Juan María Solare; Electroacoustics 1

Flutist Katrin Plümer & Juan María Solare in Kürten 2002
(Photo: Ingvar Loco Nordin)

Participants: Rainer Maria Rilke [text on track 7] - Michele Marelli [basset-horn on track 8] - Juan María Solare [voice on track 15] - Ligia Liberatori [drawing on the cover below and voice on track 3]
Solare Private Edition. Duration: 73:49

1. Preludio Granular (electronic sounds 2002) [2:30]

2. Fuga electroacústica Nr. 1 (electronic sounds 2002) [1:26]

3. Assurancetourix (electronic sounds; for Ligia Liberatori) [3:16]

4. Nice Noise (electronic sounds) [0:28]

5. Engarces (electronic sounds 2001) [4:47]

6. gl (electronic sounds; for Ligia Liberatori) [0:13]

7. Panther (collage: electronic sounds and children's voices. Text: Rainer Maria Rilke) [7:00]

8. Solidità della nebbia (for basset-horn & electronic sounds. Basset-horn: Michele Marelli [10:45]

9. taube Taube dedicated to Anne Frechen (a study in granular synthesis) (electronic sounds) [2:45]

10. Trituration (electronic sounds, for Cecilia Ghio) [8:50]

11. Voi ch'intrate (electronic sounds) (for The Door Project of john ffitch. The piece id dedicated to the mathematician Pablo Amster) [3:59]

12. Was a saW (synthetic sounds [saw tooth = dientes de sierra, dedicated to Victor Meertens]) 5:37]

13. The Void Profound Of Unessential Night (2001) (for synthetic sounds; solo ondas sinusoidales; In Memoriam Isaac Asimov) [8:35]

14. OksiD (for the moon) (electronic sounds; dance music) [5:10]

15. Al trabajo (Speaker: Juan María Solare) [1:05]

16 - 22. Celsius 01 - 07; seven fragments from the sound installation Celsius 24 (Wohltemperierter Raum) for the old city hall of Worpswede, September 2001. For Gisela Corleis. [each section: 1:30]

I met Juan María Solare the first time in Kuerten, Germany in August of 2001, when we were both attending the Stockhausen Courses; he as a composer, I as a writer and a photographer. He seemed like a nice guy, peering out of that big hair and beard, but I didn’t get to know his compositional qualities until after the Courses of 2002 in Kuerten, when he sent me a couple of demo CDs. Of course this ignorance of mine is a crying shame, because when I venture out on the WWW I find that Solare is quite well established, and that he’s composed a large number of works of varied genres, quite successfully.

I start out with the electroacoustic music of Juan María Solare, which is very interesting and ingenious.

Preludio Granular (2002) is a new, brief electronic incident, emitting birdlike sounds, shooting off of the core of the composition like decaying cesium! The trajectories of the partials leave sonic traces not unlike those of neutrino penetrating everything in their way, later to be detected as fine diverging lines on the films of CERN!
Solare masters these rather simple sounds with the sensitivity of an icon painter in a remote cabin of Finnish Karelia, and the feeling you’re left with after the short piece has withdrawn into silence is that of the desolate call of the loon across the lake, resounding, echoing at nightfall between the distant islands…

Fuga electroacústica Nr. 1 (2002) is another recent and even shorter piece, immediately spinning off in a percussive mode, soon exchanging values between two progressing lines of thought… or percussion; an electronic kind. This way of treading the trail, head over heels, the music tripping over itself, reminds me of Conlon Nancarrow and his way of composing music for the player piano.
Here Solare moves swiftly, tumbling down the path, bumping into tree trunks and falling over the vegetation as he completes the composition; a very lively one!

Assurancetourix has a beginning, which places you under the saliva running jaws of some pre-historic giant, a gurgle setting things in motion. Deep rumbles lead over into a bee swarm audio which reveals vocal properties, and it is clear that Solare has used the human voice, but heavily permuted and manipulated.
Breathing sounds fan out in peculiar in- and exhalations, and it strikes me that this piece might be solely based on the human voice, albeit taken way beyond the limits of intelligible recognition. This may be sound poetry taken to the brink! Solare is in fact, I am told, using the (transformed) voice of Ligia Liberatori, to whom he also dedicated this piece.

