Dronescape 5 (Myrmecology)
Dronescape 5 is the fifth in a series of albums, containing new, digitally created, compositions by Oscar van Dillen. The work on this album was composed November-December 2020.
All works and cover art of this album were created by Oscar van Dillen.
Release date for distribution is set to 24 December 2020.
Download the CD booklet HERE
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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 5 (Myrmecology)
Similar to the other Dronescape releases, this album too can be considered to be an Electronic symphony, the 5th by Oscar van Dillen. This one-part work is called Myrmecology. This release features the composition in three sections for easier playback (and because modern digital streaming media surprisingly still cannot handle such large tracks at the time of this release):
- Myrmecology (section 1) – duration 35:43
- Myrmecology (section 2) – duration 30:17
- Myrmecology (section 3) – duration 54:08
Total duration: 2:00:08
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.
When using microtuning, an interval like a third has a certain width of possible intonations, expanding its possible expressions beyond that which a keyboard instrument (except perhaps the fluid piano) can express. In a parallel way, microtiming allows for a certain width of each beat and accent, leading to denser and spatial, hoquet-like results in packed passages. Some traditional examples of this phenomenon can be perceived when studying the rela technique in Hindustani tabla playing, and also the subtle yet stable and slightly offbeat interlocking patterns of Iya, Onkonkolo and Itotele of Yoruba Batá music.
There are 6 perceivable tempi in Myrmecology: 56 bpm and its “octaves” (double tempo) 112 bpm and 224 bpm. Because the 56 bpm layers are always performed with a (microtimed) ternary feel, this implies the triplets inferring a 168 bpm. As there are two higher octaves emerging of the 56 bpm, thus 2 lower octaves of the 168 also emerge: 84 bpm and 42 bpm. This is not mere number theory, but these describe the actual tempi perceived in certain passages, due to the resulting interlocking polyrhythms. The microtiming also ensures that occasionally simultaneous ternary and quaternary subdivisions can be heard. The tempo of the basic beat, like the central tone of a certain harmony, can move around, while still using the same building blocks; in the case of harmony these can be the twelve chromatic tones, in the case of rhythm these can be the various simultaneous subdivisions of beats in correct proportion.
Tempo, more popularly called beat, is therefore something one hears and feels subjectively. Tempo is a relative, not necessarily an absolute phenomenon, even though much music treats it as absolute. In notated music, the sheet music can be misleading about the resulting effect, this is true for tonal centre or key as well as for tempo and metre, technically: as key- and time-signature. In obvious cases it would be considered simply wrong to notate a waltz in C major with 5 sharps and in 4/4 time, even if the right notes carry naturals and all fit within the bars. The case becomes more complicated (and interesting) in music in which more than one key and/or more than one beat or metre can be perceived – here one reaches the limits of single meaning in writing (which in literature has its parallels in the works of Samuel Beckett and Italo Calvino, in philosophy Gilles Deleuze etc.) and musical notation loses its absolute character. Notation should in our 21st century music therefore always be considered to be a practical manual for performance rather than the attempt at absolute graphical representation of the sound of the music the 20th century avant-gardists wanted it to be.
An interesting fact is that the sense of tempo connects to our sense of heartbeat, in itself something of a biological ternary metre. The range of possible tempo, which means, that musical speed which we can humanly perceive, roughly corresponds to the heartrates our bodies can endure: more or a less range from 40 bpm to 240 bpm. With the aforementioned tempi this music realizes, one sees that more or less the whole range is explored over time: 42, 56, 84, 112, 168, 224 bpm are the six proportional tempi which emerge. In the transitions to another basic tempo feel, one can experience the music as a mirror for one’s own musical hearing itself, possibly a bit similar to the mental mirror of understanding John Cage’s Mesostics offer. As meaning in language is completely relative (there is no such thing as Plato’s absolute logos), thus meaning in music, more specifically here: meaning even in the sense of such a basic and primal thing as the tempo itself, is also relative to the things which happen and are heard, simultaneously and sequentially. Metre is 100% relative. A remarkable fact about western musical notation before the invention of tonality, is that this was a relative mensural notation up to about the year 1600: the rhythmical values of the notes could only be determined when carefully considering them in their context.
One can only experience time truly when takes a relative lot of it, so for these processes to be at all clear, a certain duration of the music and a certain patience of the audience are needed, rare commodities though they seem in our over hasted age.
Myrmecology, the title of the work reflects on the resulting acoustic rhythmically polyphonic superorganism. It is therefore also inspired by the works of E.O. Wilson. The composer found, in particular in his books The Ants, and Superorganism, but also especially in his recent works The Origins of Creativity and Genesis, food for thought about who we are as a species, as a human superorganism. The music does not depict crawling ants, but rather explores the very fabric of thought and meaning, connected to the simultaneous existence of a variety of individual interpretations within a greater coherence overall, by means of music. Expressed in rhythm, metre, and timing.
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 326