De l’artisanat d’une rare beauté. — Art Zéro, France
- Composer(s): Annette Vande Gorne
- Author(s): Francis Dhomont, Werner Lambersy
- Cover image: Luc Beauchemin
- M&R • Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles (Direction générale de la culture, Service de la musique)
- Label: empreintes DIGITALes
- IMED 1811 / 2018
- UCC 771028181124
- Total duration: 77:33
- 125 mm × 125 mm × 10 mm
- 50 g
- Label: empreintes DIGITALes
- IMED 1811_NUM / 2018
- UCC 771028181186
- Total duration: 77:33
Some people are possessed by their subject. They have chosen it, or so they think, and will revolve around it until all of its substance has been extracted. They will exhaust the issue in the same way one would drain a pail drawn from a well, yet the mystery will remain intact. These people handle a foreign reality, a reality with which they will remain unfamiliar. Their sympathy is of little depth.
Others, among them Annette Vande Gorne, let themselves be captivated by an object, by the object, since there is only one: the universe, whose disproportionate but rhythmical breathing constantly sparks the quivering that brings us into being, along with the world of life.
They are the chosen ones; they have found the strength and wisdom to let things be, to become the smallest possible obstacle between dreams and reality, between the two inseparable sides of a reality that is listened to, looked at, tasted, smelled and felt in the flavor of its fragrance, in the texture of its skin and in its text restored to speech, to music and to silence.
From then on, it is the universe that revolves around them, with them, that carries them along and tires them out as they create being, allowing themselves to be emptied like the flesh from a fruit. Annette Vande Gorne’s music takes part in what was once called the music of the spheres, when a god who didn’t have a voice would speak to men by singing.
So it is of creators who draw from within themselves this little nothing that nothingness concedes to emptiness in order for the whole to find its place (within us?) and vibrate with everything. One can call this harmony, and indeed it is the only law — irreducible to formula, but restored in the expression it establishes, reinforces and justifies — that can bind all others in a happy and complete relationship, one that may be called beauty. Beauty, as the fundamental law of the universe, appears only in the distance it keeps, in the space that makes it bearable. Beauty is terrible because of the limits it imposes, like a fleeing horizon, on desire.
Annette Vande Gorne’s music is terrible, terribly beautiful, because it rejects easy ways, it discounts traditional masks and screens, it requires adherence to the primeval, and allows the shameless, direct touching by our senses of the extraordinary bareness of sounds.
What is left to be said is the fever that takes a hold of us and that only a poem could summon from oblivion. This is why Annette Vande Gorne’s music is so poetic. This is why it demonstrates so well its effectiveness of never ending cosmogony. This is why it reveals itself to us as contemporary, as we look to the stars as a return to the future and see in the eternal moment the infinite space, greater than the sum of all our solitudes, and alive with more than the total of our existence. Which, in the end, would be a good definition of love.
Tao revolves around the emptiness that creates us; Annette Vande Gorne’s music expresses the diverse, often gentle rubbing that warms one’s soul, as one would rub two pieces of wood for the fire of a primitive encampment. Which, in the end, would be a good definition of happiness, however precarious it might be, among those who will have sat to listen. Only in incompleteness are there satisfying limits. This is what feeds what is called a work of Art.
Werner Lambersy, Paris (France) [viii-92]
Tao is the discourse of active contemplation: Annette Vande Gorne knows how to take her time. With her, filling temporal space becomes an essential concern since her music, written for duration, also comes to terms with duration. This building of a suspended time constitutes in my view one of the main affinities of this work with the Eastern world from which it draws its inspiration.
Perhaps the Eastern influence also dictates the concern with sound recording, I mean this intense attentiveness to the sound world that the composer explores, calls on and gathers (componere), and at which she marvels to the point of presenting it at times in its dazzling bareness, like a Chinese painter would the pureness of a gesture.
Schaeffer and Cage have already invited us to this concert of our everyday life, the latter allowing the ear to freely wander, to follow the windings of chance which, Cage believed, knows what it’s doing. Sentient but more deterministic than the composer of 4:33, and the more Schaefferian for it, Annette Vande Gorne invites us to a guided listening: renewed weaving of material presented from a thousand perspectives — an attitude so remarkably centered on phenomena, in the diversity of its multiple aims — play-sequences in which emerges the memory of Pierre Henry, the composer of Voyage and of Variations pour une porte et un soupir (an explicit reference to this work is indeed used as a linking element in Bois (Wood), kaleidoscope of the repeated capture, imitation, mutation of a single event.
The restriction of means and the ad infinitum proliferation of a few objects unto themselves around a thematic axis thus become rules of writing. Extremely tenuous details and shades (to be listened to on headsets), intimate variations of this music that is all strata and tiling. Indeed, rarely will we find the sudden breaks, the constant anacoluthon and the gasping tension that make the strength of some of the classics of the acousmatic repertoire. The voluntaristic and provocative montage fades behind the continuity of a writing that is strong, smooth, in which each period latches on to the preceding one and covers it, like the eras of History in the linear unfolding of time. Time… again!
