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Recensie

Ben Taffijn, Nieuwe Noten, 11 février 2018
dimanche 11 février 2018 Presse

De Belgische componiste Annette Vande Gorne studeerde aan de conservatoria van Brussel en Mons en vond reeds snel haar bestemming in de wereld van de elektroakoestische muziek, in navolging van componisten als François Bayle en Pierre Henry. Ze studeerde bij Guy Reibel en Pierre Schaeffer in Parijs en vormde in Brussel Musiques & Recherches wat zich geheel wijdt aan deze muziekstijl. Een nieuwe stap in haar muzikale carrière vormt de vorig jaar bij empreintes DIGITALes uitgebrachte elektroakoestische opera Yawar Fiesta, op een libretto van Werner Lambersy, die deze weer baseerde op het gelijknamige boek van de Peruviaanse schrijver José María Arguedas.

Yawar Fiesta is gebaseerd op een ritueel dat de indianen in de Peruviaanse Andes houden, maar dat we bij meer volkeren tegen komen. Een mythisch gevecht tussen een gevangen condor en een in het dorp grootgebrachte stier. De titel ‘Yawar Fiesta’ betekent zo veel als ‘Bloed dag’ in het Quechua, de taal van de Peruviaanse indianen. Dit type gevechten staat altijd voor iets groters, bijvoorbeeld de krachtmeting tussen goed en kwaad.

Allereerst valt op dat Vande Gorne op bijzondere wijze de sfeer van de gebeurtenissen in klank weet te vangen. De stemmen worden op fascinerende wijze verweven met een grote diversiteit aan elektronische klanken en geluiden, waarbij je heel goed gewaar wordt dat dit geen opera is die op een toneel wordt opgevoerd. Leidend in de eerste akte, Condor (La veillée) is het stamhoofd, de bas Nicolas Ischerwood, die met zijn bezwerende stem het ritueel in goede banen leidt in de duidelijk hoorbare chaos. Bijzonder is het Lamento (Chœur des femmes I) waarin een vrouwenkoor de eeuwige klacht tegen onrechtvaardigheid verklankt. De heldere, transparante hoge klanken vermengen zich hier met de hoge elektronische klanken tot een schrijnend geheel.

In de tweede akte Taureau (Le défi) zijn we in onze moderne tijd beland, gesymboliseerd door de kakofonie van claxonnerende auto’s. Brood en spelen is hier het thema met een hoofdrol voor de tenor Lorenzo Carola. In Combattimento (Chœur des femmes II) komen we het vrouwenkoor weer tegen, nu betreft het burgervrouwen en de toon is direct minder dramatisch. De opera krijgt zijn voltooing in een afsluitende monoloog waarin twee innerlijke stemmen met elkaar in dialoog gaan: de stem van macht en veroveringszucht en die van lichtheid en innerlijke spiritualiteit. De twee stemmen die wij ook allen in ons hebben.

De uitvoering van het album is sober in de typische stijl van het label empreintes DIGITALes en in afwijking van wat we normaal gewend zijn, komt deze opera op een Blu-ray disc en wordt het verhaal voorzien van aquarellen en als u dat wilt van ondertiteling bij de poëtische Franse teksten.

De stemmen worden op fascinerende wijze verweven met een grote diversiteit aan elektronische klanken en geluiden…

Kritik

Frank P Eckert, Groove, 5 février 2018
lundi 5 février 2018 Presse

Dass sogar aus ernsthaft neutönender, akusmatisch elektroakustischer Musikproduktion so etwas wie Pop-Appeal herausklingen darf, dafür stehen die verspielten Kompositionen der Britin Manuella Blackburn. Petites étincelles (empreintes DIGITALes) versammelt fünf ihrer jüngeren Klangcollagen, die sich einerseits auf nichtwestliche Instrumente (wie die Shruti-Box) und Traditionen (wie Gamelan und indische Ragas) beziehen, aber genauso auch auf nichtmusikalische Klänge von Küchenspülen zu Standuhren. Für Blackburn haben noch die profansten Dinge ein Eigenleben. Überaus vitale und gutgelaunte Poltergeister klappern durch ihre Stücke. Hochauflösende Einzelbilder überdrehter Spieluhren im Zustand des Explodierens.

