When we say that music heals, we are usually mean in a metaphysical sense. Many of us turn to it to calm the mind and sooth the soul, but when our bodies hurt, we look to other cures. For Belgian musician & composer Adriaan Swerts, however, making music has a genuinely anodyne effect. Swerts suffers from constant nerve pain as a result of a life-threatening accident which leaves him unable to perform live, but he says that the act of making music grants him a measure of relief. Having also recently lost a grandfather, Adriaan found the music he was writing was gravitating toward themes that contemplated the fragility and meaning of life. While those deeply personal compositions were never intended for release, they eventually coalesced “like shards of ice” floating together to form “an island of music” that became his new album One which was recently released on Piano and Coffee Records.
Central to the album are field recordings of natural landscapes Swerts has personally visited, from Icelandic glaciers and Scottish lochs to geysers, waterfalls, oceans and more. Using reel-to-reel tape processing to degrade these recordings and make them sound broken, he weaves them into a neoclassical setting using piano, harmonium, strings, and other acoustic instruments to complete a transformation that is symbolic of his own journey to overcome his physical disability in the pursuit of inner peace and hope.
There are also strong visual elements that tie into the themes of the album. Swerts has crafted videoclips through the process of cymatics, filming the sound vibrations caused by his music in water to create geometric patterns unique to each composition. There is even meaning encoded in the image of the ice that serves as the cover art.
The cracks in the ice symbolize how easily something can be broken into pieces – just like what happened to his body after his accident – but can still be a whole
We may not know what it is like to live in the kind of constant physical pain Swerts has to endure, but as human beings we are all broken in one way or another which makes the stillness and beauty offered in his music something to be appreciated.
One was released by Piano and Coffee records on October 28, 2022. The album is available digitally and on limited edition CD featuring artwork and design by Celia Bayo.