This acousto-electronic Symphony concerning whale languages makes use of hybrid technologies, using mostly sampled sound in coordination with pure synthesis and electronic modulations. The sampled sounds are of musical instruments: violin, viola, cello, contrabass, flute, oboe, clarinet, trumpet, piano, vibraphone, harp, and percussion, among which are timpani. These have been changed and modulated to alter their pitch, their sound, and in the case of longer samples, their phrasing.
No samples of whale and dolphin sounds were used at all. In other words, the composer tried to “speak whale”, to “speak dolphin”, using human means, human musical instruments, and contemporary musical technology.
In the music of this album, the composer imagined a sounding musical stratigraphy, with partly eroded fossil sounds of instrumental music long dead, among which are remnants of human made harmonies, encased in a matrix of eroded noise. In the course of the work, one travels as if through geological musical time, gradually meeting more and more less familiar memories, artifacts, forms and substances, preserved and left behind.
This album presents a unique work for bandoneon and electronics, one of the rare few since David Tudor’s work “Bandoneon ! (a combine)” from 1966 started the genre. Vervelde compared Oneirology 5 to a cubist sculpture, like Ossip Zadkine’s “The Destroyed City” from 1953, which stands in the center of Rotterdam: from every angle it looks completely different. In the same way this music is also widely different depending on the listening, despite the fixed master version presented on this recording. All special sounds and bandoneon effects, percussive, bellows and air, rattling and cracking noises have been included. Vervelde was especially happy with how this album captured the unique tone of his bandoneon, quite different from his usual repertoire, where it figures in ensembles, not solo. In a way then, the unique character of this very special instrument was captured, but also transcended by the interactions with electronic sounds and the subtle live granular synthesis added to some bandoneon layers. Those who know the bandoneon very well will recognize all details of its unique tone and noises.
The 3 tracks follow a path of reverse deconstruction and unraveling, going back to the origins of this composition, and presenting earlier stages of creation as later tracks progressively. In this way the listener is not only able to hear details that might be hard to hear in the tutti version (track 1), but also the tracks become more introvert, while striving to keep their emotional impact. Gradually the clear and concrete music of We will never forgive you merges into the slightly more abstract The song without words, which is in fact a minus-two version, to be followed by the even more abstract Planet of the Ants, connecting to the sound universe of van Dillen’s earlier Dronescapes. The title of the last track explicitly refers to Dronescape 5 – Myrmecology, this time as a planet of the ants, which may be the very thing we are currently creating and heading towards. As mammals succeeded the dinosaurs, now ants may have a good chance to succeed the mammals, once extinct. If that happens, may they thrive and develop collective intelligence instead!
The making of Oneirology 4 is placed in the period of the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic. The two composers worked together meeting by a remote computer connection, which was a bit of a surreal situation when compared to the time before the pandemic, but people got used to a remote working, teaching, studying, and collaborating actually very soon.
The surreal element also actively inspired and influenced the making of Oneirology 4 and its basic choice to face the introspective side of the dream. The plot refers to the elements of drone and dream, those are already present in the original work and its title by van Dillen.
The development in this specific Oneirology 4 is influenced by artistic suggestions from literature and cinema, like the surrealism and the sense of estrangement of Lynch’s Mulholland Drive, or the dystopian dimension of Philip K. Dick’s novels, but also by consulted documentation on scientific research about sleep and dreams.
During the development of this album, Tournier remarked it almost felt like a trio sonata for 2 flutes and electronics, pointing at the closely knit counterpoint in sounds and pitches resulting. In fact, the work combines a classical sense of form, at the same time rigid and clear, as well as open and flexible, with the improvisatory element added. Classical then has to be interpreted in both the European and Indian sense, and this form bridges formal principles shared and developed along different styles across two continents. Existing forms were not literally used, forms such as the classical European song-form, rondo, or sonata from types with their clearly outlined sections and repetitions, depending on functional harmony to work, nor is there literal use of the classical Indian forms, depending on the gradual build-up in speed, register, and intensity, all to a single drone tonic. The Dronescape Oneirology is a far more adventurous and moving drone, in sound, dynamics, pitch content and form, and is not treated as background or accompaniment, but interacted with to create a larger story.
During the finalizing phase of the compositional process, the unthinkable happens, and Reason is again abandoned or abused in the larger world of politics, leading to a new global war, and to more polarization between people, to complicated processes the end of which may not be so near, the scope of which none fully comprehend. This has affected the admission of fearsome and ominous sounds in the second half especially, but since they still fit the larger theme, the work likely benefitted from this sad fact. Isn’t it time the old man-made myths were abandoned, all of them, to make place for a new and freer reality in which all humans can share and grow?
The work Jñāna – Rigpa is exploring the boundaries of autonomous drone composition, both in the sense of its duration (it has the longest single-track duration streaming platforms allow today), as in the sense of its minimalism of musical and technical means used. While creating an atmosphere of almost trance and meditation, it also serves as a means, a tool, for deep and inner reflection. Reflection on one’s own hearing is intended explicitly here: a music that serves to listen to one’s own hearing.
In Peter Brook’s 1979 film Meetings with Remarkable Men there is a scene in which musicians will attempt to produce a sound that will make the stones of a valley vibrate. In this re-enacting of a famous scene from Gurdieff’s memoires, Kudsi Erguner is one of the musician-actors performing on the screen. In the movie (and in the book), it is in fact a singer that finally succeeds at this, not the Ney. Oneirology 2 can perhaps be regarded as the ultimate attempt to amend this 42-year-old “failure” and enable Erguner’s Ney to finally accomplish this mythical task of producing a music with sounds that will eventually set a complete mountain valley into total vibration, this time in cooperation with van Dillen’s electronics/digitalics.
In our days, the world seems to be coming apart, coming apart again, we may be tempted to think, as humanity seems to have dealt with this before in the past. Indeed, there have been many past ages in which prophets of a kind have proclaimed the end of the world, with solutions offered within the context of their beliefs, mostly irrational solutions to irrational problems. Apocalyptic visions have thus helped establish many a tyrant in history. People that do not distinguish between belief and knowledge are tempted to believe that the current crises modern Science describes are no different from similar historical situations. There are vital differences however, among which the rational nature of the problem descriptions. Most importantly, this time we can objectively observe the crises in progress: today we are facing real and planetary existential threats, not just to ourselves, but to most life.
Myrmecology consists of a variety of simultaneous rhythms, working as polyrhythms, in six proportional tempi. These rhythms make up a variety of cycles by means of moving, changing, and developing, ostinati. Furthermore, these polyrhythms are enhanced by use of both binary (also quaternary at times) and ternary feel, as well as of microtiming. Microtiming is the rhythmic equivalent of the harmonic concept Microtuning, but the first is related to minute but precisely controlled differences in timing. The inspiration for this treatment of rhythm and polyrhythm can be found in various worldwide music traditions originally stemming from the African continent, many of which are using rhythm and (micro)timing as a means of emotional expression, as opposed to other traditions using (micro)tuning systems and/or harmony for emotional expression. Rhythm in this way becomes a polyphony in its own right, and in Myrmecology this is explored, over its two hours duration.
The source of the sounds one hears on this album is the very recently developed chaotic oscillator synthesizer Generate by Newfangled Audio, a very complex instrument, at times difficult to control precisely, at other times, in many simultaneous complex instances, threatening to overload the computer, and behaving unpredictably. Some of the unexpected side effects of the complex sound synthesis have been preserved in the end result. A small palette of carefully self-built just manageable sounds (patches) has been used in all three compositions. The complex sound sometimes resembles “real instruments” such as cello, trombone and (contra)bassoon, or bass clarinet, but this is an illusion, as can be heard when it moves through various registers: these are all purely synthetic sounds.