Upon downloading Decompositions, you will also receive a PDF copy of the musical score for "Autolament" as well as a PDF of the text below, about the album:
This album is made up of two parallel pieces of music, various sections of which alternate throughout the album: “Autolament” and “Among the birds”. The former is initially written for two violas, and the latter is made from field recordings of the bird calls of (at least) two loons. However, neither sounds anything like its source material. Each piece is influenced by the musique concrète of Pierre Schaeffer and others. Schaeffer’s notion of “acousmatics” emphasizes the practice of composing with sounds whose source remains unidentified (cf. the Pythagorean ἀκουσματικοί), in order to produce “sonorous objects”, or clusters of sound, unidentified in origin, to which a listener attends without concern for its original and idealized source: the emphasis shifts from the accurate reproduction of music to a listening which focuses on the specificity of sound itself.
Beginning from these principles, this album attempts to articulate a compositional process that might be rather unimaginatively called “decomposition”, or, half-jokingly, “musique abstraite”. Rather than beginning from so-called acousmatic sound and composing a piece of music with it (which for all that might still maintain fairly traditional patterns of musical form), I have instead, with “Autolament”, begun with traditional musical form and composed a sloppy, unsophisticated yet functionally somber piece in the form of a passacaglia in C minor, for two violas (the score is downloadable), which I performed at home. I then took apart this piece and altered the music—the traditionally melancholic timbre of the viola—so that it became unrecognizable. I electronically modified some of the harmonic relationships and added others. And, while maintaining some the basic unfolding of the piece, I have also displaced some parts and repeated others. Through the use of many filters and effects, it has been rendered completely different without adding any new music to it: it is merely the same music heard from a different angle. But the recording of the original composition gets obscured and lost, and is never heard outside of its initial performance. The work becomes a lament of itself, never listened to as written, decomposed by the time it is heard.
“Among the birds” is a slightly more traditional variation of musique concrète, consisting of field recordings of two loons singing back and forth to one another. However, I have used similar techniques to break down the birdsong into many different sonorous objects, and reassembled them into an unrecognizable, ambient echo of the first piece, “Autolament”, after which I split both into three parts. Each set of three alternates with the other, and so the lines between each work also bleed into one another, so that one might at any moment wonder whether one is listening to traditionally composed music or the calls of birds. But one is listening to neither, really. In this sense, the aim of this album is to disengage sound from a model of performance and musical representation, while still existing at the threshold of music as organized noise. Anyway, that is a consideration I had in mind while making this experiment.
Links to the bird call recordings are below. Thanks to Jonathon Jongsma for making them available through Creative Commons: