Dronescape 2 is the second in a series of albums, containing new, digitally created, compositions by Oscar van Dillen. The works on this album were composed July-August 2020.
All works and cover art of this album were created by Oscar van Dillen.
Release date for distribution is provisionally set after 18 August 2020.
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The title Dronescape suggests the contraction of the terms Drone and Soundscape, inferring a music which might at first sight be mistaken for ambient only. But not at a hearing: there is mostly a friendly and pleasant surface character to most compositions, but careful listening will reveal less obvious details and sounds, sometimes surprising, at other times perhaps disturbing.
In music, a drone (or bourdon) is understood to be a continuous sound, interval or chord, usually an accompaniment to a modal structure (melodic music based on a particular scale). Special instruments exist, dedicated to playing the drone only, such as the tanpura and the swar peti from India. Instruments are found all over the world that include drones within the melodic instruments themselves, such as the taraf strings on many Asian string instruments, but also the drone pipes next to the chanter in bagpipes, or the hurdy gurdy, and its predecessor the organistrum with their drone strings. Aboriginal didgeridoo music can be considered to consist purely of a rhythmized drone. Traditionally, drones with their sustained pitches are used as a harmonic support to the melodic music performed. In the Dronescapes by van Dillen the music itself has become rhythmized drone and soundscape at the same time, foregoing the traditional compositional hierarchies of theme and accompaniment, by using the following musical elements, in order of prominence: 1. sound 2. harmony 3. rhythm 4. melody. This non-prominence of melody stresses the absence of a traditional theme and accompaniment-oriented music, instead the work moves towards a more inclusive approach. This does not mean there are no developing linear structures, but rather that in a way the album can perhaps be regarded as being semipermeable to outside additions, whether coincidental and random (such as happening when listening outdoor or with windows opened), or improvised, or composed, or even as a large minus one recording, open to be supplemented by the listener, whether in imagined or performed future additional music.
Dronescape 2 (Genomes-Emanations)
This second Dronescapes album as a whole is of practically identical duration as its predecessor, yet in contrast to Dronescape 1 the works on this second album each have a cyclical or circular form, and each is of a rather longer duration. Moreover, the character of these works is more abstract and also more hypnotizing, mesmerizing, perhaps trance-like, but certainly dream-like.
There are 2 works on this album:
- Genomes – Dronescape on B flat (duration 40 minutes 33 seconds)
- Emanations – Dronescape on G (duration 27 minutes 30 seconds)
Genomes takes the idea behind Pulsations (from Dronescape 1) to a next level, distilling a far greater variety of sounds from the very same core samples which resembled heartbeats. It is solely composed of rhythmically used elements. The listener enters a hypnotic timescape, possibly evoking the inner sounds of some primeval soup containing amino acids, rhythmically bubbling, but then again a scraping breath is heard, and later some mechanical sounds, the latter probably referring to a less distant time. The overall ABCBDBA form can be said to have three “chorus” sections, in which 4 layers of prime number bpms tempi (239, 281, 313 and 359 bpm, but these are the resolutions of slower 5 part beats, each divided in 2-3) intersect and overlap, and 4 “verses” in which each of the 4 tempo layers is heard more to the foreground. Although the music never becomes a simple beat, nor uses a single tempo, and certainly no time signatures, it conceivably implies some dance as well. The choice for prime number bpms was made, because once starting off at slightly different points, they will completely coincide perhaps once only, if at all; therewith a rhythmically virtually endless development with ever new interferences is made possible. The beats and the 4 prime number bpms act like primal amino acids forming longer strains. The overal form is nevertheless composed as cyclical, despite the non-cycilical tempi.
Although the “chorus” sections each last for about 4 minutes, a certain modest hook in the middle of them is in fact easiest to be recognized in the swarm of half familiar structures: at 10’00”-10’30”, then again at 21’30”-22’00” and finally at 31’00”-31’30”. This moment appears three times, though differing in sound and volume, but these most clearly feature short solos of the 4 prime number bpm tempi. The final “verse” connects back the the beginning, although it has been given a short acoustic ending for the purpose of this release.
Emanations is composed from a set of 9 chords recorded on a Yamaha CFX concert grand piano, with various tunings, playing techniques, and recording positions. As to the latter, some chords were recorded with microphones close (close miked) and others distant with a more room sound, with more distant microphones. The full set of chords was recorded both una corda and tre corde. The latter is the normal grand piano sound, but to achieve una corda a grand piano offers the left pedal, shifting the keyboard and complete hammer mechanism, so only 1 string instead of the usual 3 are played at each tone; a softer, but more particularly, a much thinner sound. With a careful left-right panorama setting to each of the instruments thus created, a very wide stereo image of sounds is the result. Filtering and resampling modulations were added, as well as a minimum of transpositions, to create even more texture and depth, so the overall result has a wide perspective and a deep relief, developing over time. Briefly after the opening section, the piano transforms into what sounds like a muted string ensemble, later further transformations will follow.
Each of the chords was recorded in the following unusual microtonal piano tunings:
- A4 = 380 Hz – meantone tuning
- A4 = 415 Hz – Pythagorean tuning
- A4 = 445 Hz – just intonation tuning
These three tone unconventional non-triadic chords allow for the intended mixtures of the unequal tuning temperaments, because they are at the same time characteristic and open to other harmonies, so they allow for a wide range of harmonic and sound mixtures, so much so that at around 20 minutes, organ sounds (a wind instrument) were created from the sustain tails of the long sounding piano strings. In the complex microtonal mixtures sometimes traditional triads emerge. Such mixtures also transform into gong-, and gamelan-like sounds, quite remote from the original piano, but there has been no cheating: everything one hears has been meticulously created from the 9 microtonal piano chords only. Listening, we enter a rich introvert and microscopic world full of details revealed within piano sounds, that are normally hidden behind extravert musical gestures.
Like Genomes, Emanations also has a “chorus” (here at the beginning and ending, although references to this are heard along the way as well) and the resulting overall ABA form is composed cyclical. Between these choruses using an intimate piano sound, wider sound spaces are explored, and the piano transforms completely. What we hear is a close approximation of the sounds the composer heard as a young child every day, not knowing where they came from, a close approximation, intimate internal emanations. In his youth usually heard as loud as a radio playing somewhere, but when looking for the sound source it was never found, and the strange music simply faded out again, a personal Harmony of the Spheres perhaps. Reminiscences of similar worlds can perhaps be found in György Ligeti’s organ work Harmonies and in the slow part of Klaas de Vries’ Piano concerto.
More Dronescapes will be released on OIJ Records when completed. A word of warning: after careful listening, the world around you may not sound the same any longer.
OIJ Records – Donemus DCV 282