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Kritiek

Ben Taffijn, Nieuwe Noten, January 30, 2021
Monday, February 1, 2021 Press

Annette Vande Gorne is zonder meer één van de belangrijkste vertegenwoordigers van de elektro-akoestische muziek van dit moment. Zowel in haar rol als componist, duidelijk beïnvloed door François Bayle and Pierre Henry, als in die van professor in akoesmatisch componeren aan het conservatorium van Luik en als artistiek directeur van het gezaghebbende Musiques & Recherches. Onlangs verschenen er twee nieuwe albums met haar muziek, beiden bij het in deze muziek gespecialiseerde Canadese Empreintes DIGITALes: Haïkus en Illusion.

Vande Gorne studeerde in Mons en Brussel, onder andere bij Jean Absil, maar het was in Parijs dat ze bevangen raakte van de akoesmatiek. Ze studeerde aansluitend musicologie in Brussel en compositie bij Guy Reibel en Pierre Schaeffer aan de Conservatoire national supérieur in Parijs. Ze richtte Musiques & Recherches op, alsmede de Métamorphoses d’Orphée studio en helpt mee aan het verspreiden van deze muziekvorm door het organiseren van concerten en het festival L’Espace du son, waarover later meer.

Middels Haïkus, Vande Gorne schreef de delen tussen 2016 en 2020, maken we een reis door de tijd. Het stuk begint met nieuwjaarsdag en eindigt daar ook wee mee. De compositie begint heftig, met de klanken van vuurwerk, maar dan op grondige wijze elektronisch bewerkt. Het is wat deze muziek kenmerkt, het gebruik van allerhande veldopnames, bijvoorbeeld dit vuurwerk, of de vogelgeluiden in het erop volgende Printemps, gecombineerd met een grote diversiteit aan geluiden, gemaakt met elektronische instrumenten. Het onverwachte speelt daarbij een grote rol, want de muziek kenmerkt zich altijd door abrupte overgangen, spannende wendingen en een grote mate van dynamiek. Beluister bijvoorbeeld Jeux mécaniques, met zijn heftige en disruptieve klanken.

Illusion bevat vier stukken. Voor het eerste, Au-delà du réel, dient het geluid van klokken als basis. Het geluid van een veelkleurig carillon wordt hier door Vande Gorne op boeiende wijze elektronisch gemanipuleerd en versterkt, maar zonder de originele geluiden al te zeer geweld aan te doen, een mooi, contemplatief stuk. Voor Déluges et autres péripéties gebruikt Vande Gorne gedichten van en ingesproken door Werner Lambersy, afgezet tegen een al even poëtische geluidssculptuur. Door de stemvervorming en de vaak vervreemdende muziek is ook dit een bijzonder stuk. Vermeldenswaard is ook nog het ingetogen Faisceaux dat we in twee versies aantreffen, de eerste bestaat louter uit elektronica, terwijl we in de tweede versie naast de elektronica ook de piano horen, hier Ana Cláudia de Assis.

The unexpected plays a major role in this, as the music is always characterized by abrupt transitions, exciting twists and turns and a great deal of dynamism.

Kritiek

Ben Taffijn, Nieuwe Noten, January 31, 2021
Monday, February 1, 2021 Press

Twintig jaar bracht de uit Nieuw Zeealand afkomstige componist Denis Smalley geen nieuw werk uit, zijn laatste album, Sources / scènes, verscheen in 2000 bij Empreintes DIGITALes, nu gevolgd door twee albums kort nar elkaar. Portail verscheen in december vorig jaar, Vues spectrales komt in februari uit. Het werk van Smalley is vergelijkbaar met dat van Vande Gorne, die hier gisteren voorbij kwam, in de zin dat we ook zijn werk scharen onder de elektro-akoestische muziek.

Smalley studeerde aan de University of Canterbury in zijn vaderland en behaalde daar een diploma als organist om aansluitend compositie te studeren aan de Victoria University of Wellington. In 1971 kon hij met een beurs naar Parijs, studeerde daar compositie bij Olivier Messiaen en volgde tegelijkertijd de cursus elektro-akoestische muziek bij de inmiddels vermaarde Groupe de recherches musicales (Ina-GRM). Aansluitend verhuisde Smalley naar Londen waar hij zijn DPhil in compositie behaalde aan de University of York. Het zou allereerst resulteren in een carrière als professor, onder andere op het Department of Music aan de City University in London en pas daarnaast aan die van componist, het verklaart Smalleys relatief kleine œuvre.