Pour Blackburn, même les choses les plus profanes ont leur propre vie.

Critique

Roland Torres, SilenceAndSound, 31 janvier 2018
mercredi 31 janvier 2018 Presse

Je dois avouer que j’ai une certaine fascination pour le travail d’Elizabeth Anderson, tant son travail acousmatique fait la jonction entre émotion et abstraction, viscéralité et cérébralité. Avec Trilogie Janus, la compositrice continue d’œuvrer sur des territoires où l’on retrouve son esprit sci-fi, fait de bruissements et de sonorités éparses qui viennent titiller les tympans de l’auditeur.

Inspirée du livre Owning Your Own Shadow — Understanding the Dark Side of the Psyche, de l’analyste jungien Robert A Johnson, Elizabeth Anderson oppose les forces et les modes de perception, jouant sur des formes d’abstraction qui ne sont pas pour autant dénuées de chair, enrobant son minimalisme d’épure formelle et de densité aérienne, nous tirant irrésistiblement vers un ailleurs décharné et tiraillé entre attractions antinomiques, s’attirant vers une dimension en constante évolution, bien qu’enchevêtré dans un espace-temps figé. Trilogie Janus s’inscrit comme une pièce envoutante de laquelle on ne ressort pas forcément indemne. Labyrinthique.

… la jonction entre émotion et abstraction, viscéralité et cérébralité.

Rifftides — Monday Recommendation: Crispell, MacDonald, Tremblay

Doug Ramsey, Arts Journal, 29 janvier 2018
lundi 29 janvier 2018 Presse

The daring American pianist Marilyn Crispell’s free jazz adventures have more than once been compared to volcanic activity. Here, Crispell joins the Scottish saxophonist Raymond MacDonald and the French-Canadian bassist and electronic adventurer Pierre Alexandre Tremblay. The project’s tectonic aspects alternate with moments so peaceful that they sometimes verge on the soporific—but not for long. That is particularly true in the beginning moments of Duo#1. It opens with percussive slaps followed by vague sounds that may be either from Tremblay’s bass or his digital equipment. Soon, MacDonald appears on soprano saxophone. He and Crispell are off on the first of the album’s duets, her sensitive keyboard touch ameliorating and occasionally abetting, his chattering exclamations. Duo#2 finds Crispell and MacDonald in deep musical conversation that incorporates spontaneous mutual phrasing reflecting not only creative compatibility but also uncanny conjunctions of rhythmic like-thinking.

The opening of Trio#1 is electronic, a bit ominous. A couple of minutes in, Crispell’s delicate, sporadic piano interjections begin mingling with Tremblay’s digital sounds as MacDonald’s tenor saxophone rumbles softly, then not so softly, then insistently. Before the track ends, the tenor melds into ruminations accompanied by wind chimes or their electronic equivalent. Through Trio#2, bowed bass and percussion dominate. The music is quiet and at the same time active. Trio#3 ends the album in an atmosphere heavy with portent that evaporates as the music slowly fades away. The listener—this one, in any case—is bewitched and puzzled, and listens again from the top.

… volcanic activity.

Interviews

Vito Camarretta, Chain DLK, 29 janvier 2018
lundi 29 janvier 2018 Presse

Montréal-based sound-artist, performer and composer Nicolas Bernier recently dropped a new release on the label of Acte community (grouping some experimental sound artists on an edge of innovation, who are active in Montréal area). According to the introduction by the label, Transfert / Futur, the title of this release “marks a shift from Nicolas Bernier’s rather reductionist approach of the previous series to a more expressive and colorful aesthetic.” We tried to find out the reason by talking to its author.

Chain DLK: Hi, Nicolas! How are you?

Nicolas Bernier: Fine! In the middle of the electronic music students concerts at Université de Montréal, so my head is (even more) overloaded with sounds this week!

Chain DLK: Before focusing on Transfert / Futur, some introductory words for the readers who don’t know you… first of all, how did the spark for experimental music (if you agree with such a way of labeling it) become a fire?

