Francis Dhomont; Cycle du son
Cover: Inés Wickmann Jaramillo
Francis Dhomont CYCLE DU SON (1998):
1. Objets retrouvés (1996)
2. AvatArsSon (1998) [Fondation Avatars Voix Aventures Paysages À
3. Novars (1998)
4. Phonurgie (1998)
Empreintes DIGITALes IMED 0158. Duration: 56:32.
(Photo: Michel Lioret [INA] 1999)
Francis Dhomont is oblivious of his noble age (born 1926) always and forever the young at heart (characteristics that he shares with Stockhausen and Bayle and Dylan!) Check, for example, his lively participation on the CECdiscuss mailinglist. He is as active as ever in his sound art too, which this new release on Empreintes DIGITALes is ample proof of.
I was looking forward to meeting this good old Maestro in St. Petersburg this coming summer of 2002, when the first Russian International Festival of Electronic, Electroacoustic, Experimental and Avantgarde Music Electroshock is taking place in St. Petersburg under the direction of the proprietor of Electroshock Records; Mr. Artemiy Artemiev of Moscow.
Check Electroshocks homepage at http://www.electroshock.ru/, and the details of the concerts at the Festival in St. Petersburg at http://www.electroshock.ru/eng/festival/concerts/index.html.
You may also want to check reviews of Electroshock Records at http://home.swipnet.se/sonoloco2/Rec/Electroshock/electroframes.html.
Dhomont is one of the many composers and musicians attending this exciting festival, but
Artemiy Artemiev has decided to host the event simultaneously with the Stockhausen Courses in Kürten outside Cologne, and since I have been asked to attend there (when Stockhausen calls, you do come!), I will miss out on the encounter with Francis Dhomont, who nonetheless is one of my true heroes of electroacoustic art. Hopefully, Mr. Artemiev will check his schedule better next year, if the St. Petersburg Festival will reappear as an annual event. Once upon a time the cultural axis of Europe was an arch from Paris across Berlin to St. Petersburg, and perhaps the time to revive this cultural flow has come now. Lets hope so, for it was a vibrant, fruitful cultural axis before the Russian Revolution.
The gentleman Francis Dhomont arrives on this CD with a humorous twinkle in his eye, and part of the shine of his art is this mixture of seriousness and humor, in an almost burlesque, Rabelaisian style. This goes straight to the heart of the listener, and the inside of Existence is repainted with the acousticians sonic sable brush, lots of stars twinkling and a small table with a lamp and one chair placed out in the black void of space, centering attention to words being scribbled by good intentions and seasoned with the salt of this earth
How good it is that one of these gentlemen with a French beret and a wine glass in his hand, Gauloise between his lips, has risen from the café table and walked right into our sound reproduction devices with the art of his poetic mind! Welcome, Monsieur Dhomont!
Francis Dhomonts artistic traces go back to people like Ginette Waldmeier, Charles Koechlin and Nadia Boulanger. At about the same time as Pierre Schaeffer, in Paris in the late 1940s, Dhomont independently discovered what could be done sound-wise with magnetic wire; musique concrète being born. In the long run Dhomont gave up traditional instrumental composition to dedicate himself completely to tape work; electroacoustic composition. He lives in a flux between Canada and France; another cultural axis of today, especially in the art of acousmatic electroacoustics, which in France and Canada is especially prolific and poetic.
