TWO WORKS FOR WHITE NOISE

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TWO WORKS FOR WHITE NOISE
Jamie Drouin
catalogue IN024
66 minutes

These two works reveal unique perceptual and sculptural experiences of white noise using simple, but formal procedures.

In BLINDS 1, an identical monaural white noise is placed in the left and right speaker. During the course of the composition, the proportion of the white noise uniformally extends in the left speaker, and shortens in the right speaker. This not only creates the effect of left-right panning, but also the perception of complex groupings of the events, in contrast to the regularity of the composition. The original concept was two pieces of semi-translucent paper moving across each other, beginning as two, and then merging along the overlapping edges.

GRADIENT 1 again places identical monaural white noises in each speaker, along with a basic EQ filter which systematically opens up to reveal lower frequencies over the first 20 minutes, and then switches roles to slowly remove higher frequencies over the second half. The white noise takes on various perceptual shifts and spatial associations through a gradual process of sonic addition and subtraction.

These works are specifically designed for playback on two speakers positioned at an equal distance from the listener’s head.
 
 
EXCERPT
 

 
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CD VERSION

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LANCE AUSTIN OLSEN | SCORES & MARKINGS

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LANCE AUSTIN OLSEN | SCORES & MARKINGS
various
catalogue IN022
62 min audio + text/scores
download complete release (497MB zip)

 

blood and memory #2
crys cole
hardwood floor, radio, snare drum, breath and crickets

craig’s stroke #2
d’incise
field & domestic recordings

“Three engravings on a space” (after copper plate engravings of Lance Austin Olsen)
Johnny Chang
violin, viola, snare drum, playback/field recordings

blood and memory #32
Mathieu Ruhlmann
shruti box, cymbal, + compressed air
Joda Clément
harmonium + field recordings

if so, so. if not, not. #1
Jamie Drouin
microphones + original painting, voice of Antoine Beuger

 

Someone entered this field last night.

To hear Lance Austin Olsen tell it, every significant event in his life, every step of the way, has been a process of meeting serendipity with receptiveness. To hear him tell it – and you really should, as Olsen spins the yarn of his life with a robust admixture of blarney, Beckettian suchness stripped of sentimentality, and zen aplomb – Olsen’s half-century of painting, 40 years of zazen, and 15 years of musical practice, are “footprints of my journey.”

Recounting entering the Camberwell School of Arts in London at age 15, Olsen maintains that the choices offered were carpentry or art, and it was his failure to craft a decent dovetail joint that tipped him into the realm of drawing and painting. Recalling his stint working at an art gallery in Victoria, B.C. when in his late 50s, he describes meeting the young gallery employee Jamie Drouin, who showed Olsen his photography. Olsen was so taken with Drouin’s work he helped him get exhibited. In turn, Drouin suggested they start making music as a duo. “John Cage opened the door”, Olsen says, “and we just sauntered through.” Olsen sauntered into a now 14 year musical partnership with Drouin; the pair perform and record together fairly frequently, largely on the label they co-own, Infrequency Editions. One more serendipitous footprint (and we haven’t even gotten to his painting practice); Olsen leaves the U.K., aged 25, and lives awhile in California and Canada, traveling with his wife of many years, his itinerary set as much by fluctuations in the cash-on-hand, as by any overarching design. “I have no idea what I’m going to do,” Olsen says about making music, “I make a sound and it suggests something…I like flowing, being one with what I’m doing.”

Olsen’s footprints, continuing into this, his 71st year (as I write this, Olsen is in California, en route to further collaborations with some fellow musicians), can be seen in the seamlessness of his creative work, music and paintings which interface and loop together in an interesting way – in short, a process of the instrumentation he uses as sound-makers (e.g., amplified copper engraving plates) serving both his audio and visual art.

The maps of his paintings and sound works are created in a hermetic setting, a bare-bones studio that would induce claustrophobia in many. Olsen’s set-up, whether the table of copper plates and broken stuff of his concerts, or his workaday studio, are as no-nonsense as the zafu facing the blank wall. The results – and you are encouraged of course, after spending some time with the painting-scores included here, to investigate the spontaneous generosity that is Olsen’s output to date – is art of wildness and discipline. Olsen’s is a practice of getting the “art director” – his term for the aspect of the artist/musician’s sensibility that creates via the over-controlled gesture (and, in Olsen’s view, produces contrived work) – out of the way, bringing to mind the practice of the hitsuzen.

