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Radio // Aparanthesi
aparanthesi A (2000-03), 30m00s [extrait]
Piste 1 de Aparanthesi
CD: empreintes DIGITALes (2003) IMED 0368
1 juin 2005
Par Tobias C van Veen in e|i magazine #4 (ÉU), 1 juin 2005


«… a prolific label for electroacoustic music as well as provocative experiments in conceptual sound.»

[…] 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. […]

blogue@press-968 press@968
1 mars 2005
Par Grant Chu Covell in La Folia (ÉU), 1 mars 2005


«The slow-moving layers create indeterminate hybrids rich in harmonics, and Oswald intuitively blends electronics with real-world sound.»

Plunderphonic’s instigator offers two glacially moving compositions, ostensibly two sides of the same coin. Each work begins with a thunderbolt multi-octave A that triggers long cross-fades and slow morphs. Both are parallel paths through the same landscape. Each piece is tuned to match American and European electricity’s pervasive hum, though this doesn’t completely account for their differing durations. (This inequality points to a prospective fascination with the pair: It’s hard to determine whether one is merely the sped-up version of the other.)

A Yamaha Disklavier piano contributes the source material’s bulk, but there’s also weather, a surreptitiously captured piano tuner at work, Joan Jeanrenaud’s cello, and birds. These aparanthesi progress gradually and deviously. You may frequently pause the disc to isolate that low rumbling (an idling truck or Oswald?) or that lightly spluttering sound (a running tap or Oswald?). Rarely does ea blot and mask the listener’s environment so well. The slow-moving layers create indeterminate hybrids rich in harmonics, and Oswald intuitively blends electronics with real-world sound. Audiophiles need to know that Oswald’s kit contains potentially nasty effects: cone flapping and extreme dynamic fluctuations. empreintes DIGITALes’ always elegant presentation (nested layers which must be unfolded to reach the disc) includes a lengthy composer interview.

blogue@press-6004 press@6004
15 janvier 2005
Par Ingvar Loco Nordin in Sonoloco Record Reviews (Suède), 15 janvier 2005


«This is a magnificent piece of fundamental research. I think we will give John Oswald a strong A for it!»

Chris Cutler wrote that John Oswald’s Aparanthesi is a meditation on listening — and it couldn’t be better said. That is the true nature of this piece, which, to begin with, may startle the average listener to the point of giving up… because what is it that you hear? Oswald supplies the longest liner notes I’ve ever seen, in an interview by Norman Igma — and I must say I found reading them quite useful, because the text sharpened and tuned my listening to certain properties and qualities that I otherwise may have missed, while all the while listening for something that isn’t there, instead of hearing what’s up front!

Still, this work — in it’s two versions — demands something of the listener. I wouldn’t call it easy listening… and perhaps you have to be in the business to really enjoy this more than a scientific experiment, a laboratory show-off. Knowing John Oswald’s approach to sound, though, I know his intentions are pure and honest — and we may extend our gratitude to empreintes DIGITALes who doesn’t shy away from issuing marginal releases from time to time, i.e. highly specialized ventures that probably won’t bring in a lot of funds, but which cast new light on the art of listening, the nature of sound.

One composer who unfolded the nature of sound already in the early 1950s — and who has never stopped — is Karlheinz Stockhausen, whose courses in Kuerten — and his seminars at those courses (usually amounting to about 18 CDs worth of talks each year!) — I’ve attended for a number of years as the official photographer, has made a distinction between seeing a number of objects in a constant lighting versus observing the same object under changing lightings… and he would be the right person to make the comparison, too, the way I’ve seen him work with both sound and light during endless rehearsals…

The key point is that we have to listen in a new way — a different way — to a work like Aparanthesi. The old, homey standards do not fit; they’re useless here, in which everything that happens at first does not appear to happen — since we’re naturally attuned to listen in a way that signifies an anticipation for what is not there; an elusive Godot that never shows up. We have to wish ourselves, with John Cage, Happy New Ears — and once we’ve got them, once we’ve ridded ourselves of forced concepts, we can truly enjoy Aparanthesi — and consequently other audibilities that we perhaps were not aware of before. I can compare it to my way of hearing birds before and after I turned an ornithologist. Before I just heard a maze of chirps, and after I could distinguish, I knew who was saying what, and I could, with my inner sight, envision beautiful plumages and migration paths and so forth; a new dimension of bird chirps! Anyway, the Stockhausen distinction above works fine concerning Oswald’s Aparanthesi, in which he works with a single pitch, the A, in version one at 440 kHz, in version B 480 kHz, i.e. the pitch of the electric current in the United States, from wirings, household appliances and so forth.

In Aparanthesi Oswald runs a number of sonic events or objects through the A mill, tuning a variety of sound sources — piano, cello, birds, cows, thunderstorms, wind and whatnot — to an A, tinkering with the overtone spectra, morphing the sounds in a way so that you really can’t say for sure exactly when a cow becomes wind or the piano a cello…

Oswald has calculated that it would be decent to assume that there are ten audible octaves, which is why he works with ten degrees of the A; dire dynamics! The composer investigates the possible varieties possible deduced from the single pitch A. Perhaps you could call it fundamental research!

He utilizes tow real world musicians for the piano and the cello, while all other sounds are derived from recordings of a variety of sounds; really any sound at all you can imagine, like birds and storms and voices — all naturally or synthetically tuned to an A.

When listening, be aware of the serious dynamics, because you may want to increase the volume dangerously when the level slips to the lower limit of hearing, volumewise or pitchwise, but then the sound may be so incredibly forceful and low-pitched that it will threaten your speakers. There are instances of cone flapping, so take it cautiously!

This is truly unfamiliar music to most of us, but why not compare it to the experience or theoretical experience of Rigpa, the state before all states in Tibetan Buddhism, that clear state of mind that can be likened to the sight of a starry sky as the clouds move away, that original state of consciousness out of which all thought-forms and consequent objects arise, and into which they sink back — like all sounds rise out of their original state of silence, into which they’re bound to sink; ashes to ashes, dust to dust — and silence to silence…

This is a magnificent piece of fundamental research. I think we will give John Oswald a strong A for it!

blogue@press-903 press@903
1 septembre 2004
Par John Keillor in Opus #27:03 (Canada), 1 septembre 2004


«… Oswald has sublimated his joker’s energy into this work of rare nocturnal intimacy.»

Three years in the making, John Oswald’s new digital composition Aparanthesi smirks less than much of this Toronto composer’s notoriously impish output. It soberly blends both electronic with musique concrète, exploring the single note A in two half-hour episodes, during which the As overtones are gently, continually re wrought: a pianos’ open octave gradually becomes a pure sine wave, then gradually a cello, and so on. There’s a foghorn appearance, as well as a moment of monks singing.

Along this timbral journey theres always action, in the form of overtone tinkering; each sound’s fundamentals are re-jigged to evoke new sounds. An attractive spillage of static and the wraith-like remains of sound waves seem to be ever circling the basic aural centre: the mooing of cows becomes the buzz of mosquitoes accompanied by radio static and spinning coins. The compositions two sections illuminate two approaches to two distinct As. The A of aparanthesi A is pitched at 440 khz, the musical tuning A, while the A of aparanthesi B is pitched to 480 khz, which is the electrical tone emitted by toasters, computers, and other normally non-musical appliances.

Both halves of this composition have a comparable fluttery of mysteriousness. The ideas behind their separate points of departure are scrupulously detailed in the disc’s unusually long program notes, wherein the only performance credit goes to cellist Joan Jeanrenaud, whose playing is engineered beyond any meaningful critique. But the recording’s overall soundscape is consistently impeccable, nelther glossy net sloppy, even at very low levels. The tiniest sounds are always leading the listener somewhere. The only flaw in the production is that cranking up the stereo is often necessary when Aparanthesi drops to near-silence.

This is not background music: unless concentrating, casual listeners wili miss about 95 percent of the material, which is often just a patient rustle of overtones shuffled around. But once its audience hones in, the subtly evolving colours captivate. Both sections have a dramatic arc, cast through degrees of sound density (more density creates more material to muck around with) as well as a few well-prepared contrasts. In this regard, those singing monks shine, as does Oswald, who has sublimated his joker’s energy into this work of rare nocturnal intimacy. In a medium saturated with straining academia, Aparanthesi is not only superior in its electro-idiomatic acuity, but it is also direct and unpretentious.

blogue@press-870 press@870
1 septembre 2004
Par Paul-Yves Bourand in Revue & Corrigée #61 (France), 1 septembre 2004


«Du grand art qui emporte l’adhésion. Fascinant.»