The fourth entry is but half a minute long! The piece
Nice Noise is perhaps just a note that Solare jotted down, for further evaluation and investigation – or perhaps this was exactly what he wanted to say, right there and then?
Nonetheless, it’s on of those coin-rotating-on-the-table sounds, though electronically achieved, and backwards, i.e. starting out fast and slowing down, and finally ending in a whimper…
Nice Noise was made for some project in Barcelona based on short electro-compositions

Engarces is an extended work, compared to the previous, with almost five minutes!
It blows in your face in a beautiful sonic gust, which dies down and is followed by others. The timbres are varied, overarching, in prolonged staccatos of electronics, like rhythmic glimpses of an unknown world, or a strange dimension of relativistic elasticity of time and space, time itself bending, producing the musical gravity which swings you around these musical gestures.
Much of this piece builds on early, traditional electronic music, which excelled in the different sounds that the primitive analog machinery could produce, achieving masterworks of contemporeana in the 1950s and 1960s. Some of the most beautiful electronic music was in fact shaped in early days, with analog equipment. We might for example recall the brilliant output of Gottfried Michael Koenig or Konrad Boehmer, or Henri Pousseur. With limited means they produced very exciting – till this day! – electronic music. The properties of this work by Juan María Solare runs in that vein.
Sometimes when I listen to web radio on a broadband connection, like some of the nocturnal music broadcasts from Resonance in London or Amsterdam Free Radio, I start to believe that this fresh view of sound is spreading into new generations; a generation tired of the glossiness of much of what is produced commercially nowadays, and I can hear very extended, long stretches of sound, sometimes very brute, like short-wave static and so forth, and many other sounds, like broadcasts from a street corner or something – and this connects back to the 1950s and the 1960s and the experimentation of those days, and especially to the passion for sound which was so prevalent then. I’m glad!

Gl has got to be the singular shortest work I’ve ever come across. It’s 13 seconds long! The music consists of a rising motion, an upward glissando, broken in half at the middle, continuing again upwards in darker colors. The short pieces gl and Nice Noise are sono-clips (as video-clips but sounding)

Again I get associations to CERN particle accelerators and the science of physics! Einstein hides in the wings!

Albert Einstein

Panther is 7 minutes, and deals with other properties of sound. Starting with a loud ping (exactly the alert sound of my LaCie CD-burner once a CD is completed!) it murmurs along for a short instance; growls like scary monsters of a Bardo journey, until children’s voices are added, unaltered at first, uttering words in German: sterbe, Blick, Panther, sein Blick, der Panther, sterbe… all rolled out on a matress of steady beats, drifting sideways on the tilting plane of time.
A loosely distributed poem (by Rainer Maria Rilke) is falling like precipitation through the sound space; flakes of ominous sentences. The beat goes on, the voices are permuted, human growling sounds and prolonged shrills remind me of sound poems by Henri Chopin and François Dufrêne, afflicted with the bad breath of no sleep and the saliva dripping of uncontrolled desires...
This piece has all the characteristics of a good electronically treated sound poem, and it is a very good representative of this art form. The rather harsh and exact German language is perfect for these poems, hitting home like hammered nails through your perception!
Heavy breathing sounds spread a stale smell through the later sections of the piece. The breath in these concluding sounds is fierce like that of a German shepherd growling ferociously close by your face, the cop holding it back in the dark…

Solidatà della nebbia features the basset-horn of the gifted Italian musician Michele Marelli in addition to Juan María Solare’s own electronics.
I’ve met Marelli at both my stays in Kuerten for the Stockhausen Courses, and I understand he is held in high esteem by the Maestro, and in August of 2002 he went into the studio with Stockhausen in Cologne to record a new work;
Stop & Start.