Hitsuzen is the familiar (think Lucent Technology branding) brush-stroke enso – but some zen practitioners engage in a process of repetitively creating the enso from a state of “no-mind” fluency and flow, the intuitive and confident action of the brush-stroke overriding the art director. “A surface,” goes Olsen’s artist statement, “is endlessly reworked.”

 

Someone entered the dark woods.

Olsen’s engraving plates make music. Scored music indeed. His paintings also serve as scores. The scores, being the nature of his paintings, offer generous space for the musician to add their own footprints. Olsen might provide a hint – “the deepest black is the deepest silence”, for example.

That’s what you have here, seven works chosen by the participating musicians as a basis for their contributions. As varied as the pieces are, anyone familiar with Olsen’s work might hear some recurrent strains in his friend’s work. crys cole’s piece, close in some ways to territory Olsen explores, is restive, scrabbling, very small events amplified, suggestive of life viewed via microscopy; Jamie Drouin contributes sounds as allusive, near-silent, and resistant to direct apprehension as those found in his many duos with Olsen; Johnny Chang contributes the most active, mini-episodic piece; Mathieu Ruhlmann and Joda Clément’s Blood & Memory #32 offers a beautifully lush and contemplative piece, replete with the plangent and occasionally foregrounded caws of gulls.

d’incise’s track really stands out, its ambiguous throb and thrum suggesting the flow of dark blood, which somehow – tested repeatedly with close listens – most strongly evokes for this listener, Olsen’s overall sensibility. d’incise’s selected canvas, Craig’s Stroke #2, really should be re-viewed upon listening to the piece, making my words even more unnecessary. The Craig’s Stroke series is powerful, comprising 88 works, each representing an eight minute increment of a subtracted life, a decade-long disintegration of consciousness. It evokes Beckett’s masterful prose, whose terminus in his famous trilogy was the unnamable flicker of light cast by the last gasp orison in the silence you don’t know you must go on, I can’t go on, I’ll go on.

Olsen has entered and passed through some dark woods. With each step he has maintained a practice of meeting all things with receptivity, curiosity, and uncontrived artistry. When arthritis gnarled his hands, he developed a technique of clutching multiple brushes loosely, allowing the paint to apply itself sans an art director. When a thief broke into his home in 2010, stealing, among other things, a decade of digital art and sound files, Olsen responded with the composition Thief, a free download available to even the thief who engendered its occasion.

This gift from Drouin and company allows us to view and hear Olsen’s journey, rendered in acrylics, oil, tea and ink, sound and silence, in a dynamic way. I am honoured to contribute my small part. I keep thinking of the composer Antoine Beuger saying “I like to think of scores as confidential letters between friends.”

Gassho, Lance.

– Jesse Goin, 2014

 

 

LANCE AUSTIN OLSEN – SCORES & MARKINGS is available as a free digital release (497MB zip) and includes audio in FLAC format, text, and source scores.

 

Read more of Jesse Goin’s writing at www.crowwithnomouth-jesse.blogspot.com

Someone entered this field last night / Someone entered the dark woods, from Denise Levertov, The Footprints, New Directions Paperbooks

THE ISLAND

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THE ISLAND
Jamie Drouin
catalogue IN021
40 minutes

A 40 minute composition examining the sonic and environmental pollution on Sarichef, a small (12 km2) inhabited barrier island located along the Chukchi Sea in Northwest Alaska.

By combining various types of microphones and sensors, THE ISLAND becomes a sensory-extended portrait of a fragile ecosystem under radical transformation from both natural and human intervention.

In 2010 and 2011, I travelled to the remote island of Sarichef , located in Northwest Alaska, to collect recordings for a sound installation. The island had already been the focus of several news stories on its rapidly eroding shoreline, due to the increasingly higher annual temperatures and sea levels, melting permafrost, and more intense storms. My installation Perimeter:Sarichef was created as a sonic ‘time capsule’ of the island’s receding perimeter.