Dhomont also writes theoretical texts and essays, and his antecedents show an editorship of Lespace du son published by Musiques & Recherches in Belgium and Electroacoustique-Québec published by the Canadian magazine Circuit. Dhomont has also in his career produced many acousmatic radio programs for INA.GRM of Radio France, and he has co-produced a Canadian radio series entitled Voyage au bout de l'inouï (Journey to the Unheard-of)
Dhomont on Cycle du son en quatre volets:
|This Cycle celebrates sound (a major discovery of the 20th century) and musique concrète. It is a 50th anniversary homage to the inventiveness of Pierre Schaeffer, who created an upheaval in the world of music that has had no precedent. Drawing on the same material which was in parts forged from the first movement of Schaeffers Étude aux objets [1959, rev. 1971] [available from INA.GRM] these four pieces [of Dhomonts Cycle du son] go through a process where they develop out of each other, question each other, echo each other and complete each other through allusions, commentaries, metonymies and continuations. Years after its composition, Novars (1989) [also released on Bvhaast CD 9108; Acousmatrix 9 and Empreintes DIGITALes CD IMED-9108; Mouvances ~ Métaphoes, Les dérives du signe], the third part of this cycle but the first to be composed, remains the section around which the entire work turns.
Dhomont in the CD booklet (which of course in the case of Empreintes DIGITALes is a fold-out hard-paper contraption, which is utterly original and extremely innovative as well as
pleasant! and packed with information) goes on to describe the first of the four parts of Cycle du son; Objets retrouvés (in memoriam Pierre Schaeffer):
|Both a lamento and a funeral march, this paraphrase of Pierre Schaeffers Etude aux objets is not without connection to ornate, figures choral style. Three voices (in the contrapuntal sense of the term), developed from elements drawn from the first movement of the Étude [Objets exposés], embroider and animate the long values of the original subjects that make up the choral, which constitutes the fourth voice of the polyphonic composition. The choice of a classical form, so important in Bach, was a conscious one that was designed to honor the memory of Schaeffer. [
And so here we have one giant of this art form celebrating another one!
I listened to the original Étude aux objets by Pierre Schaeffer from the INA.GRM issue before shifting into Objets retrouvés, concentrating on Objets exposés, and it is of course really a mimicry to begin with, but then I loose myself in the beauty of it all, only waking up to clear reminiscences here and there, where Schaeffer and Dhomont act like soul-mates, though on different planets or in different dimensions or maybe just separated by a thin, semi-transparent layer of time-lapse, through which only telepathy can penetrate, abiding to the law of non-local connections (Fritjof Capra: The Tao of Physics), which says that occurrences on the atomic level millions of light-years away affect events here, just as clear and distinct as if you yourself slammed your fist into the table to drive home a point in an argument simply showing that things may not always or ever! be as they appear, because appearance is just a convenient way to work perception, which is our way of co-existing with the environment, for practical reasons, but maybe not for any other reasons
Anyway, Dhomonts Schaeffer-music is lightheartedly explorative, bouncing through a jumble of suddenly appearing sonic spheres and cubes, like in a Nintendo arcade game, or in an adventure of virtual reality. The sounds are classical electronic bodies, appearing, receding, reappearing, changing shapes and density, conveying a solid sonic joy of investigation, and the double vision of Schaeffer-Dhomont dances around the stage like Stockhausens Lucipolyp in Luzifers Zorn (Lucifers Fury) from Montag aus Licht (Monday from Light).
This piece is similar to the sight of a child ripping the clothes from a scare-crow out in the farm field, dressing up in the old rags and staggering towards the horizon; playful, spiritual in a special way, very magical
the child of all ages
Track 2 is AvatArsSon; a longer work of 18 minutes. Francis Dhomont has given it a lengthy subtitle: in six connected parts: Fondation; Avatars; Voix; Aventures; Paysages; À suivre
to the inventors of the treasure
Bayle, Berio, Chion, Dufour, Ferrari, Henry, Malec, Parmegiani, Reibel, Risset, Schaeffer, Stockhausen, Teruggi, Varèse, Xenakis, Zanési
and others to numerous to name
Surely my heart, which largely resides in the body of electroacoustics, beats a little extra at the enumeration of all these great composers, who each and every one has meant so much
Dhomont introduces AvatArsSon thus:
|[It is] a metaphor for, and a shortcut across, some of the stages of the sound odyssey heard for itself and for its unveiled images (Bayle) and its performance. It also recalls the fertile guiding drift that allows the attentive ear to discover the furtive traces of homage.
