… a certain impressionistic quality can be traced in this composer’s sculptural approach, clearly indicating the ascendancy of visual art concerns… — Modisti, Spain
… replaçant le souci du détail bruissant et des ambiguïtés de l’écoute au centre de son processus créatif. — Octopus, France
- Composer(s): Pete Stollery
- Author(s): Jonty Harrison, Alistair MacDonald, Simon Atkinson, Joseph Anderson, Adrian Moore, Andrew Lewis, Robert Dow
- Cover image: Lucy Kendra
- Mastering: Dominique Bassal
- University of Aberdeen
DVD-Audio (IMED 0678)
- Label: empreintes DIGITALes
- IMED 0678
- UCC 771028067893
- Total duration: 68:42
- 142 mm × 125 mm × 10 mm
- 55 g
On the web
Download (IMED 0678_NUM)
- Label: empreintes DIGITALes
- IMED 0678_NUM
- UCC 771028067886
- Total duration: 68:42
When I first became involved in electroacoustic music, I was fascinated with the way that technology could allow the composer to work directly with sound, in a similar way to how a sculptor or potter works with his/her materials. The ability to manipulate material at this basic level is a central aspect of my music and this can be seen most obviously from pieces which are concerned with the interplay between the ‘meanings’ associated with sounds and these sounds as pure sonic material, divorced from any mimetic connotation.
There is little in my music which can be likened to ‘broad brush-work’ — attention to detail and the exact positioning of sound objects within composed space is of the utmost importance to me. This allows the listener to become aware of the intrinsic qualities of the sounds themselves, and how they behave.
There are many uses of, and references to, real-world sounds in the pieces on this disc; the key in the lock opening the door at the beginning of Onset/Offset is, on one level, metaphorical, but at the same time, provides an opportunity for the listener to enjoy the spectro-morphological behaviour of this gesture. Playing with the potential ambiguities of listening is central to all these pieces; a door slides open to reveal a new sound space, but at the same time, the listener dwells on the texture and shape of that slide; a street scene is recognised initially, but with the subtle inclusion of other sounds, and gradually mutates into the unrecognisable — the boundaries between what is known and what is unknown become blurred. A roulette wheel is stretched and the outer surface peeled back to reveal new sounds beyond…
… sounds can hide one another…
Pete Stollery [iii-06]
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In the press
Deeply concerned with the material dimension of sound and the relationship between sound phenomenon and message, the works explore the abstract dimension of the sound in itself, occasionally changing the focus to its communicative dimension. Careful attention is paid to spatialization, as the author’s concern with sound masses is clearly manifested through his use of volumes, surfaces and textures in a manner both simple and sophisticated. Not surprisingly, a certain impressionistic quality can be traced in this composer’s sculptural approach, clearly indicating the ascendancy of visual art concerns and the importance attributed to and the associative connotations of the sonic.
C’est au sein du fameux Birmingham ElectroAcoustic Sound Theatre (BEAST) que le musicien Pete Stollery a fait ses premiers pas de compositeur acousmatique au début des années 80. C’est au sein de ce collectif d’activistes qu’il a également ébauché son approche particulièrement abstraite des agencements sonores, replaçant le souci du détail bruissant et des ambiguïtés de l’écoute au centre de son processus créatif. Telles des bribes de scénarios échevelés, ses motifs sonores malicieux s’enchevêtrent dans de nouvelles interprétations audios, offrant d’étranges dynamiques kaléidoscopiques, dépassant grâce à des variations rapides les simples identifications de leur nature initiale et juxtapositions.
Wel nieuw is het album Un son peut en cacher un autre, ook te beluisteren op 3 manieren, van de voor mij nieuwe Pete Stollery. Deze Brit is één van de oprichters van BEAST (Birmingham ElectroAcoustic Sound Theatre). Hij maakt een lappendeken van minimale unieke geluiden die komen en gaan. Hiermee schept hij een surrealistische atmosfeer, die heel soms even de werkelijkheid weten aan te raken. Het is soms een behoorlijk verstilde mix van elektro-akoestische klanken, veelal met straatgeluiden, die neigt naar ambient. Hij onderscheidt zich van zijn collega’s door met minimaal geluid maximaal effect te bereiken. Als een gootsteen sijpelen de klanken weg en soms komt het als grommend monsterlijk magma weer naar boven borrelen. Stollery maakt miniatuur mechanismen die over een oerkracht lijken te beschikken. Zeer indrukwekkend minimalisme. Wie nog onbekend is met dit label: doe er snel wat aan, want hier vind je zonder overdrijven het summum van de elektro-akoestische muziek.
