Elizabeth Anderson

Mitä on meidän mielikuvituksemme tuolla puolen… Yle Radio 1, Finland

Even if listeners who are not so familiar with sound processing couldn’t catch the beauty of this release, L’Envol collects many works by Elizabeth, whose aesthetic research often features metacultural interconnection. Chain DLK, USA

  • Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles (Direction générale de la culture, Service de la musique)

CD (IMED 14127)

  • Label: empreintes DIGITALes
  • IMED 14127
  • 2014
  • UCC 771028212729
  • Total duration: 73:09
  • OGpak
  • 125 mm × 125 mm × 10 mm
  • 50 g

Download (IMED 14127_NUM)

Some recommended items
In the press

Avaruusromua: Binäärilukuja, kaaosta ja aurinkotuulia

Jukka Mikkola, Yle Radio 1, January 14, 2016


Muinaiset maya-intiaanit palvoivat Aurinkoa. He tutkivat sitä ja muitakin taivaan ilmiöitä tähtitieteellisesti. Amerikkalainen nykysäveltäjä Elizabeth Anderson on ollut kiinnostunut sekä aurinkotuulista että maya-kulttuurista. Hän yhdisti nämä asiat sävellyksessään Solar Winds, jonka materiaalina ovat radioastronomiset äänitykset aurinkotuulista. Teos valmistui vuonna 2012 ja paria vuotta myöhemmin hän sävelsi teokselle jatkoa. Jatko-osa sai nimekseen … and Beyond, ja sen ajatuksena on kuvata avaruutta Aurinkoa kauempana, jossakin meidän tietämyksemme ja mielikuvituksemme rajoilla. Mitä on meidän mielikuvituksemme tuolla puolen, kysyy Elizabeth Anderson. Millainen maailmankaikkeus siellä on?

Mitä on meidän mielikuvituksemme tuolla puolen…


Vito Camarretta, Chain DLK, July 27, 2015

The renewed interest on electroacoustic and acousmatic sonic material, that labels like empreintes DIGITALes are fostering by means of their publishing efforts, is allowing many hungry listeners to discover quite unknown composers or musicians in this interesting field. In spite of an excellent academic track and a plenty of prizes in international competition — including ASCAP-SEAMUS (USA, 2001), Bourges (France, 1994), CIMESP (Brazil, 1995, 2001, 2003, and 2007), Città di Udine (Italy, 2004), Métamorphoses (Belgium, 2004), Musica Nova (Czech Republic, 2008), Noroit-Léonce Petitot (France, 1998), Stockholm Electronic Arts Award (Sweden, 1994), TIME (2002), and Pierre Schaeffer Competition of Electronic Music (Italy, 2007) -, American-born Brussels-based composer Elizabeth Anderson could be an unknown name for many followers of the scene. Even if listeners who are not so familiar with sound processing couldn’t catch the beauty of this release, L’Envol (French for “the flight”) collects many works by Elizabeth, whose aesthetic research often features metacultural interconnection. Two of the above-listed prizes was given to the opening Les forges de l’invisible, an electroacoustic suite that Elizabeth made by manipulations of some sonic input that she previously created during a residency at the Centre de creation musicale Iannis Xenakis in Paris, between the multichannel electroacoustic studio of City University London and the Studio of Akousma of the Academy of Soignes in Belgium. The main source of inspiration of the two movements — the first one seems to trace different lovels of sonic decay, while the second movement could be the reverse process as the initial particles seems to get gradually amalgamated — was Blake’s poetry and particularly his visionary outlook of progress: she specifically mentions the notorious poem The Tyger, whose “fearful symmetry” has already inspired many musicians and got mirrored by the contrast between creative and distructive forces that animate guts, hearts and behavious of every sonic particles of this suite. Named after the underground fortress that Nazi forces built in northern France, Mimoyecques — the oldest recording of this collection — is a sort of sonic tribute to the forced laborers (more than one thousand prisoners) who died when the fortress was heavily bombed by the Allied air forces in 1944: for this genuine act of remembrance, she combined two sets of sound, being the first one mainly made from sounds that she recorded in the fortress and the second one from the overlapping of different readings in different languages from writings of Hans Christian Andersen, Danilo Dolci, Annette von Droste-Huelshoff, Alexander Pushkin, David Baltuch, Vaino Linna, Bjornstjerne Bjornson, Amir Gilboa and Czeslaw Milosz, intended to mirror the multilingual origin of the died workers. The tracks in the middle — the most recent erecordings — are mainly connected to Anderson’s fascination for space and ancient cultures: Solar Winds, which was dedicated to ancient Mayan astronomers, was based on James Dungey’s open magnetosphere model and interplanetary field lines that got carried by solar winds and interfere with Earth’s magnetosphere, which become a sort of score to give sound to non-sounding astronomical event, while the following … and Beyond proposes an imaginary aural journey beyond heliosphere. The vaguely diquieting Ether and the two movements of Protopia / Tesseract, inspired by Madeleine L’Engle’s novel A Wrinkle in Time, where space / time compression makes intergalactic travels possible, complete this release.