The jolting, bouncing tendencies keep up, but joined by thermal shocks and timbral layers, as Henryean doors of French sheds creak (Variations pour une porte et un soupir) and areas are opened and closed, whooshing and wheezing atmospheres closing in and opening up; small rooms expanding, the walls shooting out in four directions to the horizon and below, the ceiling lifting into the stratosphere
and suddenly youre in a summer meadow where a child sits in the grass, as fragments of thoughts flutter around you like a cloud of butterflies; a cloud that explodes, powder of wings setting like a mist around you
and vibrating planes and percussive electronic rhythms merge with watery ascents and descents, your fingers plucking at the spokes of a racing bike wheel at a section of Tour de France that runs straight through your cerebral cortex, where electrical charges transmit messages through the neurons like meteorites across a winters sky
Thin layers of ice move in above and below each other at different speeds in this music, causing auditory hallucinatory effects, kaleidoscopically tightening and opening, in a breathe of the sound waves.
Reverse glass paints with thin lines on transparent surfaces, as the sun rises and blinds you with one single ray of light out of the Tibetan high plateau, suddenly hitting hard on your retina, like the light of enlightenment in your post-life Bardo, towards an imminent rebirth
and theres something reassuringly magical in AvatArsSon as the boys voice of Gesang der Jünglinge opens up Stockhausens innocent face and curious eyes, penetrating your honesty down to the last drop of coffee-powered creativity
Tomie de Paola: "God's Little Jester"
A maze of barbed wire or vibrating stainless pots in a restaurant kitchen introduce voices, and then the sudden Dies iræ of Michel Chions Requiem
and so many other quotes intertwined in this barbed wire existence of magnificence across the misty expanses of World War I battlegrounds
Rolling rocks move like La Mémoire des Pierres by Gabriel Poulard, rocks and pebbles sliding, rolling, bouncing down a decline below an Icelandic glacier in one of Björks most gravel-haunting pieces (Aurora from Vespertine; a masterpiece if youve ever hiked hard to get to the edge of a glacier in Lapland or in Iceland!), until a minute section from Denis Dufours Bocalises the ultimate glass music! twists and bulges the sonic field in crystalline refractions of audio
when a terrific havoc breaks out, throwing cardboard boxes filled with styrofoam around the room, like a Picus viridis causing panic in an ant-mound
Sirens in the distance and close-up wineglass-rim pings leave room for remnants of coarse sounds falling around you like demolition debris, and tender, tapping bounces of brittle rolling spheres sharpens your attention even more
when church bells toll and crowds in narrow lanes and hooting cars pass by in a carnival or demonstration flurry
only to submerge you into the local shipwreck in the harbor inlet, and all local fish swarm your sight
AvatArsSon is a masterly and lustful reflection on the evolution of acousmatics!
Track 3 is Novars, of which it has already been said that it is the first of the pieced herein to be composed (1989), and that it has been released before. Dhomont has given this also a subtitle: to music concrète and Pierre Schaeffer, its unfortunate inventor and I believe it was Schaeffer who called himself that; the unfortunate inventor of musique concrète, and it is a well-known fact that Schaeffer in his older age stood back from his earlier achievements
Francis Dhomont says in the booklet:
|Without descending into simplistic symmetry, it may be possible to suggest that, even across a span of six centuries, a relationship exists between Vitry and Schaeffer, two theoreticians of this new art.
An ear attuned to classical music can recognize the fragments of Pierre Schaeffers Étude aux objets  and Guillaume de Machauts [circa 1300 1377] Messe de Nostre Dame [1360s]. In effect, these roundabout borrowings along with a third sound element in the style of [Pierre] Henry constitute all of the material that is needed to give birth to a multiplicity of variations.
A sign of change is that spectramorphological mutations (Smalley) give the sonorities of both ars nova and the new music (as Schaeffer called it in 1950) the sound of our time.
A sign of continuity is that something from the original works (their colors, their structure and so on) are still present, and indestructible.
