David Berezan
La face cachée

David Berezan - La face cachée
Empreintes DIGITALes IMED 0896
Duration: 62:16

David Berezan was born in Edmonton, Canada in the (for me) magic year of 1967, when (my) awareness of bottomless riches of poetry, literature, music – yes, the arts! – grew exponentially. This widening, and simultaneously deepening of the universe of the arts, and the attached, or inherent, amazement at our mysterious existence, is still happening, and as a person much dedicated to the sonorous aspects of the energies of life, electroacoustic music in particular opens vast spaces of experience to me. It’s my art par excellence.

Like quite a few other successful composers of electroacoustic music, David Berezan has studied with Professor Jonty Harrison at the University of Birmingham. Mr. Harrison has had, and has, a great and benign influence on this generation of sound artists. His name is synonymous with high-end elegance and sonic ingenuity.

David Berezan became Lecturer and Director of the Electroacoustic Music Studios at the University of Manchester, Great Britain in 2003, also founding MANTIS; Manchester Theatre of Sound, where regular presentations of electroacoustic music takes place, using a custom-designed diffusion system, in my ears sounding like an offspring of that famous Acousmateque at the Groupe de Recherches Musicales in Paris.

David Berezan
photo: derek trillo

David Berezan:

“[…] through processes of transformation, reconstruction and imagination, I reveal hidden spaces, characters and substance […]
Within, underneath and behind the sound objects and concepts, there are often unexpected sound worlds in terms of detail, color and dynamics.
For me, this multi-faceted aural-vision that twists, turns and opens into itself is the magic of the art form. It is also through this process of discovering ‘the hidden side’ (la face cachée)” that I discover as much about myself”

Track 1. Cyclo (2003) [10:41]

Biking is one of my most obsessive undertakings, and I do an exercise round of 30 kilometers each day of the year (more in summer), except if it’s too rainy or too much ice on the road some winter days. I’ve been keeping in shape on a racing bike since the early 1970s, and I have enjoyed, immensely, the changing scenery, as, like Dylan says in Idiot Wind; “the springtime turned slowly into autumn”…
Cyclo sprouted out of David Berezan’s bike rides to and from the studios in Birmingham, UK. The composer offers a pretty extensive – as far as CD cover texts go – introduction to the piece, and among other things he states that Cyclo is concerned with cycling and the journey as much as it is with the inner sound world and workings of the bicycle itself”

The music starts off with a sensation of a completely clean chain circling the sprocket wheels, as a forward motion is attained, down the asphalt road, down the score of these enjoyable and elegant exercise-acoustics. All kinds of unusually separated and clear bike ride sounds present themselves in a lively but controlled fashion, while the occasional wheezing may symbolize the at least 8 kilograms of air pressure per square centimeter inside the tire. Am I imagining things, or do I hear twittering birds inside this mechanic display? I think I do, and this is one of the advantages of riding your bike to work; the sounds of nature around you, as you speed along, firmly kept in place by a gravity that is always on. Another precious advantage of biking is that you definitely gain a lot of virtuous assets by not polluting, which may reduce some of the bad karma you carry along with you. You gain merits!

Sometimes the naturalistic sounds that Berezan applies so well onto this spokey (!) sonic painting shift gear and rise into a higher level of consciousness, where the ideas of biking are dealt with, rather than the materialized steel, rubber and asphalt of an earthly morning ride on the outskirts of town. That is when I close my eyes and let myself be carried off on the equilibrium of velocity. The music turns hypnotic, as the sound is suddenly reduced to a muffled bell-like rhythm of the rotation of the pedals, such as you may experience it a long way into a ride, when your thoughts drift off to any matter that needs sorting out, and your repetitious leg-work is executed automatically. Nowhere is thinking more focused, and new ideas more frequent, than twenty or so kilometers into a bike ride; especially if you’re doing it a winter night with a strong headlamp mounted on your helmet. It’s like being in a think-tank; the think-tank of the universe!

Gradually a kind of reality seeps in and takes over, in a sprawling, straggling maze of sharpness and fluidity in a rare mix, until motion halts, only leaving a thin layer of dawn consciousness to carry your sensation of “I” and “here”.

The biking adventure – on various levels of consciousness and sound – carries on, and a really striking property of David Berezan’s sound art is it’s delicacy; it’s finely tuned expertise of the detail; the smoothly soaring sonorities of the highly adapted, fitted, adjusted, matched, tailored and conditioned precision mechanics of the most noble means of transportation: biking!