Even if listeners who are not so familiar with sound processing couldn’t catch the beauty of this release, L’Envol collects many works by Elizabeth, whose aesthetic research often features metacultural interconnection.


Stuart Marshall, The Sound Projector, July 19, 2015

Empreintes DIGITALes expands its fold with two more softly-sung heroines of electroacoustic music and at this point one can easily pick a winner among any of the label’s releases, though pick two and you might find little drastic variation. If the label is a leader in its field, its scope is a narrow one: many are the glistening field recordings, processed Japanese musical instruments, hulled and spaghettified voices and avowed interests in humanistic sciences that have graced my humble ears since becoming acquainted [Legion also are the academic accomplishments and international awards held by the composers inhabiting this label.]. But then, why spoil a winning formula?

While not dramatically at variance with those of her peers, the compositions of USA’s Elizabeth Anderson still sound strikingly fresh (to ears not recently acquainted with this music, admittedly) and there’s a comfortable cohesion to the sequencing of two decades’ worth of work (1994-2014): glass-showers pummelling powerful liquid flumes; radio feedback collaged and spewed; riots of industrial klang and proliferating strands of deranged monologue that lend a historical vintage to earlier pieces such as Mimoyecques (a meditation on imprisonment and death). With no piece shorter than eight minutes, these events course throughout like organic silicon life through a cosmic/atmospheric vastness, though there’s plenty of capacity to be startled by such as the abdominal explosions of Protopia/Tesseract, its lines of low profile flutes and bifurcating, rattling particles: variables that interact with a volatility expressive of the many conceptual oppositions (and harmonies) — principally the spiritual and celestial — that form the basis for much of Anderson’s work: the poetic tension of William Blake’s Tyger in Les forges de l’invisible; the companionship of visible and invisible universes in Solar Winds … and Beyond. Accordingly, her work displays all of the dynamic vigour found in the work of her peers, though it inhabits far remoter cosmic real estate.

Accordingly, her work displays all of the dynamic vigour found in the work of her peers, though it inhabits far remoter cosmic real estate.

Love on the Bits

Fabrice Vanoverberg, Rif Raf, no. 210, May 1, 2015

En parlant d’Américain installé à Bruxelles, voici Elizabeth Anderson et son L’envol (Empreintes DIGITALes). Installée dans notre capitale depuis la fin des eighties, elle nous propose de parcourir vingt ans de son parcours en huit étapes. Si des lignes de force tracent son univers, elles vont d’une déshumanisation froide à un monde sous-marin où l’obscur règne en maître, jamais l’ennui ou la monotonie ne s’emparent de son art acousmatique. Au contraire, et le tour de force est prodigieux, Anderson parvient à transcender la vibration par moins quinze degrés, tout en rappelant en 18 langues, avec effroi et recul, les horreurs du travail forcé (et c’est à faire passer une visite du fort de Breendonk pour une ballade dominicale). On songe parfois à Thomas Köner et surtout, on passe en quelques secondes des profondeurs océaniques à la stratosphère sans s’en rendre compte. Tel Ulysse, un beau voyage.

Tel Ulysse, un beau voyage.


RNE3: Atmósfera, April 19, 2015

L’envol es el primer álbum en solitario de la compositora Americana afincada en Bruselas Elizabeth Anderson. Elizabeth es una prolífica artista y profesora y eso se palpa en su disco: cuando lo escuchas por primera vez tienes la sensación de estar ante una lectura de música electrónica.

Los sonidos que contiene este L’envol son lo que uno espera de su título (en francés significa Vuelo) pero sólo si has pasado mucho tiempo viendo películas de ciencia ficción de los 60. Este trabajo se ocupa de temas que son bien conocidos, arquetipos tal vez, que se reflejan perfectamente en los títulos de las diferentes piezas.

