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La limite du bruit John Young

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Le principal centre d’intérêt en composition pour John Young — originaire de Nouvelle-Zélande, habitant maintenant au RU — demeure la musique acousmatique, en particulier celle dont les formes reposent sur l’interaction entre des sources sonores naturelles et des matériaux traités par ordinateur en studio. Les 5 pièces de La limite du bruit sont réellement acousmatiques. Avec Pythagoras’s Curtain cette zone entre le son reconnaissable et le désincarné (l’invisible) est développée à travers des sons d’origine intimement tactile. La suite Inner, Virtual et Time, Motion and Memory explore le mouvement entre des sources sonores qui sont ‘intérieures’ et ‘extérieures’ à la sensibilité humaine. Liquid Sky est une exploration de l’image sonore de la pluie. [dt]

La limite du bruit

John Young

IMED 0261 / 2002

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Itinéraire en Europe du Nord

François Couture, electrocd.com, lundi 9 février 2004

Voici une piste d’écoute sans prétention, une invitation au voyage; pas un tour guidé, mais plutôt un itinéraire, un peu comme les récits de voyages de l’ère romantique. Ce sera donc un itinéraire d’écoute, une invitation à découvrir une sélection hautement subjective de compositeurs d’un coin du globe. Notre destination: l’Europe du Nord.

La France règne en reine despotique sur la musique électroacoustique européenne. L’influence persistante de l’œuvre de Pierre Schaeffer, plus de cinquante ans après l’invention de ce qu’il a baptisé la musique concrète, et la force d’attraction qu’exerce l’Ina-GRM ont tendance à occulter aux yeux du monde le travail qui se fait ailleurs en Europe.

Alors partons d’une voisine de la France, la Belgique. Celle-ci doit en grande partie sa vie électroacoustique à Annette Vande Gorne, animatrice infatigable du centre Musiques & Recherches. Sa musique fait preuve d’une rare sérénité dans le domaine des musiques pour bande. Tao, un cycle sur les cinq éléments primitifs (l’air, la terre, le métal, le feu et l’eau), demeure un classique du genre. La compositrice y épuise les transformations possibles des sons associés à ces éléments avec une maîtrise et une poésie peu communes. Élève de Vande Gorne, Stephan Dunkelman partage sa grâce, une grâce qu’il transmute en mouvement. Souvent issues de collaborations avec des chorégraphes, ses œuvres sont mues par une force intérieure qui oppose à la charge philosophique (quasi mystique, en fait) de Vande Gorne la sensualité du geste. Ses pièces Rituellipses et Thru, Above and Between, parues sur le disque Rhizomes, méritent une attention particulière.

Une courte traversée de la Mer du Nord et nous voilà en Angleterre. Nous nous dirigeons sur Birmingham, un important pôle créatif en musique électroacoustique, grâce au travail du compositeur Jonty Harrsison et de son Birmingham ElectroAcoustic Sound Theatre (ou BEAST), un espace de diffusion et d’expérimentation qui nous a donné plusieurs compositeurs de talents. Harrison est un incontournable. Sa pièce Klang (parue sur Évidence matérielle) figure parmi les œuvres électroacoustiques les plus connues des 25 dernières années. La clarté architecturale de ses œuvres et sa façon distinctive de comprimer les sons en jets d’énergie le placent au même niveau que les Henry, Dhomont et Bernard Parmegiani de ce monde. On retrouve sa manière de faire chez l’un de ses élèves, Adrian Moore, en particulier dans son intérêt pour les sources sonores simples (un marqueur sur un tableau blanc, une feuille de papier aluminium) exploitées à travers des transformations complexes. Sieve, parue sur le disque Traces, utilise un ludisme accrocheur pour rendre ce processus transformatif transparent.