This new work, entitled The Island, attempts to present another complex layer in the portrait of this fragile island, it’s extensive environmental and sonic pollution, something which stood in stark contrast to what I had expected based on my initial research, but was ever-present during my recording process. Sarichef’s isolation, combined with importing consumer goods has resulted in a large community landfill that burns through the year, the constant deep resonant hum of 3-wheel recreational vehicles and generators, and rivulets of oily runoff which stain the coastline.

The Island is a composition filled with sudden shifts in perception. The listener moves from a pastoral waterscape to the combined low frequency sounds of ocean waves and electrical generators, to buffeting wind mixed with the static crackle of burning waste. The Island creates a highly textural collage where the edges of natural and unnatural sounds bleed together to become another type of landscape experience. At the end of the composition we hear what sounds like radio static, but is actually the island in the process of disintegrating, as the permafrost breaks down, creating an audible hissing vacuum between the sand particles.
 
 
EXCERPT
 

 
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CD VERSION

Order this album as a high quality physical CD-R in full-colour digipak for $18US, including worldwide shipping. Contact us to place an order.
 
 
REVIEWS

“contender for one of the albums of the year” – Daniel Crokaert | Unfathomless

“Fantastic, moving work…reminiscent of Watson’s sonic eco-narratives” – Jesse Goin | Crow with no Mouth

EVERY TING THING

A-Drawn-Horizon

EVERY TING THING
Jamie Drouin | Olaf Hochherz
catalogue IN020
58 minutes

I distinctly remember borrowing a stethoscope from my school’s science department when I was in grade five. I had imagined sticking the device up to all sorts of objects – trees, anthills, fences – and unlocking secret audio worlds within. With the exception of one subject, our dog, who had a particularly active digestion that day, most of my other experiences using the stethoscope where underwhelming, to say the least.

EVERY TING THING, which documents the first meeting between minimalist sound artists Jamie Drouin and Olaf Hochherz, could easily be a suitable replacement for that elusive experience mentioned above.
 
 
 
 

 
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REVIEWS

Por vezes esquecemo-nos que as palavras que utilizamos para falar de um disco acabam por ser redundantes ou insuficientes, quando não desadequadas. “Every Thing Thing” de Jamie Drouin e Olaf Hochherz relembra-nos isso a cada momento da sua escuta. Esta tem de ser atenta e paciente se não queremos perder cada som, cada ruído que emerge, calmo e em volume baixo, do quase omnipresente silêncio. Este, quando é quebrado, deve-se à urgência de nele fazer surgir uma interrupção.

Herdeiro de Cage, o trabalho dos dois músicos revela-se como uma paciente abordagem à arte de fazer surgir sons sem abafar as sonoridades quotidianas que nos rodeiam. Grande parte do que podemos ouvir parece provir de instrumentos electrónicos, da manipulação de objectos e de amplificações produzidas por microfones de contacto. Parece, porque no CD não há qualquer referência ao instrumentário usado; poderiam ser outras as fontes sonoras Aliás, se fossem, talvez a nossa percepção fosse outra.

E assim, este disco de sons frágeis e etéreos, de um radicalismo conceptual que não nos deve afastar da sua audição atenta e empenhada, vai-se desenrolando até aos minutos finais, altura em que uma profusão de sons se faz ouvir antes do silêncio final. Mas, também, se dele quisermos, por momentos, afastar-nos, não deixaremos de continuar com o estado de espírito que julgo ser aquele que Drouin e Hochherz pretendem transmitir-nos.

“Every Thing Thing” vem reafirmar que, na estética “near-silence”, como em muitas outras da música de hoje, ainda há muito para fazer e explorar e que os caminhos que continuam a ser percorridos pela improvisação são capazes de revelar-nos muitas surpresas. Este é, para mim, um dos mais belos e brilhantes trabalhos deste ano, mas também dos mais difíceis de recomendar, nomeadamente pela ousadia presente durante cerca de uma hora, o tempo que dura a gravação. No final, tanto podemos achar que ouvimos pouco, muito ou “apenas” o necessário. Mas, como se encontra disponível para download a um preço baixo, sempre posso apelar a que se atrevam a indagá-lo.