Un trabajo de cuidada estructura sinfónica a pesar de que esté creado con sonidos sampleados y grabaciones de sintetizador con la correspondiente habilidad de atrapar al instante al escuchante con sus espectaculares paisajes galácticos y los grandes espacios de soledad.

… de atrapar al instante al escuchante con sus espectaculares paisajes galácticos y los grandes espacios de soledad.


Roland Torres, SilenceAndSound, March 27, 2015

Américaine installée à Bruxelles depuis la fin des années 80, pour y poursuivre des études de composition instrumentale au Conservatoire Royal de Bruxelles et de musique électronique à Anvers, Elizabeth Anderson sort un premier album intitulé L’Envol, composé de divers travaux issus entre 1994 et 2014, en forme de parfaite introduction à son travail acousmatique et electroacoustique. Elizabeth Anderson travaille les sonorités avec un goût prononcé pour les ambiances sci-fi climatiques, construites à coups de field recordings et de machines flirtant avec les spasmes de la fausse quiétude, donnant naissance à des pièces désertifiées par l’âme humaine. Des tracks, émane une certaine désolation fantômatique, s’accaparant l’espace sous un manteau d’ambient sobre aux modulations brûlantes. Ce qui fascine, c’est la constance de son travail sur 20 ans. L’artiste continuant d’œuvrer sans relâche, sur un terrain minimal aux émotions fortes et à la retenue viscérale hypnotique. L’Envol nous transporte dans un futur aux émotions froides et distantes, monde dévasté et envahi de microstructures à l’étrangeté cybernétique. Très fortement recommandé.

Très fortement recommandé.


Richard Allen, A Closer Listen, March 8, 2015

Tackling William Blake, Madeleine L’Engle, Mayan culture, solar winds, WWII, 9/11 and more on a single set is a daunting challenge, but somehow Elizabeth Anderson manages to pull it off. It helps that the majority of the album is instrumental, as lyrics would threaten to undo the entire endeavor. Instead, the listener may be led either by the liner notes or by impression, the latter choice a reflection of Anderson’s own mode of composition. Her swaths of color operate as tone paintings, conveying mood and eschewing the didactic.

The earliest of these compositions was written twenty years ago, the latest only last year, but the album flows well as a whole. There’s no clear line of demarcation; even the track order follows a non-linear path. When one delves into abstraction, one manages to avoid the pitfalls of time-stamped composition. To paraphrase, three of 1994’s top songs were by Ace of Base, while the songs around them borrowed from their phrasing; yet the experimental works of that era have aged well because they weren’t like their peers. Take for example Mimoyecques, which contains footfalls, rumblings and fragments of text from Hans Christian Andersen, Alexander Pushkin and Czesław Miłosz, among others. It was never going to be a hit. Only the vocoder seems a bit dated, but perhaps its time has come along again. More importantly, the piece commemorates the workers who died when an underground fortress was destroyed in 1943. The piece works because it is both respectful and outside of time; field recordings, albeit manipulated, are seldom assigned by the mind to a single era.

In contrast, 2001’s Ether works because it approaches from the side, unlike many other tributes to the victims of the 9/11 attacks (the brashest and most popular being Alan Jackson’s Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning). Enormously popular at the time, that country song struck the easy, popular chord, but has not endured; when’s the last time you heard it on the radio other than 9/11? Ether instead deserves to be mentioned in the same conversations as John AdamsOn the Transmigration of Souls as a serious, mysterious work, whose folds hide entry points like the events hid emotional comprehension. The tribute is conveyed through drones, half-whispers and lapping waves, an eloquent elegy inspired by energy as well as human loss.

But not everything here is somber. The first movement of the William Blake-inspired “Les forges de l’invisible” is particularly bright, with tones like sleet on metal alternating with electronic swooshes like diving birds, while the swirling Protopia / Tesseract, inspired by A Wrinkle in Time, alternates between ponderous and playful, reflecting the novel’s tug-of-war between protagonists and events. The collection ultimately suggests a form of transcendence – an intellectual re-framing that leads to comprehension, and if not comprehension, at least the early stages of acceptance.

Her swaths of color operate as tone paintings…


Łukasz Komła, Polyphonia, March 3, 2015

L’envol to pierwsza solowa płyta Elizabeth Anderson — amerykańskiej kompozytorki urodzonej w Brukseli. Twórczość Anderson również skupia się na akuzmatycznych eksploracjach i przestrzeni.


