… a unique and unmistakable voice in Canadian contemporary music… — Vancouver Review, Canada
… Beyond the Walls of Jericho […] is among the most monumental works of electronic music you’ll ever experience. — 5:4, RU
Entièrement retouché, remixé et remasterisé, rien de moins!
Cet article est aussi inclus dans le coffret L’ivresse de la vitesse (IMED 9417/18).
- Compositeur·trice(s): Paul Dolden
- Interprète(s): François Houle, Paul Dolden
- Rédacteur·trice(s): Arthur Kroker
- Image de couverture: Luc Beauchemin, Cheryl Holizki
- Conseil des arts du Canada • SODEC
CD (IMED 0318)
- 1Beyond the Walls of Jericho (1991-92), 16:25support
- 2In a Bed Where the Moon Was Sweating. Resonance #1 (1993), 9:05clarinette et supportFrançois Houle, clarinette
- 3Physics of Seduction. Invocation #1 (1991), 15:51guitare électrique et supportPaul Dolden, guitare électrique
- 4Veils (1984-85), 28:37support
- Étiquette: empreintes DIGITALes
- IMED 0318
- UCC 771028031825
- Durée totale: 70:21
- 125 mm × 125 mm × 10 mm
- 50 g
Sur le web
Notes de programme
À la fin des années 1970, j’ai commencé à écrire et à produire de la musique impliquant des centaines de parties ou de pistes. À cette époque, le médium d’enregistrement analogique était très bruyant lors des étapes de copie ou de prémixage. Les choses se sont améliorées dans les années 1980 et 1990, mais les enregistreurs audionumériques multipistes dépassaient encore à cette époque mes capacités financières. Mais, à la fin des années 1990, les nouveaux ordinateurs et disques durs à haute vitesse m’ont finalement donné une solution multipiste abordable. Pour la première fois de ma vie, je parvenais à équilibrer les voix individuelles que j’avais si minutieusement notées dans les partitions originales. J’ai atteint encore plus de clarté et une nouvelle profondeur de champs sonore en utilisant de meilleurs appareils de compression, d’égalisation et de réverbérations. Pour remixer, je suis retourné aux pistes individuelles. Ce fut une tâche gigantesque. Par exemple, une pièce comme Beyond the Walls of Jericho (Au delà des murs de Jéricho, 1991-92) ne dure peut-être que 16 minutes 25 secondes, mais c’est une œuvre pour bande comprenant plus de 80 heures de matériaux enregistrés.
Les enregistrements fixent ou cristallisent toujours pour l’auditeur les sens musicaux et spectraux des sons. Une combinaison sonore étrange dans la première version dont vous aviez pu devenir fier peut ne plus avoir le même aspect ou impact dans la nouvelle version offerte ici. Toutefois, je crois que vous serez d’accord si je dis que je suis resté fidèle aux œuvres originales. J’ai changé quelques moments musicaux et transitions dans Beyond the Walls of Jericho et dans les composantes enregistrées de Physics of Seduction, Invocation #1 (Physique de la séduction, Invocation #1) toutes originalement parues sur le disque L’ivresse de la vitesse en 1994. Ces changements ont été motivés par des préoccupations esthétiques et furent créés en utilisant des matériaux musicaux provenant du Walls Cycle (Cycle des murs). Les seuls nouveaux enregistrements réalisés pour ce remixage ont été ceux de parties de batterie (interprétées par Philippe Keyser) dans Beyond the Walls of Jericho.
Je vous invite à découvrir plusieurs autres niveaux de sens et de clarté dans ces nouveaux mixages qui sont beaucoup plus près de mes intentions artistiques originales.
Quelle est la vitesse de la musique? Quand la musique passe-t-elle à la vitesse ultrasonique — comme le font tous ces objets spectraux avant elle —, quand franchit-elle le mur du son pour ensuite suivre une immense courbure jusqu’à ce point de densité sonore inouïe où elle peut finalement se déplacer à des vitesses tellement violentes qu’elle n’en est plus audible, même pour des membranes mutantes. Le point ultime, donc, ce point où la musique s’échappe au-delà de la vitesse de la lumière pour retomber en un profond et immense silence.
Dans ce monde merveilleux, alors que nous errons sans but dans le paysage médiatique, flottant entre les débris de tous les séduisants objets du désir — comme des voyeurs dans les boutiques culturelles dont nos corps ne sont que des terminaux provisoires répartis au hasard —, nous pouvons finalement reconnaître l’explosion ultime de la musique comme notre propre objet perdu du désir, le champ au travers duquel les corps sont codés, tatoués et dotés de signes dans une circulation incessante d’émotions spectrales.
Si la musique est si attrayante de nos jours, c’est parce que finalement elle tient la promesse de la catastrophe qui constitue notre dernière illusion historique. La musique, devenue intéressante uniquement par son côté sombre et implosif, dans cet espace impossible où la musique préfigure notre propre dissolution en une impulsion spectrale dans le système circulatoire du paysage médiatique. La fascination qu’exerce la musique aujourd’hui tient à sa violence en tant que champ de force qui marque les corps, code les émotions, traite les identités ultimes, et imite notre propre existence de corps fracassés, en alternant de façon abrupte entre extase et inertie.
Les sons émergent de nulle part et se désintègrent rapidement. Ils se déplacent à travers le champ de nos corps, puis disparaissent. Ils ne sont pas réellement présents, mais ont seulement une présence virtuelle et analogique. Des sons sans histoire et sans référent.
Les compositions musicales brillantes de Paul Dolden sont un signe des temps. Dolden est le grand prêtre de la musique ‘crash’ pour cette fin de siècle. Un musicien DAT dont la musique est à l’avant-garde des années 90, il nous branche aux sons de la culture ultime. Sa musique ‘crash’ opère à la manière d’un violent champ de force: un champ d’énergie qui oscille, où des murs du son onduleux peuvent atteindre une densité maximale telle qu’ils se replient soudainement en silences absolument surnaturels. Paul Dolden arrive véritablement à créer le fracas de l’inertie et de l’extase.
(Une portion de cette introduction est tirée de The Possessed Individual: Technology and the French Postmodern (Possédé: la technologie et le postmodernisme français) (St Martin’s Press, New York City, 1992), une théorie qui suit un cours parallèle à celui de la musique ‘crash’ de Paul Dolden.)
Arthur Kroker, Montréal [ii-94]
La musique de ces deux disques illustre deux stratégies de composition distinctes mais apparentées. La première s’exprime dans la création des quatre œuvres pour bande seule, et la deuxième dans la création des cinq pièces pour soliste et bande.
La création des œuvres pour bande seule a impliqué la composition sur papier manuscrit de grand format de plusieurs centaines de parties ou lignes musicales concomitantes. Chaque partie ou ligne est interprétée séparément sur un instrument acoustique, et enregistrée. Une fois que les centaines de parties ont toutes été enregistrées individuellement, elles font l’objet d’un mixage audionumérique avec, en général, très peu ou pas d’effets électroniques ou de traitement de signaux. Cette méthode de travail permet d’établir de nouvelles et complexes relations d’intonation, polyrythmiques et microtonales, entre des parties qui ne pourraient jamais être interprétées en direct par un ensemble. Cette technique de composition offre également des possibilités uniques et constamment évolutives d’orchestration et de densité.
L’utilisation exclusive d’instruments acoustiques dans ces enregistrements pourrait en partie s’expliquer du fait que je joue régulièrement du violon, de la guitare et du violoncelle. Je perçois donc dans l’interprétation instrumentale cette richesse de l’expression humaine qui, à mon sens, fait grandement défaut dans toutes les méthodes de production électroacoustiques. De fait, les mondes sonores que l’on retrouve dans ces enregistrements n’auraient pu être créés à partir des techniques actuelles de synthèse électronique, lesquelles ne peuvent produire une riche palette de timbres ou de sons véritablement différents. L’étroitesse de ce timbre unique ne permet pas les stratégies d’orchestration qui sont possibles avec les sons acoustiques, alors qu’un nombre important de sources sonores peuvent être combinées et que chaque son conserve en partie son caractère propre tout en apportant quelque chose au son global. De même, cette musique n’aurait pu être produite par les techniques actuelles d’échantillonnage qui ne peuvent créer de structures convaincantes de longues phrases musicales pouvant s’adapter au langage de composition de chaque pièce.
La deuxième stratégie de composition illustrée dans ces deux disques juxtapose l’interprétation en direct d’un soliste à des segments de trois des compositions pour bande seule. À maintes occasions, de nouveaux segments sur bande sont ajoutés afin d’affiner la qualité timbrale de l’instrument joué par le soliste. Avec la création de ces œuvres pour soliste et bande, de nombreux détails présents sur la bande sont occultés par les sons produits par le soliste. Cependant, le fait de pouvoir entendre clairement l’une des parties permet d’accéder à une nouvelle perspective du monde sonore qui est le mien, étant donné que la ligne du soliste fait souvent ressortir des directions et des gestes musicaux relativement cachés jusqu’alors. De plus, on a droit au merveilleux contraste entre la bande — où des centaines de parties musicales créent souvent, dans la texture, des effets de masse anonymes — et le soliste, avec toute la subjectivité, les nuances et le sens du détail qu’il apporte. En ce sens, on pourrait comparer le soliste à une ligne claire unique dans un champ visuel abstrait et dense, ce qui lui confère une certaine définition et clarté du fait même du contraste avec la densité environnante. Autrement dit, les pièces pour bande sont des œuvres achevées mais perçues de façon différente lorsqu’elles sont combinées à l’interprétation d’un soliste. Une situation analogue se présente lorsqu’on regarde un cristal en le faisant tourner, et qu’on obtient ainsi des perspectives visuelles différentes tout en sachant bien qu’il s’agit toujours du même et unique objet.
Le contraste entre l’effet de masse anonyme de la bande et l’effet spécifique du soliste peut également être vu comme une métaphore de la relation qui s’établit entre l’individu (le soliste) et la société (la bande et son effet de masse). On discutera de la portée de cette métaphore dans la prochaine section intitulée Possédés.
À l’exception de Veils, les pièces de ces deux disques s’organisent en deux cycles, suivant les liens qui les unissent. Le Walls Cycle (Cycle des murs) regroupe les compositions pour bande seule: Below the Walls of Jericho, Dancing on the Walls of Jericho, et Beyond the Walls of Jericho. Les pièces pour soliste et bande qui leur sont associées sont Luminous Hysteresis et la série Physics of Seduction. Au moment de la rédaction de cette introduction, le deuxième cycle — Resonance Cycle (Cycle résonance) — consistait en la composition pour bande L’ivresse de la vitesse et les pièces pour soliste et bande In a Bed Where the Moon Was Sweating. Resonance #1 et Revenge of the Repressed. Resonance #2. (Le «Cycle résonance» sera complété par des commandes de l’accordéoniste Joseph Petric, l’altiste Rivka Golani et la Société de musique contemporaine du Québec (SMCQ).)
Paul Dolden, Vancouver [iv-94]
Dans ce livret, on reconnaît la contribution du Conseil des arts du Canada, qui a commandé certaines des œuvres et accordé une bourse d’enregistrement, rendant ainsi possible cette production. Ces sommes ne suffisent cependant pas à faire vivre qui que ce soit, et on se doit donc d’accorder pleine reconnaissance et remerciements au Conseil des arts du Canada, qui au cours de la période de production de ces œuvres (1988-93) a accordé trois bourses B en musique et une subvention de réalisation audio en arts médiatiques grâce auxquelles la composition et la production de cette musique ont été rendues possibles. Quiconque croit en l’idée d’une «musique nouvelle» devrait constamment veiller à ce que les subventions dans le domaine artistique soient maintenues ou, mieux encore, qu’elles se multiplient. En effet, à toutes fins pratiques, il n’y a pas de fonds pour cette musique dans le secteur privé, qui est complètement hypnotisé par le chatoiement de la musique-chanson, propriété et domaine d’activité des grandes sociétés.
