Perdu et retrouvé

Darren Copeland

… it makes us more aware of the richness of our day-to-day sound world.

Eine gute und eine ziemlich gute CD, beide — wie für empreintes DIGITALes üblich — ansprechend verpackt… Skug, Austria

  • Canada Council for the Arts

DVD-Audio — Surround (IMED 0683)

  • Label: empreintes DIGITALes
  • IMED 0683
  • 2006
  • UCC 771028068395
  • Total duration: 67:10
  • OGplus
  • 142 mm × 125 mm × 10 mm
  • 55 g

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Download (IMED 0683_NUM)


Lost and Found

Memories become forgotten and then they return to the surface.
People become forgotten and then are discovered again.
Articles are lost and then while searching for something else are found again.

The journeys and stories conveyed in the works on this disc are united by a similar tension between abandonment and discovery. There is the story of the people falling from buildings in They’re Trying to Save Themselves whose bodies might be lost beneath a crumpled monolith but the memory of which has lead to even more tragic consequences. Early Signals uncovers the abandoned roots of radio broadcasting. There is the inward feeling of loss and abandonment conveyed in Always Becoming Somebody Else. On Schedule and Streams of Whispers approach the ‘lost and found’ theme differently by finding and discovering new uses and meanings out of very trivial details of life. The Wrong Mistakes and Faith-Annihia assemble their form and meaning out of a series of colliding contradictions, mistakes, and unwanted directions. And finally, On a Strange Road reinforces the notion of a journey that is there in a number of these pieces — a journey that leads one to uncover something lost or forgotten.

Thanks to Nadene, Zachary and Alexander for their patience and trust when life gets hectic. Thanks to the many presenters of these works for their faith and support. Thanks to Christine Côté.

Darren Copeland, Brampton (Ontario) [ix-06]

Some recommended items
In the press


Glen Hall, July 18, 2012

Duration and density. Sonority and spatialization. Canadian electroacoustic / sound composer Darren Copeland creates intricate, engaging pieces that make commonplace sounds mysterious, evocative or just plain interesting. How long a sound is becomes malleable, and this makes listening active. Stretched or segmented, environmental sounds’ nature is tested, questioned, reframed in this 5.1 Surround Sound DVD-Audio’s 8 compositions. The voice of a single 9/11 witness becomes an entire soundscape through Copeland’s ingenious editing and processing in They’re Trying to Save Themselves. The phonemes of Streams of Whispers title are sifted, repositioned, transposed, deconstructed and, in general, ‘messed with’ to create an immersive soundscape. On Schedule was created using a demanding procedural strategy, which itself was subject to modification if sonic results were not satisfying. His willingness to make ‘theory’ subordinate to aesthetic sensitivity and judgement marks Copeland as an artist. Based on the train schedule between London and Moscow, each of the piece’s 27 sections focuses on differing facets of overtones and sound spectra, giving shape and movement to its selected elements. Listeners with a surround sound system can get the full effect of Copeland’s specialty: spatialization. At art space he founded, New Adventures in Sound Art, he can move sounds around a multichannel, surround and overhead sound system. On this disc, sounds move independently, rather than in the traditional back-and-forth of stereo panning. An offshoot of Copeland’s spatialized sound art is that it makes us more aware of the richness of our day-to-day sound world.

… it makes us more aware of the richness of our day-to-day sound world.