Christof Thurnherr, Jazz ’n’ More, no. 2, March 1, 2015

Als repräsentatives Beispiel aus dem inzwischen 135 Releases umfassenden Katalog sei hier die aktuelle CD L’envol der Wahl-Brüsselerin Elizabeth Anderson erwähnt. Anderson schloss ihre fast dreissig Jahre dauernde Hochschulausbildung in elektronischer Musik 2011 mit einem Doktorat im Fach Elektroakustische Komposition ab. Ihr allgemeines Interesse gilt der musikalischen Thematisierung des Raumes, sei es in der Mikrooder der Makroperspektive, womit sie musikalisch an die kunstphilosophische Diskussion anknüpft, die das Ehepaar Eames bereits 1977 mit ihrem Film “Powers of Ten” populär gemacht hatten. Mit L’envol schafft Anderson eine immersive Klanglandschaft, in welcher sie unterschiedliche Grössenverhältnisse überlagert und so einen sehr spannenden Blick auf die Relativität des eigenen Bezugs zur Umwelt herstellt — ein akustischer Ausflug in eine alternative Wahrnehmung, der im Gewohnten durchaus nachwirken kann.

Music to write science fiction to

Arwen Xaverine, Freq, February 9, 2015

L’envol is the first solo album release from American-born, Brussels-based composer Elizabeth Anderson. She is a prolific artist and teacher, and when I hear the opening of L’envol, I feel somewhat like I am at the beginning of a lecture on electronic music.

The sounds are perhaps what you might have expected from the title of the record, (L’envol is French for The Flight), but only if you have spent a lot of time watching science fiction films from the Nineteen Sixties. I know these soundscapes because they furnish my dreams. It is a vernacular that as a reader and writer of science fiction — stories of space and space travel — I know very well. This is not a bad thing, although it does afford me a level of commitment to the narrative of these haunting pieces that I realise that those unfamiliar with the genre and its common narrative might find inaccessible. I would hope that, like me, listeners will be engaged by the ideas presented and then be prepared to take the chance and listen with open minds as well as open ears.

This work deals with themes that are well-known, not tropes exactly; archetypes perhaps, and reflected in the titles of the different pieces — Les forges de l’invisible (“The Invisible Forges”), Solar Winds, Ether, Protopia/Tersseract — evocative of the kinds of titles to stories that take us into uncharted space in the deepest parts of the universe. I was drawn to this music because of this so it is unsurprising, and possibly quite affirming, to discover that it does exactly what it says on the tin.

What, inevitably, I find myself coming to believe is that Elizabeth Anderson also has this shared vernacular of the genre, that she is communicating the same ideas and thematic narratives of science fiction writing, the ideas and themes that draw me in to the writing and films of the genre. Because the thing that is most important to say is that, whilst there is nothing here that an aficionado of science fiction won’t recognise, there is nothing of the parody in this work. It is in itself a genuine work of science fiction, just as you might find in the writings of Ursula Le Guin or Isaac Asimov. It deals in the same big themes of vastness and loneliness, of unknown landscapes. It introduces your brain to concepts of scale that are impossible to experience on our small planet, and to concepts, therefore, of our own humbling insignificance.

I find myself wanting to accompany this piece with an infographic depicting our size relative to the universe (actually, for anyone who found the soundtrack of the film Gravity as irritating as I did, this would make a very good reboot). I did not want to write about this work track by track; the thematic structure of the work is the point and the component parts are narrative in their flow from one place to the next, much as any collection of movements in a symphony for traditional instruments. That this work is made using sampled sounds and synthesised recordings does not take away from its symphonic structure or its ability to engage the listener’s attention. If you are looking for recurrent themes, it is not in motifs of repeated sounds that these appear, but in the return always into the silence between the sounds, which then in turn bring you back to the huge emptiness of space, slightly altered by the journey.

I feel as though, even if I listen to this every day (and I have been), I will hear something more in there each time and be intrigued. If there is a concern about the hook of this collection, it is that unless the listener has a vested interest in the narratives of space and space travel, they might not bother, just as with genre fiction in more traditional media. I suppose this is the chance one takes making art that is about things that are as yet unknown or potentially unknowable. I like L’envol for its stark galaxyscapes and the enormous quantities of emptiness it affords my ambulations into the realms of those places, although I suspect it is, like deep science fiction writing, not for everyone.

I like L’envol for its stark galaxyscapes and the enormous quantities of emptiness it affords my ambulations into the realms of those places…

Recording Reviews

Tom Dempster, SEAMUS Newsletter, January 1, 2015

Spanning twenty years of output, L’envol reflects Elizabeth Anderson’s trajectory, from the dialogic, event — driven, and directly cinematic Mimoyecques, to the abstracted, texture — carried, more deliberate (… and Beyond). This is not to suggest a lack of kinship between then and now; if nothing else, the works presented here point to a galvanization and redoubling of technique. Like a painter applying layers of paint, removing some material, repainting, removing, and covering again, Anderson’s works, obliquely and at times directly, engages with a satisfying process of building, removing, and finding ways to erase delineation. Her sound world is unified as though it were fog marrying a forest at dusk: an obscured but not precisely static system of pitchless textures, with elements slowly coming to light (as in the inexorably chilling yet moving opening to Solar Winds). Throughout these works, Anderson places focus on timbral and spectral space and organic evolution of material, featuring small, yet energetic, flashes of warm light that delicately pull the listener deeper and deeper into these gently hallucinatory worlds.

One of the more striking works on the collection is 1994’s Mimoyecques, a programmatic work inspired by the eponymous fortress in Marquise, France. Using separate readings about World War II, Anderson collects a kind of private monologue from persons speaking in the languages of prisoners during the War — Bulgarian, French, Czech, Danish — over a dozen, all told. Beyond the crystalline introductory passages open the doors of the fortress, the narratives one by one tumbling forth in what becomes a potent, if not heady, documentary of an invented memory. The narrative moves from French to a superimposition of Hebrew, German, and Russian, and the work builds to a dizzying and visceral climax, with a vocoded chorale of one arising from the collapse of the sonic material.

Protopia/Tesseract (2005-2007), inspired by Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle In Time, examines Anderson’s interpretation of spatio — temporal compression. In two movements, the first is a more slowly — evolving sound world, with shimmering, veiled threads that surface and disappear amidst a roiling, warm underpinning. A lightning bolt or a collapse of the universe onto itself and the listener is in the thick of a crowd, which spins away, as though it begins to orbit the background textures (which have, at this point, continued to transform). The second movement — the track which closes out the album — is a luxurious wash of timbres that seems to be in near — constant motion. The ensuing dizzying sonic journey — with strata moving at various speeds against each other — surrounds and consumes the listener, and the material, arresting in its own right, becomes further compelling as the spinning web of sounds somehow transmogrifies into an embrace, which itself slowly dissolves into the ether.

This ineffable warmth and richness prevails, particularly in the most recent pair of works, Solar Winds (2012) and … and Beyond (2014). Solar Winds — which Anderson constructed in part by incorporating acoustic translations of electromagnetic phenomena — emerges from a true nothing, with perhaps one of the most haunting and affecting opening gestures this side of Norgard; the chime and decay gesture more than a minute in, despite the relative low amplitude intensity, is tremendously effective, garnering a momentary stunned listener. And this is crucial to Anderson’s technique: in an almost Webern — like way, a single small gesture or event in the right part of the spectrum can have the impact of an unexpected rimshot. … and Beyond, a companion piece to Solar Winds, questions the very nature of the universe and the universe beyond one’s own mind. Again mapping astronomical information into the work (though I am compelled to ask how), Anderson creates a quietly lavish shifting plane of textures that ultimately moves into a realm of pulse and rhythm. The work, despite the quasi — programmatic nature of the piece as a vessel to look beyond the known, seems rooted in the very organic and very terrestrial as the work seems to inhale and exhale — and even has a heartbeat (or perhaps two) — as it maneuvers us through an unknown universe. The stunning yet restrained piece concludes with what may be tantamount to an acousmatic question mark.

Drawing her inspirations from a wealth of subjects — but in this release, predominantly science and speculative philosophy — Anderson’s works are still somewhat spare in texture. Even at their most active and intense, the works are never adipose and remain texturally pellucid, smoldering aural embers that flare and glow, an inviting field of uniform color that inexplicably remains in constant flux, simultaneously drawing us in while engaging our most primordial senses of alertness. The works — rich, eloquent yet efficient, and strangely beguiling — are studies in an intense subtlety and an economy of spectrum coupled with a mastery of pacing, all the more remarkable in how the concentrated material can conjure up and propel the imagination.

… a satisfying process of building, removing, and finding ways to erase delineation.

Listening Diary

François Couture, Monsieur Délire, December 2, 2014

[…] Anderson often uses emptiness as a ressource — sound spaces in which a potentiality is floating in the form of tiny threads of feedback. I really liked these floating moments — a device that appears in more than one work here. […]

I really liked these floating moments — a device that appears in more than one work here.

More texts

  • Hubert Heathertoes, felthat, January 29, 2015