La boutique électroacoustique

Petites étincelles Manuella Blackburn

  • Liverpool Hope University

… elegantly structured music… Touching Extremes, Italie

The compositions of Manuella Blackburn feel vital and thoroughly alive… ATTN:Magazine, RU


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Petites étincelles

Manuella Blackburn

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Massimo Ricci, Touching Extremes, 15 décembre 2017

The term “acousmatic” belongs to the category of verbal devices generalizing studio-conceived opuses that are difficult to brand. With empreintes DIGITALes, though, no question will arise about the trueness of that definition, the Canadian imprint having in fact released the finest materials coming from that area for countless years now.

London’s Manuella Blackburn is an electroacoustic composer and senior lecturer at Liverpool’s Hope University, her resume including prizes and acknowledgements beyond her young age. Petites étincelles presents five pieces sharing several traits, Blackburn’s main intent being the depiction of wide prospects from what she calls “barely there” sounds in a sort of “backward reductionism” process. The collection is informed by a soft-spoken complexity helping the listener to pay attention to both the logical attributes of the sequences of events and the meaningful micro-structures shaping up the textural evolution.

All of the above can be summarized in another shopworn, but still effective adjective: “ear-pleasing”. In truth, locating segments where what is heard results as less than hospitable is quite hard. Even the inexperienced could use this album as a useful starting point to increase their conversancy with such a creative domain. Sources range from Indian instruments to the ice floating in a glass of water, from clock mechanisms to camera shutters. Blackburn’s compositional skills magnify those transitory occurrences into elegantly structured music lacking the frigidity of a mere accumulation of sonic typologies. In that regard, she sweetens the concreteness of the original matters with profound electronics, perceived here as inherent harmonic auras complementing the sharpness of melodic cells and organic periodicities.

“Maturity” can rhyme with “accessibility” in rare occasions. This is one of them, and also a reminder of the hypocrisy of establishment-driven “gender equality”, a prepaid renown always preferred to genuine talent when it comes to covering female artists. This world needs more Blackburns than St Vincents.

… elegantly structured music…


Jack Chuter, ATTN:Magazine, 30 novembre 2017

These collages are like the obsessions that infiltrate dreams. Imagine, for example, that you have an epiphany about the beauty of photography. You spend the daytime taking photos or diving deep into the literature on lenses, shutter speeds, photographic film and aperture. And so sleep becomes an overspill for these incessant, excitable thoughts, twisted by the liberal logic of dreams. Shutters flutter outward like a startled bird flock, mechanisms whirr on either side… these sounds slosh from left to right, mimicking the movements of animals or draw bridges or hurricanes, conjuring an imaginary universe in which they exist as the only available building block. On Snap happy, the third track on Petites étincelles, cameras are everywhere. The compositions of Manuella Blackburn feel vital and thoroughly alive, imbued with her fascination for these noises and their charming twitches and intricacies, frenetic with the desire to drench the senses in more than can realistically be absorbed simultaneously.

Yet this is not chaos. I may be overwhelmed at points, yet even the most spectacular of eruptions feels adherent to a common direction. The pieces inflate to fill the entire stereo space with acoustic resonances, then fade into a light rain of ticking minute hands, then reduce to vertical spindles of plucked string, then stretch into tufts of ambient mist. At any given moment, the kinetic energy feels extreme. Spilling, tumbling, exploding. Time will tell often sounds like a cluster of grandfather clocks spontaneously combusting, with springs hurled through space; Ice breaker drowns me in tides of carbonated liquid, blinded by bubbles and the splashes of a thousand ice cubes. Yet to view these pieces from an aerial perspective would be to witness the narrative that assuredly tugs the bedlam forward, left, right, up, down. Even amidst the rapture of sonic obsession, Blackburn never loses sight of the overall shape, and just how the whirl of life can be perceived as grander arcs of age and steady change, so these collages allude to the prescient, symbiotic understanding that exists between the sounds that hurtle past each other.

The compositions of Manuella Blackburn feel vital and thoroughly alive…

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