Pete Stollery was one of the first members of the Birmingham’s BEAST (a renewed center for electroacoustic reserach) and now he runs the (similar) University of Aberdeen’s Electroacoustic Music Studio. He’s a conscious acousmatic researcher, well-known in the scene, and he has a peculiar ability in the art of combining and colliding sounds. He cultivates this practices and musical conceptions while showing a rare technical expertise. That seem the reason why, in this case, he opts for the DVD-Audio format, that assures a higher Khz/bit resolution. The album focus seem to be on the quality of the granular textures, the deep manipulation of the field recordings, and the consequent integration in an everchanging mesmerizing continuum. Nevertheless the musical structures are definitively the outcome of a self-referential system.
Un son peut en cacher un autre: premier album du compositeur britannique Pete Stollery, prenant la forme d’une compilation, où l’on retrouve sept structures dynamiques et intrigantes composées entre 1993 et 2003 et reproduites en très haute fidélité (88 Khz / 24 bits) sur DVD-Audio, grâce à l’excellent label québécois empreintes DIGITALes.
Membre de BEAST (Birmingham ElectroAcoustic Sound Theatre) et ancien élève de Jonty Harrison, à l’Université de Birmingham, cet adepte de la composition électroacoustique est d’ailleurs professeur à l’Université d’Aberdeen. En compagnie d’Alistair MacDonald, de Robert Dow et de Simon Atkinson, il fonde en 1996 le groupe invisiblEARts, dont le but est de faire la promotion de la musique acousmatique écossaise auprès d’un large public en Écosse et sur la scène internationale. À la manière d’un sculpteur ou d’un potier, Pete Stollery manipule la matière sonore en abusant de la technologie, comme d’autres du burin ou du tour (de potier). C’est ce contact direct avec le son, qui l’a d’abord attiré vers la musique électroacoustique. Soucieux du détail et minutieux dans la disposition des objets sonores, ses compositions évolutives se rejoignent sur certains points: le jeu sur les ambiguïtés possibles de l’acte d’écoute, les interactions entre le sens original des sons et le son en soi, dénué de ses références physiques.
Élitistes et issus du domaine universitaire, ses travaux ne sont en aucun cas ennuyeux. Pete Stollery réussit à préserver la pureté des bruits originaux en les faisant disparaître momentanément, juste le temps de nous entraîner vers des réalités ambiguës, surréalistes. Tel un incantateur à la recherche d’une expérience sacrée ou primitive, le compositeur nous offre une musique électroacoustique passionnante et colorée!
Le DVD-Audio ne propose qu’une image statique sur votre écran, inutile donc (comme j’ai pu le faire) de vous acharner sur les fonctions du menu!
Sept compositions de très très bonne facture, accessibles au plus grand nombre!
Chi è precisamente Pete Stollery? Pete Stollery, classe 1960, è uno di quei musicisti-ricercatori, insegnanti accademici, performer ed acusmatici. Si tratta innanzitutto di musicisti che inseguono un taglio elettroacustico/acusmatico fin dentro le maglie complesse di forme istituzionalizzanti, di ‘ricercatori’ nel senso originario di questo termine, in maniera più generica di ‘intellettuali’ (passatemi il termine), e più a fondo di agitatori della scena; in sostanza Pete Stollery appartiene a quella classe di musici che prima di manomettere due o tre sorgenti, mantengono un atteggiamento coerente col mondo delle arti contemporanee, e quel background (che in Italia davvero è lacunoso e spesso imbarazzante) che gli permette, nonostante il curriculum tradotto in due lingue, e quindi, come è norma fare in questi ambienti, un po’ sbandierato, d’innescare un discorso sonoro storicamente consapevole e potentemente supportato da ricerca e senso. Ma veniamo all’oggetto stesso. Questo è un DVD audio senza filmati, il supporto è per garantire 48 Khz/24 bit. Scelta già praticata nei settori dell’elettronica più perfezionista; quindi con questo niente di nuovo! I suoni sono in gran parte frutto di field recordings, che partendo in sordina s’intrecciano a smagliature pianeggianti con ausilio di granulazioni a warp; nel contesto, l’insieme dei suoni si basa su una costruzione pesantemente interpolante: da un lato la salda modularità ambientalista, dall’altro un certo uso della scheggia come elemento di montaggio e passaggio; in mezzo, una debordante continuità ciclica che si ripiega su se stessa come fosse un dragone proiettato su uno schermo di un fantasy. Il pericolo maggiore, anche in questo caso, è che questi suoni, per quanto integrati ed integranti, riscoprono uno scenario a mio avviso masturbatorio, figlio delle ricerche di Henry e di quelle di Parmegiani, ma con piglio di futurismo integralista che spesso scoraggia la fascinazione di fondo che questi suoni mantengono con l’essenza della musica. È un lavoro molto curato, ha notevoli spunti di riflessione, e si muove su territori pietrosi, esponenziali, occultati, talvolta interrotti; eppure su tutto il concept si staglia come una gigantografia l’enorme vessillo tecnicista, modulista, da GRM che esplode proprio nei momenti in cui il suono si faceva più umano. Dietro il consacrato Fennesz dei tre giri di chitarra e dei pad granulati, comunque, si nascondono personaggi come Stollery, che scegliendo d’interagire con una forma differente di granularità, hanno anche imboccato un difficile percorso sia per la musica che per il cinema fantascientifico.
