Nano-Cosmos Ana Dall’Ara-Majek

Cover art: André Parmentier, Les conditions du vide — Nano-Cosmos (2017)
  • Canada Council for the Arts • SODEC

… danno magicamente origine a una particellare forma di vita. Ondarock, Italy

A particular and inhospitable universe, which strikes especially when observed live… Music Map, Italy

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Nano-Cosmos

Ana Dall’Ara-Majek

Some Recommended Items

Notices

About Nano-Cosmos

Nano-Cosmos is a cycle of acousmatic pieces dedicated to insects, small arthropods and microorganisms.

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In the Press

  • Michele Saran, Ondarock, July 20, 2018
    … danno magicamente origine a una particellare forma di vita.
  • Gilberto Ongaro, Music Map, July 9, 2018
    A particular and inhospitable universe, which strikes especially when observed live…
  • Robert Barry, The Wire, no. 413, July 1, 2018
    … a universe quite distinct, both familiar and inscrutable, everyday and utterly alien.
  • Mirco Salvadori, Rockerilla, July 1, 2018
    … elementi di incredibile spazialità…
  • Frans de Waard, Vital, no. 1137, June 20, 2018
    … most enjoyable…
  • TJ Norris, Toneshift, June 19, 2018
    En garde, for a truly astonishing debut!
  • The Wire, June 1, 2018
  • Bad Alchemy, no. 98, June 1, 2018
  • Stuart Bruce, Chain DLK, May 28, 2018
    … a nicely immersive bit of complex soundscaping that you really can get into.
  • Roland Torres, SilenceAndSound, May 16, 2018
    Envoûtant.
  • Kevin Press, Badd Press, May 13, 2018
    … an accomplished artist in her prime.

Recensione

Michele Saran, Ondarock, July 20, 2018

Ricercatrice e nuovo talento della musica acusmatica, parigina ma d’adozione canadese, Ana Dall’Ara-Majek si fa notare per i suoi accompagnamenti a spettacoli multimediali, oltre a studi ed eventi per strumento ed elettronica, testimoniati in un primo Air (2014). I suoi primi poemi interamente elettroacustici sono invece raccolti su Nano-Cosmos, pubblicato dalla storica Empreintes Digitales.

Akheta’s Blues (2012-13) è uno studio sulla densità e la multidimensionalità del suono, ottenuto attraverso l’interazione di tre sorgenti, una di pulviscoli elettronici casuali e due concrete, relativamente regolari, un fruscio in bassa definizione e un bordone austero (la componente “blues” del titolo): alla fine i tre danno magicamente origine a una particellare forma di vita.

Diaphanous Acarina (2015), più quieta e misteriosa, ma puntellata di conglomerati di registrazioni a scatti e fitte violente, è l’abbozzo per la mesmerica, sottile trascendenza di Pixel Springtail Promenade (2014-15), un susseguirsi di rumori, conversazioni, vita di strada, tutto sopra un bordone oscillante che poi diventa solenne drone sinfonico, mentre lo scenario muta in naturalismo pluviale, e infine in definitiva quinta aliena. Xylocopa Ransbecka (2017) è una piccola maratona di calligrafie automatiche (bolle elettroniche, sciacquii, tremori e clangori), che prende un curioso aspetto unitario — una serie di variazioni timbriche sul ronzio — fino a un potente sfiato di chiusa.

Antologia ispirata volta per volta da un tipo d’insetto, sia tramite ricerche in loco, a guisa d’entomologa, sia per vie fortunose, come in Xylocopa Ransbecka, quando è proprio capitato nel bel mezzo della registrazione, fino a modificarla in corso d’opera. Un caso non certo frequente di naturalismo sovrannaturale. Così come non sono molti gli eguali in unità d’intenti, precisi e scientifici, mezzi, sfruttati quasi sempre per tessere legami dimensionali e tener alta l’attenzione, e riferimenti, da Stockhausen a Parmegiani, oltre ovviamente alla mitica Ecole.

… danno magicamente origine a una particellare forma di vita.

