La compositrice belga Annette Vande Gorne dà alle stampe un quinto album — il suo secondo insieme al poeta suo conterraneo Werner Lambersky — furente e feroce, pieno di enigmi seducenti e intricati. Haïkus è una rappresentazione della natura, del ciclo delle stagioni e delle attività umane pertinenti a esse in diciassette sketches romantici, dolci e sognanti.
Uscito per DIGITALes, etichetta discografica nata nel 1990 che ha base a Montréal, celebre per i lavori minimali ed elettroacustici pubblicati nel corso degli anni, Haïkus è un’opera di respiro amplissimo dove Annette Vande Gorne, accompagnata dal poeta Werner Lambersky, attraversa in poco meno di un’ora tutti gli stati dell’animo umano, percorre l’immensità della natura e canta dell’elemento antropico che si integra e confligge con essa.
Guardando al mondo dell’elettronica, della musica classica, della poesia contemporanea e anche di quella del passato, Vande Gorne confeziona un disco qualitativamente alto e venato di emozioni forti, contrastanti e sincere. Suddiviso in una sorta di atti, diversi capitoli tra loro coerenti e appassionanti, alle orecchie degli ascoltatori Haïkus si dipana come una specie di sinfonia a tratti agreste e a tratti cittadina, un tripudio di colori, odori e sensazioni che vibra con forza e maestria.
Essendo una rappresentante brillante della cosiddetta acousmatic music, Vande Gorne continua nel suo percorso con integrità e allenamento, sfoderando un’energia rara e particolarmente avvinghiante, che sembra disegnare, con le singole note, un panorama di rivelazioni e speranze, di ricordi e paure, senza risparmiare nulla al suo pubblico, che si trova ben presto preso in trappola in questo vortice esplosivo e graffiante. Haïkus colpisce per la sua schiettezza, per la sua forte luminosità, per la storia che prova a raccontare attraverso un percorso complicato ma onesto.
Το έκτο άλμπουμ της Βελγίδας συνθέτριας -μαθήτριας του Pierre Henry –Annette Vande Gorne, με τίτλο “Illusion” πλοηγείται στα μονοπάτια του ακουσματικού ήχου, ενός ήχου φυσικού η μανιπουλαρισμένου του οποίου το αίτιο παραγωγής παραμένει αφανές. Τούτων δοθέντων η μουσική χωρίζεται σε τέσσερις μεγάλες συνθέσεις ενώ σε δυο από αυτές συμμετέχουν ξεχωριστά ο Βέλγος ποιητής Werner Lambersy και η Βραζιλιάνα πιανίστρια Ana Cláudia de Assis. Στο ίδιο μήκος κύματος και το προηγούμενο άλμπουμ της Vande Gorne, “Haikus” με 17 Γιαπωνέζικα χαϊκού για τις εποχές του έτους -ηλεκτρονικά ηχητικά τοπία διανθισμένα από φωνές παιδιών, βόμβο εντόμων, ήχους νερών, κελαηδίσματα πουλιών.
Since there has been a considerable stylistic and compositional shift in Paul Dolden’s music between this, his first album for empreintes DIGITALes and the last one I reviewed, ( Histoires d’histoire ), I would like to explore this release and possibly / hopefully give some insight as to how his sound evolved. Seuil de silences has a bit of a tangled history. The genesis of this release was in 1990 with The Threshold of Deafening Silence on the now defunct Tronia label. I wasn’t aware of it at the time but listening to it now, three decades on I can say that what he was doing was fairly groundbreaking, if not, downright extreme for it’s time. I would even go as far as to say, our world hasn’t caught up to these four pieces yet.
Using 1990 tape technology, Dolden was able to achieve a sound that was sonically massive AND compositionally advanced for what was generally considered “ambient” music back then. In fact, if you (mistakenly) dropped him into that category you would have been discounting his musical and technical skills. I’m not on a mission to belittle in any way the fine talents of musicians like Steve Roach or Robert Rich but clearly, this release finds Dolden walking a very different sonic pathway. There were some similarities, possibly his use of untuned and tuned percussion presented at times a sort of ritualistic/tribal feel to the music that was popping up at the time. His technique of recording hundreds of tracks of acoustic instruments and then layering them on top of each other enabling him to explore different (micro) tonalities and timbres within the “note” did not share any similarities though, and this is what I think separated him from the Ambient crowd and placed him squarely within the Acousmatic zone.
In 2003, empreintes DIGITALes released Seuil de silences (Threshold of Silences). This release shared 3 of the tape compositions from Threshold of Deafening Silence plus two more compositions featuring live soloists and tape. The shared tracks were remastered by Dolden using up to date, state of the art studio gear. There are some major aural differences in this release compared to the 1990 predecessor. Seuil de silences has a much larger bass presence. Thankfully, this does not muddy up the sound and, in fact, adds even more drama and power to the compositions, something that I didn’t think was possible. It also seems to be generally louder and more “in your face” than the 1990 version. Again, given the fact that these pieces display an absurd amount of power and intensity to begin with, adding more loudness may sound like overkill to some, although I’m not one who thinks this is so. Finally, there were some musical content changes made that resulted in changing the times of the pieces by a small amount. Since I haven’t A-B’ed these versions on a granular level, I can’t really speak to these changes but, I believe they are minor… realizing the composer may think differently.