Michele Marelli rehearsing
at Sound Studio N, Cologne, 5th August 2002
(Photo: Ingvar Loco Nordin)

The impression at the outset is that of thoughtfulness, inwardness; introspection; a man sitting on his porch, looking into his garden, but with unseeing eyes, visions rising inside his mind as his body rests in its gravity, still, complete in its existence in the Now.

Marelli plays the basset-horn in careful, deep progressions, as strokes across someone’s hair; tenderly in an absentminded way.

Soon Stockhausenesque blowing sounds, musically extraneous, are inserted; the kinds we’ve heard so many times from musicians around Stockhausen, like Suzanne Stephens or Kathinka Pasveer. The origin of this kind of performance is so clear that I can only deduce that Solare composed them as an homage to the Maestro.
Marelli, who has performed Stockhausen’s music quite a bit – and even won prizes for his performances from Stockhausen himself – lays down his expertise into these extraneous sounds, and the score even calls for singing into the basset-horn, which he does forcefully and with humor! The wit of Stockhausen has immersed this Solare piece!

Relaxing between takes at Sound Studio N, Cologne,
5th August 2002:
Michele Marelli, Marc Maes, Karin De Fleyt, Julien Petit
(Photo: Ingvar Loco Nordin)

Solare’s electronics moves into the music with the force of an avalanche, but there is a good balance and interaction between the acoustic instrument and the electronic wizardry, making this the most interesting and excitingly compelling work so far on this CD.

Marelli growls into the basset-horn while he also plays vent-sounds, and the different levels of sound weave an intricate web, wherein the purely human (voice, growls, blowing sounds) mix with the instrumental sounds (basset-horn and basset-horn vent sounds) and the superficial sounds (Solare’s electronic tape music) to achieve a multicolored tapestry, shining with silvery and golden threads in a masterly stereo mix-down. Wonderful!
I don’t think a piece like this would have been thinkable without the example of Stockhausen, though.

taube Taube is again a shorter work, dedicated to Anne Frechen.
A haphazard tapping – or something – starts the thing off, sounding like a Geiger meter, gradually taking on more modal sounds, eventually stretching beyond its prickly beat into an elastic howl which spread into different pitches to form a kind of chord, reminding me of early Russian experiments with the ANS synthesizer , which have been released on the Russian Electroshock label, under the leadership of Artemiy Artemiev.
This is an illusionary little episode, wherein you get thrown about between the sensation of beat and the sensation of pitch, like in an analogue with the peculiarities of electromagnetic force fields, for example, where the transmitters are both particles and waves, depending on how you choose to envision them.
I’m sure Solare doesn’t know about it, but the character of this bopping piece and it’s prickly, hopping glare, has a lot in common with Swedish (perhaps a little Danish too…) composer Leo Nilsson’s work
Early Ear, which was a tribute to John Cage on his 70th birthday, and had to do with… mushrooms, as I recall.

Trituration is a more substantial work, duration wise, hitting it on with a sound that could come from sand seeping down a crack in a bunker of sorts. This is the way it feels; like you’re slowly being buried in sand, while gusty noises, as from giant wings of creatures beyond this life, break the notorious seeping with the brute force of the hereafter!
Solare has worked with very dry sounds here, showing that he can keep the listener interested with pretty barren means. This music is, in a way, like shorthand, briefly and speedily taking down the musical content in a skeleton kind of way, in sketchy, grayish gestures across the score.
The asceticism of
Trituration sharpens ones’ senses to the extreme, and I find myself completely focused, alert, awake. Trituration sandblasts your perception and your sense of detail!
The sound, Solare tells me, is actually ... a tuba! All the piece, almost 9 minutes long, is made on a single sound of 900 milliseconds of a tuba, stroken with the fingers. The original sound appears exactly at 8:00 without transformations.