Recensione

Gilberto Ongaro, Music Map, July 9, 2018

Ana Dall’Ara-Majek è una compositrice canadese, che fa dell’esplorazione dei rumori digitali la propria cifra stilistica. Nelle sue performance utilizza il theremin in maniera non convenzionale, circondata da ingegneri del suono ai Mac e affiancata talvolta da un performer che sposta nell’aria una tavoletta collegata al theremin, che come un caos pad genera disturbi sonori che nell’album Nano-Cosmos (appena uscito per Empreintes Digitales Records) diventano il collante fondamentale di tutto. Le tracce traggono ispirazione dal microuniverso dei batteri, con i loro movimenti repentini e la loro consistenza amorfa. Bollicine sintetiche in Akheta’s Blues si riverberano nell’aria sopra al rumore di passi, ottenuti tramite sfrigolio degli input noise, e l’effetto è quello di una passeggiata in una notte umida, dentro ad un nugolo di moscerini. Ci si focalizza poi su quel piccolissimo nemico, tanto minaccioso per molti di noi, l’acaro, dandogli una connotazione trasparente, quasi pura e diafana: Diaphanous Acarina è una traccia con molte diverse stanze, e contiene suoni microscopici. E se questi parassiti iniziassero a cantare tutti? Bacillus Chorus ci dà l’esempio di come potrebbe essere una discussione tra i bacilli, sempre affiancata dai disturbi sonori umani. Pixel Springtail Promenade è un viaggio di 15 minuti, montato come le scene di un film; succedono cose in una parte, altre in un’altra parte e a turno ascoltiamo gli aggiornamenti simultanei in corso di ogni capitolo. Tra un lontano galoppo di cavallo da un lato, dall’altro bambini al parco, poi una strada trafficata di pedoni, un suono acido che diventa predominante, in corrispondenza all’intensità urbana che aumenta a vista d’occhio… C’è una parte leggermente più musicale in senso stretto: suoni ridondanti di archi, che si mescolano ai batteri sonori, sempre più acuti. Una porta si chiude e si passa al secondo tempo, fatto di carte spostate e ipotetiche uscite di casa nella notte, dato che a giudicare dall’ascolto si percepiscono anche quei suoni tipici della notte cittadina. Tornano i batteri e gli archi, a volume maggiore rispetto a prima, e c’è un climax molto forte che ci porta al suono di una sveglia. Solo che invece di risvegliarci, cadiamo in un sonno ancora più profondo, entrando in un sogno dove si avverte la fauna, tra ranocchi, cani e versi di animali elettronici resi inafferrabili. Una sensazione simile si ha in Xylocopa Ransbecka, dove dopo porte e portoni che si chiudono, e un gatto che chiede attenzione, ci immergiamo nella microrealtà, tra stafilococchi e protozoi. Tale microrealtà viene deformata a tal punto da perdere ogni riferimento sia musicale che rappresentativo. Diventa surreale. Durante una pioggia battente, riesce ad inserirsi una sinfonia di mosche, ingrossata dal pitch in modo che poi divengano suoni simili a quelli del sax (altro strumento di cui Ana ha collaborazioni nei suoi lavori). Infine, riverberi da 2001 Odissea nello Spazio ci rendono una spazialità ampia che contrasta con l’infinita piccolezza dei germi. La traccia termina con l’elaborazione della pioggia, che da realistica diventa elettronica fino ad affinare il suono e renderlo impercettibile. Un universo particolare e inospitale, che colpisce soprattutto se osservato dal vivo, unito alla performance corporea e visual.

A particular and inhospitable universe, which strikes especially when observed live…

Review

Robert Barry, The Wire, no. 413, July 1, 2018

There’s a track on SoundCloud that periodically goes viral on social media, accompanied by the usual expressions of astonishment and high emotion that that medium demands. It sounds like a heavenly choir singing in perfect diatonic harmony, but the accompanying blurb claims it as no more than a recording of massed crickets slowed down in extremis.

It’s not, of course. Or at least, not without significantly more manipulation than that implies. But the popular hoax finds an uncanny echo in the first track on composer Ana Dall’Ara-Majek’s new album on Québécois label empreintes DIGITALes.