Pedro Chambel | Jazz.pt
 
 
Very, very, very quiet. In the notes to the release on the Infrequency site, Drouin (I assume) mentions borrowing a stethoscope from school at a young age with the intention of investigating the hidden worlds in trees, anthills, etc. (he got as far as his dog). That image, of holding up a sensitive recording device to a thick, opaque object–say, a tree–and just barely registering the sounds within, the termites chewing, the worms softly gnawing, the internal architecture of the tree itself slightly bending and creaking, is a pretty apt one for the experience one has during the hour or so of infinitesimal activity from Drouin and Hochherz. It’s extremely easy to forget the sounds are there, to let them simply provide the merest addition to wherever you’re listening. The scant chittering (tiny mandibles at work), the bumpy rolling about of an object on a barely resonant surface, the even fainter hums of some exterior world, the imagined gentle trudging of sextets of pincers/feet on sand–all can easily blend in to the point of disappearing. Plus, I’m listening to it as a download on my Macbook, so there’s a limit to the volume I can achieve, though I’d say that overly pumping it up would defeat what I perceive to be the purpose. That said, it makes it a hard one to evaluate in the routine sense (not a bad thing!) insofar as concentrated listening goes. I go back to thinking of it as non-intentional natural phenomena, listening in on those trees, with no guarantee of constant “interesting” goings-on, requiring the state of mind to find any activity as inherently fascinating. You find yourself leaning in to the speakers, trying to decipher what you’ve heard or think you’ve heard, aware, uncomfortably or not, that you’re missing events occurring deeper in. I like it a lot.

And, as always, a beautiful illustration and package design from Lance Austin Olsen.

Brian Olewnick | Just Outside

A DRAWN HORIZON

A-Drawn-Horizon

A DRAWN HORIZON
Jamie Drouin | Lance Austin Olsen
catalogue IN019
31 minutes

A DRAWN HORIZON is Drouin/Olsen’s first album since their extremely well received 2011 release ABSENCE & FORGIVENESS, and finds them in fresh territory once again with two improvised studio recordings which trace the edges of ambient music.

Recorded live at Jamie Drouin’s Victoria home in mid-November 2012, just before Drouin relocated to Berlin, A DRAWN HORIZON represents a distinct shift in the language of their longterm duo – gone are the icy gestural crackles of Drouin’s synth, to be replaced by sombre harmonics. Olsen’s technique during these sessions is also more stripped down, favouring a close microphone to his signature piezos, which intensifies the presence of the room and the richness of the objects used.
 
 
EXCERPT

 
Purchase this digital album from Bandcamp

 
 
REVIEWS

Avec A drawn horizon, le duo canadien Jamie Drouin (synthétiseur analogique) & Lance Austin Olsen (électronique) propose un univers riche, ambivalent, et original. Un synthétiseur analogique et de l’électronique pour une musique qui oscille entre les influences du drone et du minimalisme par ses aspects statiques, mais qui lorgne aussi vers le réductionnisme pour son approche exploratrice et calme. Les deux parties de cette publication sont constituées de deux strates : un synthétiseur effacé et lointain qui produit des fréquences simples, discrètes, répétitives et hypnotiques, quand elles ne sont pas statiques. Et par dessus, des objets amplifiés, enregistrés de manière très proche cette fois (par opposition aux nappes lointaines du synthé), même si les deux strates sont à peu près au même niveau. La distance et la proximité semblent s’opposer mais s’unifient dans une volonté commune d’explorer la physicalité des signaux sonores, que ce soit un larsen ou l’amplification de métaux frottés.

Deux parties calmes et lentes, qui n’évoluent que très sensiblement, mais qui prennent le temps nécessaire à la perception complète de chaque blocs sonores qui structurent ces pièces. Drouin & Olsen adoptent des formes claires et simples qui permettent un compromis intéressant entre l’improvisation et la composition électroacoustique. Mais qui permettent surtout une perception très sensible et contemplative de chaque phénomène sonore représenté. Très bon travail.

Julien Héraud | Improv Sphere