Denis Smalley est d’origine néo-zélandaise, mais il réside au Royaume-Uni depuis le milieu des années 70. Sa contribution au corpus acousmatique et au concept de diffusion sonore en fait non seulement le contemporain mais en quelque sorte l’acolyte de Harrison. Les deux compositeurs partagent d’ailleurs un même souci de la forme, un même intérêt dans le déplacement dans l’espace-temps de corps sonores abstraits. Wind Chimes (sur Impacts intérieurs) et Base Metals (sur Sources/Scènes) illustrent bien cette beauté un peu froide mais fascinante. L’un de ses élèves, John Young (un autre Néo-zélandais qui a étudié et enseigne maintenant en Angleterre), utilise une approche similaire tout en remplaçant les sources sonores élémentaires (c’est-à-dire issues des éléments et donc en quelque sorte philosophiques) par des images aux évocations plus chargées. Les pièces de son premier album, La limite du bruit, présentent à l’auditeur plusieurs occasions de replonger dans ses souvenirs au son d’une balançoire qui grince ou d’une porte qui craque (comme autant de madeleines dans les tasses de thé de Proust). Time, Motion and Memory constitue un morceau de choix.

L’électroacoustique scandinave demeure encore trop peu connue chez nous, mais le catalogue d’empreintes DIGITALes nous permet d’y faire un court arrêt pour compléter ce périple. Natasha Barrett a étudié avec Harrison et Smalley et a fait partie du BEAST, mais depuis 1998 elle habite la Norvège. Là, elle a su s’écarter du style de ses maîtres à penser et se laisser imprégner du climat nordique. Ses Three Fictions, parues sur Isostasie, méritent plusieurs écoutes. Enfin, terminons cette piste d’écoute avec l’un des phares de la musique électroacoustique d’aujourd’hui, le Suédois Åke Parmerud, dont la pièce Renaissance (parue sur Jeu d’ombres) redonne au synthétiseur analogique ses lettres de noblesse sans tomber dans la nostalgie.

Kritik

MB, Testcard, no 13, mardi 1 juillet 2003

Review

Alan Freeman, Audion, no 48, dimanche 1 juin 2003

A New Zealand electroacoustic artist, who currently resides here in Leicester, he surprised me when he came into the UT shop, as I had no idea that Leicester’s De Montfort University had an electronic music studio. Of course, I asked him if he knew Denis Smalley (another New Zealander resident in the UK) which - of course - he did. Naturally we also discussed how bizarre it is that the only label around willing to issue his CD hails from Canada!

Anyway, on to the review: “The Edge of Noise” is an apt title for something that starts off sounding like the sounds of someone decorating or building, as we have clanks and scrapes, things being scoured and ripped, and all manner of what the French call “bruitism” the art of “sound as art”. How it goes on, becoming ever more extreme when more processing is added. Compression, distortion, granular chopping up and reconstruction, all make for an uncompromising and highly creative mixture. However, the absence of musical references make it a diffcult listen, it tends to all get a bit overwhelming.

… an uncompromising and highly creative mixture.

Recenzie

Kamil Antosiewicz, Cisza, no 2, jeudi 13 mars 2003

220 Volt: John Young, La limite du bruit

Concertzender, mercredi 4 septembre 2002

Krabbelend schoolkrijt, een beginnende storm, of de intense ademhaling van een geschrokken medemens zijn John Youngs aanleidingen voor transparante luidsprekercomposities. Dankzij het stuk Liquid Sky weten we: het ware geluid van regen wordt bepaald door hetgeen dat natregent. Als we de regen horen kletteren, horen we eigenlijk straatstenen, bladeren, ramen of het eigen schedeldak. Recente composities van de cd La limite du bruit.

Kritik

Stefan Hetzel, Bad Alchemy, no 40, jeudi 1 août 2002

Kritik

T™, Black, no 28, lundi 1 juillet 2002

Review

Frans de Waard, Vital, no 329, jeudi 20 juin 2002

‘The Maker’s Humour’ is the translation of the title, and in this case the maker is Yves Beaupré. Not just the maker of this CD, but he’s also a professional builder of harpsichords, spinets and virginals. In the mid eighties Yves set up a small electronic studio, partly to do research for his instrument building, but also to create music. By using sounds from the instruments he builts, plus most likely from the process of building these, Yves crafts together six fine electroaoustic pieces. From this side of the musical spectrum we usually get all of these thumbling sounds which fall over each other, but Yves Beaupré treats his sounds in a rather fresh way. By looping, filtering and pitch changing, he builts very interesting collages of sound in the finest electroaoustic tradition, that will probably appeal also to pieces blend into eachother and form one large work, rather then six smaller parts.

From New Zealand hails John Young, who studied composition with Denis Smalley and worked in the UK for a while. He uses acousmatic sounds, ie environmental sounds and processes them. Unlike Beaupré he stays more in the classical sense of processing, even when at times the unprocessed field recordings shine through it. There scratches, wind blowing in microphones, rain falling on roofs and high peeps of metal scraped on glass. In general they are nice pieces, but at times a bit too long and a more accurate mix could have been possible and things would have hold their tension much better.

Kritiek

Remco Takken, Fake, samedi 15 juin 2002

Krabbelend schoolkrijt, een beginnende storm of de intense ademhaling van een geschrokken medemens zijn John Youngs aanleidingen voor transparante luidsprekercomposities. Al is een zekere ambachtelijkheid af en toe hoorbaar in de elektroakoestische bewerkingen van de in Engeland wonende Nieuw-Zeelander, steeds raakt Young de kern. Het ware geluid van regen wordt bepaald door hetgeen dat natregent, weten we dankzij het prachtige Liquid Sky. Als we de regen horen kletteren, horen we eigenlijk straatstenen, bladeren, ramen of het eigen schedeldak. Weer een inzicht erbij, in verwarrende tijden als deze.

Kritiek

SVS, Audiotest, no 11, samedi 1 juin 2002

Het Franse label empreintes DIGITALes biedt onderdak aan een resem al dan niet obscure avantgardekunstenaars waarvan Robert Normandeau en Hildegard Westerkamp de bekendste zijn. Met Cycle du son betoont Francis Dhomont eer aan de legendarische geluidskunstenaar Pierre Schaeffer. Het vierdelige stuk maakt zowel gebruik van samples uit Schaeffers legendarische compositie Études Aux Objets, als geluiden uit Dhomonts eigen klankencollectie. De akoestische clash van die twee werelden is een onheilspellend, maar altijd boeiend geluidsdecor vol glashelder resonerende klankspelen.

Humeur de facteur van Yves Beaupré is een klankencollage opgebouwd uit timmerhokgeluiden: geluid afkomstig van en gemaakt door allerlei voorwerpen, gereedschap, hout en dies meer. Die bronnen worden vervolgens via elektronica van hun identiteit gestript en tot functioneel element van de compositie gebombardeerd. Het resultaat blijft over de hele lijn intrigerend en stuwt je door een vaak hallucinante dimensie van overheerlijke klankschepsels.

De Nieuw-Zeelander John Young dwingt de luisteraar zijn van wonderlijke details voorziene La limite du bruit met een hoofdtelefoon te beluisteren. Zo fladderen de ratelende, druppelende en schurende klankjes van Pythagoras’s Curtain je trommelvlies in. Even fascinerend is ’Inner’ dat aanvangt met het geluid van iemand die zijn adem inhoudt. Klassieke avantgarde/musique concrète die boeit van a tot z.

Review

Graeme Rowland, Brainwashed, dimanche 5 mai 2002

The title translates as ‘The Edge of Noise’ which is very appropriate as this New Zealand based electroacoustic composer takes the everyday sounds of swings, rainfall and breath through magnified journeys and thorough transformations. The inherent noise in all these sounds is honed and clarified to its limit and then stretched and pulled into new elastic shapes, but there’s always a compositional rigour and exactness that keeps this far from chaotic onslaught.

Pythagoras’s Curtain starts with what sounds like chalk on a blackboard colliding with door knocks. Lots of creaking, low squeaking and rustling follow, panning from speaker to speaker. The sounds are deployed with precision and meticulous attention to stereo picture detail. Sudden drones burst out and rupture against nature. The title refers to the way in which Pythagoras would lecture from behind a curtain and draws a parallel to the way in which acousmatic music requires deep attentive listening divorced from other senses. Similar brutal yet focused transformations occur in the other pieces. Inner takes sharp intakes of breath and overly dramatic exhalations on an asthmatic nightmare trip which opens up gaping windswept canyons from the human lung before collapsing it into wheezing asphyxia and abstracted whirling vortices. There’s a very claustophobic feel to much of this breathscape. Virtual takes recordings of wind through a similar if predictably more violent ride, but the feeling here is of open vastness. The squeaking swing that Time, Motion and Memory hinges on instantly recalls Pierre Henry’s ‘Variations Pour Une Porte et Un Soupir’ but takes on forms far beyond the capacity of old tape splicing, as Young reimagines the swing as a giant pendulum cutting back and forth through other environmental sounds. There’s a thick fog of nostalgic childhood memory gathering for the most moving and haunting track here. It’s soon washed away by the rain falling from the Liquid Sky, in crisp drenched drain swilling eddies. This is perhaps the most varied and violent track by default as the different surfaces that rain hits flood wide sonic spectra. Through academic studio alchemy enabled by empreintes DIGITALes, John Young makes explicit the drama and strangeness of everyday sounds, and draws deep shadows in the spaces between them.

