The impetus behind Danses acousmatiques was the sense that while in theory space is a fundamental aspect of acousmatic music, in practice most acousmatic music uses spatialization in a relatively generalised way, in something of the manner of an ‘effect.’ Since acousmatic music is, above all, about exploring the inner nature of sound in a very detailed and intentional way, it seemed odd that spatial aspects have not always received the same level of careful attention. Even in music which claims to use space as part of its consciously composed fabric (Boulez’s Répons springs to mind) the question arises as to whether such complex and detailed spatial operations can actually be ‘perceived’ by the listener.
In response to this state of affairs, Danses acousmatiques represents a quest for the creative, musically significant and ‘perceptible’ use of the spatial aspect of acousmatic music. The work is cast in the form of a suite, with nine movements comprising three interlocking series each of which draws on a different model of spatial movement, on a scale stretching from the atomic to the cosmic:
The individual series may be performed as discrete three-movement studies. Alternatively, individual movements might be performed as part of a larger program.
Danses acousmatiques was realized in the spring and summer 2007 at the Electroacoustic Music Studios of Bangor University (Wales, UK) and premiered on October 25, 2007 at SARC in Belfast (Northern Ireland, UK). Thanks to dobroide for the pigeon and bee samples.
This movement sets the scene, and establishes the boundaries of (infinite) space in which the following spatial dramas will unfold.
A single sonic identity is presented in more or less unchanging form. The musical focus is almost completely on its location and movement in space.
A flocking algorithm is used to elicit autonomous emergent behaviours from sound objects based on water.
Five bodies of various masses move periodically within a limitless void.
Particles in motion, of two persuasions: one pitched, high and lyrical, the other noisy, low and percussive. In life, as in the bomb, the whole may be almost infinitely more than the sum of the parts.
The irrepressible energy of flight is contained within a scenario in which not much happens (unless one listens closely).
For some, space is a language, and dance a means to an end.
Nebulum was a supposed ‘new element’ discovered in the Cat’s Eye Nebula. But nebulae are rare creatures in which the atoms, dancing as they are in the fiercest vacuum imaginable, behave quite differently from those on earth. The spectral lines that deceived the astronomers became known as ‘forbidden lines’ — and with good reason.
When contrasting and even incompatible elements come together to dance, it is worth remembering that a cord of three strands is not quickly broken.