Paul Dolden, Vancouver [iv-94]
Musiciens enregistrés pour le «Cycle résonance»
François Houle: clarinette mi bémol, clarinette, clarinette basse, saxophones soprano, alto, ténor et bariton
Allen Thorpe: basson, contrabasson
David Owen: hautbois, cor anglais
Kathryn Cernauskas: piccolo, flûte, flûte alto
Peter Hannan: flûtes à bec soprano, alto et ténor
John Korsrud: trompette, bugle à pistons
Brenda Chatman: cor
Brad Muirhead: trombone
Ian McIntosh: tuba, «digeridoo», bombarde
Grace Yaginuma: piano
Mark Campbell: basse électrique
Rob Maynard: batterie
Nick Apivor: vibraphone, marimba, timbales, grosses caisses, instruments du gamelan, congas, bongos, «jambays», surdo, tambour d’aisselle (dit tambour «parleur»), rainsticks, carillon, hochets divers, cloches diverses, blocs de bois, maracas, guïros, crécelles et vibraslap
Paul Dolden: guitares acoustique et électrique, sitar, violon, alto, violoncelle, contrebasse, harmonica, coupes de verre frottées, verre fracassé, marteau, scie et métal de récupération
sopranos: Kim Hardy, Diana Ganske, Lorraine Reinhardt
altos: Karen Ydenberg, Liz Baker, Wendy Klein
ténors: Chris Givens, Jonathan Quick, Kieren MacMillan
basses: Peter Zaenker, Derrick Christian
Musiciens enregistrés pour le «Cycle des murs»
Isaac Bull: basson, contrabasson
Paul Steenhuisen: saxophones soprano, alto et basse
Ian Crutchley: saxophones ténors
Lorne Buick: clarinette basse
Johanna Hauser: clarinette
Michelle Cheramy: piccolo, flûte basse
Clemens Rettich: flûte, flûtes à bec soprano, ténor, alto et basse
Glee Devereaux: hautbois, cor anglais
Mark Tynan: trombone
Jamie Croil: trompette
Paul Fester: tuba
Gwyneth MacKenzie: cor
Gary Sterle: cor
Marc Crompton: timbales, tom-toms, cymbales, jeu de timbre, temple-blocs
Trevor Tureski: tom-toms, cymbales, vibraphone, marimba, bongos, congas, tablas, instruments du gamelan, caisse claire et caisse claire ténor
Paul Dolden: guitares acoustique et électrique, contrebasse, violoncelle, alto, violon, tympanon («dulcimer»), sitar, banjo, mandoline et piano
Marko Novachcoff: flûte, flûte alto, piccolo, flûte de Pan, bambou, flûtes à bec soprano, alto et ténor, clarinette, clarinettes alto, basse et contrebasse, cornet, cor alto, ophicléide, tuba, sarrusophone soprano, hautbois, cor anglais, heckelphone, basson, saxophones soprano, alto, ténor, bariton et basse
Andrew Czink: piano
soprano: Diana Ganske
alto: Janis Clark
ténor: Nick Curalli
bariton: David Pay
Musiciens enregistrés pour Veils
Clemens Rettich: flûte, voix
Nicola Czink: voix
Andrew Czink: piano
Brett Dowler: trompette
Graham Howell: saxophones
Ian Campbell: percussions à hauteurs définies
Tom Hajdu: percussions à hauteurs définies
Paul Dolden: guitare acoustique, sitar, coupes de verre frottées, violon et contrebasse
[Le terme] Possédés est une métaphore de la relation des solistes au monde sonore que l’on trouve dans la partie bande de chaque composition. D’un point de vue philosophique, les cinq pièces traitent des crises qui secouent nos structures de pensée traditionnelles et du rêve impossible — dont nous nous rapprochons rapidement — d’échapper à notre mortalité en construisant une réalité artificielle ou virtuelle par le biais de la technologie de pointe. Ces réalités virtuelles donneraient naissance à un monde de plaisirs changeants, fait de stratégies de l’apparence qui nous permettraient de recoder notre expérience et notre existence. Dans cette métaphore, la bande est une forme de réalité virtuelle où des conditions acoustiques idéales sont rendues possibles uniquement grâce au studio moderne d’enregistrement audionumérique. Le soliste, ou le Possédé, interprète souvent des matériaux qui se fondent à la réalité virtuelle de la bande, ou qui y pénètrent. À d’autres occasions, le soliste maintient son individualité en s’orientant dans une direction différente de celle de la bande quant à l’atmosphère, au tempo, à la dynamique, à l’harmonie ou au timbre. Le Possédé, ou le soliste, est donc également une métaphore qui nous représente tous en cette fin du deuxième millénaire, dans la mesure où nous sommes conscients de l’effondrement de nos structures de pensée traditionnelles, mais en même temps sommes incapables d’échapper complètement à notre subjectivité historicisée. En dépit de cela, nous sommes encore habités d’une énergie qui nous pousse à créer jeux, défis et duels. Combinée à la technologie, cette énergie peut mener à de nouveaux mondes sonores et offrir la possibilité de recoder nos sensations et notre existence par le biais d’expériences esthétiques transcendantales.
Les notes de programme pour ces pièces reflètent l’évolution de mes structures de pensée jusqu’à cette perspective philosophique. Par exemple, les notes de programme pour Physics of Seduction. Invocation #1 annoncent les crises dans nos structures de pensée traditionnelles et introduisent un type d’écoute musicale et d’expérience transcendentale qui ne passe pas par les mots ou les images. Afin d’évoquer ces états, les notes de programme pour Physics of Seduction. Invocation #3 propose une stratégie de composition qui implique ma Théorie de l’excès. Finalement, les notes de programme pour Physics of Seduction. Invocation #2 sont un éloge de la vitesse comme exemple d’un phénomène de surface pouvant créer des expériences transcendantales et — on l’espère — nouvelles. Le «Cycle résonance» reprend ces thèmes et détaille les idées de base.
Du point de vue musical, les cinq pièces représentent une chronologie de différentes stratégies visant à intégrer la réalité virtuelle désincarnée de la bande et la dimension en direct incarnée par un soliste, lequel peut se révéler irrationnel, désordonné et fou. Comme nous l’avons déjà mentionné, le soliste s’insinue parfois et joue dans le monde virtuel de la bande. À d’autres moments, la subjectivité historicisée du soliste entre en contraste musical avec la bande; en ce sens, le Possédé est l’une des dernières grandes figures héroïques: le soliste virtuose. Le véritable drame de la relation entre le soliste et la bande, et les détails de ces interactions et de ces stratégies, se retrouvent dans le déroulement du discours musical. Car dans la réalité, au dehors comme au cœur de l’expérience musicale, les choses ne cohabitent pas, ne se dominent pas les unes les autres, mais tendent plutôt à se détruire mutuellement dans une régression fatale des discours. Autrement dit, toute métaphore que l’on pourrait établir pour la relation entre l’individu et la société ou la technologie est, en dernière instance, trop facile face à l’illumination que créent le jeu et le potentiel de transcendance de la musique.
Au delà des limites des discours écrits, il suffit de dire que, dans la réalité virtuelle de ces enregistrements, notre virtuose héroïque, notre Possédé, peut représenter la subjectivité en ruines en cette fin de deuxième millénaire, mais aussi illustrer une réflexion sur l’univers sombre, et fatalement attirant et séduisant, des Possédés.
(Le titre est inspiré de l’essai The Possessed Individual, Technology and the French Postmodern (Possédé: la technologie et le postmodernisme français) d’Arthur Kroker.)
Paul Dolden, Vancouver [iv-94]
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La presse en parle
Paul Dolden is a unique and unmistakable voice in Canadian contemporary music that deserves a re-introduction to a new generation of music fans.
But first, some history. Waaaaay back in a time known as the 1980s, this Ottawa-born composer, after doing hard time as a rock guitarist, decamped to the Sonic Research Lab at Simon Fraser University [(SFU)] in Vancouver where he forged some of the most unique music ever carved out of the Western formal tradition by using the recording studio to sculpt masses of meticulously recorded instrumental tracks into fantastic walls of sound.
By the end of the decade he had released a 2-CD set titled L’ivresse de la vitesse (The Intoxication of Speed) which was named by The Wire as one of the “100 Records That Set The World On Fire”. Except nobody was listening. Now we are in a different place and perhaps the ears of the world are more receptive.
At first, Dolden’s music comes on like forboding, jagged mountain range of sound, in the shadow of which stands a listener. It’s daunting music, even deemed “oppressive” by some. And if music is a language all its own, then this work is telling you to abandon sentimentality and acknowledge that the earth beneath us might split asunder at any moment. For a listener ready to do a bit of work, and with a serious hi-fi system for playback (remember those days?) it will leave you breathless, alone and exhilarated. It’s actually genuinely exciting music, which is a rare commodity.
Dolden’s oeuvre took shape at a time when the machinations for the political and social darkness we are now enveloped in were fully underway, turbocharged after the dawn of Reagan and Thatcher era. For those who believe that life is full of violent ruptures and artists are obliged to harness and channel that energy to reflect the reality of our times… and, ultimately, all time, this music is exemplary of that goal being attained.
Dolden’s music demands concentrated listening and an ear that is capable of acting like super fast CPU to take in rapidly evolving, multiple strands of sound and keeping it all distinct from noise. That’s a skillset one also needs for processing modern life, ever more so these days. At its most useful it helps a person feel less anxious in the face of the random chaos of existence.
From Veils to Walls
Things really began in 1985 with “Veils: Studies in Textural Transformations”, Paul’s SFU MA thesis piece which, oddly enough, was a relatively listener-friendly tour de force. And by “listener friendly” I mean for those who enjoyed the music of György Ligeti that accompanied the monolith scenes in Kubrick’s 1968 sci-fi classic “2001: A Space Odyssey”. Veils was a seductive half-hour of massed instruments that enveloped the listener in slowly shifting dense and overwhelming textures. The piece marked the beginning of his use of extraordinary numbers of multi-tracked instruments, to a degree never attempted before. Miraculously, Veils was even played at The Xerox Theatre as part of the Expo 86 “entertainment” line up, continuing in the tradition of world fairs paying minor tribute to music as an art form on a par with, at least, architecture. It should be noted that the temporary, quickly knocked-up, Xerox-branded venue is long gone while Veils persists. Ars longa indeed… at least until the sun explodes.
In pop music, by contrast, we might remember English pop group 10cc’s 1975 hit I’m Not In Love for its gorgeous and distinctive multi-tracked vocal chorus, a first for a commercial radio hit. Previously, the best known popular music created using the studio as an instrument would have been The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” or The Beach Boys’ “Pet Sounds” albums (and, of course the Good Vibrations single) but it was 10cc that really introduced a lengthy and sustained textural component to popular song craft. One could also mention Phil Spector’s “Walls of Sound” production style but let’s not.
Fast forward ten years and Dolden is developing a “maximalist” aesthetic in which hundreds of digitally recorded instrumental and vocal performances are combined in multiple layers. It is truly “next level”. And as the number of tracks increased so did the intensity and power of the music. It all came to a head by the early 1990s with the “Walls Cycle”, beginning with Below the Walls of Jericho and ending with Beyond the Walls of Jericho. The allusion is to the Biblical story of the actual walls of the fortifications of Jericho tumbling under the force of loudly blown rams’ horns in an ancient acknowledgement of the power of sound.
The titles also represent the 3 stages of revolutionary history as discussed by historians:
1) Below the Walls signifying revolution, usually violent.
2) Dancing on the Walls is the celebratory dance on the rubble of the revolution.
3) Beyond the Walls is the post-revolutionary period, usually turning counter revolutionary and more violent than the first period.
There were those who found it all too much, especially in Vancouver where, at the time, contemporary music was (and largely still is) seen as a less confrontational and more communal endeavor.
The late Doug Hughes, a classical music critic for The Georgia Straight (remember when such things existed?) demonstrated the level of resistance, even among the so-called intelligentsia. And that was in one of the few media channels then available for providing public exposure and critical context. In response to Below the Walls of Jericho he talked of his cats yowling in response and how he didn’t want the current events of the day amplified. Vancouver was clearly hostile territory. Paul moved to Québec and immediately enjoyed far greater recognition and a growing international audience base.
You could say the music was ahead of its time but Paul, being interviewed in 1992 said that the idea was absurd, that you simply cannot be ahead of your time. Our best hope is that audiences will find the music of the true present at the time of its creation.
During a 2017 visit to Québec’s Laurentian region where Paul now lives and records, I conducted an informal interview at a roadside diner near Val-David. It coincided with the release of his CD [
“Music for Another Present Era” or] Histoires d’histoire.
I had only sporadically kept up with Paul’s music in the years since he left for Québec and was fascinated to hear its evolution into something much different but with the familiar stamp of rigourous conceptual formulation and production excellence. Since creating the Walls cycle, Paul’s music has evolved, been pulled apart, given more space and fully embraces the music of the world. It is friendlier… and funnier.
Paul Dolden: I’ve been developing in my work over the last ten years the idea of a “historical imagination”. So what interests me now is imagining other times using the language of contemporary music combined with the compositional techniques I like to use. For example on Music for Another Present Era the first movement is the story of Marsyas, a Greek myth. I actually use some Greek tuning systems, though I don’t actually use Greek instruments. I’m not trying to recreate ancient Greek music. It’s more of an imaginary reflection on that time. The second section is inspired by an African myth that uses alot of percussion instruments but actually has more to do with jazz and latin rhythms in many ways.
I suppose, overall, it’s a post-modern play on how we can have different historical periods of music existing at the same time. To me that very imagining is a contemporary thing. I can imagine ancient Greece because I’ve seen films like Fellini’s Satyricon where the soundtrack is a fanciful mash-up of styles, or images of Syrian ruins that you’d see in a history book.
We’re so conditioned by the number of images and sounds that we’re constantly consuming that I think it’s important to be playful with it all. I think I’m being “of my time” by doing so even though I’m often talking about historical themes in my music with pieces like Bebop Bagdad or Sumerian Starlight. I think it’s very “of our time” to be thinking of other cultures and times simply because we can.
Mark Mushet: We’re use to the instruments and superficial motifs of other cultures’ musics for mere colour in pop music. In the classical new music realm there are often a lot of earnest attempts to collaborate by having different cultures meet in the concert hall. Although this is starting to yield some interesting work, a lot of it seems too tentative and polite, as though too many accomodations are made to account for differences in approach that the end product is unsatisfying, if pretty. You integrate things in a much more thorough and cohesive way to the point where it sounds like all the history of the music of the world is being compressed into one intense piece. That’s more interesting to me.
Paul Dolden: It’s been decribed that way and I like that idea but it’s really more of a personal thing. I just really want to hear it all. I’m an avid listener of other peoples’ music. I’ll do a three hour hike in the afternoon and listen to all kinds of music in the evening. I’m constantly listening to music. I float in it.
Mushet: It didn’t always used to be that way. I recall you being more into Xenakis, Ligeti et al., the more established new music canonical heavyweights.
Dolden: Oh yeah. But I always had a really large record collection, like you! In the 1980s I was probably talking too much about myself but that’s because of “young composer disease”! I finally got some medication for that!
Mushet: We consume endless streams of visual art works that revel in the the messy dark aspects of modern human existence. People binge watch things like “Breaking Bad” for example. It’s a brilliant sprawling indictment of modern America that like “Deadwood” or “The Wire” are celebrated for expanding the idea of what’s possible in TV serial form. But as a society we can’t be assed to sit down and listen to a 15-minute piece of music that threatens to upend the idea of what’s similarly possible in music.