John Young makes explicit the drama and strangeness of everyday sounds, and draws deep shadows in the spaces between them.

Where’s the CD Review?

Matthew McFarlane, Where’s the Beat?, samedi 4 mai 2002

In trying to get a grasp on John Young’s musical style and own personal language I wondered whether it might have anything to do with the remoteness of his native New Zealand. Right from the opening work, Pythagoras’s Curtain, Young’s musical style places itself out of the confines of the traditional acousmatic school. It’s the daring simplicity of it all that I like so much. Don’t listen to this disc while bathing your pet parrot or doing your dishes. Sit down, quiet the environment around you and prepare to listen very carefully. Inner, demands the same attention as the first. Young’s exploration of sonic manipulation is wonderful here, as is his conceptual use of space. Unlike the mind chilling drones and loops of recent EA discs, Young explores dry and often nearly extinguishable sounds. Young’s exploration of rain sounds in Liquid Sky is wonderful. Until more than two minutes into the sixteen-minute piece, the sounds are dissected until they are unrecognisable. There is something shocking about all of this. Young throws us for a loop by pulling out his sound microscope and delving into the inner recesses of a few sounds. A very interesting disc.

It’s the daring simplicity of it all that I like so much.

Review

François Couture, All-Music Guide, mercredi 1 mai 2002

John Young proceeds from the familiar to the alien, from the instantly recognizable and close sound source to more extensively treated and masked results. It may be the oldest trick in the musique concrète book, but it remains the best way to capture the listener’s attention from the beginning. Obviously, Young understands this principle and applies it well - better than that, actually. Each of the five pieces on La limite du bruit (“The edge of noise”) develops a network of visual and sonic images from a simple starting point. Each one is exemplary in construction, focus and sonic transformations. Pythagora’s Curtain picks up on the origin of the word “acousmatics” (sound heard while its source is veiled, like Pythogora teaching from behind a curtain). The sound of chalk on a chalkboard opens the piece and gradually spirals out of reach as other “thoughts” enter the picture. Inner, Virtual and Time, Motion and Memory function as a cycle of sorts. They start with the sounds of human breathing, wind and a rusty swing respectively. The latter is particularly evocative, its structure allowing the listener to insert his or her own memories in the piece. Liquid Sky focuses on rain; the softness of its tender finale (a return to the pure recording of a rain in a puddle) couldn’t have provided better closure for this remarkable CD. All these sonic materials have been widely used by electroacoustic composers since Pierre Schaeffer and one must admit that Young’s works lack some originality. Nevertheless, his music is constantly lively, engaging and even entertaining. He comes from the same British school that gave us Jonty Harrison and Denis Smalley, but he manages to avoid the dryness usually associated with their work. Recommended.

… his music is constantly lively, engaging and even entertaining.

Critique

Philippe Robert, Les Inrockuptibles, mercredi 1 mai 2002

Riches et bruissants de vie, un kaléidoscope de sons concrets trafiqués. L’expérience à laquelle convie ce disque est celle des élèves de Pythagore qui écoutaient les leçons qu’il donnait, caché derrière un rideau - métaphore explicite de ce qu’est le contexte d’écoute acousmatique. Si les sons de la première pièce sont bel et bien d’origine «tactile», il est toutefois impossible d’en déterminer les origines. Toute possibilté d’identification brouillée, il ne reste plus que l’écoute attentive et déconditionnée. Ce que testent également les quatre plages suivantes, qu’elles amplifient le respiration humaine, dévoilant la richesse insoupçonnée de son spectre, qu’elles se servent du vent, source invisible et capricieuse par excellence, des rythmes sophistiqués de la pluie, ou des plaintes rouillées d’une balançoire dont le mouvement de pendule renvoit au temps qui passe. On l’aura compris, John Young inventorie les limites du bruit, lui offrant un réalisme nouveau paradoxalement puisé dans des sources concrètes rendues à l’abstraction par son travail de compositeur.