Heinrich Deisl, Skug, no. 71, September 6, 2007

Beide CDs definieren eindringlich den aktuellen Stand akusmatischer Musik: Darren Copeland (Toronto) und Adrian Moore (Birmingham) vermessen auf vorliegenden Platten Grenzzustände zwischen Wachen und Träumen, Wegfahren und Ankommen, Verlieren und Wiederfinden. Wie bei empreintes DIGITALes aus Montréal üblich, kommt ein vergleichsweise »poppiger« Zugang zur Elektroakustik zum Tragen; Nachzuhören besonders bei Moores Rêve de l’aube, das zwar praktisch die ganze Historie dieser Musik inkorporiert hat – so verwendet er großteils nach wie vor manipulierte Tapes, die dann digital bearbeitet werden –, gleichzeitig aber fast schon Ambient-Techno-geerdet ohne Beats daherkommt. Copeland dagegen nähert sich auf dieser Zusammenstellung von Werken zwischen 1991 und 2003 fast »klassisch« Themen wie dem Leben im Transit, 9/11 und zeitlichen Umschichtungen. Unterschwellig eingearbeitete Fieldrecordings ziehen eine thematische Metaebene auf, die von einer Zugfahrt von London nach Moskau bis zu in Musik gefassten, beinahe apokalyptischen Filmflickern reicht. Seltsam, dass»Perdu et retrouvé«als DVD-Audio aufgenommen ist: Auch wenn in bester Soundqualität, degradiert sich dadurch, dass nur ein statisches Manual am Bildschirm zu sehen ist, die Musik fast zum Hintergrundrauschen. Diese Stücke haben derartige imaginative Sogwirkung, dass sie diese Bebilderung echt nicht brauchen. Abgesehen davon lebt »Perdu« von der konzeptuellen Stärke und der kompromisslosen Umsetzung, bei der immer wieder versöhnlich-verspielte Momente durchblitzen.»Rêve de l’aube«des u.a. auf dem Londoner Label Sonic Arts Network veröffentlichenden Moore ist vergleichsweise zugänglicher. Die neun zwischen 2000 und 2004 komponierten Stücke kommen mit einer relativen Transparenz daher, die sie über verschlungene Pfade für mich eher der IDM als der Soundart verwandt erscheinen lassen. Dabei ist Moores Musik alles andere als ein Aufguss autodidaktischer Zufälligkeiten: Drone-Flächen wechseln sich unvermittelt mit energetischen Noise-Partikeln ab, traum-haft choreografiert, ab und an um sonische Stolperfallen sicher nicht verlegen. Eine gute und eine ziemlich gute CD, beide – wie für empreintes DIGITALes üblich – ansprechend verpackt und mit umfangreichen Linernotes in Englisch und Französisch versehen. Schau’n Sie sich das an: vive l’acousmatique!

Eine gute und eine ziemlich gute CD, beide — wie für empreintes DIGITALes üblich — ansprechend verpackt…


Grant Chu Covell, La Folia, September 1, 2007

Glorious concrète asserts itself on Copeland’s newest eD disc, where animal noises, trains and other semi-recognizable sources color the mysteries. Copeland tends towards the industrial, as in Faith-Annihia’s attempt to “create a sonic equivalent to the experimental film notion of ‘flicker,’” whose ambience and collaged trains suggest Schaeffer’s first etudes. They’re Trying to Save Themselves and Streams of Whispers work with recorded speech, the latter an extended rhapsody on its title’s syllables, the former a less successful exploration of an eyewitness account of the 9/11 attacks. The Wrong Mistakes subverts the composer’s routine methods, attempting to legitimize choices he would ordinarily reject. On Schedule manipulates locomotive noises according to 27 preset transformations derived from the route between London’s Waterloo and Moscow’s Belorusski stations. Early Signals commemorates radio pioneers Marconi and Eckersly, and On a Strange Road unites car travel with a metaphysical journey. In Always Becoming Somebody Else, a jungle exploration stumbles across another planet. These pieces enthrall with their fine details, and as ever, empreintes DIGITALes issues gorgeous productions.

Features — Spark: Found Surround Sounds

Eric Hill, Exclaim!, May 1, 2007

Imagine an abstract painter working long hours to refine the tensions and balances of colour and composition of a work only to then have the gallery exhibit it behind a pane of tinted glass. A similar technological restriction for artists in the realm of electroacoustic music has been lifted by Québec’s Empreintes Digitales label. Since 2005, select releases have been mastered to DVD-A, including recent works by Darren Copeland, Marcelle Deschênes and Pierre Alexandre Tremblay. The DVD-A discs offer stereo or Surround 5.1 mixes in 96khz/24 bit sound for dedicated players, higher quality stereo mixes for regular DVD players, and even high-end MP3 mixes for your walkabout electroacoustic needs. For an art form whose main ethos is the meticulous treatment of sound, this increased transparency of delivery removes the tinted glass between artist and listener.

… this increased transparency of delivery removes the tinted glass between artist and listener.


Erik Benndorf, Dense Promotion, April 10, 2007

8 recent works remastered in stereo, and also spatialized for “home theatres” in Surround 5.1. Toronto composer Darren Copeland says that “the journeys and stories conveyed in the works on this disc are united by a similar tension between abandonment and discovery.” From the tragic social and political events to historical changes and new meanings in trivial details, Copeland’s work cares for its subjects and presents it in world of sounds to listen to.