Now there’s been a massive expansion of the technical capacity for music creation and it’s become affordable and ubiquitous. But in the public at large there’s been a serious loss of attention to contemporary music outside of popular forms. It seems that there’s been no “trickle down effect” of discovery despite the fact that we have more and instant access to every kind of music 24/7.
Dolden: Communications theory is really interesting right now. For example, when radio was the standard consumer device for first hearing music, people in the classical and art worlds thought this device was finally going to “educate” the public, that we would all be listening to Bach and Beethoven within a few years! But with each stage of development of the various music distribution technologies, there’s been an idea that we’re bringing all the music of the world and making it availabe to everybody and this is regarded as a plus.
But it’s the employment of algorithms that’s the problem. They suggest that “if you listen to such and such then you will also like such and such”. So if I listen to one heavy metal album (because every so often I need to hear some metal!) then I’m bombarded with more metal recommendations. Then, if I listen to a piece by Morton Feldman I’m instantly guided to a whole stream of music by post-Feldman composers. So a lot of people get stuck on that. The technology is supposedly “neutral” but it’s clearly not. Everybody wants things customized to themselves so in reality there’s a narrowing of listening habits.
Mushet: But that’s the effect of turbocharged tech-capiltailsm. They are guiding us to similar products because they need to sell in predictable and increasingly reliable quantities and without producing a physical product at the end.
Dolden: But its also the service they’re selling. We both started by going to record stores and shuffling through records, except that I grew up in a home full of classical music playing constantly. But I didn’t end up knowing anything past early Stravinsky. So one day, when I was about 15, I was in one of those record stores shuffling through the delete bins. I should have taken note; notice how all this stuff is in the delete bin! It’s not out front with the Led Zeppelin and Coltrane! I should have turned around and gone back to the sections which were selling! Anyway, there were some Iannis Xenakis albums and I remember they were only 69 cents so I picked them up.
I started reading the back covers to learn how he made this music. I thought it sounded so insane that I had to buy it just to hear it. It was his stochastic 60s work with all the math involved in the composition and I thought “What? He’s definitely not using blues scales!” I didn’t understand a thing but wow, what a sound! So I looked up who Iannis Xenakis was and what he, in turn, talked about. And that’s how the journey began. A flukey accident with a 69-cent deleted record. Now with Spotify etc. you maybe wouldn’t come across something like that.
Mushet: The musical language and working techniques you are using, are largely the same as before but the density in your work has given way to something that feels pulled apart, more spacious and accessable for lack of a better word
Dolden: I think most composers look for increasing clarity as we get older. That’s part of it. And I now appreciate more music that has more room to breathe. So it’s aging, a maturing artistic process and overall refinement.
You have to remember that when I made Veils I was dealing with 250 tracks and by the end of the Walls cycle I was using up to 800 tracks! At the time I was still a young composer thinking it was all original and great and new and really cool. Now when I hear it I hear how scary it is. I don’t listen to it too often myself and I know many people don’t. But I knew I was hitting a wall. There was nowhere further to go so I had to start spreading things out.
Mushet: I think the Walls cycle holds up beautifully, still simultaneously frightening and exhilarating. It’s like setting off on a journey through a very dark mountain landscape where you are forced to realize how insignificant we are. I don’t mean to be overly dramatic but that may be why it put some people off, though it realy ultimately is life affirming. And the gentle or soft moments really stand out in relief with such a dynamic range.
Dolden: You know me as a friend and that I have a sense of humour. There’s no sense of humour in those 1980s works. I sound like a cranky, cranky dude but you know I wasn’t. So I think my personality is coming out more in my music now.
Mushet: All the music of the world seems to find its expression in Music of Another Present Era.
Dolden: That’s just where my interest is now. For the past five or ten years now, half of my listening time is dedicated to music of the world so it’s really starting to come out in the new work. Whenever I’m writing, composing and producing I’m primarily in a dialoge with the music of the world and the history of composers and compositional techniques.
Mushet: But you don’t want to be seen as some kind of great musical imperialist / colonizer, especially now!
Dolden: Yes this is a problem. I’ve made it very opqaue in terms of how its actually operating within my music.
Mushet: It’s really clear that you’ve looked at each intrument’s character, sound and use in its original context. It’s never just a sound source but its history seems considered as well.
Dolden: I’ve really had to seriously contemplate non-Western musical language in relation to ours. It’s a “problem” for a Western composer because a lot of it involves traditions that incorporate a lot of improvisation and a lot of music is meant for ritual and ceremony. I’m working in a highly written tradition, so the question becomes how do I integrate Arab or Indian or Asian musics into my compositions. That’s where the deepest musical thinking needs to happen on my part. I don’t want to do that thing that so many do where somebody simply arranges Balinese music for alto flute and vibraphone or whatever. That kind of approach sends me over the top!
Mushet: I think our eggs Benedicts have arrived! (Tape ends.)
So we should assume then that the power of sound and complex music may well have reached its peak with the Walls Cycle and may never be absorbed or appreciated by any but a small band of fanatical devotees. Fair enough. The sun will explode one day and none of this will matter anyway. In the meantime it seems as if Paul Dolden has finally embraced the community model in his own unique way.
But history, as we now plainly see, sometimes bears repeating if only to recall how we may have missed its lessons. Accordingly, Paul has put the Walls Cycle up for listening at Bandcamp. It is sad that many will only listen on a computer speaker system. I’d urge you to go full retro and order the CD for hi-fi home playback. Turn off your mind, relax and float down stream…
Then bring yourself up to date with Music of Another Present Era and this time, let’s hope Paul is presenting a future ahead of our time.
Another composer who has been polishing off, smartening up and reissuing old works recently is Canadian Paul Dolden. It always surprises me how underappreciated and even unknown Dolden’s music continues to be, particularly as it’s among the most extreme stuff I’ve ever encountered (and, for good or ill, people love to get worked up by extremes), and in many respects is both sonically unique and way ahead of its time. One of the key characteristics of a lot of Dolden’s work is the creation of what we might call a ‘supra-pseudo-orchestra’ through the assembling and layering of a vast number of individually recorded instruments. At full force, the effect would surely have caused Hector Berlioz (whose never-realised ideal orchestra included well over 400 players, including 30 pianos (!)) to squirm with delight, making the climactic tuttis of Mahler seem puny by comparison. Yet one’s always aware that what we’re hearing is not, in fact, real, partly because of the sheer impossible enormity of it, but also because of the curious effect of amassing that many sounds at once, leading to a weird kind of hypercontrapuntal trammelling in which the music’s internal machinery, so to speak, seems to grind against itself and threaten to explode apart. As a consequence Dolden’s music sounds uncanny in its not-quite-but-almost-verisimilitude, dangerous in its precarious volatility, and breathtaking in the audacity of its proportions.
Dolden’s work is primarily represented by a series of releases on the empreintes DIGITALes label, the first of which was the double album L’ivresse de la vitesse (1994). One of the standout works on that album is the fixed media piece Beyond the Walls of Jericho. From the perspective of being reissued, this piece has had an interesting history, one that’s far from unique in Dolden’s output, and which raises important questions about the nature of ‘remastering’. Completed in 1992, the work was originally released two years later on L’ivresse de la vitesse. This album was reissued in 1999 with no changes, and then reissued again in 2003 but with the two discs now split into separate albums L’ivresse de la vitesse 1 & L’ivresse de la vitesse 2, and featuring newly-remastered versions of the music. The liner notes included a text by Dolden directly addressing this, titled Why Remaster Old Works? , citing the challenges of working with early technology and “compositional concerns” as the basis for the remastering. Most recently, in the last few weeks Dolden has reissued Beyond the Walls of Jericho again in another new remaster (apparently created in 2012) as part of an ongoing series of digital releases that presumably capture Dolden’s definitive take on these pieces (some of which have never before been released).
The first thing to say about this is that the word “remaster” isn’t remotely adequate to describe what’s going on here. Usually that term indicates a digitising and cleaning-up of old materials to make them as pristine as possible and then reassembling them into a new master that, in essence (and ideally), is the same as the original but showing greatly improved clarity and balance. In Dolden’s case, the process has involved compositional changes — in some cases quite considerable ones — to the actual musical material, such that to describe it as being “the same piece” is harder to justify. The 2003 and 2020 versions are therefore not really “remasters” but revised and reworked versions that fit the same general shape, narrative and demeanour as the original — we could say that that its dramaturgy is the same — but with many of its inner details and intricacies changed, altered or replaced. In essence it’s Beyond the Walls of Jericho Redux.
The second thing to say is that there shouldn’t be any perceived issue with an artist wanting to do this. The gripe about technological issues is something many composers (including myself) have made about their earliest electronic works, and the desire to get closer to the original musical intent is surely an admirable one. Of course, it’s an attitude that can run amok, and one only has to look to Pierre Boulez or, in cinema, George Lucas, to see the problems that can arise from an artist’s irresistible urge to never let go of their works and keep tinkering away under the illusion of ‘improvement’. Even that, though, is forgivable as long as — and this is utmost important — the earlier versions are still regarded as valid, and as a consequence remain available. The process of revising in this way is not at all a case of simply tweaking something like tuning up an engine so that it continues to run well. It’s a process of re-creation, recomposing a piece such that it bears considerable similarities to — and of course many of the same materials as — an earlier piece. But that act of re-creation doesn’t undo, cannot undo, the earlier act of creation. So just as, despite Lucas’ worst intentions, there is not one definitive work that we can call Star Wars but in fact a plethora of different works that all bear that name and look and sound broadly the same but are in fact quite different, so there is not one work that we can call Beyond the Walls of Jericho but three of them, all the same and all different. And I love them all.
I don’t blame Dolden for returning to this piece several times. I said before about the audacity and enormity of Dolden’s supra-pseudo-orchestra and in Beyond the Walls of Jericho he pushes this to almost ludicrous extremes. That being said, it makes sense that the work should be as extreme as it is, being (originally, at least) the final part in Dolden’s ‘Walls’ trilogy, preceded by Below the Walls of Jericho (1989) and Dancing on the Walls of Jericho (1990). The title alludes to the mythical tale of Joshua and the Israelites, who were able to cause the city walls of Jericho to collapse by marching around them for six days and then blasting their trumpets. Dolden’s interest is primarily in the idea of sound as a catalytic and revolutionary act; hence why the ‘Walls’ trilogy (and above all Beyond the Walls of Jericho) is one of the most unrestrained paeans to the glory of sound that i’ve ever encountered. No — scratch that: not one the most, the most. One of the key aspects of what makes this piece everything that it is, is its willingness to disregard such conventions as clarity, balance, nuance and order. It’s music at the cusp of chaos, as if Dolden has assembled 500 players, given them a bare bones outline of what he wanted them to do and then just set them loose, recording the result. It does have a structure, it does display a sense of narrative and dramatic shape — but continually pushed to the very limits of what can be described as control, and certainly beyond the limits of clarity.
Yet — and this is one of the main reasons why I absolutely love Beyond the Walls of Jericho, in all three of its extant versions — it’s as exhilarating as it is not because we’re being swamped with mere sound but precisely because of its perilous teetering on and over the edge of clarity. Sometimes, not always, we’re able to perceive all manner of detail shifting and moving within its hugely stratified and superimposed textures, details which in turn become overwhelmed, subsumed, squashed or eroded away by the force, friction and weight of the whole. So I really don’t blame Dolden for returning to the piece and doing his best to present, as best he can, both the small-scale detail and large-scale mass contained (barely) within this piece. However, its effect is pretty consistent across all three versions of Beyond the Walls of Jericho, so at a risk of annoying the composer, I don’t actually believe Dolden has particularly ‘improved’ the piece with each iteration, though i’ve welcomed the opportunity to re-experience it, and to hear it anew again most recently has been marvellous.
I have to admit I miss the original 1992 opening of the piece, where vague and elusive hints of instruments slowly grow into an increasingly dense texture. That’s gone in both the 2003 and 2020 versions, which hit the ground running with frantically busy tuttis. There are some structural hiccups too in the 2020 version that, to me, somewhat diffuse the flow — most notably around four minutes in when everything briefly stops before the funky bass and drums start up, dissipating the energy amassed by that point; in 1992 and 2003 this progressed smoothly and maintained that energy. I have to concede, though, that Dolden has managed to increase the intensity significantly from its original form. There’s a sequence around nine minutes in, that in the earlier versions sounds darker and more mysterious; the 2003 version makes it seem as it we were entering a cave-like expanse. In the 2020 version (where it now occurs a minute later) Dolden has kept this perception while making it feel much less distant, upping the power of this strange sequence. The massive climaxes have also, somehow, been made more massive. Overload will always sound like overload, of course, yet the 2020 version lends these overdriven passages a distinct death metal quality, rather wonderfully coating the vast walls of noise in additional pulsating layers of sonic razor wire. Nonetheless, it would be wrong to suggest that the earlier versions of the work are in any way lacking in this respect; perhaps it’s more accurate to speak of different kinds of massive, in terms of quality rather than quantity.
Anyone discussing Paul Dolden’s music, particularly a work like this one, runs the risk of reaching too readily and too often for superlatives. Suffice it to say that Beyond the Walls of Jericho, in 1992, 2003 and 2020, is among the most monumental works of electronic music you’ll ever experience. It’s therefore very likely indeed to polarise listeners — but personally, I always find it utterly energising and exhilarating. My fantasy concert would definitely finish with a live version of this piece.
My recommendation is to seek out all three versions, as they each have something that the others lack. For the 1992 original you’ll need to turn to Discogs to track down a copy of the earliest releases of L’ivresse de la vitesse. The 2003 version is still readily available from empreintes DIGITALes on L’ivresse de la vitesse 2. Sadly, neither of these earlier versions is available digitally, a situation that one can only hope will change. And the new 2020 version can be had — for just a single Canadian dollar — from Paul Dolden’s Bandcamp site.