Nicolas Bernier: I think the desire for experimentation, to get out of the common musical formulas, has always been there. For instance, even when I was doing folk music (among other punk, post-metal, and every conceivable rock variation) when I was a teenager, I was the one plugging effects, pedal and distortion and playing progressive patterns on my, well, mandolin! Just the fact of playing the mandolin was experimental in the era of power trios.

I am totally fine with the term “experimental.” I actually quite like it, as it puts forward the ideas of trying things to get to a result, on the experience, on the sensitivity, which is one of the main reasons to make music or art. There is no experimental aesthetic, per se; it’s more a state of mind before anything else.

Chain DLK: You said Transfert / Futur is the beginning of a new stage in your artistic and creative path… could you tell us something about the previous stages and the way they interrelate with the present time?

Nicolas Bernier: … And maybe not a long stage, to be honest. I don’t know yet, but I don’t think it will live 7 or 8 years like the previous “frequencies” cycle of works. All my creative cycles are reacting to the previous one. The frequencies were following cycles based on machine and field recordings, so I wanted to avoid this noisy universe to get back towards more basic sounds. The starting point was the sine wave of the acoustic tuning forks, but also the electronic sine wave and micro-sounds.

The funny thing is, while my projects are reactions to the previous ones, the previous will always be included in one way or another in the current ones. The title Transfert / Futur is, in the first place, a way to talk about science fiction, which is the main topic of this new series. But, on a more technical and personal level, it is also a transfer of the previous series within a totally new context. The piece Transfert (299 792 458 m/s) started out by transferring to synthesizers the midi sequences I used in the very first piece performance of the frequencies series. The second piece, Futur (299 792 458 m/s), also started from an old, unused and unfinished synth-based composition that was actually my very first midi sequence I made around 2013, I think (before that date, I was refusing to work with midi and synth, working only with field recording in a musique concrète perspective).

Chain DLK: How many diapasons do you own? What’s the oddest one, and why?

Nicolas Bernier: That’s a good question. I’ve got a couple of drawers full of them, old to new, metal to aluminum, brown to silver. But I’d say around a hundred.

Most of them are just boring tuning forks, but there are a couple that are more interesting: a huge 30 Hz tuning fork, for instance, or the stroboscopic ones, or an old one from the Max Kohl Chemnitz company that was one of the main scientific apparatus suppliers in the late 19th century. But there is one I have a really special relationship with: the Secretan one. Secretan was the company who was commissioned for the official international pitch A=435 Hertz tuning fork in 1859 (before the norm was set to 440 Hz), the “diapason normal.” The tuning fork was once a really serious scientific and musical topic, and the official one was kept in a controlled environment so it’s frequency wouldn’t change over time; it was the Mother of all tuning forks. I don’ t remember how a Secretan tuning fork ended up in my collection one day, and since then, each time I open that drawer, I fantasize about having one of the most important artifacts of music history. But, I mean, it’s really just me inventing stories, as it is probably just another anonymous tuning fork.

Chain DLK: Most of the artists dealing with pure sounds or frequencies I spoke with told me they developed a sort of idiosyncrasy for “dirty” noises… What’s your relation to sound and noise?

Nicolas Bernier: With the frequencies series, I wanted to look towards some kind of purity… while staying well aware that I would never find it. And, frankly, I am not that interested in purity; I am usually more looking for equilibrium between elements. This search towards purer sounds led to a certain clarity in my artistic proposals, I think. I am not a sound racist: all sounds, whether purer or noisier or everything in between, can be of interest. It’s more a matter of how you organize your ideas and elements together.

Chain DLK: Did you use any of the machines you previously built on Transfert / Futur?

Nicolas Bernier: Nope. This album is 100% digital virtual synthesizers. So, pure in a way, but dirty at the same time in the way the elements are organized.

Chain DLK: Well… why did you quote the speed of light in the titles of Transfert / Futur? Any sci-fi-like reverie?

Nicolas Bernier: Basically, all my projects reflect my obsessions (my life is made of obsessions that usually stay for a couple of years, and then leave space for a new obsession and therefore a new series of projects). For the last couple of years, I’ve been obsessed with science fiction. Before 2014, Tarkovsky’s Solaris and Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey were basically 100% of my relationship with sci-fi, nothing else. But then I got hooked and I’ve been watching, reading and dreaming about parallel worlds, lasers, and humanoïds since then.