Aberdeen, Scotland is the base of composer Pete Stollery, who in this DVD-Audio shows great skill and a well evident “human touch” which distinguishes his music from the many acousmatic artifacts that, in their complexity, disguise a lack of ideas amidst bell-and-whistle techniques. These seven tracks plunge the listener in a system of sonic interdependency where events happen in spurts and consecutive evolutions, mainly through timbral interactions that cause natural environments and peculiar phenomena to morph into something that is completely unrecognizable. Stollery generates composites of modified informations, displacing our aural perspective by exchanging roles and rules, adjusting the genetics of the primary sources through an almost debilitating work of aggregation and disintegration. What is missing — and this must be intended as a compliment — is the brutality that often characterizes the most cerebral electroacoustic patchworks: no sudden explosions, no theatrics, no screaming. We are allowed to enjoy a trip through agitation without losing control, unexpected twists and contradicting alterations all parts of a mechanism that uses the analysis of the matter as a compositional basis. To summarize it all, we’re not in presence of an overstressing kind of music, rather led into vast areas of thought that always have room for intelligent stimulation and satisfying colour. Being this my first meeting with Stollery’s sound, I can’t help but praise his outlook on the difficult art of acousmatics, a cauldron which too often causes loss of personality. Not in this case. Un son peut en cacher un autre is definitely a keeper.
Die surrealistische Musik des Schotten Pete Stollery funktioniert auch ohne akademische Grundbildung in Sachen Elektroakustik und Akusmatik. Die elektronische Bearbeitung lässt oft die Quellen der Klänge und Soundscapes erkennen, die Musik bietet einzelnen Klängen viel Platz, wirkt dadurch leicht und bleibt trotzdem durchweg spannend.
I started this review by trying to describe what happened inside those seven compositions. That is however both tedious work and the result of that hard labour will still not be enough to give the reader the right idea about what this music really is. Let’s take a look at what I managed:
The opening of a door, the flanged (slowly declining) sound that resembles the peeling off of cellotape. Stop, start again. The same sound types, the same order but slightly differently mixed, edited, placed. Then the distinct sound of a ball in a bowl. Stop, start again. New scene: closing of a door. Sub bass, re-editing of previous sounds. Reverberated, echoed and snappier cut. Stop, start again. We’re outside. Street sounds, at first clearand unadulterated but soon caught in a wide mix with reverberations, the sounds of the first scenes, and street sounds. After which the composition rounds it up with the sounds of the first few minutes.
This work is not as scenic as the first one and concentrates much more on the morphing of sounds. Central sound source is (I think) the sound of a turning coin. Reminding us of course of one of the first Études of Pierre Schaeffer. Then the sound changes and we no longer appear to be dealing with a Schaefferian but simply with a ball inside a roulette disk. New scene, starting with the final second of the first scene. But now everything breaks down again, and again. The sound of the ball is edited again and again. After a few minutes we hear, from the distance, the voice of a child. Then: silence and booming sounds. We’re teleported to a family scenery. The conversation between a small child and his very English parents. After which the story continues with sounds of wrapping paper, clicks, humms. Aside from the funny family scene, not the best work. It starts of quite strong but somehow looses its direction on the way out.
See? This might be regarded as a sort of map, but still you wouldn’t see the landscape. The problem with this music (and indeed a lot of the music released by empreintes DIGITALes) is that it consists of so many layers and the musical structure is so complex that trying to describe will always fail to transmit the essential.
So, how shall I proceed to review this release? Let me do that in separate phases. First some words about the total collection, after which a short description (no more) of each of the compositions. Then I might compare it to works that have already been released so that the reader has a point of reference. After which some words about the package and such.
It is most important to keep your attention with the music. Do not, really, do not start another activity because you will miss out on 80% of the quality of this music. Also, listening with headphones is not recommended. The music needs to float freely through the air. I found listening through headphones not as pleasant as through speakers. The sounds heard in the compositions on this disc keep a strong link with their origins. 90% of the sounds are firmly rooted in real acoustic phenomena. We hear, for instance, the rolling of a ball in the roulette table, but it is presented to us in such a fashion that those parts of the acoustics are enhanced, that we normally neglect. This double negative, together with the sound icon that we already have of a ball rolling over a wooden plain, gives the impression of a sort of acoustic super reality.