[…] The minimum one can say of empreintes DIGITALes is that it is a prolific label for electroacoustic music as well as provocative experiments in conceptual sound. A few recent releases graft the varied interests of academic and acousmatic music together via the intriguing work of, say, John Oswald. His Aparanthesi is the work of a single note that is gradually inflected along its pitch and combined with various tuned field recordings. [aparanthesi A] is an A note tuned to 440 Hz, which is the broadcast signal stations play when off-air. [aparanthesi B] is a compressed stereo image of the 8 channel performance created for 2000’s Rien à voir electroacoustic festival in Montréal. It is tuned to 480 Hz, the North American electrical standard, so it is in-tune with the hum of lighting and electrical grids. It is also a sonic impression of a complex and involved performance that uprooted the audience from the seats to the atrium and back again. We might call the album a conceptual play between electroacoustc and microsound, audience and chair, sitting and standing, tuning and silence, and for these reasons, the listening experience is very unlike the genre’s contemporaries. Roxanne Turcotte, for example, produces a melange of disjunctive sound, voice and phone recordings, environmental atmospheres and world beat rhythms on Libellune, which features work dating back to 1985. Its complexity at times is interesting, for as a survey of her œuvre it mirrors the development of Montréal electroacoustic in its infatuation with voice and, like R Murray Schafer, the natural world. That said, it remains well within the by now well-established parameters of academic composition. Paul Dolden’s work trammels from New Music composition to electroacoustic, employing repetiton and choral arrangements in a fashion not unlike that of Philip Glass, albeit with a drive toward melodrama and punch over satyagraha, throwing in all elements including the kitchen throughout L’ivresse de la vitesse 1 and 2. Like Turcotte, this work too spans from the ‘80s to the ‘90s, and so much of its feel is like listening to a beloved but aging record from that era, its metallic drums and neon wildness only appearing just a tad navel-gazing with age. Dolden is somewhat overwhelming; [L’ivresse de la vitesse] is a nightmare collage at its start that quickly gets into squeaky territory. For this, the remedy of Seuil de silences is welcome. Although from the same era, its breathing space offers more time for reflection, arrangement and thought, even if the disharmonius creeps back into the picture and becomes an ultimate ode to piano-bashing. […]
Lucky Dolden, for having time and opportunity to remaster old ea compositions with digital technology. While these pieces aren’t exactly prehistoric, 1990’s analogue assembly and track-bouncing fogged the clarity of Dolden’s style: He notates a passage for 100 or more acoustic instruments, records each part individually, then mixes them in the studio. Today’s tools make his restless works shine and vibrate. His rapid pace would stun a defibrillator.
The most representative piece here, Caught in an Octagon of Unaccustomed Light, aligns nonstandard tuning with the burr and hum of struck metal, possibly prepared piano and cymbals. Is the heaving material in a kaleidoscope or meat grinder? I imagine the different threads marshalling themselves like eager, acquiescent robots, only to scatter suddenly into dust: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice meets Metropolis. Disjointed episodes serendipitously linked, Below the Walls of Jericho isn’t a Biblical illustration. Dolden fancies the idea that sound could bring down a wall and his piece could do just that. In the Natural Doorway I Crouch pulses with plucked strings and wind instruments.
Dolden happily joins his tapes with live instruments. Gravity’s Stillness. Resonance #6 features solo violin (Julie-Anne Derome) and The Vertigo of Ritualized Frenzy. Resonance #4 has parts for clarinet (François Houle) and piano (Leslie Wyber). The live musicians occasionally succumb to the blitz or else are instantly echoed and multiplied. In The Vertigo of Ritualized Frenzy. Resonance #4, the duo labors mostly in unison on a increasingly numbing modal phrase while the entire world swirls ’round. Gravity’s Stillness. Resonance #6 starts with uncharacteristically delicate washes under the violin, but soon erupts into business as usual.
Seuil de silences’ companions are L’ivresse de la vitesse 1 and L’ivresse de la vitesse 2, two wonderfully titled discs with remastered pieces — actually Dolden’s third time through them. Several interconnected series straddle the three discs, some for tape alone, others requiring instruments to duel alongside. Try any.
Paul Dolden and empreintes DIGITALes throw three new Dolden CDs at us simultaneously, in an unparalleled marketing of one single composer’s work. However, it’s not as strange as it may sound, but really quite an interesting and rewarding venture, because it has to do with reissues of old material, remastered by the composer with modern equipment. Dolden is one of the most prolific electroacousticians, and for sure his oeuvre deserves to be revisited, especially after its recent technical and artistic brush-up.
Paul Dolden explains: “In the late 1970s I started to write and produce music involving hundreds of parts or tracks. In the early days the analogue recording medium was very noisy when bouncing (or premixing) tracks together. Things improved throughout the 1980s and 1990s, but a large multitrack digital tape recorder was still out of my financial reach. By the late 1990s the new computer and hard drive speeds finally provided me with an affordable multitrack solution. For the first time in my life I was able to achieve the balance between individual voices that I had so carefully notated in the original scores. I achieved further musical clarity and a new depth of sound by using quality compression, equalization and reverb. To remaster, I went back to the individual tracks. This was a huge undertaking. For example, a piece like Dancing on the Walls of Jericho may be only 16 minutes and 15 seconds long, but it is a large tape work comprising eighty hours of original recorded materials. Recordings always freeze or crystallize musical and spectral meaning for the listener. An odd sound combination that you have grown fond of in the old master may not appear in the same way in the new one. However, I think you will agree that I have stayed true to the original compositions. I changed some musical moments and transitions in Dancing on the Walls of Jericho, and the tape components for Physics of Seduction. Invocation #2 and Physics of Seduction. Invocation #3, all originally released on the L’ivresse de la vitesse CD in 1994. These changes were motivated by compositional concerns and were created using the musical materials from the Walls Cycle. The only new recordings made for the remastering process were the drum parts (performed by Philippe Keyser) in Physics of Seduction. Invocation #2 and Physics of Seduction. Invocation #3.
I invite you to discover my new levels of meaning and clarity in the new masters, which are much closer to my original artistic intention.”
L’ivresse de la vitesse 1
L’ivresse de la vitesse (Intoxication by Speed) (1992-93).
Dolden: “The title […] is an allusion towards my current artistic intentions which involve the speeding up of an excess of musical ideas so that the composition and its materials exhaust themselves in the shortest time possible. The intoxicating aspect of speed is evoked by using primarily fast tempo markings and rapid changes in orchestration, density and dynamics. These elements can be particularly sped up to the point of exhaustion and intoxication in the digital audio studio which is limitless or virtual in its color and density possibilities.”
There is no mercy administered, and no time to adapt; you’re in the surging midst of sound the second it commences. However, the rush of grainy properties very soon take on more familiar guises, as male and female choirs rise, in a strictly vocal kind of soaring surge, gushing forth like mountain rapids below the glaciers. Sure this is intoxication by speed, secularly perhaps a shoot down the rapids, but in a shaman way perhaps a transposed inner journey of the Bardos… A creaking violin - bow pressing hard on the strings - open up a closed room of whispers, eventually pulling threads and shreds of surrounding reality along in marked pushes and layers of audio, snow-balling, mud-sliding into an immense might, eventually sneaking up on a hasty march of sorts, comically and quire remarkably, all behind a curtain of a certain unreality… There are, however, short retreats of church-like bliss here and there, before the blushing hell of over-intensified motion again grabs you by the neck and throws you downtime, as age and matter are subsequented…
Physics of Seduction. Invocation #3 (1992) for cello and tape; Peggy Lee [cello].
Dolden: “By using an extreme amount of ordinary musical sounds and gestures, their reality becomes more real than real. In other words, the sounds escape the networks of meaning and association, which have built up the reality of our world. This compositional strategy, involving an escalation to extremes, means that the materials themselves disappear as they implode inward and take on new appearances. The realm of seduction involves the strategies of appearances. As a contemporary composer, all that I can hope for is that I have provided the physics, or the interaction of motion and energy, for your own seduction.”
This long work opens in an industrial scenery; at least this is the initial impression: steelworks or shipyard - but soon, very soon, the cello comes to the fore or semi-fore, out of a layer of thick and dense material where it seems caught and predestined to a captive state of existence, albeit sometimes really in front of the wobbling, dancing, heavy backdrop. I’m talking about the first couple of minutes. The cello sets out on strutting, daring escape routes in and out of the seaweed density of sounds, and I imagine someone’s arms feeling their way through the dense and the dark, a grainy and not completely wholesome kind of predicament. Dolden has taken all he’s got and filled up life to its hypothetical rim. The cello saws frantically at some aspects of reality, like an insect inside a jar, desperately trying something impossible, as burning thoughts come up for air and light up matter from inside like electric impulses flaring through cerebral cortexes… Slow, meditative solo parts are offered the cello, as the barnstorming audio completely disappears below and behind. The cello talks like a candle in a nocturnal forest, or like a thought roaming a closed-down mind; a Moomin Troll waking in the middle of Finnish winter, rising prematurely out of hibernation to roam the snowy pastures, discovering unknown properties of existence.
Revenge of the Repressed. Resonance #2 (1993) for soprano sax and tape; François Houle [soprano sax]
Dolden: “As the end of the second millennium approaches [remember, these remarks were written for the original release], we increasingly deal with the angry fallout from our historical legacy. Society turns into a constant search for what has been repressed and denied and we search for some form of revenge for our victimization. However, given that our lives have basically become an extension of the mediascape, and real power lies elsewhere, we become trapped in an endless life-sized Nintendo game seeking justice and revenge.”
A jazzy, feverish jinglish kind of beginning moves through the Coltrane-scape of late day paraphernalia, surprisingly slowing down into mild brass sections in a golden hue - only to pick up speed and frantics again, leaving you… breathless and thoughtless, screwing those saxophones right down into the rock bottom, for what it’s worth… I have no idea how Dolden’s words above correspond to these sounds, mind you… but the show goes on, with or without whatever one is with or without… In here Dolden even manages to sound like Dutch hey-day desperado Louis Andriessen in Dee Staat, punching those semi-jazzy stanzas at you, like sleet blowing in your face on your way to colon x-ray…
Dancing on the Walls of Jericho (1990).
Dolden: “Dancing on the Walls of Jericho is the second of a three-part composition, which philosophically addresses the idea of revolution. Part two continues from where part one, Below the Walls of Jericho, had ended. Part one acted as a metaphor for the idea of social change through revolution. Therefore part one was primarily concerned with the vertical monolith and its tearing down by the anonymous massed texture of four hundred tracks of sound. By contrast, part two celebrates this tearing down with a constant polyrhythmic dance on the rubble and the use of extroverted solistic gestures.”
Polishing sounds wipe the curving walls of a contrast medium drenched tunnel, which eventually is filling up with a torrent of audio from the treacherous ill will of the toppling-over sonic ingenuity of Mr. Dolden. This boy certainly wants to invade all your senses and completely take them over. He needs your FULL attention, and if he doesn’t get it right away, he just stuffs you like a fat duck and leaves you sleepless. Much to my surprise, though, the frenzy cools off here, into a gamelan-like limp through the tunnel, and is it the tunnel that near-death experiencers experience on their near-death sojourns, or is it just a leaking realm of boring through the mount, to have you pass ten minutes faster on the train for a sum of 10 billion dollars? No idea! There isn’t much time to contemplate suicide, though, since I get caught up in more sturdy, bouncing limping down the path Dolden doodles, and I fill a spacious glass with much white German wine (Zeller Schwarze Katz) from a bottle presented to me earlier today from a farmer friend in the rain who flies to Germany regularly on Ryanair, and I let things and desperations be the way they please; no shooting out of the anatomy tonight! There is no real hard sense in trying to categorize Dolden’s music; it’s futile, pointless - but I’m filling my quota anyway, and I can throw in words about the enjoyment of living inside this music, ’cause that’s what it’s about; not listening but living. The constellations stomp like horses in their boxes, like Tomas Tranströmer said (or something like it); “thoughts gather in scattered herds through the shadows, the night sky is cold and star sharp; Death laughs inwardly across the wooded horizon…”
Physics of Seduction. Invocation #2 (1991) for harpsichord and tape; Vivienne Spiteri [harpsichord].
Dolden: “Speed creates pure objects. It is itself a pure object, since it cancels out the ground and territorial reference points, since it runs ahead of time to annual time itself, since it moves more quickly than its own cause and obliterates that cause by outstripping it. Speed is the triumph of effect over cause, the triumph of instantaneity over time and depth, the triumph of the surface and pure objectality over the profundity of desire. Speed creates a space of initiation which may be lethal; its only rule is to leave no trace behind. Triumph of forgetting over memory, an uncultivated amnesic intoxication”.
It gets worse, worse… It gets worse… as jittering atoms gather for a mingling vernissage evening at the horizon of events, right around that black hole in the midst of all our lives, or in a laid-back agony at the Restaurant at The End of the Universe (I bow to Mr. Adams who gave some meaning to my meaninglessness). Dolden produces full-blown, full-fledged assumptions of the totality of life and universe, and batters the humpty-dumpty, forlorn jesters of doubt, in a massive grandeur of psychic wonders, out of which a stellar harpsichord rises, glowing like sought-for venom though our arteries… I think of Elisabeth Chojnacka and I think about Jukka Tiensuu - and I leave it to you to figure that one out! Ah, Mr. Dolden! We tremble at these auditory messages from the core of emotional might, from the center of intellectual attention, from the venomous pit of the essence of pain of this existence…
L’ivresse de la vitesse 2
Beyond the Walls of Jericho (1991 - 1992).