With the first project of the series was an installation where I wanted to recreate the feeling of the space travel scene at the end of 2001. So this is why I chose the speed of light as the main thread in the project, because my aim is to reflect those travels at light speed, those transfers to parallel zones, those spaceships full of neons and blinking control panels. And, well, the speed of light is saying that, as in my previous projects, I am still working with light, but with a different angle, a different sub-topic.

Chain DLK: The idea of attaching an interview (in French and English) in the booklet is pretty good…

Nicolas Bernier: I think so, too! It is something the label, Acte, really wants to keep in all their releases. It gives some content, some sense in releasing music in this era of unlimited downloads. A pretty exciting new label from Montréal, by the way, with a quite open-minded vision of what music should be in this 21st century.

Chain DLK: Most of the sounds in the second track synthèse (299 792 458 m/s) reminds me of something I did ages ago by short-outing circuits of some old drum machines… how did you create the sounds you included in this track?

Nicolas Bernier: This is quite interesting, as it is one more proof that the nature of the tools doesn’t really matter, whether they are analog or digital, old or new. Because, like I said earlier, this piece is 100% virtual synthesizers. No short circuits. All “clean” and planned, but composed in some kind of dirty ways that make it feel a bit improvised or out of control, even though it’s the complete opposite.

Chain DLK: Any word about the first half of Transfert / Futur?

Nicolas Bernier: In reaction to my previous series, one of the intentions of this new one is to NOT be conceptual, and transfert (299 792 458 m/s) is a good case in point. While I flirted with pop elements in my first releases a decade ago, I have always been away from the four on the floor type of music. This piece is a long ascension aiming to place a kick drum on every beat. In the end, the 4/4 stays a bit disarticulated, but we are pretty much as close as I get to more conventional rhythmic electronic music (aside from the scores I made for modern dance pieces, maybe). So it’s kind of a return to more intuitive and more physical music.

On the other hand, the visual, scenographic, installative or performative aspect is often an important component in my work these days. The music was composed beforehand and should then be able to live by itself as music, but in the end, it is also an audiovisual performance that pursues those science-fictional ideas. There is a glimpse of the performance here: https://vimeo.com/242128789.

Chain DLK: How are you going to move this new series of releases forward? Any installation in progress or in your forthcoming plans?

Nicolas Bernier: I worked for years on a quite important installation project, but for some reason (mainly financial) I had to abandon it. I’ve got tons of other ideas, but as soon as your projects rely on the fabrication of tangible devices, it gets complicated technically and financially. So the future will tell.

Review

Stuart Bruce, Chain DLK, 27 janvier 2018
samedi 27 janvier 2018 Presse

Trilogue Janus is a collection of three sonic compilations, each almost exactly ten minutes, and each made up of shorter sonic vignettes collated and contrasted into a soundtrack that’s mostly frenetic — there are fleeting moments of calm due to a reduction in elements but the pace never really lets up fully.

It’s all about the electroacoustics here, with sound structures made out of organic found sounds, electric sparkles, and various shades of noise. Pitches shift and bend across the stereo field, at times almost comically squeaky, at other times almost impenetrably rumbling and deep. It’s rough-hewn at times and definitely reminiscent of some of the more energetic and sinister-sounding moments of the Radiophonic Workshop’s back catalogue, to the extent that with the possible exception of the mastering and the breadth of the EQ, it would be possible to believe that this was recorded over 20 years ago, but it wasn’t.

While each of the three pieces have more than a few elements in common, opener L’éveil ends up feeling the most sinister, spending a lot of time in the lower registers, whereas there’s something a little quirker about Chat noir and its twisting of higher-pitched bell tones. Of the three pieces, Neon has the most sedate sections, with flittering noises that sound like digital birdsong opening up into a bizarre alien parody of an idyllic countryside-meets-beachside environment, though this shatters and rebuilds in a manner more akin to the other tracks after the three minute mark.

Trilogie Janus is also, notably, the first empreintes DIGITALes digital-only release. Format purists will slate me for saying so but a release with such dynamics and use of pure tone notes was never ideally suited to analogue formats anyway so personally I welcome the shift.

… organic found sounds, electric sparkles, and various shades of noise.