Voi ch’intrate, which is dedicated to the mathematician Pablo Amster, was written for The Door Project of john ffitch (who, ludicrously enough, insists on having his name spelt with lower-case letters…)
There is a lot of friction going on here (which one might expect from a piece for a Door Project!), sounding like an electronic treatment of Pierre Henry’s
Variations pour une Porte et un Soupir (1963), which took door hinges to unexpected heights in art music.
The interesting thing about this piece is how Solare manages transformations from rather natural (rather…) doors to electronically representations of thought doors, with audio that might well be related to radio interference and so forth, maybe run through ring modulators etcetera; very fascinating and enjoyable, even beautiful in a brute, crude way – like a painter applying really thick slabs of paint on his canvas, making you experience the painting topographically, kind of…

Was a saW is dedicated to Victor Meertens. Sharp, incisive and slowly panning, high-pitch audio slashes through the listener’s skull, sawing deep into the slimy contents of the brain, but it’s not painful; it tickles, hypnotizes… The high shrill extensions move about, slow down, rest a while in your left ear, until shortly moving mid-head or peeping briefly into your right ear, until showing up in steel mosquito guises all around your hat!
Like in many other of Solare’s works, there is an elastic property to the sonic expressions in this work; even more so here than elsewhere in his oeuvre.
I’m very happy that Solare seems to like to use old electronic means to shape his art. There is something fresh and original in these truly electronic sounds!

The Void Profound of Unessential Night, in memoriam Isaac Asimov (2001), fooled me at first. I though there was a malfunction in my left speaker, because all I heard was tone out of the right one – but after a minute or so the sound claimed all the space from left to right, still, however, very inconspicuously, forwarding narrow bands of timbres, rising and sinking, showing up in a different place each time, gliding off center, out of vision, out of hearing, into some unknown silence, out of which is keeps on coming back, slowly rising, and again receding.
Of course, this is classical space music, like stuff you’ve heard in early movies of the science fiction idiom, and the subtitle,
In Memoriam Isaac Asimov, speaks its own language.
As I’ve said before, I am charmed by this classicism of Juan María Solare. He’s got a point, and it works, arts vise, very good!
The whole piece – almost 9 minutes – sports this meditative, interstellar minimalism.

OksiD (for the moon) surprises with a techno beat, but there is a remark by the title; “dance music”, so maybe I shouldn’t be startled, but… it is a very alien piece in these surroundings. It has more to it than regular disco music though; little electronic glitches here and there, letting on that this perhaps is a quirky joke from the composer!
Half way into the piece things fall apart, though, as the beat breaks up and a winter storm blows hard, wind howling, evil birds screaming – until a voice commands: Carry on! …and the techno beat commences…

Al trabajo (Going To Work) has Solare speaking a short sentence in Spanish, ever repeated, over and over like a mantra, a sound poetic incantation, slowly revolving around itself, until reaching a dead halt. The text in Spanish goes: "levantarse - ir al trabajo - volver a casa - domir" (wake up - go to work - come back home - sleep), and is repetated 13 times. Then a very similar phrase comes, and after that the
initial phrase is repeated 8 times (hello Mr. Fibonacci). That similar phrase is "levantarse - ir al carajo - volver a casa - domir".
Notice the sustitution of "trabajo" by "carajo", which sounds quite similar... but the meaning is rather different (rather ...). It means: "going to shit", "going to hell" or something similar.

Celsius 01 – 07 occupies the seven last tracks on the CD, tracks 16 –22. The sections are fragments from a sound installation called Celsius 24 (Wohltemperierter Raum), dedicated to Gisela Corleis. Each track is exactly 90 seconds.

The sounds are varied, and amply paused, i.e. with inserted silences. Bells ring out into silence, silence gives room to bells and electronic reactions to bells.
The next section is different, except for the spaciousness of the pauses, which really opens au a breathable space inside the music. Glass sounds are apparent in this second section.

As I reach track 19 I realize this is the last track on the CD, even though the table of contents on the cover indicates three more tracks… Perhaps Solare for some reason forgot to add the last tracks…

Anyhow, Solare’s electronic pieces are enjoyable and intriguing, and he establishes a clear connection back to classical electronics, which I, for one, appreciate immensely.