Riches et bruissants de vie…

Kritiek

SVS, Rif Raf, no 135, mercredi 1 mai 2002

Het Franse label empreintes DIGITALes biedt onderdak aan een resem al dan niet obscure avantgardekunsteneaars waarvan Robert Normandeau en Hildegard Westerkamp de bekendste zijn. Met Cycle du son betoont Yves Beaupré eer aan de legendarische geluidskunstenaar Pierre Schaeffer. Het vierdelige stuk maakt zowel gebruik van samples uit Schaeffers legendarische compositie Études aux objets als geluiden uit Dhomonts eigen klankencollectie. De akoestische clash van die twee werelden is een onheilspellend, maar altijd boeiend geluidsdecor voI glashelder resonerende klankspelen.

Humeur de facteur van Yves Beaupré is een klankencollage opgebouwd uit timmerhokgeluiden: geluid van en door allerlei voorwerpen, gereedschap, hout en dies meer. Die bronnen worden vervolgens via elektronica van hun identiteit gestrip en tot functioneel element van de compositie gebombardeerd. Het resultaat blijft over de hele lijn intrigerend en stuwt je door een vaak hallucinante dimensie van overheerlijke klankschepsels. De Nieuw-Zeelander John Young dwingt de luisteraar zijn van wonderlijke details voorziene La limite du bruit met een hoofdtelefoon te beluisteren. Zo fladderen de ratelende, druppelende en schurende klankes van Pythagoras’s Curtain zalig je trommelvlies in. Even fasciinerend is Inner dat aanvangt met het geluid van iemand die zijn adem inhoudt. Wat volgt lkijkt op een sonische tocht door de bronchien van de proefpersoon in kwestie. Of de geluiden in de hersens van iemand na het inhaleren van een overdosis N2O, wie zal het zeggen? Verbaas uzelf.

Review

Ingvar Loco Nordin, Sonoloco Record Reviews, lundi 1 avril 2002

John Young’s new CD on empreintes DIGITALes comes in a beautiful deep blue, with minuscule letters in black. You have to tilt the disc slowly against the light of day to read, but then again; who reads the text on the discs themselves? empreintes DIGITALes, with its completely original packaging (I’m surprised no one else has followed) supplies ample and full documentation on the foldout hard-paper cover, which you slide out of the outer cover. It’s very elegant and stuffed with information.

John Young (1962) is one of those prolific and talented New Zealand sound artists, whom we have come to appreciate very much. Personally I raised an eyebrow over his humorous and discerning electroacoustic text-sound piece “Sju”, which recently was released on a CD called “New Zealand Sonic Art 2000” from The Music Department of Waikato University in Hamilton, New Zealand. That piece deals with the different pronunciations of the Swedish word “sju”, which means “seven”. It is very hard for any English-speaking person to pronounce the word in a sensible way, but even within Sweden there are at least two major ways of pronouncing it — in fact according to social class, usually! — and a number of minor deviations from those major ways. John Young discovered the peculiarities of this word while residing in Sweden for a while some years ago, and hid deliberations turned into a little masterwork!

Though born in Christchurch, Young has a mixed background, inherited from an English father and an Italian mother.

His musical career took off more seriously with a doctorate on the manipulation of environmental sound sources in electroacoustic music. He then continued in the U.K. at the studios of the University of East Anglia, studying electroacoustic composition with another New Zealand émigré (Denis Smalley) renowned wizard of the audios, who has meant more than most for the furthering of methods and ideas in electroacoustic music.

John Young has lectured at the Victoria University of Wellington and at De Montfort University in Leicester in the U.K. He has also been a visiting composer at a number of institutions, such as the Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada and EMS in Stockholm, Sweden.

His focus has been mainly on the acousmatic aspect of electroacoustics, predominately on forms based on the distinction between recognizable natural sounds and computer-based studio transformations.

Track 1 is Pythagoras’s Curtain; a new work from 2001 with a dedication to Denis Smalley attached.