The whole disc is in this vein. Recordings are crystal clear and edits or the elaborations of these are never cloggy. So, in that corner everything’s hunky dory. I have more difficulty with the musical structure which can be hard to follow, sometimes. At times it seems like the music is designed on a second to second basis. This is especially the case where the sounds remain close to the original (phonographic) recording. There, Stollery seems to want to change our perspective again and again with abrupt or heavily processed interludes. As you may see in the descriptions of the two first compositions above but it also appears in composition number 5: ABZ/A. Composition numbers 3, 4, 5, and 7 (Shioum, Altered Images, Shortstuff and Vox Magna) are different. They are not as closely related to an acoustic source and follow a very clear thread of development.
We get 7 compositions, ranging from 1993 to 2003, on this disc that is presented in several formats: [88 kHz / 24-bit, 48 kHz / 24-bit], and in AAC and MP3 (320 kbps).
Pete Stollery (1960, Halifax, UK), Mathew Adkins (1972, Leamington, UK) und Pierre Alexandre Tremblay (1975, Montréal) haben sicher Vieles gemeinsam, schon auf den ersten Blick auf ihre Biographien aber ihr Studium bei Jonty Harrison an der University of Birmingham, das Tremblay 2005 mit dem PhD in Electroacoustic Composition abschloss, die anderen natürlich ebenso. Das ist hier die Sorte von Elektroakustik, bei der so etwas obligatorisch ist und zählt und auch dazu führt, dass Stollery z.B. heute Lecturer in Music und Director des Electroacoustic Music Studio at the University of Aberdeen ist oder Tremblay Komposition an der University of Huddersfield lehrt. Ebenso obligatorisch ist, dass man für seine Musik Preise bekommt, in Sao Paulo, Prag, Stockholm oder Bourges.
So wurde etwa Stollery für Altered Images (1995) und Vox Magna (2003) ausgezeichnet, die zusammen mit 5 weiteren Kompositionen enthalten sind auf Un son peut en cacher un autre (IMED 0678, DVD-Audio). Dabei spielt er mit Roulettekugeln (Peel, 1997) und Fahrradspeichen, schließt Debussy mit Ken Russell kurz, lässt Kinder grüne Bienen malen, lässt sein Material knackig zucken (Shortstuff, 1993), umrundet, angestoßen von Aberdeen-O-Ton, im Zeitraffer die Welt und begegnet dabei zwischen Meeresstrand und Autobahn einem Akkordeonspieler (ABZ/A, 1998). Das ziemlich großartige Vox Magna schließlich meditiert als postindustrialer Soundscape über die nordenglischen und schottischen Hinterlassenschaften des Industrialen Zeitalters, mit geisterhaften Echos des eisernen Eifers eines Fortschritts, der längst vorüber geschrittenen ist. Konzept muss sein, meinte die grüne Biene und tänzelte dabei auf einem Bein.
Mondes inconnus (IMED 0679, DVD-Audio) versammelt 8 Arbeiten von Adkins, darunter seine Preisträger Melt (1994) und Mapping (1995-97). Adkins Musik kreist um Anfänge (Mapping), Ruhezustand und Geschwindigkeit (Still Time, 2001), sie wirft Blicke aus der Satellitenperspektive auf die Erde und per Teleskop ins All (Aerial & Deepfield, 2002) oder pendelt mit dem Zug ins Zentrum von Birmingham, mit Turners Rain, Steam, and Speed und Schaeffers Étude aux chemins de fer im Hinterkopf (Melt). Symbiont (2002) und das gleichzeitig übereifrig stotternde und pathetisch nach den Sternen greifende Cortex (2004-05) wurden angeregt durch die Science Fiction von William Gibson und Isaac Asimov und die visuelle Phantasie von HR Giger. Silk to Steel (2005) entstand als Geburtstagsgeschenk für den Kollegen Christopher Fox und variiert mit Hilfe von Primzahlen auf elektroakustische Weise Fragmente aus dessen Pianostück Prime Site. Die brillante Akustik gibt Adkins fantastischen Reisen in unbekannte Welten eine oft nicht mehr geheure Plastizität. Schnitte wooshen wie Poes Pendel. Wenn es knirscht, dann rummmst gleich eine Gerölllawine aus den Boxen. Immer wieder gerät man als Incredible Shrinking Man zwischen die Backenzähne eines Riesen. So etwas nenn ich Sonic Fiction erster Güte.