All the works were mastered by Ernest Cholakis, Numerical Sound, and are reproduced in very high fidelity (24-bit / 48 Khz) on DVD-Audio.


John S Gray, The WholeNote, no. 12:6, March 1, 2007

It is too easily forgotten that Canada was, and in many ways continues to be, a world leader in the field of electronic-based electroacoustic music. In that rarefied discipline, we had a Toronto school, a Vancouver school and a Montréal school. Darren Copeland is one of the originators of the genre, and has taken part in all three of those regional schools, over a period of more than twenty years. Given the vast palette of sounds and reproduction techniques available, it is no surprise that Copeland’s new release on Empreintes Digitales is on a [DVD-Audio Surround 5.1]. That means you cannot play it on your CD player, nor can you listen to it on your CD Walkman. But if you do have the latest high tech home theatre system, here is a disc to test the reproductive capabilities of your equipment. Copeland’s pieces, compositions of one form or another, are helped by program notes disseminating the thrust of each. The frightening opening track deals with the terrorist attacks of September 2001 as subject matter, as well as using audio fragments from that busy news day as part of the sonic texture. Other pieces are longer and more laid-back, notably On a Strange Road, implying a surrealistic car trip. With this machine music, it is comforting to know that a human is behind it, nonetheless.

… it is comforting to know that a human is behind it…


Modisti, February 28, 2007

The experience of sound spaces leads to an immersive conception where the dimensions are coherently explored by means of sound spatialization. The sounds respond to an inner logic, encompassing their development, timbre and spatial behaviour. Processed sound sources hint to classic pieces and meanwhile unveil a aesthetic interests that respond to the development of early tastes.


Ingvar Loco Nordin, Sonoloco Record Reviews, February 4, 2007

Darren Copeland (1968) is a Canadian composer and sound designer who’s been active in the arts since 1985. The story behind his current status is a bit peculiar. He discovered — by chance — analog synthesizers in the 1980s. He wasn’t interested in their musical implications, but went on to study analog synthesizing of sound and early digital samplers. This obviously awoke an interest in music, though, because in 1989 Copeland moved to Vancouver where he studied electroacoustic composition at Simon Fraser University until 1995.

Through his studies with Barry Truax he became acquainted with the World Soundscape Project, leading him into a predominantly soundscape oriented realm of composition.

In the mid-90s he ventured into various other electroacoustic sub-disciplines, working with theater, radio documentaries, radio drama as well as text-sound compositions.

In 1996-1997 Copeland went into post-graduate studies at the University of Birmingham in England. He is now the Artistic Director of New Adventures in Sound Art, in Toronto, Canada. Of late he has returned once again to purely abstract electroacoustics.

Track 1. They’re Trying to Save Themselves (2002) [3:53]

The subject of this piece is a disputed one; the attacks on World Trade Center in New York. I usually feel a little taken aback at artistic efforts in this direction, concerning contemporary traumas with so strong political, social and other various overtones. Darren Copeland is Canadian, and I suppose it is even harder for a US composer to get into this. I know, though, that John Adams has done this successfully, without hurting anybody or putting himself in harm’s way, with his On the Transmigration of Souls, but then again, Adams has secured a position as an artist who is allowed — in the public and the political eye, as well as from the viewpoint of the cultural establishment in America — to do this, by virtue of his earlier large-scale works like Nixon in China and The Death of Klinghoffer. He kind of brings the public with him, in an unprecedented way. Bruce Springsteen also wrote songs on the subject, on his album The Rising: Empty Sky / You’re Missing / My City of Ruins. It’s a delicate feat that not just anyone should try.

It must be very hard to try something in this area in the USA, since that country is — with a sweeping but, I believe fair, generalization — so completely lost in hypocrisy and double standards, with a total lack of self-knowledge, and pulled only deeper and deeper into destruction by one leader more foolish than the other. The whole world laughs at the USA, but is also afraid of the erratic giant. It’s a bad situation today, with such a dangerous and mentally unstable nation amassing so much power.