The first image is extremely palpable. Someone is writing with a piece of chalk on a blackboard, and the placement of the sound puts you right at the interface between chalk and board; you become that interface, and you almost choke on chalk! It’s a fluttering, scribbling dance of Einsteinean formulas, and you sway with the motions, dizzy headed and white with chalk-dust! Magnificent! The blackboard is in your head, right in between your ears, and the piece of chalk is poking around inside your poor mind — especially if you’re listening through earphones.

Young gradually twists the chalk out of the calculator’s hand, the sound moving sideways into a timbral vibrancy which eventually leads to… a watery sensation… via an incident with crumpling paper… and the winding up of some kind of clockwork — or mechanical toy, maybe — and the watery sounds show up in a sublime counterpoint with the chalk scribbling along, as an added sequence of someone erasing the scribbled messages is introduced, and aah, a balloon; a very popular electroacoustic sound source (Jonty Harrison, for example!).

This has got to be one of the most successful utilizations of small, close, up-in-your-face sounds ever recorded. The closeness is almost intrusive, and you feel like you have to whisk away some of the too close soundlets like mosquitoes in Lapland!

However, more distant jingle jangle sounds of hinges - actually, I think, from wet glass being rubbed - provide some perspective, opening the sound space from the very much closed-in to a more open view, where purely abstract electroacoustics move in hypothetical space. Many of the sounds that are introduced as the progression progresses are reappearing in different constellations along the duration. Young handles his sonic pallet with the utmost delicacy, making this piece one of the most exciting and enjoyable in a good while in my ears! The concluding golden timbres of Tibetan mountain passes with the taste of salty yak-butter tea in your mouth do not diminish the experience! Om Mani Padme Hum!

The 2nd piece presented is Inner, which won Young a first prize at the Stockholm Electronic Arts Award in 1996.

The sudden inhaling breath is almost shocking. Everyone can identify with physical sounds like these, feeling them right in the body of current residence. Strange elaborations on the breath result in distinctly metallic timbres, joined by cut-up breath, little shrivels of breath, fragments of life-supporting gases in shredded form, having me associate to some of the sound-poets of our day, like Henri Chopin or Bernard Heidsieck.

Sandpaper layers of air shift like wind in a sand pit, or on the west coast of Denmark where the grass in vain tries to stop erosion. Glissandi turning steadily upwards sound like a graph of terrestrial demographics would look, and voices start talking out of trembling glass, like the whispering spirits of horror at the San Andreas fault showdown… and a culture vanishes to an Atlantis state of affairs…

The auditory surroundings turn straight into a maze of unintelligible or very complicated sign language, where breath is only apparent as one human ingredient in a seemingly hypothetical or very theoretical state of mind, like were you hominoid, equipped with computer chips and complicated wiring, through which these insisting, intensive, alien sounds move, transmitting messages beyond your control, inside your own being…

Inner is truly a magnificent display of electroacoustic artisanship! It’s no easy or laid-back place to spend 12 minutes, but rewarding and intriguing. This boy makes trembling glass creak and talk, and just this property of the piece makes it a must for anyone drawn to this obscure art.

Track 3 is entitled Virtual. This piece begins fast and tight with a conversational flair, though nothing is said — and then a swooping desert wind sets in, like in Michel Redolfi’s “Desert Tracks”, for which source sounds were found in the Mojave Desert.

Overtones of sandy roughness sweep in and out in a layered noise display, sounding like a giant organ of air and sand rising above the desert floor, where you can see pillars of brownish whirlwinds dance like attentive cobras across the horizon, and the heat and the sand rubs the situation in, leaves no room for doubt; it’s a rough road ahead — but we like these ragged circumstances; backpacks and dusty trekker’s boots…

Much of Virtual consists of really fast, shifting, fine grains of sound; slices of white noise spread out like construction site blueprints, taken by the wind and rolled up like tacos filled with arithmetic and the whispering of willows and the voices of lost children out of TV static of exorcist movies… or maybe just the distant dying-down of jet engines of passenger planes passing under the horizon on a clear day, the sound spilling down through a crack in the heavens like a spill-over from another universe, from another dimension… setting your tympanic membranes in vibrating motion…

Big flakes of opposing forces fill the field of hearing, and the whole scenery is crowded with sounds that look like an endless high plateau filled with those South American ants that carry bits of leaves with them, in an ever-moving maze of ant-sails tilted this way and that way.

