Elements 20: Calcium
Elements 20: Calcium is the eighth album in a series of music on the Elements, a very large work in progress consisting of electronically/digitally created architectural music compositions by Oscar van Dillen.
The work on this album was composed, recorded, and produced November – December 2022. All works, cover art and booklet of this album were created by Oscar van Dillen.
The other albums in this series so far, in order of release:
- Elements 1: Hydrogen Deuterium Tritium H D T
- Elements 118: Oganesson Og
- Elements 6: Carbon C
- Elements 8: Oxygen – Ozone O
- Elements 14: Silicon Si
- Elements 7: Azote N
- Elements 2: Helium He
- Elements 15: Phosphorus P
- Calcium 36:15
Total duration: 36:15
The CD booklet can be found HERE.
Ways of Listening to the Elements
The series Elements consist of digital compositions which have a more static, installation-like character, crossing the border between musical and spatial composition, linking up music and architecture, both arts concerning Space.
It is a remarkable feature of human anatomy that the inner ear is the organ that perceives sound as well as space. Inside in the cochlea resonating crystals distinguish the frequencies within sound. Outside on top of the same organ there are the three half-circles of the Labyrinth, perceiving spatial movement along an XYZ axis system.
The direct perception of 4-dimensional space-time itself can be seen in this essential part of our anatomy: one organ handling perceptual elements of both space and time in unison.
Space, in the perception of XYZ orientation on the inside of the Labyrinth: spatial movement and balance. Time, or rather the inverse of time in Hz and frequency cycles/s in the perception of pitch on the inside the Cochlea.
Van Dillen’s compositions in the series Elements can be listened to in several ways. Traditionally these are: privately over loudspeakers or headphones, or in a concert situation, that somewhat awkward setting where a group of interested people are sitting immobile and listening to what comes out precorded out of a professional loudspeaker system, with no apparent performers in sight.
Each of the Elements is created to be able to stand on its own, as a deeply composed and serious work of art, to be enjoyed on its own. Yet the Elements series as a whole has also been conceived to work and sound together as a larger ensemble: a potential meta-symphony of works, to be exhibited and enjoyed in an architectural sound installation of a variety of Elements set to play on repeat.
For installation playback of the series Elements, van Dillen proposes this option of creating simultaneously playing (looping) versions of various Elements widely spaced apart over a large space or several neighbouring spaces. Listeners could actively move around through the music or choose to linger or sit in certain spots for some time.
Also at home, a smaller version of an installation can be realized by playing several (looping) compositions in adjacent rooms, so they somewhat overlap and audibly interact. The only thing needed is one playback device per home installation element.
It is the composer’s wish that he himself as well as others will be able to create an ever-evolving range of different choreographies for various architectural installation performances of these works in the future, of diverse sizes and durations, ranging from the very intimate to the truly monumental and in everything between.
If such architectural installations would be placed in a museum, they would allow interaction with visual arts as well, but they could also be put in very dark settings.
Meanwhile at home, the listeners are challenged to DIY DJ and mix two or more of these compositions and turn one’s home into a personal theatre or museum.
A degree of inclusion of the listener into the process of creation can thus be achieved.
Elements of both Music and Chemistry
The Elements referred to in the title are obviously the chemical elements: the very first of the periodic table of which is Hydrogen with its remarkable isotopes Deuterium and Tritium, the only isotopes with their own chemical abbreviation. Less obvious from the titles is the use of Elements of Music, as described in his original approach to composing: his method (not a system) of prepositional analysis, developed from 1998-2011 by van Dillen.
Prepositional analysis is a new approach to the creation and analysis of music, not restricted to any style or vocabulary, but based on how humans hear music and perceive its elements Sound and Silence in interaction. Sound manifests itself in spectrum, time, and space, and from this observation 5 categories are derived, which sum up to 6 with silence included. These both include and transcend Stockhausen’s 5 dimensions of sound (pitch, duration, volume, timbre, and place). Based on the interactions a set of 22 prepositional analytical concepts is postulated, for use in creative composition or analysis.