Tremblay, ansonsten auch Bassist und Kopf des Quebecer Jazzquintetts [iks], beginnt seine Sammlung Alter ego (IMED 0680, DVD-Audio) mit einem autoportrait (2001), einem Blick auf die zurück liegende Dekade des eigenen Strebens und Werkeln, der 10. Ausgabe des Festivals Rien à voir entstand. Danach folgen Klang gewordene expressive und romantische Reflexionen über die unmögliche Stille (au Croisé, le silence, seul, tient lieu de parole, 2000), über Mind & Body (Binary (Virtual Rapper Remix), 1998), über Ovids Spruch „Tempus edax rerum” und die Flüchtigkeit der Zeit (fugue; qui sent le temps?, 1997) und über Baudelaires Zeile „Moi, mon âme est fêlée” (la cloche fêlée, 2004). Immer wieder werden Stimmen, Schritte, demagogisches Gebrüll geloopt oder Fetzen von Rap (Dice B von The CatBurglaz). Dazu brodelt es und rauscht aus allen Fugen und selbst Breakbeats oder vorbei röhrende Formel 1-Boliden und schließlich auch noch Kirchenglocken geraten in Tremblays Zentrifuge. Hier ist endlich mal wieder einer, der von Musik groß denkt und sogar das Wort Übermensch nicht scheut. Musik ist Komplize, Spiegel, das Andere (Alter ego). Eine Poesie des Unvollkommenen und Traumpfad ins Andereswo. Zumindest der Versuch, Übergänge zu finden oder zu bahnen zu Altered States, zu einem lebendigeren und schöneren Selbstsein (Alter ego).
Die surrealistische Musik des Schotten Pete Stollery funktioniert auch ohne akademische Grundbildung in Sachen Elektroakustik und Akusmatik. Die elektronische Bearbeitung lässt oft die Quellen der Klänge und Soundscapes erkennen, die Musik bietet einzelnen Klängen viel Platz, wirkt dadurch leicht und bleibt trotzdem durchweg spannend. 4/5
The Canadian label empreintes DIGITALes releases two CDs with compositions from english composers and performers of electroacoustic music. Mondes inconnus brings together 8 works that were composed between 1995 and 2004. The composer is Adkins. He started in 1993 as a member of BEAST (Birmingham Electro Acoustic Sound Theatre). He received many international prizes for his electroacoustic compositions. So he is someone with a reputation in the circles of electroacoustic music. This is also the case for Pete Stollery who, just like Adkins, studied composition with Jonty Harrison in Birmingham. Also Stollery has his work — mostly electroacoustic music — performed all over Europe and America. On his new cd Un son peut en cacher un autre seven works composed between 1993 and 2003 are presented. Since 1996 both gentlemen established with some others the group invisiblEARts whose aim it is to perform and promote acousmatic music. All this may sound as if we are in highly academic and elitist environment with these two composers. But let me assure you these two composers are absolutely no boring company. In their own way both offer some very exciting and satisfying electroacoustic music. A music that still is very much alife since it was initiated by Pierre Schaeffer.
Especially in the works of Stollery a diversity of concrete sounds can be traced and identified. From this Stollery builts abstract and surrealistic soundscapes. He succeeds in preserving the ‘purity’ of the original sounds, which makes his work very colorful. With a great sense for detail, he composes dynamic and intriguing structures that kept my attention from beginning to the end. I’m not familiar enough with this kind of music in order to discover whether these electroacoustic compositions carry a personal signature. Listening to both CDs I found myself unable in identifying the hand of Adkins or Stollery. In general the works of Adkins are more ambient-like and synthetic, and less whimsical then the works of Stollery.
Pete Stollery is well-known to the electroacoustic community, no least through his work at the Sonic Arts Network in the UK. He is the Director of the Electroacoustic Music Studio in Aberdeen, Scotland. Personally I’ve even had a correspondence with him once about the Scottish folk singer Hamish Imlach!
Many of the UK composers of electroacoustic music are distinguishable by their fluent, innovative style of composing, and their freedom of speech, so to say. The BEAST – Birmingham Electroacoustic Sound Theater – may in part have to do with that certain resonance in the UK. Pete Stollery was one of its first members.
To establish the lines of evolution and tradition, I note that Stollery studies with Jonty Harrison at Birmingham University.
Pete Stollery collaborates with artists from other disciplines, like dance and sculpture. He founded the group InvisiblEARts in 1996 with Alistair MacDonald, Robert Dow and Simon Atkinson, with the aim of performing acousmatic music throughout Scotland and make the art form more widely known.
This piece was released on Artemiy Artemiev’s Russian label Electroshock in 1999, as part of their third release in the ongoing series Electroshock Presents.
The work deals with the interplay of recognizable sounds and the sonic qualities of these sounds per se. A brief introduction by Jonty Harrison is given in the booklet.