The title track Akheta’s Blues refers to the cyclical song of the Acheta domesticus, that is the common house cricket. And though Akheta’s Blues offers significantly more melodic and rhythmic sophistication thans its online predecessor, all skittering rhythms and unearthly howls, sudden bursts and implacable rustles, it is nonetheless a piece of tonal electroacoustic music, its variant layers related harmonically and arranged according to melodic leitmotifs. The approach is typical of Ana Dall’Ara-Majek, a Paris born composer with a PhD from the University of Montréal and a particular interest in electroacoustic analysis. The track works through precise, granular detail to discover the music hidden in things, to eke it out and elaborate it compositionally.

All the tracks on Nano-Cosmos are inspired by, extracted from, or somehow dedicated to the indra-world of creepy crawlies and micro-organisms. Diaphanous Acarina takes you into the society of mites that live on vine leaves as seen through a microscope. Bacillus Chorus, as the name suggests, os a chorus of bacteria, developed with the RSF Kobol synthesizer and structured according to processes of binary fission and incessant contamination. Pixel Springtail Promenade evokes arthropods as small as computer pixels. Xylocopa Ransbecka goes in search of an errant carpenter bee from the macro world of human-audible field recordings to a micro world of glitches and electrical swirls.

The album collects works composed since 2012 in a wide variety of formats — in some cases reducing a 16-channel surround set-up down to a stereo mix. But in no case does that reduction inhibit the listener’s sense of entering into a universe quite distinct, both familiar and inscrutable, everyday and utterly alien.

… a universe quite distinct, both familiar and inscrutable, everyday and utterly alien.

Recensione

Mirco Salvadori, Rockerilla, July 1, 2018

Quando si entra in territorio acusmatico la percezione cambia, è d’obbligo. Il suono viene ripartito tra vari altoparlanti e richiede l’immersione totale nella sua stessa materia per essere recepito. Il sound artist passa in secondo piano, pur essendo l’esecutore e il creatore della partitura, si pone in ombra rispetto al suono che trasmette. Cerimonie che forniscono elementi di incredibile spazialità, in special modo se l’offerta riguarda i micro-cosmi elettroacustici e la loro rappresentazione attraverso l’improvvisazione, la specialità della compositrice, sound artist e ricercatrice canadese Ana Dall’Ara-Majek. Contemporaneità Immersiva.

… elementi di incredibile spazialità…

Review

Frans de Waard, Vital, no. 1137, June 20, 2018

Here we have a composer from Montréal, where she got a doctorate in composition at the University in [2016]. Besides working with others in composing and performer, Ana Dall’Ara-Majek organises computer music programs and has a duo with Ida Toninato called Jane/KIN. “Nano-Cosmos is a cycle of acousmatic pieces dedicated to insects, small arthropods and microorganisms”, it says on the cover. There are five pieces on this release, usually created for a multi-speaker set-up, but here traveling from two speakers to your ears. The microscopic look at insects, bacteria and other hardly visible creatures lies at the basis of the music, which in all five pieces seem to consist of lots of small sounds. Sometimes these are heavily clustered together, thus from some drone like pattern (or two), but the can also appear like a swarm, all appearing seemingly random and chaotic, although they probably are not. It seems as if some of these sounds are voice like, almost singing, like in Bacillus Chorus, but surely the title of that piece was perhaps leading me on. Dall’Ara-Majek doesn’t seem to be using all these granular processes that sound like slides, going up and down that some of the composers who record for this label are known for, but throughout she seeks an extremer sound, with deep bass bumps and high end hiss, such as in Pixel Springtail Promenade, yet she also never betrays her roots in serious electronic music. She uses quite a bit of field recordings, although not always recognizable as from the land of microcosmos. In the final piece, Xylocopa Ransbecka one recognizes the sounds of wood doors; in the text she explains how sees that relation and yes, that works well. Also within the context of the whole CD it works pretty well. Throughout a most enjoyable, me thinks.

… most enjoyable…

Review

TJ Norris, Toneshift, June 19, 2018

Montréal-based Parisian Ana Dall’Ara-Majek is releasing her breakout debut, Nano-Cosmos on Empreintes DIGITALes (CD/DL). The label has been producing high quality records back to 1990 and often remains coolly under-the-radar often celebrating some of the best French Canadian electroacoustic music work, paralleling anything out there. Dall’Ara-Majek is also one half of the multidisciplinary duo Jane/KIN (w/Ida Toninato). But here on her own these five pieces composed between 2012-17 explode with exuberant, innovative flourishes that tickle the most challenged of eardrums. Normally I might write a review after a single listen, this is riddled with complexities, requiring multiple spins, not to understand, but to appreciate its breadth of nooks and crannies.