These elements of music have in fact been used for a longer time and some if not all of them can be found in music history. In the work on this album, they are used to create new music inspired by the chemical elements. The chemical elements being such basic building blocks of matter, represent the basis for every existence, and for life.
By means of Mendeleev’s system for natural matter, and thus for material nature, van Dillen ventured to compose his meta-symphony Elements.
In his youth, Van Dillen spend quite a lot of (sometimes dangerous) time in his own small chemical laboratory, being patiently and lovingly inspired, coached, and sometimes warned by his uncle the professional chemist Hugo Wertheim.
This series Elements is an elaboration of this lifelong love for the basic building blocks of matter as it formed in the millions upon millions of years following the Big Bang.
Calcium is element 20, it is a metal and part of group 2 in the periodic table. It is in the second column of the periodic table which as a group surprisingly has the greatest number of elements that play a part in biology: Magnesium, Calcium, Strontium and Barium all play an essential part in the complex chemistry of life.
Calcium is the normal metal which in the form of a hydrated Calcium Phosphate is the main component of mammalian bones, yet the Calcium ion is somewhat small to fit perfectly into the crystal lattice of bone, and its lower group 2 neighbor Strontium would fit much better due to its larger size and in fact will do so if the opportunity arises. Calcium is also an essential element in blood, so much so that it is suspected that the very formation of bones in early evolution originated in the need to have a Calcium reserve to draw upon when blood levels decrease. Even before Calcium levels are getting low, the body will have already borrowed it from the bones. Of course later in evolution, these bones acquired their current purpose of bodily structure and support for muscles, and movement.
Atoms of the element Calcium are constantly in motion and on the move in the body, moving in and out of cells, making the activity in both nerves and muscles possible. Although we might think of Calcium as a symbol of rocks and mountains, of which indeed it is also a major part, in life it represents a dynamic force first of all and makes movement possible, both in minds and bodies.
Calcium is relatively abundant on Earth, but it does not occur naturally in its elemental metallic from, for being too unstable in air. As a carbonate however it is very abundant in rocks, especially sedimentary rocks, which are layers of deposited remainders of life, mostly shells and corals. These layered rocks can be found in many places and forms, the most famous perhaps being the white or bleak yellowish rocks on the cliffs of both sides of the Channel between England and France.
All the properties mentioned before, motion and immobility, layered structures as if in frozen motion, can be found in the music of Calcium.
Music of Calcium
The composing process started from a score-like drawing made to represent narrow noise bands, resonating with harmonics. This was used as a kind of polyphonic germ cell and employed in the sense of germ cell technique as used by Dutch composer Willem Pijper (1894-1947).
This basic germ cell (Pijper spoke of kiemcel) was used again and again, also in reverse, and in different registers, doubled in consonant and dissonant intervals, using three basic mixture chords:
These three mixtures were used to perform the germ cell polyphony in a total of sixteen transpositions, leading to a harmony evolving around stability, and a play and interplay of voices consisting of memorable melodies, short motives, and single tones, all in layers in which the voices where carefully put in a surround sound space.
In the result a synthesis between static and dynamic elements has been achieved: Permanence in Motion. Each of the resulting eighteen polyphonic voices, fifteen from midrange to high, three of them in the bass register, was given its own spatial reflections as well as panoramic direction in the stereo field.
Future historical origin of the recording
In 2365 an obscure recording and score were found in a cave in the Sierra Nevada. The composition was titled “100+ Recorders and 4 Organs (2022)”, it does not appear in any surviving catalogue of the digital era. Purportedly performed and recorded in the Granada cathedral nearby, two portative organs were added to the two positive organs already present. One can only speculate if that many recorder players participated, or that perhaps the audience were handed out flutes to participate? The work does give the impression of some kind of ritual.
OIJ Records – Donemus DCV