An unfolding which, in this instance, will lead us from the realistic to the artificial, from the anecdotal to the virtual, from the figurative to the abstract. Thus, from the landscapes of materials of the first element, Eau (Water) — exhibiting a barely retouched naturalism — to the pure mental structures of Terre (Earth) — the last element and climax of the work (in its complexity, its length, the compelling nature of the digital processing, and its construction of space) — Tao appears to distort reality and progressively dematerialize itself. Through different stages of initiation, this long course achieves a kind of transfiguration of the preceding states, of which a few traces will remain and appear recurringly.
The work is acousmatic by its attachment to “sound images” (François Bayle) and by its morphological language, a work with a philosophical bend, a secret work, a chronicle of the flow of time, Tao requires from the listener — and it is only a fair demand — that he too knows how to take his time.
Francis Dhomont, Saint-Rémy-de-Provence (France) [ix-92]
“The most extraordinary is that the universe might probably have meaning.”
Taking Taoist thinking as the ‘foundation’ for a work might seem to be vain exoticism. However, Myths and great trends of civilization all carry archetypes.
Acousmatics, with its ranges of expression oriented towards direct mental perception, a perception devoid of intermediaries, is the ideal medium for the image I have of the world, an image understood by everyone. Perhaps the time has finally come for a language of sounds that is universal, because it is laden with archetypal signs. A new wave of civilization is engulfing us and, while awaiting a new spirituality, is urging us to find in Myths the roots of another sensitivity.
Isn’t nature the ideal dwelling place for a knowledge common to all men, this nature that ecological awareness has again placed at the centre of Western concerns? But what attracts me in the Taoist vision is the fact that nature doesn’t exist as distinct from man: it is a notion of life that encompasses the essence of the universe and man in his flesh and spirit. Then again, an analogical classification, while surprising to a rational logic, allows for a transfer of meanings that the artist feels is possible and valid.
“What we call poetry is perhaps the presence, suddenly made perceptible, of consonance with the universe. Whether the artist seeks it or not, such presence becomes one of the features of the creative work, and is only to be found there.”
— André Malraux, Le musée imaginaire de la sculpture mondiale, 1952
Art of mediation, of transformation, acousmatics turns any metaphor to advantage: another way of thinking with sounds.
“To ecologize thinking is to extend the capacity to understand modes of understanding other than ours, to conceive conceptual structures other than ours; in short, to allow the possibility to invent.”
— Edgar Morin, La méthode IV — Les idées, 1991
The entire Taoist system that connects time and space is based on a few fundamental numbers and sounds. Each piece corresponds to a different tonic axis chosen according to the scale of fifths derived from the length of the twelve primitive sound pipes, and attributed to each orient. But every musician knows that the world is all vibrations, unified and convergent… provided we believe solely our ears! The five pieces in this Tao are proof of it.
Annette Vande Gorne, Ohain (Belgium) [xi-93]
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In the press
This is a casual listening path, an invitation to travel — not a guided tour per se, more of an itinerary, akin to Romantic-era travel literature. So this will be a listening itinerary, an invitation to discover a highly subjective selection of electroacoustic composers from a specific corner of the world. Our destination: Northern Europe.
France reigns over European electroacoustic music like a despotic queen. The persisting influence of Pierre Schaeffer’s work — even more than 50 years after the invention of what he has called “musique concrète” — and the gravitational pull of the Ina-GRM tend to hide from the rest of the world the work being accomplished elsewhere in Europe.
So let’s start our journey in one of France’s neighbors, Belgium. The country owes much of its electroacoustic activity to Annette Vande Gorne, the indefatigable animator of the Musiques & Recherches center. Her music displays a strong sense of serenity, something rare in the field of tape music. Tao, a cycle about the five base elements (air, earth, metal, fire and water), remains a classic. In it she explores every possible transformation of the sounds associated to these elements with an uncommon level of artistry and poetry. A student of Vande Gorne, Stephan Dunkelman has picked up on her grace, a grace he transmutes into movement. Often the result of a collaboration with choreographers, his works are driven by an inner force that substitutes the sensuality of movement to Vande Gorne’s philosophical — almost mystical — depth. His pieces Rituellipses and Thru, Above and Between, released on the album Rhizomes, deserve your attention.