About the album, right out of the gate we have Below the Walls of Jericho. This is part one of a “Jericho” triptych that continues with his next 2 albums, Intoxicated by Speed 1 and 2. I can’t stress enough how searingly intense this piece gets in places. Realizing that Acousmatic music is meant for the listener to interpret in their own personal way without concerning (and distracting) themselves with such trivial things as sound sources or the “how” of creating the music… one can’t help but wonder “how” exactly did Dolden come up with this malevolent entity of sound? Instead of wasting space talking about process, if interested you can read liner notes and other commentary by the composer here.
There are aspects that stand out for me though. His controlled use of dynamics is unparalleled. There are parts throughout that can easily lull you into a serene state of catatonia only to be bludgeoned back into the real suddenly and without warning. Contrastingly, there are moments where you can see it coming. You can hear and feel the build and you know you are about to experience a wheezing, screaming, utterly menacing harpy encounter and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it.
Then there is his penchant for ending a phrase in a very dry manner. Let me try and explain this… you are reaching the tail end of a passage that is constructed with up to 400 tracks of wind, reed, string, choir, and metal percussive instruments. The passage ends suddenly and without warning. The ending is not a hard cut as if you are turning off a light switch but it’s an ending where the instruments themselves just simply stop playing. It all sounds very natural and you can even hear residual noises of the musicians lifting their fingers from their instruments or the fading ring of struck metal decaying into the ether. The effect is riveting, and it’s something that really needs to be heard rather than described with puny words.
Everything about this recording seems up close and personal as if you were living inside the sound. Remember the movie Fantastic Voyage from the 60’s? It’s like that… you know!
My personal experience with this music is, first and foremost trying to wrap my head around the sheer immensity of the sound stage. Sometimes I’ll spend the length of an entire album of Dolden music just marveling at its vastness. If I do happen to get past this stage, the body aspect kicks in. I begin to feel it, in all its bone-shaking splendor. Everything I’ve mentioned is part of the physical world but if you are able to peel back the onion layer and start to experience it on a cerebral level, well that’s when the game really begins.
Paul Dolden is one of the most innovative artists out there right now. He has actually done a second remaster which he is posting to his Bandcamp page. Among other released and unreleased pieces, he has made available the piece Below the Walls of Jericho with this new remaster. He considers these the definitive versions of his works. The fact that he’s under the radar is criminal. Have a listen, see for yourselves.
A final word, as in all Acousmatic music, a good sound system will enhance your experience by orders of magnitude. My preferred way of listening is through decent earbuds augmented with a DAC/headphone amp. A YouTube video through computer speakers is not optimal so, if you can, try and listen on a good system of your choice.
Ο μονόφθαλμος Γάλλος συνθέτης ηλεκτροακουστικής μουσικής Francis Dhomont ηχογράφησε πρόσφατα το έργο “Images Nomades” το οποίο αποτελείται από δυο μάλλον διαφορετικά στιλιστικά μέρη ιδίας χρονικής διάρκειας: το πρώτο αποτελείται από τρεις παλιότερες abstrait δουλειές, το δεύτερο αφιερώνει τα εννιά κομμάτια του σε αντίστοιχες μουσικές επετείους διαφόρων συνθετών. Υπάρχουν κατά κάποιο τρόπο «ρυθμικά μοτίβα» -διαφοροποιήσεις στην πυκνότητα και την ένταση του ήχου που συγκεντρώνεται σε clusters, με ακούσματα βροχής και με αναμόρφωση της τονικότητας και των αντηχήσεων. Ούτως, έχουμε καθαρά έργα χωρίς συμβολισμούς αλλά και έργα γεμάτα μεταφορές στην ποίηση, τη λογοτεχνία, τη ψυχανάλυση κτλ.
In my label introduction, I mentioned that the music on empreintes DIGITALes generally falls into the Acousmatic/Electro-Acoustic/musique concrete style. Well, I’m going to have to take issue (with myself at least) because, as the good Captain Beefheart said, “Labels are for cans, man”. Paul Dolden’s 2017 mega-epic does not really fit the mold. I realize this release may be an odd one to start this series with but since I’ve been bingeing on Dolden’s music for the better part of 3 weeks now, this is where we begin.
