La limite du bruit

The Edge of Noise
IMED 0261

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Radio // La limite du bruit
La limite du bruit
Pythagoras’s Curtain (2001), 12m24s [excerpt]
Track 1 from La limite du bruit
CD: empreintes DIGITALes (2002) IMED 0261
  • piste@imed_0261-1
    • 1
      Pythagoras’s Curtain (2001), 12m24s
      stereo tape
      • Premiere: April 4, 2001, Concert, White Recital Hall — James C Olson Performing Arts Center — University of Missouri-Kansas City (Kansas City, Missouri, USA)

      To Denis Smalley

      In electroacoustic music the loudspeaker can be thought of as a ‘veil’ isolating our experience of sound from other senses. This allows for a heightened appreciation of the aural dimension and creates a new listening context which Pierre Schaeffer called ‘acousmatic,’ after initiates of Pythagoras who received lectures with their master obscured by a curtain. For me the unique strength of acousmatic music lies in its potential to evoke for us ‘images’ of sound, as imagined reconstructions of sources and scenes, objects and environments as well as its capacity to project hybrid sound-worlds integrating sonic realism and abstract sonority.

      Pythagoras’s Curtain attempts to develop this aspect of the invisible world of electroacoustic music through sounds of intimately tactile origin. Departing from the ‘imagery’ these sounds might conjure (the hands, their gestures and their influence on sound-making objects) aspects of the structure of these sounds are electroacoustically ‘re-designed’ in ways that seek to obscure source recognition yet also retain a semblance of the motivating gestural energies and physical interactions. Through the emergence of this wider musical context, another Pythagorean veil (of abstraction) forms as a sense of realistic ‘cause and effect’ becomes increasingly remote.

      Pythagoras’s Curtain was realized in 2001 in the studios of De Montfort University (Leicester, UK) and premiered on April 4, 2001 in the White Recital Hall at the Conservatory of Music, University of Missouri-Kansas City (USA).

      piste@imed_0261-1.1 oeuvre@13866 ISRC CAD500214690
    • 2
      Inner (1995), 11m57s
      stereo tape
      • Premiere: February 23, 1996, Concert, Salle de concert — Université Concordia (Montréal, Québec)

      Inner extends out of the sound and sensation of human breath — from a visceral and magnified perspective. The starting point was concentrated listening to some straightforward electroacoustic transformations of breath sound. Because the spectrum of the sound is rich and noisy, as well as capable of being articulated with seemingly infinite variety, it felt almost as though a whole world of new sound identities might be heard ‘within’ a single breath sound itself. So following that idea I tried to draw attention to the way vowel-like colourations and the rhythmic contours of the breath can be developed and related across a range of noise-based gestures and textures. In seeking to anchor the sound transformations against recognizable sound, the gesture of the opening intake of breath became a key figure, hinting at a surface of realism during some of the more abstract extensions of the material. But perhaps one of the most important motivations for me as composer was the innate potential of the electroacoustic medium to exaggerate the apparent physical scale and presence of such a very intimate and personal sound.

      Along with Virtual, and Time, Motion and Memory, this work forms an integrated sequence of three electroacoustic works exploring movement between sound sources which are ‘internal’ and ‘external’ to human sensibility.

      Inner was realized in 1995 in the Electroacoustic Music Studios of Victoria University of Wellington (New Zealand) and premiered at Concordia University (Montréal) on February 23, 1996. The work was awarded first prize in the 1996 Stockholm Electronic Arts Award.

      piste@imed_0261-1.2 oeuvre@13867 ISRC CAD500214700
    • 3
      Virtual (1997), 14m08s
      stereo tape
      • Premiere: April 24, 1997, Concert, Victoria University of Wellington (Wellington, New Zealand)

      Virtual attempts to convey the idea of an illusory soundscape set in vibrant motion by the wind — an invisible and capricious source of energy for the ‘virtual’ objects in the space, the exact nature of which we are left to imagine. This idea extended partly out of my fascination with the process of making field recordings in the natural environment, where the wind is typically regarded as a pervasive and problematic intruder. But, in fact, the wind is often a part of the sonic signature of a place (especially in the notoriously windy city I was living in when I composed this piece). So I set out to record wind ‘noise’ trying to take advantage of the very active stereo play it produces across a pair of microphones (just as it does across our ear canals). Other sound identities were designed around this idea, mostly derived from turbulent air streams and tube resonances. I also attempted to give some of these complex sound shapes something of the spectral coloration of human vocal resonance, in an attempt to set up a sense of inanimate sounds taking on more animate behaviour. Linked to this are some characteristic patterns of spatial morphology within which these sounds evolve and transform.

      Virtual was realized in 1997 in the Electroacoustic Music Studios of Victoria University of Wellington (New Zealand) and premiered there on April 24, 1997. The work was awarded an Honorary Mention in the 1997 Prix Ars Electronica (Austria), Special Mention at the Prix international Noroit-Léonce Petitot (Arras, France, 1997) and pre-selected in the 1997 Bourges International Competition for electroacoustic music.

      piste@imed_0261-1.3 oeuvre@13868 ISRC CAD500214710
    • 4
      Time, Motion and Memory (1997, 2001), 15m33s
      stereo tape
      • Premiere: February 26, 1998, Concert, Victoria University of Wellington (Wellington, New Zealand)

      To Paul Rudy

      A swing was one of my favourite childhood playthings. Its gentle motion and plaintive sound opened for me a very intimate world of contemplation, fantasy and imagination. This piece could be thought of as a sonic environment in which transformations of the swing’s sound trigger dream-like associations and surrealistic juxtapositions of sound-images — where the co-existence of many sonic references might mirror the imagination’s freedom to form unusual and tenuously sketched connections. While the swing remains relatively ‘fixed’ in space, other environmentally based sounds cut across its presence, and the swing itself is gradually transformed towards the sound image of a giant pendulum.

      Time, Motion and Memory was realized in 1997 in the Electroacoustic Music Studios of Victoria University of Wellington (New Zealand) and premiered there on February 26th 1998.

      piste@imed_0261-1.4 oeuvre@13869 ISRC CAD500214720
    • 5
      Liquid Sky (1998), 15m57s
      stereo tape
      • Commission: Ina-GRM
      • Premiere: March 20, 2000, Concert, Salle Olivier Messiaen — Maison de Radio France (Paris, France)

      To Vendela and Isabella

      This work is an exploration of the sound-image of rain. In many ways, I felt the process of composing this piece to be one of revealing and expanding the myriad patterns and colors within the sound, normally noticeable only with very concentrated listening. Since I work exclusively with my own environmental recordings, I tend to see the compositional process as opening out of the richness of the act of listening itself, supported by the imaginative associations for which it can be a catalyst. Like many environmental sources, the sound of rain is extremely varied and, at least in theory, covers a whole range of morphologies from the individual droplet to saturated granular noise. In collecting source material I made numerous field recordings in different locations focusing on the sound of rain falling on different objects — such as leaves, windows and puddles — since it was clear that the variety of sound colors inherent in rain is largely defined by the nature of the surface it falls upon.

      In processing these sounds, I tried to think about these distinctions: the ‘granular’ aspect tending towards long-term development of texture, and the ‘droplets’ providing models for attack-resonance structures. But in continuing with this idea, my approach was not always subtle! In the studio I tried to expand the gestural rhythm by superimposing the dramatic amplitude envelopes of fireworks onto the dense textures of heavy rain. And, with the use of multiple grouped resonators, I was able to impose defined pitch structures onto the material, allowing slowly evolving inharmonic spectra to eventually have a central role in the piece. As a whole, Liquid Sky aims to convey the feeling of a larger-than-life immersion in rain, and an intensified view of a powerful environmental phenomenon.

      Liquid Sky was realized in 1998 in the studios of the Groupe de recherches musicales (Paris, France) and of EMS (Stockholm, Sweden) and premiered on March 20, 2000 during the GRM’s Multiphonies concert series at Salle Olivier Messiaen of the Maison de Radio France (Paris, France). Collection of sound sources and some initial processing was done at Simon Fraser University (Vancouver). The work was commissioned by the Ina-GRM. Liquid Sky won Second Prize at 4th Concurso Internacional de Música Eletroacústica de São Paulo (CIMESP ’01, Brazil) and was preselected in the 2000 Bourges International Competition for electroacoustic music. Special thanks to Daniel Teruggi.

      piste@imed_0261-1.5 oeuvre@13870 ISRC CAD500214730