Stollery’s EA music is delivered and received at high altitudes. This is mountaineering electroacoustics, serving adventurous and curious people well, oxygen or no oxygen! It is clear that he is a very good climber, traversing the void in daring zigzags up granite walls in snowy landscapes, and like in mountain climbing, the minute details mean everything also in the execution of acousmatic music. The sound wisps away and walks a razor’s edge, like the climber daring the ridge between the South and North summit of Kebnekaise! There is a lot of air around the sound here! Below are the glaciers: Björling Glacier to the east, Rabot’s Glacier to the west.
Being inside these sounds that tweak and wisp and soar and bounce, is like being inside your own head, as your body engages its entire breathing capacity to squeeze the last molecule of oxygen out of the atmosphere, to keep your population of cells working, in these cold, thin-aired conditions. Your panting almost drowns the details of the music; the cold sweat behind your goggles dims your view of vast expanses below, as you enter a Shaman’s realm in your fearsome fatigue, envisioning all your lives lived and yet to live as a bead of pearls spiraling around the globe and winding on out into infinite space.
Stollery’s feeling for detail swings these sounds very, very close to your senses, skimming your corneas and your tympanic membranes in skidding, giddiuping performances that make you dizzy! The ordering and artistic handling of these miniatures in the scope of the whole piece is amazing. This is one of the traits of electroacoustic music that I enjoy the most; the sweet venomousness of persuasive danger; the soft-spoken harshness of incisive slits; the roundabout centrifugal force that throws you off-center and have you crawl in the grass like Nebuchadnezzar!
From another viewpoint this is entomological music, happening behind crusted leaves of yesteryear and in the cracks of existence, behind your ear, in the pleats of your bed sheets, in the wrinkles of your age! At times Pete Stollery’s Onset/Offset is contact-miked lice! Hurray!
The parts of this piece that develop later rumble and ring like prolonged industrial processes on the Baltic coast or a flock of Lancaster bombers heading for Dresden on 13th February 1945 – but to me the most fitting illusion is that of a Shaman ride into the Bardo of afterlife and back – without any unnecessary rebirths yet to come. Splendid! Fantastic sound, amazing structural ideas standing their ground, delivering a daredevil deliverance of sonic scenarios!
“Peel back the layers – what’s under the surface? The roulette wheel spins and we follow”. That’s how Stollery’s colleague Alistair MacDonald describes the beginning of this piece. He elaborates further, and much in a vein that I’m familiar with doing myself, with seemingly un-connected associations and analogies, which is the only way, really, to convey a feeling or an impression of something as abstract as electroacoustic art music.
It begins with a crash-landing in a drawer, it seems. Something unusual sweeps out of the skies, shoots through an open window and enters the socks neatly stacked in the drawer, sweeping past you ear on the way. It’s like the beginning of Olaf Stapledon’s Star Maker, as he stands on the hill above his house, with electric light shining out of its windows and t he stars of the Milky Way glimmering in all their splendor, as time and space opens up around him and transforms him into God Almighty or at least as far into his likeness as you can reach. Or it could be a sonic illustration to that place in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy where the war fleet of a distant star comes to attack humanity, only to be gulped and eaten by a little dog, because of a simple miscalculation of size…
In fact, the music begins with a swooping sound, indicating fast motion, followed by small, confused sounds – like a minimal alien getting entangled in socks…
The continuing events distantly resembles Rolf Enström’s Tjidtjag & Tjidtjaggaise, a Prix Italia winner from 1987 (and one of my absolute favorites!), in which Enström utilizes the voice of Saami yoiker Jonas Steggo, which is transformed and permuted in such a way that it comes to constitute the various layers of consciousness in a Shaman ride, such as the one I’ve touched upon earlier in this text. The phasing in and phasing out of auditive focus is a common trait for Enström and Stollery. This brings great excitement to the listening.
Pete Stollery also applies – vigorously – the case of the spinning coin, absolutely naturalistic to begin with, but then gradually veering off into a realm of unreality and sorcery. You almost feel fooled, as if you’ve been lured deep into the forest by some mean wizard, in your perceptive fixation on this intense spinning.
Later many other classes of sound appear, from various expressions of society, also in mixed forms, i.e., with abstract sounds hopping around like the dots you may see just before you faint, around more palpable sounds of streetcars or buses that rumble through the center of attention in fumes and pneumatic transmission of power.
As this particular part of Peel, which I took for a spinning coin, comes to a halt, I realize that it actually was a roulette wheel, even talked about in MacDonald’s own introduction… So much for my discernment of source sounds…
High pitch bird song – so high-pitched that it’s almost inaudible to the aging reviewer – combines with the crackling tour-de-force of a falling giant of the woods; a tall tree brought down by planetary gravity. Through some inching and wrangling state-of-the-art soundscaping, the sound of this falling tree is suddenly perceived, in my ears, as a watery, marine event, like closely miked small waves dancing in and out over pebbles of an Alaskan shore… Wondrous artistry of the sonorities from Pete Stollery!