Dolden: “The acceleration of our culture in terms of images and ideas creates a point at which everything seems to be happening at once and the maintenance of a linear historical perspective, with its revolutionary eruptions, is no longer meaningful. This simultaneity is musically alluded to several times in the composition by the use of several hundred solos occurring at once. Each solo has its own narrative and history but when all of them are combined together such narrative structures dissolve into one large sound field, often without clear beginning or ending. This breakdown of a linear time perspective and the resulting loss of our musical and social subjectivity create a feeling of absence and a perception of stasis. It is at that moment of æsthetic perception in which our day-to-day realities dissolve and there is a suspension of linear time that the possibility of new thought or feeling, revolutionary or otherwise, can begin.”
Again, as in the preceding re-issue, there is no mercy at all. Dolden starts full speed. A little while later some transparency is administered as the tour-de-force of the beginning suddenly halts, allowing for sounds to be deciphered in gluey, jingling jangling elasticity, peculiarly merging with some of my memories of François Bayle issues of earlier years, visions of an old horse carriage creaking and squeaking through… Hungary, maybe. The sound torrent returns, though, albeit in slower motion and bigger halls, gesturing around the spacious indoors of men with power, eventually falling back into the focused concentration of a hole in the ground in Tikrit… Other instances of this piece are almost comical, which I believe also is the intent of Dolden, in semi-jazzy grimaces, stepping up the tempo in limping rhythms and pearly, watery guitarisms - and I like these parts that pull in different directions, moving a bit out of phase, causing tremendous torque to manifest, threatening to crack the whole situation into bits and pieces of opposing forces, yet flowing out of the loudspeakers on the same strand of auditory law.
In a Bed Where the Moon Was Sweating. Resonance #1 (1993) for clarinet & tape; François Houle [clarinet].
Dolden: “Part of the Resonance Cycle plays with the notion of intimacy in music. In this case the soloist is often surrounded with his own sound, creating a dissolving of the singular with the “other”, which is in fact the performer reflected back in a narcissistic fashion. Beyond these elements, the Resonance Cycle also uses voice, which is perhaps the most intimate and seductive sound of all because it represents the body covered with appearances, illusions, traps, animal parodies and sacrificial simulations.”
Slowly, carefully, softly emerging, very different from the other piece before it, unraveling a smooth, romantic painting motion in the clarinet, distant and closer and close! However, density grows thicker, as a hail of sounds pulls up like a battalion of jeeps with their headlights all on, blinding, encircling, the smelling fumes from the exhaust rising like smoke in the darkness beyond. In this center of attention a space is protected by some invisible power, making a solo dance possible and necessary, and someone plays, dances, around and around, stomping feet in the soil, in the holy hour of cow dust. The clarinet cuts like smooth swords through the fragrance of night. Stockhausenesque voices hammer their morphemes like a palisade around the music, the jeeps still shining their headlights into the middle of the circle. Whispers - also Stockhausenesque - invoke the secrets of the night to perform their unknowns, and the rite probably reaches some kind of completion as the clarinet and the voices and the extraneous sounds merge in a controlled wilderness of sonic attributes.
Physics of Seduction. Invocation #1 (1991) for electric guitar & tape; Paul Dolden [electric guitar].
Dolden: “All great systems of production and interpretation, including musical discourses, increasingly appear as a large futile body. A universe that can no longer be interpreted in the terms of psychological relations, or in structures of oppositions, must be interpreted in the terms of play, challenges, duels, and the strategy of appearances - that is in terms of seduction. Moreover, seduction threatens all orthodoxies with their collapse as it is a black magic for the deviation of all truths.”
Relaxed hands seem to be waving through these laid-back suburban communities, but just for a while, because the midday rescue vehicles soon dash through layer after layer of red-hot guitarisms, cauterizing by-standers and storeowners down the block. A stew is brewing somewheres, bubbling with venom; guitars and screeching unidentifiables. Yes, it is hard as ever to put futile words to Dolden’s messages. They’re tough enough to hear, let alone talk about in an intelligible way. Take it for what its worth - and that goes for the music too. At times I think it’s just boring in all its frenzy, and I close down Mr. Dolden and bring on some Bach Cello Suites or let Mr. Dylan persuade me that It’s Not Dark Yet - but revisiting Dolden brings home some more discoveries from inside the maddening masses, and there are several ways to approach the Dolden madness, even though I suggest small portions of him for afternoon courtesy, you see. He is a bit too much, most of the time… without getting too much done, so to say. He’s sort of shaking doors and smashing windows, but he seldom administers poems.
Veils - Studies in Textural Transformations (1984 - 1985).
Dolden: “Veils […] is a series of textures or walls of sound, which act as an invitation for the listener to explore an environment where new acoustic sensations and associations can be discovered. The texture, a sustained chord of usually 14 - 56 notes, is constantly transforming by changing the instrument type that is articulating the sound (i.e. from strings to voice to brass to piano to marimba to glass etc.) No electronic effects were used and only straight recordings and mixing of acoustic instruments were used. However, the sound source or instrument type at any moment is not usually obvious to the listener, hence the sound sources are veiled. This veiled sound is created by three main factors: the extensive multitracking (from 180 to 280 tracks of the same instrument are used at any moment), the tuning of the chords (microtonal intervals which do not occur in our normal 12-tone equally tempered tuning system), and the recording method of close miking in a dead acoustical space which brings out aspects of each instrument type that we normally do not hear.”
This, though, is poetry; spider web poetry, thin smoke poetry, resounding silence poetry through trembling minds. The resounding of the first part of Veils is a majestic gesture into infinity, very unlike the window smashing and door-shaking that I have complained about. I float through these layers of semi-transparency in a spirit-in-flight sensation, a bit like what I felt in the movie 2010, or in some cinematic expressions of Tarkovsky. This notion is only strengthened and reinforced by the second and third part of Veils - mysterious monoliths afloat in the space-time continuum, in chords that reach for infinity in wonderful gasps for space… mythical objects slowly turning around themselves in the timeless flow of mind, of Rigpa, the state out of which all rise; all phenomena of this unexplained existence of our and everything else…
Seuil de silences
Below the Walls of Jericho (1988 - 1989).
Dolden:“The title is only a loose reference to the story in the Bible. What interests me about the story is the idea of a large mass of people knocking down a wall through the use of sound. The story gives credence to the notion of music as a catalyst for social change. Beyond the sheer physical impact that a large number of sounds contain, music is a form of language, which is capable of stimulating thought. The power of music lies in the simultaneous physical and intellectual seduction of the listener.”
A quite wonderful, glassy sound, organ-like, subdued-fanfare-like, opens Below the Walls of Jericho. This shiny, honey-dew fluidity develops into standing walls of dense, gray sound - with glittering, glimmering sensations built into to them, dark percussive elements - like falling rocks down a wintry Lapland slope - growing in terrible intensity… until a tiny screw of a sound suddenly lets loose some silence which, however, slips away like the tail of a lizard, leaving us in a magnificence of over-toned, interstellar cruelty, in a realm where all is shine, cold, bright shine… and again - as before, sometimes, with Dolden - I get these icy notions of alien horizons on worlds we know nothing about, and the unknown gathers incredible strength in a pumping, pulsating wheezing of giant properties of alienation; scary headphone adventures!
Surely, this didn’t come across this brightly and ingeniously on the earlier release. I heard it the first time when it appeared on the Cultures Électroniques release from the GMEB competitions in 1990, where it won the composer the first prize for electroacoustic composition. Dolden’s reallocated attention has brought this piece into new luster, new shine. It’s quite amazing, really.
There are many layers of sound relieving each other or adding to each other, and the sheer roughness and simultaneous clarity of some of them bring on levels of corrugated auditory surfaces I have never heard or touched before, bringing me into joyous discovery for the first time in a long listening while, as Dolden actually manages to mix my perceptive senses in hitherto unknown ways, mysteriously; tactility and hearing, vision (bright!) and smell (acrid!). This is a hit! The rhythmic properties have me gasping for air in a similar way, so strong, manifold, un-ending, loopless, ever into an elusive distance, yet firm on your tympanic membranes and on your skin, your heart beating behind the sound, below your breath, inside a dream…
Gravity’s Stillness. Resonance #6 (1996) for violin or viola & tape; Julie-Anne Derome [violin].
Dolden:“The work is based on fairly simple melodic and harmonic ideas. The interest for me in this type of work is to use the recording studio to create a series of distinct sound worlds, or orchestrations, based on these melodic and harmonic ideas. The tape becomes the catalyst for creating the changes in mode and tone. The live soloist repeatedly states the melodic ideas in a simple to very virtuosic manner.”
A dark motion rising cautiously out of semi-instrumenty realms, emerging into clarity and tactile reality, spreading its auditory fragrance like opening petals… and you feel yourself soaring down inside the space inside these petals, as if docking with a giant space ship - and yet it feels so familiar behind that veil of uncertainty and semi-transparent reality, the violins, the orchestral familiarity, hundreds of years of tradition carried towards you on outspread fingertips, like a gift from undisclosed benefactors… There are some incredibly close encounters herein, with the strings, which you practically ride, trembling madly with them… only to find yourself suddenly distanced into the room, the strings grouping themselves neatly into an ensemble up on a little stage… and then you’re down into the instruments again, the strings of the violin fully charged high-voltage transmission lines through your vicinity; danger! Dolden mixes these two aspects seamlessly, this closing in and distancing, this old tradition ensemble familiarity and this latter day electronic havoc! Splendid! And Julie-Anne Derome makes a thrilling contribution!
Caught in an Octagon of Unaccustomed Light (1987 - 1988).
Dolden:“The composition continues the composer’s development of a musical language based on the color of unusual or unaccustomed acoustic sounds. In this case, the predominant use of inharmonic timbres (metal, multiphonics and a non-octave tuning system) creates the language that for the most part our musical tradition has ignored. A series of five sections, each of which is based on specific sound sources, has the listener caught by their interactions. Musical continuity is maintained by the reuse of similar gestures, colors and tuning system. Overall structural integrity is achieved through a palindromic ordering of the sections. For example, the first and fifth sections use the same sound world, and likewise the second and fourth sections use another sound world. The third or middle section contains aspects on both sound groups.”
It’s hammer time right off, as you veer here and veer there… eventually catching hold of some materializing matter in the shape of sturdy tools inside a machine-scape of some industrial environment, as the industrial sounds re-group into Christmas time Santa workshops of speedily constructed toys and half-perverted goblins by endless conveyor belts… and it’s a Disney culture gone seriously wrong. After a while a peculiar, metallic percussion, irregular, brings on reminiscences of Harry Partch and John Cage, and I feel right at home in my intellectual, academic predispositions… but it wouldn’t be like Dolden not to amass things, though between these moments of catharsis he lets little details build strange, twiggy, thorny environments to scratch yourself bloody on if you don’t watch it! The slow, spacious anonymities that Dolden sometimes allows for in this piece, almost inwardly thoughtful in a roomy, thin gamelan, result in generously emitted beauty of sound that I bathe my perception in, like when nocturnal flakes of snow fall through the circle of light of a street lamp, when the town is sleeping silently; these cold crystals melting on your cheek.
The Vertigo of Ritualized Frenzy. Resonance #4 (1996) for reed instrument and/or piano (or accordion) & tape; François Houle [clarinet]; Leslie Wyber [piano].
Dolden:“Much of my work begins by using the tape medium to create musical situations and dialogues that would not be possible with a fixed live ensemble. In this case the live duo is confronted with jazz, rock or chamber music created by various string, metal or wind orchestras. At times the live parts seem independent of the tape and at other times the two elements dissolve into each other. These different allusions to musical reality are based on a very simple melody which keeps coming back in an almost irritating manner.”
The inconspicuous beginning mix of roughness and timbral modality builds up strong levels of conviction, so watch your output levels. A playful melody, sort of heard from way inside a hall, or from behind a corner in a restaurant, reveals where the musicians are poking about in there scores, kind of nervously and absentmindedly, a half hour before they have to start playing for real, for pay. There is a distance in the way Dolden has smeared the sounds across a wall quite far away, across the dancing floor. The music itself is semi-jazzy, semi-cocktail-party-licked, easy going, swirling about in short, close motions, never traveling too far off from the instruments that produce the sounds observed.
In the Natural Doorway I Crouch (1986 - 1987).
Dolden:“In the Natural Doorway I Crouch is inspired by the interaction of the two distinct sound worlds: plucked metal strings and wind instruments. The composition is divided into three sections of 3, 5 and 7 minutes, each of which explores the relationship between the sound worlds as they are constantly changing. This movement in sound is evoked by the title, which suggests the transformations from one state to another, as in a doorway that acts as a passageway between areas of sound. In most cases, the crouching is only momentary as we spring from one area to another. The tuning of the composition involves a system of just intonation, developed by the composer, in which the harmonics of the fundamental(s) are systematically changing register in relation to each other.”
