apart — into conversation with one another, forming new narratives from building blocks of old ones. There are snippets of improvised playing from each musician, edited together with recordings that Kalma had made in the 70s at GRM, and even moments of audio notes — like Kalma explaining his ideas — that would make it into the final mixes.
Ultimately, the collection of music highlights the work of all three musicians, intertwining the contextual immersion heard on Chiu & Honer’s 'Recordings from the Åland Islands' with an intergenerational reverence for (and the undeniable presence of) Kalma’s decades-spanning body of work. It is work that has definitively enshrined him as one of the true, transcendent pioneers and sages of new age and fourth-world music. That reverence is affirmed by the album title chosen by the group — "The Closest Thing to Silence" — which is taken from a quote by Kalma included in a documentary by RVNG Intl (as part of their release of the 2014 compendium/retrospective An Evolutionary Music). Perhaps coincidental, Kalma’s quote was a slight modulation of a legendary ECM Records motto, as he said: “Music is the closest thing to silence.”