It’s clear that one shouldn’t go into this kind of compositional/artistic effort without caution. I composed a text-sound/electroacoustic piece of about 20 minutes on the tragic sinking of the passenger ship Estonia, which went down with more than 800 people in the Baltic Sea in 1994, and people still have a hard time listening to some of the more naturalistic passages in the work. I had been able to record the distress calls and the radio communication between the sinking ship and other ships in the night, and I used these in the piece. I also did a work of similar length about the assassination of Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme. In fact, I collected three text-sound works on a CD and called it Swedish Traumas.

It was easier for Gavin Bryars when he composed The Sinking of the Titanic!

Ok, that was a long detour. Let’s head on back into Darren Copeland’s opening piece on the CD: They’re Trying to Save Themselves. This is not a major work; I mean, it’s a short piece, barely 4 minutes. It’s a CNN piece; the first CNN piece I can recall reviewing! Seriously, the source sounds are taken from an eyewitness account aired on CNN immediately after the attack. Copeland explains that the spoken words “undergo a number of textural metamorphoses” that evoke the likeness of low-flying aircraft, panicky voices and so forth.

Some parts of this work works, so to say… others don’t. The eerie, rumbling, soaring density brings on that ominous, imminent feeling, and the vocals that are arranged in a rattling kind of way, also work fine — but some very mechanical, very short repetitions don’t work. Copeland should have taken those out, because they destroy what might have been a very somber comment on the situation. Composers seldom fall into that repeat trap these days. It was more common way back when audio software on computers were more novel and you found you could loop sequences for ever, if you wished. Repetitions without any change in any direction just make you irritated. It’s dead meat. However, the final half minute of the piece pretty much makes up for the mistakes earlier on, when the woman is allowed to speak in whole sentences — and I remember that woman on CNN that day too; I also watched her right then. Just to make it clear: I don’t have anything against repetitions in music. I love much of the minimal music from earlier on, and I’m a sound poetry connoisseur — but along with the repetitions there must be a gradual transformation, change, which, after a while, has lead somewhere else. The work needs an overhaul in this respect, and then it will be a quite impressive electroacoustic and text-sound miniature!

Track 2. Streams of Whispers (2002) [12:41]

This is from a sound installation in Toronto. Copeland’s concept was a “place of migration or transition”, and “a current of water through which particles of sound flow”.

The motion is mighty from the onset, in the shape of hardwood spheres, small as peas, soaring forth in a veil of smoke or mist. Whispers tumble in slow-motion inside the general velocity of sound, just on the verge of whisperiness, on the verge of identifiability, but never quite breaking the surface of it. This is the magic of it, this uncertainty of origin, which nonetheless tunes your ears whisperwise!

The shreds of possible whispers soar and turn and tumble on the backdrop of soft, mumbling drone properties, which at times come across like the sound from a distant turbo-prop airplane, seeping down through a crack in the heavens, or through the heavy brick walls of immured rooms of your past. Certain golden insignias propel your associations further into the sub-conscious, down long-forgotten hallways of your mind.

Eerie calls of the wild rise like campfires in the soundscape, deep down the misty valleys of amnesia, stirring memories that rest under the moss of not-here-not-now since centuries.

Gradually, Copeland builds percussive elements from nicely cut slices of whispers, which turn up sharp and piercing, ordered in caustic beads of illwill audio. The drones dissipate, leaving these percussive elements dancing in thin air like moths under a street lamp, before soaring through the sonic imagery of short-wave static and shrieking bucks of the wild through frosty nights under the stars.

Streams of Whispers is a delicate and very beautiful electroacoustic work; a tantalizing spectra of the mind of techno man in the midst of the mystery of nature — a dreamscape journey through involuntary rooms of existence, opening one after the other. “My God, it’s full of stars!

Track 3. The Wrong Mistakes (2003) [4:34]

Darren Copeland has made use of his mistakes en route here. Instead of deleting or conforming the obvious out-of-place incidents of a work in progress, he decided to work with these anomalies and let them steer the composition.

True, it’s less coherent than usual, but that doesn’t make it less interesting; quite to the contrary. Copeland has — in spite of his warnings — smoothed the edges of all these mistakes, so he’s not going to blow your speakers or freak your mind too much. There is a seamless quality in all this wild man stuff!

In some ways, this is spaced out music, i.e. a modern variant of 1960s’space movie soundtracks. I can almost envision those creepy-crawlies on distant worlds and huge, towering humanoids coming at you like staggering chimneys over the wastelands.