A jump across the Northern Sea and we set foot on English ground. Birmingham has become an important creative node in electroacoustic music, thanks to the work of composer Jonty Harrsison and his Birmingham ElectroAcoustic Sound Theatre (better known as BEAST), a laboratory for experimentation and sound diffusion that has helped many talented composers in developing their art. Harrison’s music is an essential listen. His piece Klang (released on Évidence matérielle) ranks among the best-known electroacoustic works of the last 25 years. His precise sound constructions and his distinctive way of compressing sound matter into streams of energy put him up there with Pierre Henry, Francis Dhomont and Bernard Bernard Parmegiani. One can follow the traces of his techniques into the works of Adrian Moore, one of his students, especially in the latter’s fondness for putting simple sound sources (marker on a white board, tin foil) through complex transformations. Sieve, from the album Traces, uses a catchy playfulness to make this transformative process transparent.
Denis Smalley was born and raised in New Zealand, but he has been living in the UK since the mid-‘70s. His contributions to the acousmatic corpus and to the development of sound diffusion make him not only the contemporary but in a sense the acolyte of Harrison. Furthermore, the two composers share a similar interest in form and in the choreographed displacement of abstract sound objects through space and time. Wind Chimes (on Impacts intérieurs) and Base Metals (on Sources/Scènes) are good illustrations of the slightly cold yet fascinating beauty of his music. John Young, one of his students — and another New-Zealander who studied and now teaches in England), follows a similar approach, although he replaces Smalley’s elemental sound sources with more emotionally charged images. The works featured on his CD La limite du bruit offer to the listener several occasions to dive into his or her own memories, the sound of a squeaky swing or a creaky door turning into avatars of Proust’s madeleine. Time, Motion and Memory is a choice cut.
Scandinavian electroacoustic music is still too largely ignored on our side of the Atlantic, but empreintes DIGITALes’ catalog allows us to make a short stop to round up our peregrinations. Natasha Barrett has studied with Harrison and Smalley and has been involved in BEAST, but since 1998 she has elected Norway as her base camp. There, she has stepped away from the style of her teachers and has sought inspiration in the Nordic cold. Her Three Fictions, released on Isostasie, deserve many listens. And let me bring this listening path to an end with one of the key composers in electroacoustic music today, the Swedish Åke Parmerud, whose Renaissance (on Jeu d’ombres) pays tribute to the analog synthesizer without resorting to nostalgic tricks.
Tao is a huge musique concrète cycle. There are five pieces (composed 1983-1991), one for each element of the Tao: water, fire, wood, metal and earth. Eau (Water) sounds almost untreated: splashes, drops, streams, etc. coming together in a piece the listener can visualize being interpreted live. But this “natural” approach is more and more deconstructed as one advances in the cycle. Feu (Fire) weaves sounds of burning wood with firecracker pops. Bois (Wood), one of the most interesting pieces, uses the sound of a squeaking old wooden door — a reference to Pierre Henry’s Variations pour une porte et un soupir — as a bridge between movements. Terre (Earth) is the most substantial piece and is completely freed from the element it represents. Abstract, it still conveys a feeling of Zen transcendentalism. Francis Dhomont wrote: “Tao is the discourse of active contemplation.” True, but because of that, it suffers from monotone moments (especially in Eau and Feu), mostly because of the sound source limitations imposed by the subject. Still, with Tao, Annette Vande Gorne delivered an impressive work.
«Peut-être empreintes DIGITALes pourront-ils nous offrir bientôt un disque de Vande Gorne avec uniquement sa musique?» avais-je écrit il y a quelques mois.
Et voilà un disque de 1996, Tao [IMED 9311], un très beau travail sur cinq éléments — eau, feu, bois, métal, terre — rien du tout à voir avec les conneries de Luc Besson. Les mots-clés qui se trouvent dans le dépliant central nous indique un chemin poétique — non programmatique — à suivre avec la musique. On se trouve alors dans un contexte plus figuratif que l’idéologie de base de la musique concrète («ne pas employer des sons en tant qu’instrument, mais en tant que sons sur la bande magnétique, où ils abandonnaient le côté causal: c’était plus une clarinette, c’était plus un piano — c’était un son qui avait une forme, un développement, une façon de vivre» — Ferrari). En effet, comme Luc Ferrari, Annette Vande Gorne prend ici un grand plaisir à utiliser les sons de la nature tel quel. De l’artisanat d’une rare beauté.
La jeune musique
Plus modestement, puisqu’elle occupe un créneau sûrement moins rentable, celui de l’électroacoustique, la maison DIFFUSION i MéDIA propose trois enregistrements: des musiques du Montréalais Serge Arcuri (IMED 9310) et Tao (une œuvre en cinq parties) de la Belge Annette Vande Gorne (IMED 9311). Dans la collection SONARt qui a donné, avant Noël, Ne blâmez jamais les bédouins, un théâtre musical d’Alain Thibault (IMSO 9202), s’ajoute Corazón Road, carnet de voyage sonore des Français Carole Rieussec et Jean-Christophe Camps (IMSO 9301).