MATS ERLANDSSON – MINNESMÄRKE
It’s no surprise that most of the ‘drone’ recordings are created with electronic means: you need a lot of instrument control to play a drone on a standard acoustic instrument – unless, of course, the drone is a natural part of that instrument such as in a bagpipe or a hurdy-gurdy.
Minnesmärke presents two drone-based compositions, Vilja and Slakt, with a quartet featuring Gaianeh Pilossioan (violin), Yair Elazar Glotman (double bass), Hilary Jeffery (trombone, tuba), and of course Mats Erlandsson (‘everything else’).
I deliberately call it ‘drone-based’ and not ‘drone’, because there’s quite a lot happening on top of the underlying drone foundation: the compositions are “built around tuned sustained tones performed by electronic and acoustic instruments that were combined with field recordings“.
The music was recorded in the former Swedish iron mine Ställbergs Gruva, which probably adds to the all-encompassing sound (and also explains some of the weird field recordings). The mine is now a center for cultural activities “and critical thought” (Minnesmärke was commissioned by the Non Existent Center, which obviously dóes exist). In this environment, Erlandsson created “an interaction between the acoustic and the electronic, the human and the machinic.”
However, it is clearly nót a live recording:
“A combination of synthetic and recorded sound sources was processed by reamping it in various
rooms of the vast mining complex. The resulting hybrid field recordings were transferred to tape and have then been treated extensively. An arrangement for Pilossian’s violin, Jeffery’s tuba, and trombone playing as well as Glotman’s parts on double bass were recorded separately and similarly manipulated to create an expanded chamber ensemble with a wider range and an ability to transcend the usual temporal bounds of the instruments.”
Subtle and tense at the same time, Minnesmärke is reminiscent of works by Phill Niblock or the deep listening projects of Pauline Oliveros. Not the least to be compared with, I’d say.
ERIK GRISWOLD – WALLPAPER MUSIC IV
When mentioning ‘drone-based’ music that is created with acoustic instruments, Erik Griswold‘s Wallpaper Music IV, also fits in perfectly.
His Wallpaper Music series (all previous editions released on the Room40 label in 2007) is an “evolving exploration of the extended works for piano“. Each edition is based on a particular approach to the prepared piano. Though you may initially think otherwise because the sound is more like a (bowed) string instrument than a piano (which is a string instrument too, but not usually bowed), this part IV is actually composed for ‘bowed piano’: the strings of the piano played by “rosined strands of fishing line” as bows – eleven bows in total.
Wallpaper Music sounds organic, but the underlying composition is quite complex:
“I introduced a slow breathing cycle into the sustaining notes, using an arithmetical pattern – 6
bows / breath / 5 bows / breath / 4 bows / breath / 3 bows / breath, 2 bows / breath, and then the reverse. I used prime numbers to offset the lengths of the rhythmic cycles, ensuring that each would be always out of sync with the others, creating constantly new relationships.”
To experience this piece, Griswold advises to “listen away”: to “deflect one’s attention away from the individual tones and surface details, in order to hear the shifting aural patterns of overtones, undertones, phasing, and modulation of sounds.”