This piece was one of the first Dolden works I heard, on Cultures Électroniques Volume 3, presenting the winners from the Bourges competitions of 1988. It’s probably one of his most spread works too. I’ve come across it here and there. To begin with it has a spooky conversational quality, the likeness of voices soaring about inside instrumental and/or electronic sounds, as if matter was raising its jittery subatomic voice to the level of human hearing, just to scare us real good at last… The flakes of sound are heavy in the void, tumbling about like forlorn celestial debris, traveling like that forever, or maybe one day crashing down on unsuspecting civilizations on blue spheres in revolving spiral galaxies, cutting everything very short…
Morse-like percussive codes are emitted from inside the body of sound; trembling, shivering cries of beings lost behind malevolent horizons, divide from us by impossible gaps in time and space and simultaneity…
There is an ominous, fateful feel to this work, as if it was describing events so vast and so immensely forceful that acceptance is the sole possible attitude from our point of view. This music seems to deal with the inevitability of the sun eventually turning into a red giant, or events like that, or perhaps with the natural loneliness of the soul - and one feels, as a reaction to Dolden’s music, an urge to escape existence in matter to existence in spirit, which is all there really is to hope for; and wouldn’t it be nice to cut this endless hunt for sub-atomic particles short, realizing with the string theorists that all is vibrations of different frequencies, also confirming the conviction of Stockhausen and others of a celestial music; the universe understood as an endless composition…
empreintes DIGITALes, étiquette montréalaise spécialisée dans les musiques électroniques et électroacoustiques entreprend cet automne des fouilles dans l’œuvre surprenante du compositeur canadien Paul Dolden. Voilà d’un coup ces trois CDs d’œuvres datant de 1984 à 1996, «entièrement retraitées, remixées et remasterisées par le compositeur en 2001-02». La musique de Dolden est caractérisée par l’utilisation de centaines d’enregistrements instrumentaux et vocaux combinés en couches multiples. En matière de musique acousmatique, son œuvre est singulière puisque l’utilisation de sources instrumentales s’adjoint à un sens aigu de l’orchestration et place la musique aux antipodes des «musiques de bruits» que suggère souvent l’acousmatique. On pourrait peut-être parler d’une approche symphonico-numérique où Stravinsky et Xenakis reviennent en écho, machinés dans une hybridation maximale des styles. Les œuvres mixtes du compositeur (avec François Houle à la clarinette et Peggy Lee au violoncelle, entre autres) font particulièrement preuve de sa sensibilité musicale et nous entraînent dans des moments d’intensité incroyables. Ce petit survol de l’œuvre de Dolden démontre admirablement la singularité de son langage (et son importance) qui, tout en s’approchant d’un discours symphonique radicalisé, ouvre la porte aux influences du jazz, du rock et des diverses possibilités venues de l’électrification et de la capture du son. Une œuvre à découvrir d’urgence.
empreintes DIGITALes fait paraître ces jours-ci trois disques de Paul Dolden. Il s’agit de L’ivresse de la vitesse, paru à l’origine en doublé et dont les disques sont séparés pour cette nouvelle édition «retraitée, remixée et remasterisée». Le troisième, Seuil de silences, réédite des pièces parues en 1990 sur le disque The Threshold of Deafening Silence et présente deux nouvelles pièces mixtes (avec Julie-Anne Derome au violon pour Gravity’s Stillness. Resonance #6, de 1996, et François Houle à la clarinette et Leslie Wyber au piano sur The Vertigo of Ritualized Frenzy. Resonance #4, aussi de 1996). Si on est ici au seuil du silence, on n’y entre pourtant pas souvent. Dolden travaille l’épaisseur du son comme un sculpteur et n’hésite pas à placer les unes par dessus les autres des centaines de pistes, ce qui donne une perspectives sonore impressionnante. Les œuvres «anciennes» (la plus vieille date de 1986) ont certes bénéficié des possibilités de remixage offertes par les perfectionnements technologiques les plus récents et la lourde pâte sonore qu’affectionne le compositeur y gagne en netteté. Toujours aussi impressionnant. 4/6
Vancouver native, Montréal-based Dolden’s L’ivresse de la vitesse (Drunk on Speed) proved as tantalizing as its title. Completed in 1993, this work came out of the electronic studio, and like the pump of an electric guitar at a rock concert, left listeners with the sort of buoyant exhaustion of having been there when something socially significant took place.
Culling material that covers a decade of work, L’ivresse de la vitesse (“Intoxicated by Speed”) had the effect of a bomb in musique concrète circles. Paul Dolden’s previous album The Threshold of Deafening Silence (1990) already indicated that the composer eschewed traditional tape music esthetics, but this ambitious 2-CD set consecrated him as a new voice. Dolden works with instruments. His compositions are amalgams of partitions, hundreds of them, recorded individually on a wide array of instruments. They are later assembled through pitch, polyrhythmic and textural relations to create high-density pieces that seem to be performed by massive lunatic orchestras. At the heart of the album are three such pieces: Dancing on the Walls of Jericho, Beyond the Walls of Jericho (these two completing a tryptich started on the previous CD with Below the Walls of Jericho) and the title piece. The three works in the Invocation series feature tape parts from the Jericho cycle over which a solo part has been added. Performers include Dolden himself on guitar, Vivienne Spiteri on harpsichord, and cellist Peggy Lee, simply beautiful in Physics of Seduction. Invocation #2. The same method is applied to the title track, transformed into the two parts of the Resonance series, both performed by François Houle (on soprano saxophone and clarinet). An older piece, Veils, concludes the set with a look at the emergence of Dolden’s technique as it is made of acoustic parts and more conventional musique concrète treatments. The energy, richness, and density of the music bring to mind the Vancouver new music big bands NOW Orchestra and Hard Rubber Orchestra — that is to say that it conveys a much more organic experience than more standard tape music. Decadent and subversive, L’ivresse de la vitesse is a classic, a unique form of fin de siècle tape music.
2 CDs in this CD box, on the first one there are 5 tracks on the 2nd one 6 tracks. Listening to the 1st track (CD 1) it seems as I am listening to a jazz-band or a symphony orchestra in overdrive, fast music. The booklet learns us that Paul Dolden is the high priest of crash music. Music where speed is an important part, so our first impression is a good one. Nothing less the music is not always fast it can be symphonic also, as there are tranquil moments when the music has the usual common speed of musical tunes. The style is different sometimes jazzy sometimes symphonic. And even when the music is fast it never starts to become one big mess of sounds. There is in each track a balance between fast and slow moments and a superb use of instruments. Some tracks are build around one specific instrument such as harpsichord, cello, saxophone, electric guitars and other instruments. Yet a complete set of different instruments are used in all tracks. We might call it contemporary jazz symphony. The tracks on CD 2 are somehow different from CD 1, they are more atmospheric. What especially can be said about the last 3 tracks which are atmospherically ambient tracks, thanks to specific recording techniques of acoustic instruments no electronic effects at all.
CD doble que comprende haceres de los años 1984-85 como es la pieza Veils, hasta partes realizadas en 1993. La obra electroacústica de este compositor crea estilisticamente un mundo en el que las masas sonoras unidas a tensionnes en crescendo, derivan en serpenteantes disonancias diluyentes. Su tratamiento de mezclas determina la cualidad tímbrica de los instrumentos como un dináormigueo interactivo que resuelve en novedades sónicas.
Canadian electroacoustic composer Dolden champions a ‘theory of excess,’ a belief that the intoxication and seduction of information overload is a desirable condition, one that frees us to perceive the world afresh. L’ivresse de la vitesse compiles nine devastating sonic manifestos to make his point. Several hundred painstakingly scored and multitracked solo acoustic instruments collide to produce a super-dense musical black hole that even Iannis Xenakis would have shied away from. Trying to actually follow the impossible complexity drags you across the event horizon into a world where consciousness survives but meaning has been obliterated. Futile relief comes on a few tracks where virtuoso soloists battle in vain against the taped chaos Nirvana or nihilism? No matter, you can listen to it a thousand times without wanting it to make sense.
Eine DoCD des hochgehandelten kanadischen Elektronikers, die Anfang 1994 erschien, randvoll mit Musik. Die Hälfte der durchweg längeren Stücke sind reine Tapearbeiten, die andere Hälfte um jeweils Solisten ergänzte Tonbandarbeiten. In beiden Fällen hat Dolden hunderte von einzelnen Instrumentalstimmen, vor allem Streicher, aufgenommen und diese dann zu einem gigantischen, quasi zusammengepreßten Orchester übereinandergemischt. Das Resultat nennt er “Crash-Music” . Ungeheuer viel geschieht gleichzeitig, viel mehr als der Intellekt zu erfassen vermag. Differenziertes Hören ist kaum noch möglich, zu dicht das nervöse musikalische Gestrüpp, bis hin zu einer fast unidentifizierbaren Klangmasse. Nur in den eher seltenen ruhigen und leisen Passagen und im wohltuenden Gegenüber der Soloinstrumente zum massiven Dickicht der schier unendlich vielen übereinandergeschichteten Einzelstimmen mag sich das Ohr gelegentlich einlassen. Diese Arbeiten scheinen mir sehr zeitgemäß, entsprechen unserer hochgerüsteten, technisierten und von Informationsmedien beherrschten Welt, in der auf engstem Raum und in kürzester Zeit unüberschaubar viele Daten auf verschiedenen Ebenen gleichzeitig bewegt werden. Dieses unmenschliche Etwas findet sich auch in Dolden’s Musik, wobei er bemüht war, das Unmenschliche noch menschlich zu halten, durch ausschließliche Verwendung traditioneller Instrumente und den weitgehenden Verzicht auf elektronische Verfremdung. Genützt hat es wenig, eher im Gegenteil. Das vorliegende Ergebnis eines immerhin interessant klingenden Konzeptes scheint den immensen Aufwand leider in keiner Weise zu rechtfertigen. Die Musik klingt über weite Strecken kalt, hart, unverbindlich. Es sind zu viele Töne, die vor allem zu wenig Sinn machen. Nicht einmal geschwätzig, sondern einfach gefühls — und beziehungsarm klingt diese Musik. Wohl höre ich einen Plan, aber dieser scheint nicht bis ins Letzte konsequent in jede Linie, jeden Ton, in jede Farbe oder Rhythmus hineinzureichen. Dies ist doch eher ein trübes Süppchen. Wenn ich an György Ligeti s Atmospheres denke, wo alles, jeder Ton und jede Stimme des großen Orchesters, seinen Platz und seine Bedeutung hat, und wo jemand sehr genau weiß, wie er äußerst komplexe und ausdifferenzierte Atmosphären erzeugen kann, dann ist Dolden’s Musik dagegen so blind wie ermüdend. Weder ist sie anregend, noch läßt sie Raum für Gefühle, sie vermittelt lediglich einen Eindruck von schlecht kontrollierter Gewalt. Ich bin nicht sicher, ob Dolden wirklich weiß, was er hier tut. Quantität garantiert nicht Qualität. Hier, scheint mir, hat sich einer übernommen. Man könnte vielleicht eine ideologische Diskussion um Sinn und Zweck dieser Musik führen, aber das wird die Musik selbst nicht ändern.
While many electroacoustic composers strive to create new timbres through synthetic means, Paul Dolden records traditional instruments and madly layers and juxtaposes them with unprecedented intensity. If you were to play several records of chamber music simultaneously at 45 rpm you might come close to the Dolden sound. But while this music may resemble the chaotic results of such experiments, it’s actually quite well controlled and thought out. Physics of Seduction mixes the tape creations with live soloists matching the potent attack and drama of the dense studio tracks. As awe-inspiring as Paul Dolden’s work may be, it does take some degree of endurance to sit through two discs of 15-20 minute pieces. But whether you take the marathon listening route or just eavesdrop from time to time, L’ivresse de la vitesse is an experience everyone with an open ear should attempt.
There really is no other artist working in the same fashion as Dolden and his musical vision is both challenging and refreshing.
There is so much musical output contained on these two discs that it took me several listenings to come to grips with it all. In the liner notes, Dolden describes his current artistic intentions as involving the “speeding up of an excess of musical ideas so that the composition and its materials exhaust themselves in the shortest time possible”. Most of the works here reflect this principle in different ways. Another perceptual factor in listening to these pieces is the manner in which Dolden intersperses pieces for tape alone with works featuring solo performers backed with material from the solo tape compositions. This approach has the twofold effect of emphasizing hitherto unstressed aspects of the tape pieces and also of blurring to some extent the distinctions between the individual works. These considerations aside, Dolden constantly varies his approach, not hewing to a quick-cut, sound-mass approach to the exclusion of linear development.
Dolden first composes simultaneous lines of music on manuscript paper, then digitally records each line as performed by an acoustic instrument. The parts are then digitally mixed with little or no signal processing. His exclusive use of acoustic instruments is justified by his opinion that electronic synthesis techniques are unable to produce a large palette of convincingly different timbres. A huge palette of acoustic sounds are used tor these pieces, including nearly every orchestral instrument, voices, ethnic and folk instruments, and percussion. And although he does not use signal processing, he occasionally achieves DSP-like effects through ingenious mixing of his sound sources. The mixing often involves overlays of 40 or more tracks, and the massed effects and climaxes achieved are impressive. His use of digital editing is equally responsible for the results, as the pace and mood of the pieces are largely controlled this way.
The title cut and the last work in this collection, both for tape alone, could not be more contrasting. L’ivresse de la vitesse (1992-93), encapsulating as it does the composer’s more recent methods, is an exhilarating outburst of contrasting ideas and styles at a rapid-fire pace. Veils (1984-85) is a halfhour, 3 movement composition which explores a sonic world of subtly shifting timbres, comprising drones on acoustic but ambiguous-sounding origin. After the adjustment is made to the leisurely pace of this piece, it is thoroughly satisfying.
With the exception of these two pieces, I gravitated toward the pieces that featured solo instruments because of the focus they provide. This may be because Dolden does not emphasize spatial placement in these wtirks. Often, the sound struck me as completely up-front and two dimensional. No doubt this is partly because he eschews most signal processing,but the overall sound of the acoustic instruments tends to be a little washed-out. Experimenting with different microphones and preamplification should help — quality of engineering is important when this approach is taken, especially when there is extensive mixing and overlaying. The solo instruments help to impart more of a spatial quality. Revenge of the Repressed. Resonance #2 teatures a performance by cellist Peggy Lee which ranges from fleet passagework to elegiac phrases and extended techniques.
The harpsichord part in Physics of Seduction. Invocation #2 takes on a thunderous and threatening aspect in the hands of Vivienne Spiteri, thanks to Dolden’s multitracking and close-miking techniques. Two pieces feature saxophonist/clarinetist Francois Houle. One of these, In a Bed Where the Moon Was Sweating. Resonance #1, strikes a perfect balance between the virtuostic solo clarinet part (often multitracked with amazing etfect) and the tape part with its echoes (or “resonances”) of preceding events.
Physics of Seduction. Invocation #1 features the composer on electric guitar in a technically adept performance which also makes use of the processed timbres which are the domain of the instrument. Dolden shows a flair for these changes of tone. His performance on guitar here gives further evidence of his mastery of the sonic resources at his disposal.
Hal London is a freelance, part-time composer who divides his time equally between acoustic and electroacoustic music. Dolden’s approach in this respect is of special interest to him.
One of my favorites, if only because of the Veils piece. Most of the music on these two disks is a stylistically heterogenous jumble of orchestral, jazz, and choral arrangements—all meticulously assembled from thousands of pre-recorded tracks. Such a grandiose production of acoustic instrument track layering has surely never come before this. Sometimes the instruments are so densely layered they become a storm of harmonics that approaches white noise. The whole compositional temperament—impatient, violent, and spastically bursting and whirling relentlessly—makes me wonder who has the mental energy to listen attentively to the whole length of it, much less labor to compose it. Possibly, it’s brilliant (I should mention that a composer friend of mine thinks these tracks are the most original new music he’s heard in years), but I found it oppressively cluttery. At the tail end of the second CD is the piece titled Veils; another study in multi-tracking which is stylistically the flipside of the coin. Veils is an ambient masterpiece where, atypical of ambient music, genuine compositional events are as important as the arrangement at any given time. No electronic effects were used, but extensive multitracking between 180 to 280 tracks of acoustic instruments is responsible for a consistency and flow of this phenomenal work. Very artfully done.
“What is the speed of music?” says Arthur Kroker in the liner notes of L’ivresse de la vitesse (empreintes DIGITALes, IMED 9417/18) from [Ottawa-born, long time Vancouver-based; now Montréal-based] electronic, guitar, cello and violin performer Paul Dolden. “At what point does music red shift to ultrasonic velocity like all those spectral objects before it, break the sound barrier and then follow an immense curvature towards that point of incredible sound density, where music can finally move at such violent speeds that it can no longer be heard, even by mutant membranes The final pooint, that is, where music breaks beyond the speed of light, falling onto a deep and immense silence.” Yes!
Mr. Dolden has something that is rare and worth preserving: a unique and original point of view. He has sufficient craft and means to realize his point of view, and the results, for the most part, are compelling, and often quite beautiful. His manipulations of sound mass alone probably deserve their own chapter in electronic music texts of the next millennium. But there is a pervasive sense that he is rendered deaf by his own discourse, and that particular directions of the music’s flow have been chosen for discursive rather than musical reasons. For example, “…it is well known to any consumer of media music that in order to be considered artistic you have to have an African percussionist. (program notes)” And therefore, for no other reason, we have manifold layers of hand percussion. Are you being facetious, Mr. Dolden? I can’t tell, and it’s gratuitous either way. But let’s ignore that for now, and concentrate on the music. With the exception of the last work, Veils, which predates the others in this collection by seven or eight years, there is a unified aesthetic and technical approach that finds its best analogy in the huge, thick paintings of the German artist Anselm Kiefer. Layers upon layers upon layers of sound produce an aural canvas in which individual details, if they are audible at all, are rendered inconsequential in the context of the huge gestures that emerge from the composite mass. This is not to say that Paul Dolden’s sound masses wallow in some amorphous homogeneity; rather, he is able to imbue each with a well articulated persona. Thus, in the best of the pieces for solo instrument and tape, a seeeing is created which one hears as a kind of extrapolation (a very long extrapolation) of the historical/social context of the solo instrument. For the cello piece, Physics of Seduction. Invocation #3, with its beautifully voiced C-major chords, the serting is the 19th-century cello concerto. For the saxophone piece, Revenge of the Repressed. Resonance #2, the setting alternates between swing jazz and the music of the French composers who explored the new instrument between approximately 1850 and 1910. For the electric guitar piece, Physics of Seduction. Invocation #1, the setting is ehe extended rock jam session from the late 1960s and early 1970s.
The inclusion of the three-part work Veils in this collection is interesting because it affords us a glimpse into the evolution of Paul Dolden’s sound mass technitque. If the later works are Kiefer, then Veils is protoKeifer, tempered by a healthy dose of Rothko. Veils is about gradual transitions from one timbre/chord to another, and the masses that comprise it are not heard as masses at all, but as completely homogeneous entities. So, even though all the pieces on these two CDs employ the technique of superimposing hundreds of tracks of source recordings in the creation of the sound mass, the sustained nature of the source materials for Veils sharply distinguishes it from the much more active sources for the later pieces. To my mind, however, this work is far and away the most interesting of the four pieces for tape alone in this collection. Perhaps this is because it was apparently motivated by purely musical reasons (at least according to the program notes) — it is completely unencrusted by programmatic subtexts.
I should mention that all of the source materials for the pieces on these CDs are completely acoustic. There is no synthetic material, and extremely little processing. M. Dolden’s reliance on the computer is primarily for its editing capabilities and its ability to mix and bounce tracks hundreds of times without adding significant amounes of noise. Like any technique taken to a logical extreme, this use of the computer transcends the multi-tracking effects possible in the traditional analog studio. To wonder whether or not it qualifies as “computer music” is to miss the point.
Paul Dolden has been touted by many critics as one of the most original and innovative musical voices to take us into the next millenium: a fin de siècle artist. With his emphasis on a maximalist æsthetic, he walks a compositional tightrope by combining traditional western music practices with electroacoustic techniques, non-orchestral instruments, and the energy and drive of popular culture.
Dolden has kept in sight the fact that one can be simultaneously entertained and challenged by the conceptualization of a reality never dreamt of before. One is seduced on many levels: by the virtuosic manipulation of musical language; the myriad gestures, colours, and contrasts; the speed; and the vigorous forcefulness of expression. One can be held in a state of rapture in the presence of music of such unreal beauty, but this sphere of existence continues long after the music stops. The voluptuous sound world of Paul Dolden always leaves one motivated to contemplate oneself and the world in novel and fantastical ways.
Since 1981 Dolden has won eighteen national and international awards for composition. These include three first prizes and a Euphonies d’or at the Bourges International Electroacoustic Music Competition in France, and, most recently, Canada’s Jean A Chalmers Award for his composition L’ivresse de la vitesse. His works have appeared on numerous recordings includinq two solo CDs.
Thomas McLennan: What in your mind creates a good performance of a piece for live instruments and tape?
Paul Dolden: First, you must have a good sound system and everyone must know their musical parts extremely well. Beyond this, a richer musical experience happens when the performers know the tape part extremely well and therefore can play in a manner which seems as if they anticipate or lead the tape’s gestures, colours, rhythms, etc. If the live parts are played with this type of savvy, then the difference between the live part and tape seem to disappear and the two components seem to be working together on the same musical goal or idea. I should say that this illusion is possible only when the writing of the live and tape parts relate to each other timbrally, rhythmically, harmonically, and melodically. What is musically boring is if the performers sound like they are just following the tape, or are “slaved” to the tape.
Could you comment on your reuse of materials in the current works of the Resonance cycle for live performer and tape.
The mother piece for the Resonance cycle is the tape piece L’ivresse de la vitesse. All of the works for live instruments and tape in the Resonance cycle at particular moments allude to, or “resonate,” to the mother piece. This self-quotation is intentional and is an attempt to deal with the balancing of old and new information in the musical discourse. Moreover, it becomes a type of musical play or game of recognition, semi-recognition, and non-recognition. This game plays with musical memory which is the basis of musical structure. In the same way, the Walls cycle uses the Walls of Jericho tape pieces as a basis or “resonator” for the soloist and tape cycle entitled the Physics of Seduction. Invocation #3. Therefore, I am usinq the word “cycle” in its historical sense as each of the cycles could be played in their entirety and produce an evening-length work.
Reflect on musical performance as you perceive its importance to musical language and composition.
It is hard for me to imagine not having the experience of being a performer and trying to be a composer. Instrumental and vocal performance is the living history of musical thought and gesture, and to really understand instrumental writing a background in performance is necessary. Also, during a performance, whether it is for six friends in the front room or more than 800 at a professional concert, there is an excitement, an adrenalin rush, and a certain type of concentration that one can understand as a performer. To write utilizing that energy and style of thought will always lead to more interesting music.
In the last two years, performance, for me, has taken two directions. I no longer play other people’s music. I have learned two of my own compositions, one for guitar and tape, and one for violin and tape. This process has informed me of what it’s like to play one of my scores, and what it’s like to be a soloist with a tape accompaniment. The other type of performance I am doing is free improvising on guitar, violin, and cello. For me this is primarily an exploration of sound and gesture that I keep more private because I do not find it musically profound. It is a process to go through in which i enjoy the discovery of combining notes, sounds, and colours wliich sometimes feeds back into my compositional practice.
How do you retain a balance between the individual character of instruments and orchestration with so many tracks? (For example your work with 400 tracks or musical parts occurring simultaneously.)
First of all understanding orchestration, and secondly, engineering. In terms of orchestration, it is important to understand how each instrument sounds in each register, and what happens when different instruments are combined. This goes beyond a textbook knowledge and requires a good aural memory because there are endless permutations. Important aspects of this are knowing which instruments mask which sounds, and which ones fuse with others at particular dynamics and/or ranges.
After one has created a score of notation, this must be translated to a recorded signal which is well produced. For my music, the most important aspects of engineering are: microphone placement during the recording of instruments; submixing (because I do not have a 400 track board to control levels between different members of the orchestra); and panning and equalization. Panning is not used much because each track is a beautifui stereo image using a particular technique of stereo microphone imaging. What is more important is which instrument receives what type of EQ curve to achieve a particular musical sound.
As far as maintaining the individuality of instruments, my work in the ‘80s was primarily concerned with the concept of the fused sound, therefore there was a decreased emphasis on being able to hear a particular line or instrumental colour. Over the last few years I have become more interested in hearing individual lines or groups of lines in the multiplicity of 400 parts.
Could you comment on your present exploration of twelve-tone equal temperament? And, do you see this continuing?
Tuning has been very important in my work. In the ‘80s I was only writing in microtonal systems, many of which I designed myself. I used just intonation and particular microtonal systems which often meant there would be anywhere from thirty to sixty notes per octave, which led to the fused sound of those works. I do find a certain clarity in twelve-tone equal temperament, and in some ways it almost seems sparse after ten years of microtonal work.
The main reason for the return to equal temperament is that all microtonal systems, I discovered, led to a certain type of stasis. It seems that I have, at this level, reinvented the wheel, because equal temperament was designed to facilitate faster moving harmonic rhythm. My music has gradually become more concerned with harmonic rhythm, so that moving to equal temperament has been quite a natural progression.
I find the return to equal temperament makes writing much easier because everything is instantly transposable and invertible. The problem with many microtonal systems is that when a harmony is inverted or transposed many notes have to be slightly adjusted. So I am able to write much faster now. One of the reasons I left twelve-tone equal temperament originally is because all of the intervals are mistuned except the octave, and you hear this particularly with the more consonant intervals.
However, I am primarily writing fast music these years, so you do not really hear the mistunings, because at higher speeds the ear does not have enough time to register this aspect of equal temperament. I am slowly starting to think about how to integrate my current writing with all of the experience I gained in microtonal music. I am trying to envision a type of music that has a very fast moving harmonic rhythm, but also moves through different types of microtonal ideas, and comes back to equal temperament and keeps moving to avoid that whole static aspect of microtonal systems.
You have stated a belief in the revolutionary potential of music lyinq in the transcendental aesthetic experience or moment. Can this moment live on in the listener/society and develop into something beyond itself?I believe that one of the important aspects of successful aesthetic perception is the search for the ecstatic moment: that moment of the loss of self which we also experience during extended drug usage and during sex. In these moments there is a loss of memory of who you are, what you stand for, what/where you are, etc. What is fascinating about these moments is that they allow for new ideas, visions, feelings, and thoughts to emerge. Now, the aesthetic/artistic experience is unique among these three experiences in that it is a completely safe environment, you can never physically harm yourself.
I would like to think this ecstatic aesthetic experience is always goinq on in every culture. Certainly in western culture/society it has a different emphasis in different art forms, and areas of human endeavour, at different times. At present we definitely live in a film culture as people say to me they go to the film to “lose themselves.” For art music right now, most people do not search out these moments. In fact, the most common response we receive is that we tend to confuse people rather than allow for transcendental ecstatic experiences. But this is a larger social problem because the musical languages we are using are currently unrepresented in the media, which is where most people find out about works of music.
Which composers are your major influences now?
Composers who always inspire me, and will probably always inspire me to write, are Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Debussy, Mahler, Stravinsky, Bartok, Ligeti, and Berio; and Lutoslawski and Xenakis to some extent. After this I have musical flings with different composers at different times that last anywhere from a few months to a few years. Right now I am very fascinated with Brahms, and with contemporary composers Magnus Lindberg, Robert Saxton, and Alfred Schnittke.
How often do you visit historical structures in your music? What are the forms you create yourself?
When you listen/write/perform music all of the time, inevitably you absorb without thinking the historical structures. For instance, we all speak in sentences and paragraphs, which immediately creates a structure in our verbal discourses. Obviously not all structures are equally fascinating or equally great. I think most historical musical structures operate implicitly in my music and I may not even be aware of them. I am, like most composers, more aware of structures that I think are more original, or at least those I had to spend a certain amount of time consciously thinking about.
Recently, I started writing pieces not knowing ahead of time where I am going, whereas before I would compose the structure first. Currently, I consider how much new information do I keep introducing, and how much information previously in the piece will be repeated or reiterated with variations. It is that tension between old and new material, and working it out, that becomes the structural tension I am conscious of when writing. For the listeners, structure is somethinq to hang their hats on, so I am always aware of the tension between when they are beinq completely confused and when they are kept at the edge of their seats in anticipation.
Explain the extensive relationships that exist in your cornpositional language between melody and harmony, and notes and timbre. Also, how do you accomplish syntax in the field of electroacoustics, where the focus traditionally has been on sound collections?
Good music is always about numerous things - notes, counterpoint, melody, harmony, colour, and structure. Electroacoustic theory over the last few years has created a paradigm for discussing music in which syntax, or the language of music, is contrasted with morphology, which is the actual sound type, including anything from the sound of footsteps, to oboes, to the final textural quality of the sound. Traditional electroacoustic theorists have argued that what makes electroacoustic music special is its focus on morphology, while instrumental music is mainly concerned with syntax. I do not find this distinction new or revealing. I am convinced that good composers throughout history have always been aware of the colouristic possibilities of music making, but perhaps did not have all of the terminology for it that is currently at our disposal. I would suggest that we could select very syntactically based composers such as JS Bach and Brian Ferneyhough, and one could listen (as I often do) to these composers morphologically. That is, listen to their music in terms of changing orchestration, colours, and density. Likewise, one can listen to what is considered morphologically based music - for instance, Francis Dhomont or Edgar Varèse - in terms of note movement and organization.
To place myself on this continuum: I have always been interested in a maximalist aesthetic, in creating music that somehow combines everything. In some ways I am always conscious of both syntax and morphology when composing. For me, a fundamental link between syntax and morphology is harmony. If one listens to a great piece of music in a musical way, then one listens both syntactically and morphologically as the two work together; in other words, one listens harmonically. Let me expand. The question asks about the relationship between the melody and harmony. I have always loved harmony, and often when composing I define the harmony and then create the lines for each instrument from that. You do not need a PhD in contemporary music theory to know that harmonies and chords lead to a morphological way of listening. Specifically, chords lead to fused chords, which lead to fused timbres or fused textures. By working with notes and building harmonies of thirty to fifty note chords with their horizontal/melodic implications, I am in fact defining the morphology. In short, the 400 tracks have a predefined morphological sound, which is the sound of the harmony being articulated by all the lines. Seventy to eighty percent of my 400 tracks in any given piece are traditional western orchestral instruments, the remainder being gamelan, hand percussion, drum kits, electric guitar, and voice (but we are used to choral and orchestral mixtures). So I would say that at one level, morphologically speaking, there is nothing new about my music, it is just extended orchestration. In other words, morphological transformations are a minor compositional strategy in my music. Ultimately the perceived motion is created through syntax: large scale variety, contrast, harmonic direction, different types of counterpoint, and instrumental gestures and articulations.
Dolden, a Canadian sampling fanatic, makes “crash music” on tape, overlaying hundreds of simultaneous overdubbed tracks for an astonishing and utterly original complexity of timbre. This two-disc set of nine works, split between pure tape and pieces for soloist and tape, ranges chronologically back to Veils of 1984-85, whose walls of sound with up to 280 tracks of the same instrument seethe slowly and loudly as though the gates of hell are opening. The harrowing title work (the well named “Intoxication by Speed”) features multiple virtual choruses making strange vocal sounds and several orchestras devolving into military rhythms, rock, and tape loops, while Beyond the Walls of Jericho boasts forests of plucked instruments, impossibly extended glissandos, and armies of percussion. As weary as I am of modernism, Dolden’s apocalyptic hypermodernism so transcends what the 20th century had in mind that it opens up a whole new realm.
Each of the nine works by Vancouver’s Paul Dolden included in this two-disc set was created through a painstaking method, whereby hundreds of individually recorded acoustic tracks are digitally mixed to produce a sonic mass that is often overwhelming in its density. Most intriguing are the richly woven Chalmers Award-winning title work and the shimmering three-movement Veils.
Chacune des neuf pieces électroacoustiques de ce disque du compositeur vancouverois Paul Dolden a été créée grâce au mixage numérique de centaines de pistes sonores d’une densité ahurissante dont la plus séduisante est sans doute celle de Veils pièce en trois mouvements qui lui a valu le prix Chalmers.
Paul Dolden, winner of the composers’ award for L’ivresse de la vitesse, his 15-minute piece for [recorded] orchestra, Eastern instruments, choir and found sound objects, was praised by the jury for producing “an image of music for the next millennium.” A leading figure in Canada’s electroacoustic community, Dolden has had the same piece praised in London and Prague, where it won first prize in the Musica Nova ’94 International Competition.
Jean-François Denis, winner of the presenters’ award, “is central to the growth and success of electroacoustic music in Canada.” He programmed an annual concert series featuring original works and Canadian premieres as a professor of electroacoustic music at Concordia University in Montréal from 1985 to 1989 and is one of the founders of the organization Canadian Electroacoustic Community. Denis’ magazines Contact! and Flash! and recording activities have had a widespread influence.
Most people use the recording medium for purely documentary purposes; Paul Dolden’s project is to highlight the way the recording studio can create ‘impossible’ effects and musical events. This CD finds him multitracking up to 400 tracks of expanded orchestral instrumentation to create a kaleidoscopic music of dazzling complexity.
Dolden’s stunning debut CD worked with the transmuting effect of speed — not speed as an end in itself, but as a gateway into another sonic and textural reality. L’ivresse de la vitesse, by contrast, sounds more conventionally orchestral. Wagnerian vocal passages give way to humour, fragmenration and objection. Aaron Copland and morning-in-America passages move into hyperspeed and cascade into huge, finely detailed washes of sound. Like Conlon Nancarrow or the New Complexity school, Dolden sets different tempos and time signatures against each other. Such a vast amount of musical information demands a new way of listening, the imposition of patterns on apparent chaos.
Spiritually, Dolden seems to have plumped for being a postmodern rootless soul fascinated with surface. “Seduction threatens all orthodoxies with their collapse as it is a blacK magic for the deviation of all truths” he writes in the sleeve notes. He seems able to incite controversy witn ease. Since his appearance at last year’s LMC festival, idle talk has centered on his “objectionable” personality; one composer has even called for Dolden’s music to be banned for its alleged misogyny.
This double CD (selling for the price of a single) also contains a number of works for instrumentalist and tape. Dolden magnifies tne tiny sounds made by the instruments and then uses them to surround the soloist along with his usual orchestral apocalypse. Francois Houle (soprano saxophone, clarinet) and Peggy Lee (cello) both worked on developing the parts and put in excellent performances here. Veils, the final 30 minute track, takes a different tack completely with dense, lush, sustained chords — possibly the final word on drone music, with a closing passage which will make your windows death-rattle.
Dolden’s music is like viewing a landscape from a helicopter, or at Koyaanisqatsi hyper-motion: a postmodern lens through which to view complexity. Do not miss the work of this important “fin de siècle” artist.
The title of Paul Dolden’s first CD, The Threshold of Deafening Silence says a lot about the method and aims of this Canadian electroacoustic composer. As does the title of this new release (it translates as “Intoxication by Speed.” All Dolden’s pieces use mainly acoustic instruments, with in several cases several hundred separate instrumental parts painstakingly multitracked and mixed. The result is music of overpowering density, great contrast and frequently startling and fascinating texture. Several of the cornpositions are for thesed taped instruments only. Others use the impenetrable tapes as backing for solo instrumentalists. For example, Peggy Lee’s cello on Physics of Seduction. Invocation #3 highlights extremes of romanticism and potency, throwing the tape scrum into sharp relief. Dolden’s aim is to bring the listener to a point where the complexity and intensity of the music prevents any orthodox listening response, resulting in a transcendent sensual experience. The admirable CD booklet includes plerity of provocative and thoughtful notes from the composer, but even without the points of entry that it provides, I could hardly fail to be seduced by this astounding album. For anyone who wans to hear new music that doesn’t lack in passion, that addresses the information age in an apt way, that enlists noise, complexity and beauty in its qufft for excess, this is it. There are few other composers whose music even seeks out such awe-inspiring power (Glenn Branca, possibly, although Xenakis also comes to mind), and few other modern composers who can be so effortlessly assured of a place in history.
Paul Dolden, originaire d’Ottawa est tellement prolifique qu’on lui a consacré un coffret double (mais rassurez-vous: pour le prix d’un simple). C’est un univers complètement différent de celui de Normandeau. La musique de Dolden est très souvent violente et révoltée, d’une énergie qui pourra en dérouter plus d’un qui ne voudrait s’attarder qu’à l’enveloppe ou au nombre de décibels. Les 3 Invocations de Physics of Seduction offrent parfois des moments vraiment tendres mais on y chercherait en vain un plaisir dans le «beau son», alors que In a Bed Where the Moon Was Sweating. Resonance #1, pour un peu gauche que cela soit, ne choquera guère par son ton où les citations de geste sont abondantes pour qui a déjà quelque peu frayé avec la musique moins traditionnelle, ou celle de discothèque, dans ce qu’elles peuvent offrir de plus débile.
Ce qui ressort vraiment de ce coffret sont les deux pièces centrées sur le thème de Jéricho. Avec un tel sujet, on imagine bien à quoi s’attendre et on est servi. Mais Dieu que c’est puissant! Surtout Dancing on the Walls of Jericho. On se trouve en présence d’une musique qui, même si elle agresse, nous cloue sur place — si on l’écoute attentivement — et nous fait découvrir, enfin, que l’appel de Baudelaire n’est pas resté vain.
Okay, so your X’mas victims have wrapped their heads around musique actuelle but you’re worried because now they want to get into electroacoustics. Fear not, for Vancouverite Paul Dolden is the missing link between Jean Derome and Robert Normandeau, or Glenn Branca and Einstürzende Neubauten, for that matter. Dubbed “crash music” by Dolden-champion Arthur Kroker, the best of the composer’s beautiful and bombastic stuff is collected in this two-CD set, which is part of a recent slew of seven discs released by the premier Montréal electroacoustic label. (8/10)
Un discorso un pò diverso può essere fatto per il CD di Dolden. Anche qui la complessità strutturale é impressionante: si tratta di registrazioni multitraccia di partiture relative a diversi strumenti, soprattuho acustici e per la maggiar parte suonati dal compositore stesso, che creano un vortice sonoro notevole, di grande impatto e originalità. Devo dire che questi brani mi hanno lasciato in alcuni momenti a bocca aperta per la loro capacità di creare immagini quasi tridimensionali, nelle quali l’ascoltatore si sente trascinato e, scusate se esagero, ma é stata la mia impressione personale, atterrito, soprattutto a causa dell’elevata pressione sonora e dell’incredibile dinamica della registrazione (inutile dire che l’ascoito ad elevato volume con altoparlanti é un must). Interessanti sono le motivazioni concettuali che l’artista si premura di abbinare ad ogni brano, che sicuramente dimostrano un pensiero eclettico, non privo di legami con certa critica della modernità e alcune teorie tantriche (soprattutto sul concetto di velocizzazione ed esaltazione degli elementi dissolutori, per spingersi oltre il punto di non ritorno).
Che altro aggiungere? Innanzitutto che i Cd empreintes DIGITALes sono in generale di facile (con le dovute riserve) reperibilità, anche qui da noi.
Enfin, pourrait-on dire, un musicien imaginatif et bien formé qui sait utiliser le matériau sonore à des fins artistiques et possédant une véritable personnalité de créateur, de l’originalité, du souffle, de l’intelligence. Rares sont les véritables compositeurs qui œuvrent avec ce médium difficile qu’est l’électroccoustique. Rodrigue exprime bien ses intentions sur la manière d’appréhender le matériau, dans cette phrase se rapportant à sa pièce Tilt (première pièce sur ce compact), qui est l’enjeu d’une partie de machine à boule: «l’électroacoustique m’aurait permis d’enregistrer les sons d’une de ces machines et d’y appliquer les transformations propres au médium, mais j’ai plutôt utilisé une vision subjective travaillant le propos d’une façon plus musicale qu’anecdotique en créant une machine imaginaire.» Si l’ensemble des textes de la pochette est truffé d’erreurs de français, il reste que cette phrase résume l’essentiel de ce qui différencie la musique de Rodrigue de celle, par exemple, de Roxanne Turcotte. Mentionnons par ailleurs que Tilt a obtenu le Grand Prix toutes catégories ainsi que le Premier prix de la catégorie électroacoustique au 7e Concours des jeunes compositeurs de Radio-Canada en 1986. Le travail de Rodrigue est minutieux, soigné, évocateur et sébuisant pour l’oreille sans être accrocheur, et surtout, il s’en dégage une «musicalité» qui n’est pas celle de l’art instrumental mais qui a une valeur intrinsèque. Cristaux liquides (1990) est une poésie sonore superbement évocatrice inspirée par les différents états de l’eau. Qu’est-ce concert? (1987) évoque pour sa part différents paysages sonores, anecdotiques ou virtuels, présentant des concerts entremêlés. Le voyageur (1993) et Fiano porte (1985) nous mettent respectivement en contact avec des univers céleste ou citadin, puis avec un monde de contrastes (rêve/réel, fluide/statique, doux/fort) qui s’exprime merveilleusement à travers les sons utilisés par le compositeur. Bref, un enregistrement qui est aussi un soulagement.
L’ivresse de la vitesse de Paul Dolden. La principale caractéristique du travail de ce canadien est de composer à partir d’éléments acoustiques (provenant de plusieurs instruments) enregistrés et transformés uniquement par le mixage, l’accumulation de couches sonores. On va parfois jusqu’à 200 couches de sax ou de percussions. Le résultat d’une puissance unique est très original. Il y a vraiment une dimension rock qui sort de cette musique, une dimension purement physique du son. Une musique entièrement, uniquement permise par l’enregistrement; impossible à réaliser en direct. D’autres pièces travaillent plus sur l’accord des instruments et évoquent parfois le travail de Phill Niblock. Le titre L’ivresse de la vitesse correspond parfaitement au contenu. Voici venue l’ère du Speed Crash.
- Andrew Lewis, Contact!, no 10:1, 1 septembre 1996
- Steven & Alan Freeman, Audion, no 33, 1 septembre 1995