Dolden has been composing and recording for well over 3 decades now but only has a surprisingly few releases that have made it out into the wild. Histoires d’histoire is his latest. I’ve heard and greatly enjoyed most of his material and I would feel comfortable in saying he’s a slow but extremely meticulous, exacting composer. And why shouldn’t he be? Wouldn’t you be slow too if you were layering hundreds upon hundreds of tracks on top of each other? Wouldn’t you want to take your time to get that mix just right so you can hear EVERYTHING that is going on within these layers? Wouldn’t you have to master what I can only imagine to be a huge learning curve to conquer, or at least tame the tech that allows you to create such massive monoliths of sound?
And what about the compositions themselves? Shouldn’t it take, like forever to compose, let alone arrange this exceedingly (to my ears) complex music? Wouldn’t the painstaking work of documenting this work with scores take awhile? One would certainly think you would need some musical chops to play this complex music, right? When you’re living in Dolden’s world, the answers to all these rhetorical questions is, of course, a resounding YES?
Defending his work ethic aside, on to the music itself. I’ve seen the term “maximalist” thrown around quite a bit when describing his work (labels/cans… I know). This music definitely inhabits the “more is more” realm. You can begin anywhere within this 80-minute album and the first thing you will probably notice (after your brain re-sets itself to assimilate the microtonal, odd tunings, and polyrhythms he liberally employs), is the sheer amount of detail in each piece. Electric guitars and keyboards (the Electro) stand proudly next to the army of flutes, brass, cello, choir, percussion, and trap sets (the Acoustic) to create a living, breathing beast of a thing. Certainly, something that takes a myriad of listens to even begin to understand, if understanding it is indeed possible. Yeah, this music takes work.
The work will pay off though, depending on your attentiveness and personal ear it may be sooner, or later, but it will pay off. Without going into detail about each and every piece, the album is comprised of 3 long compositions. The first 44-minute piece, Music of Another Present Era is further subdivided into 5 shorter parts. The remaining 2 pieces are shorter, clocking in at 18 minutes and 16 minutes respectively. On this album, Dolden is exploring musics multi-cultural qualities by creating a mishmosh of sounds and moods that are constantly morphing in and around, and back in again to each other.
I can’t really think of many composers working in this style. Dolden’s sound is “unique” to say the least. As possible signposts, Dirk “Mont” Campbell’s Music from a Round Tower may point you in a similar direction. Jade Warrior’s Island label releases also give off a similar vibe. Biota/Mnemonists maybe for their recording techniques? None will get you close to the breadth, depth, and overall “bigness” of sound though. Give this album a listen, and prepare to fractalize yourself.
Portail is released on the Empreintes Digitales label, which means you’re about to embark on some mind-boggling electroacoustic soundscapes. Such is definitely the case on this release, even though the music presented here may be somewhat more accessible than other releases on the label.
Dennis Smalley (b. 1946) is a veteran of the electro-acoustic music scene. He studied in Olivier Messiaen’s composition class in Paris and took the electroacoustic music course run by the GRM (Groupe de Recherches Musicales). Initially, he worked with tape, but in the early 80’s he switched to using computer software. A true pioneer of electroacoustic music, its practice and its theory.
Portail is Smalley’s third release (on Empreinted Digitales) after a 20-year ‘pause’. It presents recent multichannel works: Fabrezan Preludes (2015-2016) and Sommeil de Rameau (2014-15). Both were originally composed for 8-channels (oh man, I wish… don’t get me started…), but are converted to stereo ambisonics for this release (by Jonty Harrison) — so headphone listening is recommended.
Also included is one of his earliest compositions: The Pulses of Time (1978), which, by the way, is quite different from the previous two compositions.
In the two recent works, some titles refer to classical composers: Sommeil de Rameau (‘Rameau’s Sleep’), of course, and also Debussy’s Cathedral, directly referring to Debussy’s La cathédrale engloutie (The Submerged Cathedral).
The last title alone made me think of the reinterpretation of this piece by Isao Tomita on his 1974 debut album Snowflakes Are Dancing. And from there I realized there were similarities in the approach of this material (which can best be heard in Sommeil de Rameau), even when there are fundamental differences too. Unlike Tomita, Smalley doesn’t aim to meticulously re-create the classical score: his compositions are entirely his own. And I assume that the techniques used to create this music are also completely different.
But in taking “the transformation and development of a pair of resonant chords from Debussy’s piano prelude”, or when “drawing on characteristics of the sleep scene in French Baroque stage works and cantatas, which first occurred in a comédie-ballet by Molière and Lully the homage to Jean-Philippe Rameau ”, Smalley uses the same washes of ‘engulfing’ sound to create his musical atmospheres.
A dreamlike atmosphere, for the most part: “When a sleep scene is invoked, a main character is exhorted to sleep, and dramatic action is suspended. The music may be solely instrumental, or may involve sung commentary, where, for example, the singers personify dreamed thoughts or suggest future courses of action. The musical style, with its slowish harmonic motion, undulating or rocking contours, and airy instrumentation (typically strings and flutes), is intended to create a contemplative atmosphere and a sense of timelessness.”