Een belangrijk kenmerk van veel elektro-akoestische muziek, ook Vande Gorne werkt daar veelvuldig mee, is het werken met meerdere kanalen en dus ook met de plaatsing van luidsprekers door de ruimte. Iets wat op een Cd helaas niet hoorbaar is, maar live vaak een overweldigend effect scoort, de muziek komt immers van alle kanten. Wonderlijk eigenlijk dat deze muziek desondanks zo weinig live wordt uitgevoerd. Het zou een compositie als de driedelige Fabrezan Preludes, te vinden op Portail, waarbij Smalley het eerste deel baseerde op de piano prelude La Cathédrale engloutie van Claude Debussy, zeker ten goede komen. De spookachtige klanknevels zouden dan letterlijk door de ruimte zweven.

Sommeil de Rameau, een hommage aan de Franse barokcomponist, is volgens Smalley “a contemplative journey based around recurring refrain materials, contrasted with diversions into a series of episodes that lengthen as the piece progresses.” Aan dit stuk hoor je overigens ook goed Smalleys achtergrond als organist terug. Opvallend aan de muziek van Smalley in de laatste twee decennia is de klankbenadering, ritme en melodie spelen totaal geen rol, harmonie des te meer. Hij blijkt een meester in het neerzetten van sfeervolle geluidssculpturen. De liefhebbers van de betere ambient moeten deze albums beslist beluisteren. Ook Spectral Lands, Resounding’ en Ringing Down the Sun, te vinden op Vues spectrales vallen hieronder. Het laatste stuk ontstond in Denemarken en verwijst naar de traditie om de klokken te luiden aan het einde van de werkdag (ringer solen ned in het Deens). Smalley hierover: “This idea seemed metaphorically to coincide with my attitudes towards the sounds, contours and spaces I was immersed in, and it steered the direction of the piece.”

Door het toevoegen van twee oudere stukken aan de albums, het uit 1978 stammende The Pulses of Time en het in 1982 gecomponeerde Vortex is goed de ontwikkeling te horen die Smalley doormaakte. In The Pulses of Time werkt Smalley met pulses en percussieve klanken en ook in Vortex zit beduidend meer dynamiek dan in de hierboven genoemde stukken. Het maakt deze man en zijn muziek des te boeiender.

… a master in creating atmospheric sound sculptures.

Recensione

Piergiuseppe Lippolis, Music Map, January 15, 2021
Tuesday, January 26, 2021 Press

Images nomades, appena uscito per Empreintes DIGITALes , è il decimo album in studio di Francis Dhomont, artista francese e figura di riferimento a livello non soltanto nazionale per la musica elettroacustica e acusmatica, così come per musique concrète e computer music. Images nomades si compone di dodici brani: i primi tre sono lavori definiti “astratti” dallo stesso autore, perché la musica, nella sua forma più pura, è oggetto e scopo della produzione stessa, mentre i successivi nove sono tributi a colleghi, con tanto di citazioni più o meno implicite ai loro lavori. Ad aprire sono le evoluzioni di Phoenix XXI, i cui suoni convergono idealmente verso un centro, come spinti da una forza centripeta, e le ritmiche fantasy di Machin de machine, ispirata dalle produzioni di Conlon Nancarrow. La prima parte è completata da Perpetuum mobile, parte dello stesso progetto di cui l’opener fa parte, ma segnata da un incedere decisamente più armonico e melodico di Phoenix XXI. La parte successiva, invece, è trascinata dalle allucinazioni di Happy New Half-Century, Adrian, con i suoni che evocano il rumore di una sirena, Petit souper magazine, il cui disordine trova una soluzione solamente nel finale, e la successiva Le flux des sons, vibrante e scandita dallo sfrecciare incessante di alcuni elementi musicali, prima di un completo riassorbimento nel tessuto principale. Images nomades è un’altra collezione di piccole chicche di musica elettroacustica, realizzate da uno dei maestri del genere: un lavoro prezioso per tutti gli appassionati di queste sonorità.

Images nomades is another collection of small gems of electroacoustic music, made by one of the masters of the genre: a valuable work for all fans of these sounds.

Recensione

Samuele Conficoni, Music Map, January 1, 2021
Thursday, January 21, 2021 Press

La compositrice belga Annette Vande Gorne dà alle stampe un quinto album — il suo secondo insieme al poeta suo conterraneo Werner Lambersy — 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 Lambersy, 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.

Haïkus strikes for its directness, for its strong brightness, for the story it tries to tell through a complicated but honest path.

Review

Mike Eisenberg, Avant Music News, January 17, 2021
Monday, January 18, 2021 Press

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.

Paul Dolden is one of the most innovative artists out there right now.

Review

Antonis N Frangos, To Periodiko, January 16, 2021
Monday, January 18, 2021 Press

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.

Thus, we have pure works without symbolism but also works full of metaphors in poetry, literature, psychoanalysis, etc.