This is just one fourth into the piece, but I’ll leave it at that, absolutely sure that there are just too many curious sound events to describe in Peel if I continue, and move over to the next track.
Simon Atkinson describes his impressions of Shioum in the CD booklet. It’s just as abstract as the other introductions I’ve read about Stollery’s art, and that in itself says something important about this art; that it is pure sound, usually, wit no programmatic aims – in the best sense abstract art music, acousmatic music, the way I like it most. You can only talk about this art through talking around it, dancing around it, like tribesmen dancing around the fire.
The beginning, rising gradually in volume, gives the faint impression of a stirring crowd through wobbling filters of time and age, of many voices lost in the collective ringing of human vocal cords in a plaza or – thinking about a text-sound piece by Alvin Curran called For Julian – the open space in front of the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem – or for that matter, the circular motion of millions of pilgrims around the Ka’abah. It could as well be the lightly manipulated sound of water across pebbles in a creek. It’s massive or peaceful, all depending on at what distance you decide you hear it!
It’s like an angelic choir in some kind of distress, accompanied by occasional, tumbling dark sounds, like large rocks falling away off slopes – perhaps the sounds you’re supposed to hear at a certain stage of dying, as the elements dissolve into consciousness, according to Tibetan Buddhism.
This scary torment is relieved by a stillness surrounding the falling trajectories of electronic birdsong, screwing themselves into the world of matter, originating in some better place. This fascinating warbling at the outer rim of reality takes off and scouts into sheer unreality, where it is transformed into metallic tumble weeds rolling cross empty, turned-away plains of obscure dusk states of mind; a Western Texas hidden deep inside a Dali painting, if the thought is possible.
The combination of piercing, shrill beak binaries on a backdrop of dark, threatening voodoo viciousness is very effective, keeping your listening attention focused. Stollery’s Shioum is dreamy, visionary, and involuntary, somehow, like the little tics of your eyelid or a sudden itch that you can’t control: the irrational core of everything rational – and the bottom line is sheer beauty, be it thunderous or meek, colorful or ominously dark.
Far into the piece Stollery surprises me with a drone that moves in long, outdrawn, wavy motions along the duration – with chirps strewn here an there like the irregular but constant turning on and off of electric lights in windows of a big fall city of the Western world.
This drone, slowly slipping downwards along seamless micro tonalities, is brutally cut short by an explosion of harsh bucket sounds and a flickering chirp flock of ecstasies, like fireworks opening in the guise of flowers blooming in a second. Another, more distant – physically and metaphysically – drone slides along the upper layer of the atmosphere, grainy and glowing with the picked-up energy of starshine, the bombardment of cosmic radiation, turning, imperceptibly, into high-pitch female vocals; a Stockhausenesque Angel Procession across dark territories…
Altered Images (1995)
Joseph Anderson says in his introduction to the piece in the booklet that he sees the composer, in this piece, “as [a] conjurer seeking a sacred, primal experience”. And he goes on: “Am I hearing? Am I dreaming? I am listening”. This rhymes pretty well with my impressions of Pete Stollery’s music as reviewed above. Precisely, indeed!
Little trickling sounds open this event; echoing through the tubular worlds of extra dimensions of quantum mechanics; echoing through rolled-up dimensions of scientific imagery – or has he lowered his microphone down a sewage pipe, adding just a fraction of filtering?
Soon the sound tightens considerably, all around you, like a G-suit in a fighter plane loop! The sound all but crushes you… until relief is administered in soothing, withdrawn curiosities across the spotted emergence of a returning conscience as the plane levels out and soars… as the music levels out and soars…
Cut-up sound events follow, like the permuted speech of sound poetic deliberations. Shreds of audio flicker by like splinters of heat shield debris off of a doomed space shuttle. At times you hear the distant rumble of some flying machine passing way up above the clouds, towards far-off continents in the night.
Very dark, rumbling motions – in this music! - through the clay deep below your feet, below your lawn, below your asphalt highways and your mighty runways – remind me of Åke Hodell’s devastating The Way to Nepal. Again the shamanistic realms open up, as so often in Pete Stollery’s soundworld; secret places, hidden rooms in your consciousness, spiral staircases in the back of your mind, sleepy gardens with hammocks; Beatleslands: “I’m only sleeping…”
Aha! Surprise! Them ugly goblins come charging from behind the trees in the dark October garden! The rain sounds like peas dropping on the cement floor near the dunghill of a childhood farm in Sweden! Everything is changing, always. This is the law of impermanence. That goes for Stollery’s music too, changing, changing: horse carriages through rainy evenings of London, poverty and cruelty scribbled in lengthy novels…
This is one of the pieces I already had of Stollery, on a DAT tape from quite a few years ago – but now I can’t find the tape, and thus don’t know from where I got the piece, if it was from off of a Swedish radio broadcast (likely) or from somewhere else. (In the 1980s and 90s, Swedish art music radio was very good, intensely interesting, with producers like Folke Rabe and Berndt Berndtsson, but since then Swedish radio has gone downhill, now showing a blank and stupid face; a brat face of no visions, as public service looses its identity). However, that is only the second piece I found on some media at home by Stollery, the other being Onset/Offset on a Russian CD – so the man doesn’t seem to have published himself very much, which is strange, as the content of this DVD-Audio is so good.
Shortstuff is a wonder of efficiency and crude, crisp statements! Adrian Moore, in his booklet introduction, talks about “clear spatial trajectories and tight gestures in counterpoint with dark spaces and the small textural sounds of the night.” I wish I had said that!
The piece is made up of very brief incidents surrounded by silence. Like Adrian Moore said, the spatial property is important, as the sudden short strikes hit here and there, hither and thither across the sound space. I always enjoyed this method, often practiced in earlier electronic music, like, say, in Morton Subotnick’s Silver Apples of the Moon and in even earlier stuff like Gottfried Michael Koenig’s works Funktion Rot, Grau, Violett, Blau and Indigo (1968–69). It’s simple but very effective, and a pleasure to hear. It sort of tickles your perception in a special way. It’s a rhythmic thing, albeit crooked and wicked, irregular in a wonderfully nauseating way!
Further up ahead, in the latter part of the piece, different strands of sonics merge to form a fuller, more coherent band of nuances, at times thickening to fill your allotted space in time completely, at a choking danger distance!
This is high-class, high-end audio candy! Enjoy!
For the first time we’re introduced into a real world, populated encounter, where guys talk about sandwiches. Not bad, after these slingshots through space and time and various hypothetical dimensions.
Of course, this can’t last in a Stollery world! He keeps the common, recognizable sounds of human voices in normal, everyday situations – but he permeates these normalities with his electroacoustic elaborations and deliberations.
Somehow it feels like we’re visiting a museum on a planet in the vicinity of Betelgeuse, where one has collected some live samples from planet Earth. The rest of the sounds we hear, into which the Earth samples are brought, are the natural insanities of… Betelgeuse and its celestial neighbors…
Towards the end some extremely tightening and accelerating densities of sound spellbind you, as you race towards extinction on a ray of dwindling light. You hear a chaos organ somewhere in your lower chakras consuming asteroids and other celestial misfits, like a stone crusher at the far end of everything, in full view of the guests at the Restaurant at the End of the Universe… a musical black hole in the form of an asteroid-munching chaos organ! That’s Stollery, for you, boys and girls! After that, only some few flakes of reality as we know it fall by like sooty shreds of newspapers from a neglected and finally decomposed world of shallow minds and stupid causes…
Vox Magna (2003)
Robert Dow explains a few things about Vox Magna in the booklet, saying, for instance, that the piece “comprises a set of fragmented recollections, a piecing together of the failing memory of an industrial era…” and so forth. I wish I’d said that too! It seems we’re a few outcasts that think in similar terms about Pete Stollery’s music. It brings us abstractors together!
First: a recurring motion, heavy weights and great masses passing through tunnels. Then: a sparse rain, just a thin drizzle… Roaring, undeterminable loud sounds, brute, engulf you, as an engine, perhaps a helicopter engine, winds down, the blades sweeping around and around in a slowing motion.
Robert Dow’s words of industrial remembrances may be right on, because I also hear those indications, stirring my own recollections of the many years I worked in the steelworks of Oxelösund on the Baltic coast in the 1960s and 70s. I see those giant shadows up brick walls, from workers welding somewhere at the bottom of large halls that could have been the living room of dirty giants of the Earth.
Old industries mean brute force and brute sounds, and Stollery delivers, but not just with close, dangerous horrors, but just as often with a distant rumbling noise that just hints at the illnesses risked: lung cancer, loss of hearing, injury caused by crushing and squeezing etcetera, plus the ever-present silicosis. The advantage of jobs in those disastrous places always was the money. Steel industry (in Sweden: my experience) paid well, and still pays very well.
Stollery mixes the sounds of industrial environments with their echoes in the minds of the workers; their unruly dreams of relentless weights closing in, or of 1500 degree centigrade iron pouring out of a blast-furnace at the center of their skulls…
This is energizing electroacoustics, engaging the iron and steel trade of the 1960s and 70s to ensure the brute force needed to conclude this greatly appreciated and vastly enjoyable and exciting CD of acousmatic sound art from Pete Stollery in Aberdeen.