My Cinema for the Ears (DVD-Video) Track listing detail

Un autre Printemps

Francis Dhomont / Robert Darroll

  • Year of composition: 2000
  • Duration: 6:09
  • Form: videomusic
  • Instrumentation: video

The film project of Uli Aumüller had a definite relationship with my own musical world. This mostly concerned the chosen morphological elements used in the film, as well as the film’s visual objects and the sounds of my music. It was these common preoccupations that convinced me of the usefullnes of a collaboration.

However, the composition of incidental music — in this case, to illustrate the image but mostly to bring new light on a new musical genre — had its own rules, different from the ones inherent in a personal work. I now had to respect the direction of a given theme, take into consideration various constraints on sounds (Vivaldi, viola, dog, running water, naturalism) as well as temporal limitations, make use of allusions and references, and so on.

Un autre Printemps (An Other Spring) is of course the echo of Vivaldi’s famous concerto, and in the film it is a thread which is transformed and recycled. The baroque work then becomes a simple but rich source of sounds, carrying cultural connotations which, metamorphosed and in association with other referential or metaphoric images, suggest a ’syn-phonia’ in its first meaning. The importance given to the movements of water and its mutations, corresponds to the metaphor of the gushing of spring so very often quoted in the film. But here the sound of Nature questions the nature of sound; the figurative and referential elements at the beginning of the film progressively move into abstraction, and music finds more and more its own character. Finally, the sound returns to its musical reality.

The compositional process of En cuerdas, an earlier work from which a few moments are also used in the film, presents some similarities with Un autre Printemps. Here again there is a ‘rerouting’, where the sonorities of the guitar are mingled with other sounds belonging to the same type of morphologies, and being used produce infinite material for all of these various developments. The sonic environment nevertheless remains one of strings that are plucked, rubbed and struck; but strings that have been made virtual, transformed by computer manipulations and demultiplied by the electroacoustic composing process.

Within this formal framework and the preliminary choices made with the software, I have allowed myself, as always, a great deal of room for improvised “séquences-jeux”, using the machines like a “sound body” brought to life with the mouse: its movement controls the musical gestures of the programmed sequences, the dynamics are worked out in real-time, and so on. The moment of choice comes much later, when only the ’magic moments’ are kept.

This way of looking for the inner beauty of a sound to be later organized into structures, reminds me of a time when, to earn a living, I was sculpting wood following its natural forms. In both cases, I have tried to reconcile intention and chance, the perceived and the conceived, nature and artifice.

Now the film is finished. I watch and listen. Beyond its purely visual beauty, the film manages to capture in a simple way a complex musical journey, opening doors which are too often closed by scientific discourse. As well, I am reminded of a lovely adventure, with some hardships but also allowing for joyous meetings: with a charming colleague, Paul Lansky, with my old partners Christian Calon and Jean René, enjoying Robert Darroll photography, the dedication of the production team, and, of course, Uli Aumüller himself, how he dealt with numerous difficulties and shared his unwavering passion.