The record begins with the earliest track, Akheta’s Blues, which starts off with a tingly series of electronic bleeps and earthy-crunchy footsteps. A distant horn shimmers into a light symphonic outbreak, with active fore/backgrounds this is quite a dynamic recipe of in-situ effects, the only slim similarity I can think of is perhaps some of the critical work of Illusion of Safety (Dan Burke). The oblique dissonance is strikingly live in nature. The rustling is playful yet tectonic. Diaphanous Acarina uses a drone emission and microsound, stretched over a skeleton of regret.

Bacillus Chorus was realized in 4 channels at the blue spider studio in Montréal (Québec) in 2016 and was premiered on august 7, 2016 at the Internationale Ferienkurse für Neue Musik at Centralstation in Darmstadt (Germany). It was commissioned by the Distractfold Ensemble. Thank you to Christine Groult and Marco Marini for those wonderful days of improvisation on the RSF Kobol synthesizer in the electroacoustic studio at the conservatoire de Pantin (France).

There is a mythical tale woven here, something beyond the naked eye, microscopically synthesized. This is a timeless piece that could have been recorded two decades ago for Trente Oiseau, Plate Lunch or Mille Plateaux, but is most insistently flash-forward. Next is the unsettling Bacillus Chorus, filled with a “for the birds” squealing pitch retrofit over a covered percussion and space laser effects. For lovers of electronic music, there is no time but the present to revel in such evolving, shape-shifting patterns and textures as there are on Nano-Cosmos. The endless experimental intricacies here are an eyelash short of numbing, meaning this will lull and excite simultaneously.

Pixel Springtail Promenade starts off with a minimal ghostly drone and a bit of electro-static, bathed in a vague industrial guise, and field recordings from a playground and other building blocks. It sharp cuts from looming-danger quietude to the harsh realities of the outdoors, nature, people, trotting horses and machinery. Connecting the dots is a mad scientist at the boards, processing the overall picture, playing god/dess ala Westworld. Yes, it seems like a classic machine vs man vs manipulated memory scenario, one where multiple realities could possibly ring true. In this way the piece draws from a seemingly encyclopedic style of samples and processes that are in essence an audio storyline. I’m just imagining this being developed for AI, and how one might lose themselves in the pageantry of pastiche and sensory overload.

Xylocopa Ransbecka was realized in 16 channels in the Métamorphoses d’Orphée studio at Musiques & Recherches in Ohain (Belgium) in 2017 and was premiered on april 25, 2018 as part of the Électrobelge concert at Espace Senghor in Brussels (Belgium). Thanks to Annette vande Gorne for the residency at Musiques & Recherches (Ohain, Belgium).

Xylocopa Ransbecka: The album concludes with chirping birds as heard through the right and left channel separately as the third-person is inside a vehicle of some sort, letting the sound in, becoming silenced, then bird songs metamorphosize, becoming a flurry of tape manipulations, it’s a marvelous transition. It’s a tangle of jangling amplified percussive pleasures, stops and starts with constant activity. There are moments where I’m recalling the quirky side of Esquivel of all references, but this is far from groovy. No, instead, a rush of layered sounds become a fiery avalanche, the timbre of timber, lit and doused with the sass of light rain, and suddenly you are comparing the buzz to bees and race cars to chainsaws. What the recording truly has in its pocket is its ability to throw the listener off guard, into an imaginary morphing world where nothing is at it initially appears. En garde, for a truly astonishing debut!

En garde, for a truly astonishing debut!

Tracks: Office Ambience 413

The Wire, June 1, 2018

[…] a selection of tracks played at The Wire HQ during the making of our July 2018 issue […] Ana Dall’Ara-Majek, Nano-Cosmos […]

Review

Stuart Bruce, Chain DLK, May 28, 2018

Composed across a period of more than five years, Nano-Cosmos is a five-piece cycle of acousmatic pieces dedicated to insects, small arthropods and microorganisms. Fifty-three minutes of arhythmic granular clicks, glitches and sharp biology lab sounds running over long drones, tuned synthetic hums, irregular heartbeat sounds and electric growls, it certainly emphasises how alien the microscopic world is relative to what we would call familiar.