It’s good music! Maybe more people should make more mistakes!

Track 4. On Schedule (2003) [12:22]

I have to quote Copeland on this bit, because what he says fascinates me:On Schedule is part of a series of compositions called Pieces from Letters for one or two people using computers. In On Schedule the 26 letters of the [English!] alphabet and the number 1 key trigger 27 sound events derived from the harmonic and spectral content of the 27 scheduled train stations from London Waterloo in the United Kingdom to Moskva Byelorusski in Russia.” “A single train recording taken from the World Soundscape Project Collection […] at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, Canada, was used throughout the piece.”

The sound arrives and passes, jingly, wheezing and mighty; mighty with the power of heavy engines — serious sonorities of the passages of passengers and goods, from one point to another.

The familiar sounds of railway transportation are wrung out of their context and molded in the hands of the composer, pried out of their ordinariness into a realm of listening attention — and even though you recognize their origin, you have the chance to observe and get to know them on another level. Copeland takes some aspects of railway as such and spreads them out across a wider area of perception, bringing hidden properties of these heavyweight sonorities to the surface, and he delivers them packaged in beauty; a beauty he has conjured up out of the passage of trains. Nice!

Track 5. Early Signals (2001) [4:27]

This is a work in celebration of the radio pioneers Marconi and Eckersly, made up of all kinds of aspects of early radio, such as “static, Morse code, pops and squiggles” and the sounds of the great waves of the Atlantic Ocean, which Marconi spanned in his 1901 radio transmission. These characteristic and nowadays even romantic-sounding excerpts are heard in their original shape as well as electronically dressed-up.

After a wheezing, whooshing surge of static, the distant — in time, in the room — voice of legendary Marconi comes on, in this magic act of communication over large distances that would change the world entirely, and which has now, a hundred years later, lead to the unifying intelligence of the Internet network, which has kicked humanity into a quantum leap of evolution, bringing — at least in theory — all knowledge together in a layer of instant communication, making the concept of distance obsolete.

In my mind, three events, three occurrences, have sent humanity into quality quantum leaps that have forever transformed the race:

  1. The utilization of fire
  2. The art of book printing
  3. The Internet

Marconi’s radio transmission invention was a necessary step leading up to the present, unbelievable state of affairs, in which MIND has become a unifying concept of all glowing brains around the globe. This is in line, also, with the concept GAIA, which represents the Earth as one living entity.

The world seemed so large, so vast — so lonely — at the breaking of Marconi’s invention, and for a while even lonelier when you could hear voices in fragile, fading and emerging calls from across the Atlantic.

Darren Copeland’s Early Signals manages to illustrate all these feelings pretty well. Sometimes a mix of sounds like the one Copeland brings, may come out as a disparate mess of incoherence, but Copeland manages to render all these sounds relevance and significance and a sense of heavy inertia: a motion on ahead, and not least; a magic symbolism that opens up spacious halls of archetypical imagery inside the listener’s fantasy — that man to man, face to face feeling, which so clearly shows that we are what we are only in relation to each other.

Track 6. On a Strange Road (2003) [10:55]

This has to do with traveling, in various ways — traveling on roads.

The idea of roads and moving along them might allow for quite concrete material, but Copeland approaches the motion across asphalt in a soaring dream-state. The abrupt sound at the beginning could be though of as a thunderclap — or a car door banged shut! From that point, a slow drizzle can be sensed, and a gray, distant mist-drone of sorts, which slowly grows in on you, like a gradually tightening ambience, the way moving objects at HIGH speeds are supposed to appear shorter and tighter from the vantage point of a viewer by the imaginary roadside, according to Einstein and his successors. The appearance of this misty drone suggests acceleration — which, to retort to Einstein again, cannot be separated from gravity, i.e., the perception and effect of acceleration is exactly the same as the works of gravity.

Dark episodes of friction fly by like giant, irregular slabs of rock, adding to the feeling of directional motion — but the sound of a calm drizzle confuses perception… or is this a section of your private world (the drizzle calmness) soaring away through time and space (the frictional sounds of darkness and the misty drone)?