The wonder is how Berezan so lightly and effortlessly moves the listener’s focus from the hard rubber tire singing against the asphalt, up the fork, through the top tube, up the seat post, through the saddle and through your body up into your head, where the noble energy is converted into all kinds of visions, soothing as your impermanence of the present flickers through the landscape.
There is an ongoing communication exchanged from your head down into the asphalt and up again, in David Berezan’s composite contraption, wheezing up and down the carbon fiber as your weight is flown across the land in a winding, curling, coiling pattern.

However, this is free music, just as handy and refreshing for the occasional woodpecker as for some highbrow member of an English gentlemen’s club. It leaves many thoughts unthought, many visions just about to appear, so keep listening!

Later on in the piece those red and spacious autumn ride skies open above you like the ceiling of a cathedral; the air is cool, the breathing effective, and your beard is wet from your respiration; your muscles are warm and you move in a sense of triumph past a world that moves backwards, backwards, backwards, until your cool machine arrives at your doorstep, where you disconnect your feet from the pedals and fall into a hot shower, which completes the perfection of a speedy bike ride through landscape and mindscape; through David Berezan’s Cyclo!

Tracks 2 – 6. Baoding (2002) [7:20]
PrologueEcstatic IntimatePulsingEpilogue

The composer handles Baoding bells from China in this piece, in three electroacoustic miniatures with a prologue and an epilogue; neatly! These balls are held and shuffled – or rotated – in your hand, to keep you cool. Other sounds are brought in, from the Kun and Beijing Operas, for example.

The delicacy of the nature of sound carries over from the preceding work. It seems to be characteristic of David Berezan’s handicraft. This delicacy tingles and glitters way inside the mind of the ambience, until a complicated metal structure protrudes its many gratings in front of, behind or around isolated vowels that bounce inside their confinements like gluey soap bubbles, or like little blue Glenn Gould rubber balls gushing out of CBC loudspeakers.

Baoding, to a certain extent, is sound poetic too, since voices and shreds of voices fly up like a flock of jackdaws at times, flashing past like flickering ghosts. At about six minutes into the work, for just a little while, Stockhausen steps in through the sound current and puts his arm around the shoulder of Berezan, uncommonly friendly and benign.

Track 7. Styal (2004) [13:54]

Berezan describes the Quarry Bank Mill of Styal, south of Manchester, England, in his introduction to this piece. Inside the mill, at the heart of it, you find the waterwheel that provides the power for the textile machinery from the 19th century. It is not really clear by his text, but it seems that this place is a living museum, where the wheel is still running and the machines turning, because he says:

“Inhabiting the mill is a sound world of great volume, vibration, resonance, rhythm, intensity, energy, steam, cogs, belts, pulleys and spindles, steam pipes, groaning and straining machines, delicate threads and textiles”

He goes on to state that from these sounds that he collected at the mill, plus a few additional ones, he creates a place of his own imagination.

A more mystical atmosphere permeates this 14-minute moment, as the tingling sonic sensations inside the factory hall spaciousness of the ambience gleam like welding flames through the metal dust of the air below the overhead cranes moving like sloths through the obscurity high up under the ceiling. The music of Styal feels like a solid block of time and space moving through mind, or the back of mind, in a dream or through something forgotten.

The moment creeps upon you in inconspicuous jingling, slowly disguising a deeper murmur that grows to grab hold and lift you firmly up ahead through your dream. The expanding moment bulges like a calm swell of the sundown sea, in dark and bronze sonorities, like the afterglow of giant cathedral bells in the European night – and I remember some of my early heroes of the trade: François Bayle, Jean-Claude Risset, Denis Smalley.

This music is incredibly beautiful. It sounds naïve, but that’s the sum of what I hear here; beauty! I’ve learned, by now, that David Berezan is a guru of the clean transportation of sound. No matter how complex the web of sonorities, no matter how much you magnify it, or how deep you travel into it; you will still discover only more detail; absolutely clean, undiluted sound, which will amaze you and thrill you with it’s state of, as the Tibetan Buddhists would call it, a Blissful Pure Land. Deep inside this soundworld you feel like you’re standing in front of Amithaba; the Buddha of Infinite Light.

As I continue listening, wrathful deities from one of my Bardo journeys slither around my path in slithering electroacoustics, licking at my heels as I hurry on through my mindsets. The intensity grows stronger, momentarily, but soon recedes back into a state of commotion that is easier to deal with, although still too many things happen in this Styal soundworld to keep full track of.