If you’re squeamish, don’t worry — despite being rooted in biology, sonically there’s quite a digital flavour to it, often sounding more sci-fi than organic, particularly in pieces like Bacillus Chorus or the expansive synth opening of Pixel Springtail Promenade. The biological aspect exhibits itself as much in the unpredictability as in the tones themselves.

Pixel Springtail Promenade is a notable highlight, a self-contained 15-minute work in many sections where the synthetic pads evolve into larger more orchestral sounds with a luxuriant quality that emphasises the dichotomy of the insect clicking noises — twisting into weirdness towards the end with a soundscape that to my ear sounds decidedly more like a frog chorus than insects.

Final piece Xylocopa Ransbecka is also an opus, accompanied by the hard-to-beat conceptual description: “features a carpenter bee and twenty doors, recorded in Belgium”. After a series of disorientating vignette-style sections, again more orchestral elements appear in the second half, building steadily to an almost conventional crescendo that then devolves into a digital equivalent where the insectoid clicking and glitching multiples exponentially until we approach white noise. It’s a fitting finale, both successful and strange.

Inspired by and sourced from a selection of very specific biological phenomena, this release really does seem to blur the lines between music and science — and the result is a nicely immersive bit of complex soundscaping that you really can get into.

… a nicely immersive bit of complex soundscaping that you really can get into.

Critique

Roland Torres, SilenceAndSound, May 16, 2018

Ce n’est pas la première fois qu’un artiste nous plonge dans les profondeurs de l’infiniment petit, mais ce que réussit à réaliser l’artiste installée à Montréal, Ana Dall’Ara-Majek est une prouesse sonore qui se doit d’être saluée.

Construit ou inspiré par les sons émis de divers insectes et micro-organismes, Nano-Cosmos est un concentré de field recordings et de triturations auditives, trouvant leurs sources à travers ce que nous côtoyons, sans pour autant prendre conscience de leur existence.

Qu’ils soient bactéries, grillons, acariens, abeilles ou collemboles, Ana Dall’Ara-Majek construit 5 titres autour de tous ces organismes vivants, mettant à la lumière une histoire qui leur est propre, regard du monde de l’invisible et de l’inaudible.

Cette œuvre acousmatique resitue deux univers qui se touchent et cohabitent, superposant bruits naturalistes et recherche sophistiquée, électro-acoustique et sensations issues de notre environnement quotidien, faisant surgir un conte abstrait à la volupté micro-labyrinthique. Envoûtant.

Envoûtant.

Review

Kevin Press, Badd Press, May 13, 2018

This ear-tickling electroacoustic beauty comes from Montréal’s Ana Dall’Ara-Majek. Born in Paris, she’s a composer and sound artist who earned her PhD in composition at the Université de Montréal in 2016.

Dall’Ara-Majek describes Nano-Cosmos as “a cycle of acousmatic pieces dedicated to insects, small arthropods and micro-organisms.” It’s not difficult to imagine that if our hearing was strong enough to listen to the various bugs and other small organisms around us, the world would sound very much like these extraordinary five pieces.

The work is not all clicks and beeps though. Pixel Springtail Promenade (2014-15) for example incorporates field recordings of voices and public spaces that deliver welcome contrast. As much as this is an album of fascinating, beautifully produced sounds, it is a demonstration of Dall’Ara-Majek’s extraordinary compositional style.

Electroacoustic music is most powerful when it’s in the hands of an imaginative producer. It’s one thing to bring together a palette of interesting sounds. It’s another thing to piece them together in a manner that draws out thought-provoking contrasts and surprising connections. Nano-Cosmos has plenty of all this.

At just 38, Dall’Ara-Majek has already earned herself an international reputation. Her music has been featured at a long list of European and North American festivals that includes Sound in Space, Multiphonies, L’Espace du son, Sincrónic, Sound Travels, Akousma, Internationale Ferienkurse für Neue Musik and Elektro Arts.

And she’s a sought-after collaborator. Ida Toninato is a regular partner in their duo Jane/KIN. She’s worked on a variety of theatre, dance and film projects and has composed for a host of chamber music ensembles.

This new recording is the product of an accomplished artist in her prime.

… an accomplished artist in her prime.

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