On the outside of the musical motion, elastic sonorities lump together. I hear drawn-out church bells twang by like wobbling lumps of jelly. More clearly identifiable families of audio are inserted, like the wet sounds of oncoming traffic on a rainy road at night, the headlights almost blinding you — and I think of the only time in life when I had to own a car, when I lived in Dallas, Texas in 1978-79, and drove to my job as a state-employed inspector at Beto’s and Garcia’s asphalt plant (Zachry’s) towards Grand Prairie 30 kilometers from my home at 6415 Melody Lane, in our Chevrolet Bel Air –72, listening to Al Stewart’s Time Passages on KLIF!

However, Darren Copeland — as the fine artist he is — jerks and pries these familiar sounds slightly out of place, having them slowly edge over into a parallel dimension; that of the shaman travelogue, in which all familiarities take on a transparent veil of charged significance, making sure that each and every grain of time-space-mind existence is fully equipped with meaning down to the last Planck-length superstring!

“Something is going to happen, something wonderful”

Yes, the ultimate sense of traveling at high speed must be that sequence in 2001: A Space Odyssey, which, though shot in the 1960s, still today has the same magic effect on me! Parts of Darren Copeland’s On a Strange Road, conjures up those sensations. Masterly! I hear an alien space-time choir in the sonic distance.

In a while, Copeland has affixed the high pitch drone sonorities of the space-time choir onto the –273,15° Centigrade / –459,67° Fahrenheit (0° Kelvin) keyboard of a starry organ of the intergalactic void, singing to us out of the core significance of ourselves…

It is rare to hear such suggestive and dream-thundering electroacoustics these days. Right off I can only think of one other fresh CD that got close to this: Victoria Jordanova’s and Pamela Z’s rendition of John Cage’s Postcard from Heaven on new label ArpaViva (ArpaViva CD 001).

On a Strange Road is a masterwork, and perhaps the highlight of this collection of Copeland pieces. It constitutes spiritual traveling down Thunder Road; a relaxed soaring through violent wilderness: a Bardo journey in full Enlightenment!

Track 7. Faith-Annihia (1991) [8:55]

The content here is jagged, blistering, scarring — and also distant, soothing… until it gets very silent, perhaps sparsely sprayed with a few rustlings of dry leaves or the almost imperceptible movements of insects through the underbrush…

Mostly, though, Faith-Annihia is iron-bar and steel industry hell; a maze of hard-earned and staggering sonic residue from a material world that is hard and cold and capitalistic: a world turning its back on democracy and human rights and bodily/spiritual health. It’s a tough view on the race for production, no matter what. Karl Marx lies in a pool of blood in this music. Allen Ginsberg’s poem Moloch speaks it the way Darren Copeland tells it in the music of Faith-Annihia:

What sphinx of cement and aluminum bashed open their skulls and ate up their brains and imagination? Moloch! Solitude! Filth! Ugliness! Ashcans and unobtainable dollars! Children screaming under the stairways! Boys sobbing in armies! Old men weeping in the parks!
Moloch! Moloch! Nightmare of Moloch! Moloch the loveless! Mental Moloch! Moloch the heavy judger of men!
Moloch the incomprehensible prison! Moloch the crossbone soulless jailhouse and Congress of sorrows! Moloch whose buildings are judgment! Moloch the vast stone of war! Moloch the stunned governments!
Moloch whose mind is pure machinery! Moloch whose blood is running money! Moloch whose fingers are ten armies!
Moloch whose breast is a cannibal dynamo! Moloch whose ear is a smoking tomb! Moloch whose eyes are a thousand blind windows! Moloch whose skyscrapers stand in the long streets like endless Jehovahs! Moloch whose factories dream and croak in the fog! Moloch whose smokestacks and antennae crown the cities!
Moloch whose love is endless oil and stone! Moloch whose soul is electricity and banks! Moloch whose poverty is the specter of genius! Moloch whose fate is a cloud of sexless hydrogen! Moloch whose name is the Mind!
Moloch in whom I sit lonely! Moloch in whom I dream Angels! Crazy in Moloch! Cocksucker in Moloch! Lacklove and manless in Moloch!
Moloch who entered my soul early! Moloch in whom I am a consciousness without a body! Moloch who frightened me out of my natural ecstasy! Moloch whom I abandon! Wake up in Moloch! Light streaming out of the sky!
Moloch! Moloch! Robot apartments! Invisible suburbs! Skeleton treasuries! Blind capitals! Demonic industries! Spectral nations! Invincible mad houses! Granite cocks! Monstrous bombs!
They broke their backs lifting Moloch to Heaven! Pavements, trees, radios, tons! Lifting the city to Heaven which exists and is everywhere about us!
Visions! Omens! Hallucinations! Miracles! Ecstasies! Gone down the American river!
Dreams! Adorations! Illuminations! Religions! The whole boatload of sensitive bullshit!
Breakthroughs! Over the river! Flips and crucifixions! Gone down the flood! Highs! Epiphanies! Despairs! Ten years’ animal screams and suicides! Minds! New loves! Mad generation! Down on the rocks of Time!
Real holy laughter in the river! They saw it all! The wild eyes! The holy yells! They bade farewell! They jumped off the roof! To solitude! Waving! Carrying flowers! Down to the river! Into the street!

Track 8. Always Becoming Somebody Else (1991-92) [9:07]

The last track on Darren Copeland’s DVD-Audio on Empreintes DIGITALes handles the peculiar opportunities of trans-realism that Stockhausen has spoken about, meaning connections and sequences that do not or cannot exist in the so-called real world, but which can be rendered at will in the electroacoustic realm. Copeland says that he is working here with “imaginary landscapes that are incomplete in their appearance and as a result are shrouded in dream-like ambiguity.”

I like that a lot: “dream-like ambiguity”. That could be a useful characterization of much good sound art.

Indeed, tiny fragments of balloon frictions (?) and/or specks of electric charges at a relay interlocking plant — or short-wave static sliced in minuscule shreds — open this ambiguous piece of sound art. Very shortly the gray matter of this progression grid interconnects and forms a long, piercing stretch of wobbling interactions that provoke your tympanic membranes into high-frequency vibrations of a painful kind. Copeland is out to out-do David Dunn’s Chaos and the Emergent Mind of the Pond with its submarine phase-shift hydrophone insect recordings (which I almost wasn’t allowed to broadcast on Swedish radio since the heavy phasing might close down the audio reception for some…) and François Bayle’s Motion-émotion with its stark, prickly gnat sonorities! There is more elasticity to Copeland’s piece, though: tiny sounds with up-turned noses caught in beautiful amber worn round the neck by a wonderful Zoë traveler! Glen Clova is poured in golden celebrations of high spirits! Ambiguity is the word of the day!

The roar from Thunder Road is stirring behind the horizon, as flocks of black crows form storm clouds on the move way inside the soundscape. Copeland is a Maestro of dark oil paintings inside large, forgotten halls of Amnesia castles at the periphery of sonic perception!

… a Maestro of dark oil paintings inside large, forgotten halls of Amnesia castles at the periphery of sonic perception!


François Couture, AllMusic, January 11, 2007

Darren Copeland’s second album for the Quebec label empreintes DIGITALes offers a strong collection of short pieces. Unlike many electroacoustic composers, Copeland focuses on concise works developing neatly-defined ideas. Perdu et retrouvé consists in eight such pieces, between four and 13 minutes in duration. Lying halfway between Hildegard Westerkamp’s and Jonty Harrison’s aesthetics, his approach relies strongly on the soundscape. A good number of these pieces evoke the outdoors or have been developed from sounds found outside. One highlight in that vein is On Schedule, assembled from 27 treated sound events, one for each train station from London Waterloo (UK) to Moskva Byelorusski (Russia). It is not a collage, but a clever transmutation of sound matter into something that retains the spirit of its source while gaining in flexibility and poetic value. The same alchemy is at play in On a Strange Road, which takes us deep inside the thoughts of a car passenger. Transportation remains the main paradigm throughout the album, with train sounds, boat sounds, and plane sounds popping up everywhere (with particularly evocative results in Always Becoming Somebody Else), and the unheard yet ominous presence of the airplanes in They’re Trying to Save Themselves, a piece using the testimony of an eyewitness broadcasted by CNN immediately following the tragedy of 9/11. That opening piece aside, Perdu et retrouvé is a rather calm and peaceful album — not the kind that shakes you and moves you, like some of Francis Dhomont or Michel Chion’s works, but one that gently takes you on a tour of various altered soundscapes. This album came out on DVD and contains 48kHz/24bit MLP surround 5.1 and stereo DVD-Audio tracks, surround 5.1 (DTS and Dolby) and stereo (Dolby) DVD-Video tracks, and MP3 files on a DVD-ROM partition.