Robert Darroll, photography: We often speak of “Visual Music” but the thin dividing line between “visual music” and “music illustration” is not always clear. If the visual composition follows the tonal composition too closely (or vice versa), we tend to get the same “information” on both levels simultaneously. This is often the case when a particular musical gesture, like an ascending arpeggio, is echoed by a sequence of ascending forms. So a very close match between both dimensions is not always desirable. The other extreme, meaning the absolute autonomy of both dimensions without any compositional relationship at all, results in a meaningless random effect. Somewhere in between these two extremes lies a satisfactory solution. And with each film or musical composition it will be different. We have occasionally had cases where the film needed a highly synchronised sound track in order to be comprehensible — at other times, we have opted for a loose, occasional synchronicity where the tonal dimension contributes mainly to the subjective mood of each visual sequence. In this specific case, Un autre Printemps, the form of the visual composition was dictated by Francis Dhomont’s tonal work. I did not find the composition very gestural, it was dominated by textures of varying intensity, most of which seemed to be derived from sounds of water, which suited my purposes very well. Water as a connecting, flowing, ever-present element. Even as we go over the bridge, somewhere below water is flowing, even if out of sight. The source of all my video material was the documentation which recorded Francis Dhomont collecting sound-material and reworking it for Un autre Printemps, and which included not only natural elements such as flora and water, but also manmade elements such as the construction of the bridge. These constructional elements form a stark contrast to the flowing natural elements. Visual Music is abstract painting in time. Even when the aural dimension “quotes” the barking of Vivaldi’s dog, I was averse to illustrating this with a real dog, more interested in the tonal characteristics with which the real music instrument imitated the real dog. I was interested in the jagged surface of horsehair scraping over the string. As the musical composition is highly “artificial” in that it consists largely of synthesised or highly modified tonal events which only obliquely refer to Vivaldi’s themes, I was not bound to illustrate those themes visually. The visual product is as artificial as the tonal source of its composition. Nor did I feel the necessity to repeat anything which had already been stated in Uli Aumüller’s film although, throughout the composition, recognisable fragments of footage previously seen in the main body of the film, are reused, mostly in a modified form. I felt it was rather more important to create a visual language which, although born out of that film material, would arrive at an unexpected and formally diverse effect, flowing parallel to Francis Dhomont’s tonal composition.

Francis Dhomont [English translation: Bridge Records]

En cuerdas

Francis Dhomont

  • Year of composition: 1998
  • Duration: 11:25
  • Instrumentation: stereo fixed medium
  • Publisher(s): Ymx média
  • Commission: Arturo Parra, with support from the CCA
  • ISWC: T0031179982

Commissioned by the Colombian guitarist Arturo Parra, En cuerdas (In the Strings) is the version for solo tape of Sol y sombra… L’espace des spectres, a work for guitar and tape that was co-written with Parra. The composition heard here is completely independent from that work.

Its sonic environment nevertheless remains one of strings that are plucked, rubbed and struck; but these are strings have been made virtual, transformed by computer processes and multiplied by electroacoustic writing. These are morphological variations that have been obtained primarily through the use of a variety of ‘instruments’ of the SYTER system at Ina-GRM (Paris, France).

Within this formal framework and the preliminary choices made with the software, I left myself, as always, a great deal of room for improvised “séquences-jeux.”

Certainly, these moments of pure intuition do not involve the sense of vertigo and the irreparable risks that are found in real improvisation, for the choices are made afterward, allowing only those ‘magic moments’ to remain. Half-way between chance and will, this is perhaps an attempt to reconcile Pascal’s “spirit of fineness and spirit of geometry.”

[English translation: Tom Carter]


En cuerdas was realized at the composer’s studio in 1998 and premiered on 15 May 1998 at the Festival international de musique actuelle de Victoriaville (Québec). It was commissioned by Arturo Parra with support from the Canada Council for the Arts (CCA). I would like to thank Arturo Parra, whose many textures and sounds make up the materials of this piece, as well as Ina-GRM, which was kind enough to open wide the doors of the SYTER studio to me. En cuerdas won the 1st Prize ex æquo of the Hungarian Radio’s EAR’99 International Competition of Electroacoustic Music (Budapest, Hungary, 1999) and was also a prizewinner at the competition Città di Udine (Italy, 1998). En cuerdas was recorded on the 1998 disc Contemporanea ’98 (Taukay 107) and on the 2000 disc Sonic Circuits VIII (Innova 117).


Premiere

  • May 15, 1998, FIMAV 1998: Parr(A)cousmatique, Cégep de Victoriaville, Victoriaville (Québec)

Awards

Night Traffic

Paul Lansky

  • Year of composition: 1990
  • Duration: 10:14
  • Instrumentation: fixed medium

Night Traffic employs the sound of cars passing back and forth on a four-lane highway, a noise that is now a familiar part of urban and suburban life, and embeds it in a musical texture that adds harmony and creates musical phrases from the random passing of the cars and their Doppler shifts. The implicit violence and aggressiveness of the traffic sounds leads to the construction of a texture that is theatrical and almost operatic.