The insertion of a second or two of complete silence between spurs of massive motion of heavy weights, scraping sounds, gravitational threats… make you still more aware of the crucial property of the moment; any moment – because the star crushing remodeling of everything is always going on.

Little springs bounce back, blocks of time and space glide past, minds sink into sets of circumstances, kids set fire to cars, poets gather suitable syllables, planets wallow in space… in this abstract painting by David Berezan, that I’ve entered. It is clear that Time is a Place, and Matter a Journey.

Track 8. Hoodoos (2007) [19:11]

David Berezan is a composer to my liking! Not only does he compose a great electroacoustic work from a bike ride, but he also composes another one from a wilderness hike! I had a vague plan some years ago, to record the great variety of water sounds you find in Lapland, where I hike through rock deserts and below glaciers (sometimes across glaciers…) each year, because you have water sounds as varied as the tiny trickle below your feet to the distant rumble of a waterfall on the other side of the valley – but as yet I haven’t realized that recording hike. The late Sami writer, poet and composer Nils-Aslak Valkeapää put together a recording of the four seasons of Lapland in his Goase DuššeLa Symphonie des Oiseaux (Bird Symphony) - that was awarded the Prix Italia pour la Radio prize of 1993.
David Berezan used sounds from the Hoodoo Trail in the Banff National Park, out west in Canada. He says that the composition he made is “concerned with contrasting states of dynamic, fluidity, stasis and kinesis”.

In the Sielmavagge Pass, Swedish Lapland

There is a steady motion flowing; water trickling and an ominous deep waveform huddling in back of the present. Shreds of gravel-and-ice audio glide down slopes in the ambience, reminding me of tricky precipes that I have traversed in Lapland, with the sound of mud and pebbles falling away below my cramponized boots. The longer strands of purple audio in David Berezan’s Hoodoos have me think of those open skies with high altitude clouds flattening out at inversion strata high above white summits. It’s a combination of the very close and treacherous, and the distant and almost hypothetical, as the Earth curves off on the horizon. This beautiful and crisp sound from falling specks of thin ice remind me of earlier works by specific sound artists, like John Rimmer from New Zealand, Javier Alvarez from Mexico and Horacio Vaggione from Argentina. It’s a celebration to experience this sound world, ultra-light on one end, and threatening and gravitational on the other, which Berezan provides. This world isn’t common any more. It used to be, albeit in a rawer and less delicate form, in the heydays of IMEB and the yearly Cultures Electroniques releases. David Berezan has managed to keep the tradition, while simultaneously developing it. Maybe that’s part of the reason I feel so at home in his art.

By the Kebnepakte Glacier above Tarfala in Swedish Lapland

Berezan has already explained that he handles his experiences from the trail in a highly abstract way, but this, of course, is the best way to extract the essence of a wilderness adventure or any other formidable experience, and I feel a lot of recognition in his rendition, as I am an aficionado in both disciplines, i.e. mountain hiking and electroacoustics! I’m probably an ideal listener to Berezan’s Hoodoos!

Track 9. Hannibal (2005) [10:55]

The last piece on this rich CD – really Audio DVD – is Hannibal, which owes its origins to Jean Tinguely’s (1925 – 1991) sound sculpture Hannibal II at the Museum Tinguley in Basel, Switzerland. David Berezan had spent a compositional residency at ESBThe Elektronisches Studio Basel - and decided to use a minute aspect of Hannibal II, namely a metal chain that swings slowly to and fro after a complete cycle of movements by the sculpture, and process this sample intensely.

The piece emerges like a drone of many pale shades of color, soaring like the first light of dawn in a Scandinavian December; frail, slow, hesitant, like a breath that is hardly visible across the chest of a resting person.
Soon these bleak nuances of Berezan sound cram together to form grains, bubbles and spheres, bouncing against each other like particles in the fourth state of matter; the plasma state, wildly incoherent, without any bindings, interacting by pure chance to shape these flowing, grainy passages of sound.
Incredibly pleasurable incidents of rippling audio follow, in a pearl-bead percussion that gleams and glistens point-blank, en face, in your face, without the hesitation that I felt in the beginning. It’s metallic and glassy; metal drops and spheres of glass, plus some factory hall metal dust towards the conclusion, when these clean objets sonores seem to soar through an industrial early 20th century mirage.

Jean Tinguely's Hannibal II