… a rather calm and peaceful album…


Ios Smolders, Earlabs, December 10, 2006

Darren Copeland is a Canadian composer working as sound designer and composer, now also working as artistic director of New Adventures in Sound Art which produces electroacoustic and experimental sound art events in Toronto. This is his second release for empreintes DIGITALes.

empreintes DIGITALes has a reputation of producing electroacoustic music of the highest standards. This is another proof of its status.

This DVD-Audio offers the listener a variety of listening experiences. The music is no longer pressed on CD but on DVD. This allows the label to use much better sound quality (24-bit) and a surround experience. Next to that empreintes DIGITALes gives the music encoded in AAC and MP3 format, for iPod listening.

Let’s first go through the compositions: This disc starts with the coming and going of a sound. It wanders around nervously, it flutters, comes and goes. Slowly, as a listener you become restless also. And then, after a minute or so a human voice becomes perceptible. At first it’s impossible to understand what is being said, only that the tome of voice is very excited. Then a first sentence is repeated again and again (reminded me of The Hafler Trio first release) and fades away again, in the distance. Only to return, break through in your face and then you understand that this is a woman reporting to a microphone on September 11, 2001. Strong entry.

The second work is based on the sound of people whispering. The work is much longer than the first and moves on at a quiet pace. After a short overture the sound retreats and slowly moves on. There certainly is a cadenza, a rise and fall, like the breath of a sleeper. The piece alternates between some fluttering of whispers and a quiet backdrop of harmonics. Whispers of course consist mainly of noise which is a nice contrast with the other more specific frequencies that can be heard.

Third: The Wrong Mistakes. A short work with a funny theme. The sounds, too, are a bit carnivalesque. Whirling about are bell and harmonica sounds. Short, interlude.

On Schedule clearly deals with travel. It’s a 12-minute lasting translation of a trip from London Waterloo Station to Moskva Byelorusski. The length of the tracks between the stops has been translated into the length of the parts in the composition. So far, so good. But what makes it a bit cheesy are glissandi of the organ like harmonics that one easily connects with the accelerating and decelerating of the train. Also the recordings of the train start and stop somehow makes me think that this might very well be an acousmatic composition for children.

Early Signals commemorates the first transmission of radio signals at the beginning of the 20th century. We hear the hoarse voices of Marconi and Eckersly and the clacking of morse signals. A short and simple layering of sound sources.

By far the best composition on this disc is On a Strange Road. It starts as mysterious as its title suggests and continues on this path. We hear the sound of the tires of cars passing but also transformations of these sounds. After a few minutes it sounds as if we have reached a ghost land. In contrast to the On Schedule composition here there is nothing cheesy about the composition. Copeland succeeds in fascinating the listener with coming and going of the different sound sources that he has chosen. Here it’s the sounds of car tires, organs, rain, harmonic electronic sounds (in 2 or 3 different versions), some incidental recordings.

Faith-Annihia does not layer sound sources (only on a few spots) but instead, just like the good old times, collates them one after the other. There are groups of sounds, which are then placed one after the other, fast or slow. The composition itself consists of the rhythm of the alternation plus the filtering of the sounds. Sometimes it’s muffled or very thin (especially at the beginning) at other times the sounds are bright (and therewith louder).

Most of the works presented here are quiet. There are no rough edges, just as we can expect from the releases of empreintes DIGITALes. When it comes to pitched frequencies Copeland prefers the sound of reed instruments (such as mouth organs) which have a rich overtone structure. Most of the works date from 2001 and later, but the last two are 10 years older (1991 and 1992). It is of course interesting to compare these two groups. Indeed, the structure of Faith-Annihia is more abrasive than the works of this century. But the last work, Always Becoming Somebody Else, has a structure that is in line with the latest works. The most important difference is that Always Becoming Somebody Else lacks harmonic sounds. It is built from dark noise sounds that are counterpointed with high pitched squeals. But here too Copeland builds his pieces with the rising and falling of the volumes.

About the DVD-Audio: empreintes DIGITALes presents these works in several modes. The music can be heard through 24-bit stereo files, 5.1 Surround files (which I haven’t heard because I do not own such a set), but also as AAC and MP3 files (320 kbps/48 kHz). So there is a mode for every conceivable situation. I have listened to the files in my car (MP3) and at home in stereo.