We’ve all had the experience of tapping our forks and knives on dinnerware, noticing their pleasing sounds and feeling frustrated that we couldn’t turn them into real music.

Night Traffic, Table’s Clear and Idle Chatter Junior all explore ways to transform familiar sounds into musical sounds.

These three pieces have some interesting relations to cinema in the extent to which they encourage the listener to visually imagine the creators of the sound sources and to individually construct a kind of virtual reality that will accommodate this vision. The cars have voices, a super-human percussionist plays the dishes, and the chatterers at a cocktail party are somehow managing to make music, despite their best intentions. In other words the pieces attempt to create their own kind of inner ‘cinematic’ world. These pieces are also influenced by film’s ability to find poetry in mundane things: an urban landscape becomes a painting, disembodied voices evoke song, and so on. Finally, I am very pleased with the way that Uli Aumüller has used this music in his film. Sound and image each manage to maintain their integrity and autonomy, yet work together well.

Paul Lansky

Table’s Clear

Paul Lansky

  • Year of composition: 1990
  • Duration: 18:02
  • Instrumentation: fixed medium

Table’s Clear uses these same sounds to create a kind of fantasy realization of that wish. In 1990 I set my two young sons, Jonah and Caleb, loose in the kitchen to make all the noise they could. I then used these recorded noises to explore this sound domain. Initially in the piece the noises we hear are familiar, and could easily be done in real-time at the dinner table. But, as the piece evolves these sounds become part of a super-human virtuoso texture that has some striking resemblances to Gamelan music. As the piece winds down, we wake, as if from a dream, and notice that we’re still trying awkwardly to coax music from kitchenware.

Night Traffic, Table’s Clear and Idle Chatter Junior all explore ways to transform familiar sounds into musical sounds.

These three pieces have some interesting relations to cinema in the extent to which they encourage the listener to visually imagine the creators of the sound sources and to individually construct a kind of virtual reality that will accommodate this vision. The cars have voices, a super-human percussionist plays the dishes, and the chatterers at a cocktail party are somehow managing to make music, despite their best intentions. In other words the pieces attempt to create their own kind of inner ‘cinematic’ world. These pieces are also influenced by film’s ability to find poetry in mundane things: an urban landscape becomes a painting, disembodied voices evoke song, and so on. Finally, I am very pleased with the way that Uli Aumüller has used this music in his film. Sound and image each manage to maintain their integrity and autonomy, yet work together well.

Paul Lansky

Idle Chatter Junior

Paul Lansky

  • Year of composition: 1999
  • Duration: 10:37
  • Instrumentation: fixed medium

Idle Chatter Junior is the fourth in a series of pieces that makes music from the fragmented sounds of speech. The speech is chopped up into tiny bits, tossed around and thrown out onto the sonic canvas to form a rhythmic texture against a slowly evolving harmonic background.

Night Traffic, Table’s Clear and Idle Chatter Junior all explore ways to transform familiar sounds into musical sounds.

These three pieces have some interesting relations to cinema in the extent to which they encourage the listener to visually imagine the creators of the sound sources and to individually construct a kind of virtual reality that will accommodate this vision. The cars have voices, a super-human percussionist plays the dishes, and the chatterers at a cocktail party are somehow managing to make music, despite their best intentions. In other words the pieces attempt to create their own kind of inner ‘cinematic’ world. These pieces are also influenced by film’s ability to find poetry in mundane things: an urban landscape becomes a painting, disembodied voices evoke song, and so on. Finally, I am very pleased with the way that Uli Aumüller has used this music in his film. Sound and image each manage to maintain their integrity and autonomy, yet work together well.

Paul Lansky