Time, Motion and Memory, composed in 1997 but revised in 2001, is track 4. It holds a dedication to Paul Rudy. Ellen Band’s “Swinging Sings” (1992) on Experimental Intermedia XI 124 also deals with the childhood swing. “Swinging Sings” opens with the grinding, whining sound of a garden swing, on which you easily portray a little boy, swinging to and fro in his own thoughts, absent-minded in a summer’s evening under the tree. I think most of us have pleasant memories of our childhood swings, and I still use the swing, sometimes, as a vehicle to hypnotic trance-states of the mind.

A high shrill sound opens this section, and soon a hint at hinges and chains emerge, but it is in a dreamy, far away atmosphere (memories of childhood; the hypnosis of swinging on a swing at the age of seven, shorts and a summer wind around your knees…) that these faded pictures appear, tinted by age and temporal amnesia; amnesia for all practical reasons, but called up out of the storage by this John Young music… and here we are; suddenly the swing right here in the present moment, loud and clear, chains creaking and squeaking! You sit on the old wooden seat, your fingers clutched to the chains. It’s amazing how close Young can get to a sound, making the listener feel like he is really partaking; that he is the one who is at the scene; the swing slowly moving through a leafy summer’s afternoon in childhood; life a bit sad, a bit on the melancholy side, but a long life possibly ahead, and Mom fixing blueberry pancakes back in the house…

The other aspect is the purely musical; how John Young takes all these swing artifacts and shoves them around, achieving a chamber piece for swings, right in the long-lost summer of our life, leaving us in the desolation of a longing for a lost golden age, when our senses were clear and unspoiled by schooling and common sense; when life really was the adventure that it really is!

I admire greatly the utmost compositional care that Young has bestowed on this artful work. Electroacoustic music is really all about composition, of delicate choices and a fingertip sensuality, if anything worthwhile is to be achieved. This work is an electroacoustic masterpiece, musically and mentally; emotionally, considering all the feelings this music awakens. I could live a long time in this music, without intentions, without will; just letting life and time flow through my timeless being in the Universe.

This CD is concluded with track 5; Liquid Sky, dedicated to Vendela and Isabella, makes me think of a piece called “Precipitation”, realized by David Arzouman in the USA in 1991, harvesting an award at Bourges the same year, in which a heavily manipulated rainfall gradually recedes back to its normal naturalistic sound. The gradual transformation back holds your attention completely alert all the way back to the wet pavement! Young’s work here also had me look up another rainy work of electroacoustics; “Droptrap” by the German composer Werner Cee, which won him a Bourges prize in 1993. His piece is made up solely of the sounds of six water drops, or rather many times six water drops, since the machine that Cee constructed and used handled six water drops at a time. He recorded the sound of the drops hitting different object with contact microphones, and the sound was not manipulated in any other way, just recorded like that onto DAT in real time. He could, however, decide how often the drops out of the six plastic pipes should fall, and so forth, but no filtering or anything took place. The effect is magnificent, and I must remember to listen to this work more often.

Apparently, then, the electroacoustic lust for water drops has not diminished, and for sure these falling entities, held together by their surface tension, are very practical to work with.

The beginning of Young’s Liquid Sky is less obvious as to source, the sounds appearing almost in the manner of wind and breath in preceding works on the CD. There is a lot of rustling, as of mice running through piles of newspaper paper, or of flakes of clay or ice shifting position under the force of the weather — but soon a recognizable rainfall moves in, albeit right away giving way to a kind of abstract weather, in which thunderclaps sound more like falling cardboard boxes or tumbling pillbox hat cases from old Bob Dylan songs…

Tiny grains of sound are interspersed with strong, wavy motions of audio, much like you would apply color haphazardly to a canvas in the more experimental decade of the 1960s. Howling electro-wolves spread moonlight eroticism at reflecting ponds deep down in the spruce forests of this music, and an occasional small fish jumps, its silver belly sending a ray of moonlight your way as you listen to this music which gets progressively more austere, more… enchanted… leaving you at the forest pond with a drifting mist and a fish that doesn’t show up any more, and it’s very still and a bit chilly as the CD spins down to its last revolution. Magnificent!

… truly a magnificent display of electroacoustic artisanship!

Autres textes

Deep Listenings no 24, Paris Transatlantic, De:Bug