Biographie: coupable de tailler avec affront des costumes dans les œuvres des autres, pour les remonter ensuite à sa guise sans leurs accords, tout en conservant à ses emprunts un aspect reconnaissable. Multirécidiviste, s’est attiré les faveurs (et les foudres) de quelques tribunaux, suite aux plaintes d’épiciers dont nous tairons les noms afin de leur épargner toute publicité gratuite. Sur commande, s’est également livré à un hommage au groupe Grateful Dead (Grayfolded), d’excellente facture.

Mais que peuvent donc avoir en commun les locataires d’une volière, un anonyme accordeur de piano, la violoncelliste Joan Jeanrenaud (ex-manieuse d’archet du Kronos Quartet) et les grondements d’un orage précédant une pluie battante? Selon le metteur en ondes, de produire des vibrations de l’air aux alentours de 440 Hertz, le fameux la qui fait vrombir d’un même accord instrumentistes et vocalistes des pays occidentaux.

L’album se divise en deux longues plages qui prennent les formes de vagues sonores que l’on dirait filmées au ralenti. Celles-ci enflent, enflent, enflent, puis s’abattent et se répandent interminablement sur la grève jusqu’à leur dernière goutte (le silence). Avant que ne se produisent ces (fatales?) échéances, Oswald joue sur tous les registres des superpositions, entrelacements, juxtapositions, émiettant ses sources en des myriades de sons qui peuvent n’être qu’à peine perceptibles. De curieuses mues qu’une écoute distraite parvient à confondre en un bourdonnement uni et apaisant.

Pépiements, bruissements d’ailes et de feuillages, stridulations d’insectes, vol d’un moustique, ruissellements et souffles, crissements des chevilles quand la clef de l’accordeur les fait tourner dans leur sommier, vibrato obstiné de violoncelle, appel sourd d’une corne de brume, tous subissent peu ou prou quelques modulations hertziennes à l’aide de l’effet Doppler. Une mise en perspective des tâtonnements qui s’opèrent avant d’obtenir l’accord parfait.

Pour ce travail de longue haleine (en gros, trois ans de charcutages et de remises en cause) John Oswald a fait appel tant à ses réminiscences cinématographiques qu’à ses trouvailles antérieures (notamment sur Discosphere). La longue interview (insérée dans le livret) que le compositeur accorde à Norman Igma lui permet de revenir sur toutes les étapes qui furent franchies pour atteindre le résultat final. Le lecteur y apprend ainsi que certains motifs ont été effacés ou sont devenus inaudibles pour toute autre personne que l’artisan, mais leurs présences demeurent en négatif.

Des propos qui ne font que renforcer la stupéfaction qu’avec des matériaux aussi disparates (voire d’une banalité confondante), il est possible de rejoindre les papes de la musique minimaliste ou répétitive. Du grand art qui emporte l’adhésion. Fascinant.

P.S.: Dommage qu’aucune puissance divine n’existe, elle aurait sûrement aimé saisir l’occasion pour intenter plusieurs procès retentissants quant au sort que fait l’agenceur à quelques unes des créatures qui lui servent d’ingrédients.

blogue@press-877 press@877
23 juin 2004
Par Nilan Perera in Exclaim! (Canada), 23 juin 2004


«… I was as intent on hearing the next event as I would be in reading the next page of an amazing novel.»

The thing about John Oswald’s music that has always impressed me is that it is, quite simply, masterful. The sheer completeness of his individual works is something quite startling in and of itself: nothing, in my opinion, could possibly be subtracted or added. If you were to ask me about the “plundered” elements that form the music on this CD, I would say: thunder, the sound of water, single notes out of a piano, ambient drones, whispers and you’d roll your eyes when the new age warning buzzer would instantly go off. Nothing could be further from the truth. The two pieces on this CD total over an hour and they contain all the mystery, power and sheer craft of the very best orchestral classical music I have heard. It was a curious impression, considering the fact that I was listening to a sampled work, but one that kept recurring. My attention was not only kept, but I was as intent on hearing the next event as I would be in reading the next page of an amazing novel. The experience was very much the same. Some of the best plunderphonia to date, from the master himself.

blogue@press-883 press@883