Soft and polished, gently swirling tonalities open this long (19 minutes) work, clearly mirroring some of Schaeffers Étude aux objets, but this time around bringing Schaeffers aspects way up to the present moment, in high class, reflecting, introverted strands of audio; Dhomont gently and swiftly applying precise timbral nuances with his electronic brush, as the light of day falls in through the many colors of the tinted church windows of his music, projecting rectangles and rhomboids of colored light across the stone floor of the spiritual expanse of the church association
where cats would lick their paws, were they only let in
The sacral illusions keep up, as the music gets a bit rough, retreating into a side-crypt filled with brown, unshapely sounds of unsettled arguments and bitter feelings, the furniture moving in kinetic automation in this ill-spirited force-field, almost like in Ákos Rózmanns Crypt With Table and Chairs or La Monte Youngs Poem for Chairs, Tables, Benches etc. There is furniture at un-rest in this section of the music. An exorcism of sorts is called for
if were going to sweat this out, tepee style, medicine man style
and sure enough, a relative calm returns, with minor glitching frictions appearing between time-layers, between now and right before and a long time ago
but the landscape opens up in fresh-air views of canyons and mountains, as vibrations of stylized woodpeckers salute the forested north, be it in Canada, Scandinavia or Russia; many creatures live there which we will never see, and the smell of resin greets us in fresh fragrances out of the awesome expanses of coniferous forests in Dhomonts sound-painting.
A wild, almost medieval dance a gigue of brutal, harsh upheavals follows, in which love and death grab at each other in an almost even show of force, while shooting grains of sharp, metallic audio move outwards in gravitational trajectories and it gets calmer again
after the catharsis
Indian sandalwood incense rises towards the ceiling of my Scandinavian room, and in the music torch lights flicker in a cave in France, where prehistoric paintings are about to be discovered
and life is richer than can ever be understood by the living
Inés Wickmann Jaramillo: "Magic Object"
The concluding last track of the four is Phonurgie, which Dhomont has equipped with a dedication: to Inés Wickmann and her found objects. Inés Wickmann Jaramillo is a Colombian sculptor and artist who lives in Montreal, Canada, married to Francis Dhomont. An interesting project that Wickmann Jaramillo has participated in is the Breathe Project, which also has a bearing on the reviewers native Sweden:
|Phonurgie brings the sound of this legacy to a close; on the other hand, the first part, Objets retrouvés, draws all its material and its structure from it. Paraphrased elements from Novars can, of course, be found elements that themselves paraphrase Étude aux objets, making them commentaries on commentaries while the opening and conclusion make reference to AvatArsSon. Nevertheless, in this fourth homage, the allusions to the origins melt away before the original propositions; filiation is not renounced, but here the child, finally grown, reveals its identity.
While the sound color may no longer be the same, morphological thought and writing still remain, in all of their many forms, true to the spirit of the first concerts de bruit (noise concerts).
The initial gesture is the same, but then an eerie ring rinses your mind like Harpo Marxs handkerchief, as thudding, drilling sounds even mimic all too familiar mobile phone irritations
but maybe this is simply reminiscences of short-wave communications
Many grainy properties appear here, like were you emptying sacks of green peas on the industrial conveyor belts of earlier and almost forgotten decades
Jet engine magnitudes fill the space completely, big fuselages taxiing out on concrete runways until flapping birds wings envision feathered bodies dispersing in all directions
Hectic jumbles of entrapped sounds move about madly inside the sonic magicians electronic bottle, reaching speeds that in real life would heat up the confined space to melting of the glass, which would flow out in gluey shapes, like Salvador Dalis melting watches
Dhomonts sound art has many properties in common with Gaudis architecture in Catalonian Barcelona; the prohibition of bourgeois, degenerative 90° angles, the unexpected and uneven distribution of weight and mass, nonetheless balancing out in mysterious calculations of mechanics of materials, like in Sagrada Familias exclamation of a joyous, triumphant Sanctus! Sanctus! Sanctus!
Antonio Gaudi: Sagrada Familia, Barcelona