Artists Jon Christopher Nelson

Jon Christopher Nelson

Buffalo (Minnesota, USA), 1960

Residence: Denton (Texas, USA)

  • Composer

On the Web

Selected Works

Complements

Various artists
SEAMUS / EAM 2010 / 2010
  • Not in catalogue
Various artists
Studio PANaroma / SPAN 199022833 / 2008
  • Not in catalogue
Various artists
SEAMUS / EAM 2005 / 2005
  • Not in catalogue
Various artists
SEAMUS / EAM 2001 / 2001
  • Not in catalogue
Various artists
Innova Recordings / INNOVA 118 / 2001
  • Not in catalogue
Various artists
SEAMUS / EAM 2000 / 2000
  • Not in catalogue
Various artists
SEAMUS / EAM 9801 / 1998
  • Not in catalogue
Various artists
Mnémosyne musique média / LDC 278060-61 / 1996
  • Not in catalogue
Various artists
SEAMUS / EAM 9501 / 1995
  • Not in catalogue
Various artists
Fondazione Russolo-Pratella / EFERP 95 / 1995
  • Not in catalogue

Articles Written

  • Jon Christopher Nelson, Array Online, August 6, 2000
  • Jon Christopher Nelson, Array Online, August 6, 2000

Review

Jon Christopher Nelson, Array Online, August 6, 2000

Ms. Vande Gorne is the founder and program director of the centre Musiques & Recherches and the Métamorphoses d’Orphée studio in Ohain, Belgium. She also serves as Professor of electroacoustic music in Liège, Brussels and Mons. Many of her electroacoustic works exhibit her long-standing interest in combining text and music as she revels in the ‘music of words’ and the ‘music of sounds.’ Impalpables contains three such works based upon the French writings of Belgian author Werner Lambersy.

The first track, Le ginkgo, provides an interpretation of excerpts from Lambersy’s short story of the same name. The tape portion is derived largely from vocal material and was composed at the GMEM studios in Marseilles. In this work, a recording of the author reciting text is presented in a clear, unprocessed and linear fashion accompanied by electroacoustic material.

The short story provides an account of a world in which the ‘Tree of Ten Thousand Crowns’ is the single remaining tree on the planet. This ginkgo tree drops all of its leaves once every theoretical year and the ceremonial gathering and counting of the leaves follows. Upon finding that one leaf is missing, the ‘Master of the Great Numbers of All Written’ sets out on a journey to find the missing leaf. This journey provides an interior voyage that leads to a discovery of self and ultimately love.

Although the relationship between the text and the sonic accompaniment is clear, it is subtle enough to remain transparent and provide a rich backdrop for the text without distracting the listener. Le ginkgo is an evocative sound exploration containing luscious sonorities. The work exhibits many attractive features and warrants repeated hearings. Many of the sound objects embody motion and provide an evocative sonic journey to accompany the text.

The second work on this recording, Architecture nuit (Architecture Night), was produced at the Métamorphoses d’Orphée studio and at Ina-GRM in 1988. This work sets five Lambersy poems against an electroacoustic background. Throughout the composition, Vande Gorne is concerned with space and the treatment of words and timbre within space.

In contrast with Le ginkgo, the recordings of the poet’s recitations are presented in a more dense, contrapuntal texture in the first two settings of Architecture nuit. Furthermore, the text is obfuscated through the use of extensive filtering. The kinetic hyperactivity of the first two of the five settings provides an appealing and exciting sound world. However, the dense counterpoint ceases as the final three poems are set in a more linear fashion. Each of these three poems are accompanied by more sparse materials. Furthermore, the accompanimental timbres change little and occupy a limited sonic palette. For this listener, these timbres were somewhat harsh and metallic. I would have enjoyed Architecture nuit more had Ms. Vande Gorne been able to recapture the momentum and energy found within the first two poems somewhere within the final three settings.

Annette Vande Gorne’s Noces noires (Black Wedding) contemplates the ‘approach of death and its reflection on us, the living.’ Written in 1986, Noces noires presents the poet reciting his poem while the musical setting provides text painting. The work unfolds slowly with well-paced expanses of time between stanzas accompanied by resonant processed cymbals and bells. This somber composition revels in austere beauty. Despite the many attractive features of this work, I was distracted by several spots that seemed to lack the technical finesse that predominates the rest of the CD. Specifically, the sound levels of several entrances of a noisy sound source at 13:40 and 13:54 seem too abrupt emanating from the preceding context. Nonetheless, the erratic nature of this sound object is very appealing after this point. Similarly, the use of increasingly frenetic and urgent sonic activity after 18:45 provides an effective formal device. However, the mechanical and unnatural decays imposed upon the acoustic sound sources stand out as distracting anomalies within the otherwise smooth and flowing context of the composition. 0The final minutes of the work include a return of the opening sonic material. In conclusion, I find many attractive features in the compositions found on Impalpables. Lambersy’s poems and short story are striking and provocative while Vande Gorne’s music enhances and colors the text with imagination. Annette Vande Gorne’s unique voice melds the worlds of text and sound.

Review

Jon Christopher Nelson, Array Online, August 6, 2000

Acousmatic and soundscape composition are arguably the most important compositional tendencies in Canadian electroacoustic music today. Rooted in musique concrète, acousmatic music treats the sound source as an abstract element which can be modified to suit a formal plan laid out by the composer. Recorded sounds are taken out of their context and their temporal and spectral characteristics are transformed, sometimes beyond recognition. Contrastingly, soundscape composition keeps the sound material close to the original recordings, and places the musical process within a specific socio-cultural context.

Francis Dhomont is among the foremost composers in the acousmatic tradition.

Since 1963, he has produced several dozens of works for tape. Sous le regard d’un soleil noir (Under the glare of a black sun) was done between 1979 and 1981. Its CD release dates from 1996. This is the first work of a trilogy inspired by psychoanalytic thought.

According to Dhomont, this work proposes a meeting of the imagination (‘psychology of depths’) with the mental images produced by the acousmatic treatment of sounds. Dhomont uses texts by psychiatrist - psychoanalyst Ronald D Laing (among other authors) to describe the journey of a schizophrenic mind from the ‘incarcerated self’ to the catatonic state.

The piece is structured in eight sections lasting four to eight minutes each. Dhomont uses three strategies to achieve formal unity: (1) The text is delivered almost without inflections and it is clearly articulated to keep it comprehensible. Little processing is applied. (2) Material from previous sections is recycled achieving an impressive economy of means. (3) The pitch class B natural is employed as a pivot and as a recurring motive throughout the piece.

Dhomont shows his compositional craftsmanship by keeping the pace of the sections masterly balanced. Sound objects are carefully designed to keep sources’ identities hidden. When these can be identified, they are meant to fulfill a specific formal function. For example, after the listener has been exposed to several minutes of abstract sound, the sudden appearance of a talking crowd (Inner Citadel, at 1:10) provides a striking contrast. The voice of the narrator is usually kept as a layer separate from the musical material.

After twenty years of its conception, Sous le regard d’un soleil noir starts to feel the weight of time. Some of the sound processing techniques employed may sound a bit artificial today, e.g., the low pass and high pass filtering of the voice. The use of amplitude envelopes on natural time varying sounds eliminates important temporal cues. Thus, the spectral characteristics of these sounds do not fit their temporal structure creating a perceptual paradox. Check, for example, the articulation on the B natural in the section titled Implosion.

Keeping in mind the year of its realization and the concepts underlying its formal plan, Sous le regard d’un soleil noir stands as a landmark of acousmatic composition.

Blog

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