Occam Ocean" dedicated to the homonymous work in progress (2011-) by Éliane Radigue, "by nature unfinished because it is not complete": a real summary of her decades of research on sound as an autonomous and transcendent entity. After a few pieces for soloists ("Occam"), duo ("Occam River") and trio ("Occam Delta"), here we have a long suite for orchestra, ONCEIM (Orchestre de Nouvelles Créations, Expérimentations et Improvisations Musicales) conceived and directed by Frédéric Blondy, already responsible for the recording of "Gruidés" by Stephen O'Malley, but whose repertoire also includes rarities of improvised and electroacoustic authors such as John Tilbury, Burkhard Beins and Jérôme Noetinger.
The ensemble is already anomalous in its instrumentation, which includes an accordion, three guitars, five clarinets and six saxophones alongside strings and brass instruments. As before, however, Radigue's approach and ultimate goal do not leave room for the more recognizable identity of the elements, aiming rather at the summation of individual "absolute" tones, ideally already accomplished in themselves.
More akin to the Pauline Oliveros's Deep Listening, and Alvin Lucier than to the mysticism of the monumental orchestrations of Giacinto Scelsi ("Quattro pezzi") and of the late Cage (number pieces), Éliane Radigue's recent work reconciles itself with the human dimension of sound creation and at the same time broadens its horizons, effectively demonstrating how much unexpressed potential lies in the DNA of classical instrumentation.
“It all began with an image seen so long ago at the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles, the image of a long chart showing known wavelengths. It was clear that in addition to the wavelength from the earth to the sun, there were long waves stretching between other planets, solar systems and galaxies. Our immersion in this wave-filled universe makes our heads spin. In the same way, our bodies are also driven by undulations and multiple rhythms. It is just as dizzying to move toward the minute: X-rays, gamma rays and other “nanos.” In these unfathomable dimensions, there is also that very tiny regionn between 50 and 60 Hertz, and for some species up to 12,000 Hz or more, where these vibrations become sounds.
To avoid succumbing to this dizziness, closer to us on this earth, there is the ocean. Through this ocean, contemplation becomes more accessible. Beyond its own cycle, it also gathers the rivers that nourish it. For that reason there are many river themes in the Occam pieces: tributaries, waterfalls, springs, wells, etc. All of the themes are inevitably associated with water. It is the element that moves through them, the image of life, life in its fluidness, like the flow of blood.
What I ask of the musicians is highly demanding. Rather than the virtuosity of speed, it concerns the virtuosity of absolute control of the instrument, an extreme, subtle and delicate kind of virtuosity. What I did with my synthesizer was almost comparable. Turning a potentiometer the value of a hair could change everything. During my feedback period, the same delicate protocol was necessary when working with microphones and speakers. There is a distance that must be respected very carefully: moving too far away, the sound disappears, moving too close, the sound explodes into feedback. You have to keep everything in control. I do not renounce my electronic work, though I never accomplished anything that completely satisfied me. The end result was always a compromise between what I wanted to do and what I was technically able to do using the means available. Conversely, with these musicians, I was finally able to hear, for the first time, the music that I call “my sound fantasies.”
Regardless of what is being used, the essential goal is to produce and bring out the partials, the overtones, the harmonics and sub harmonics, these vibrations in the air, not only those of the string or the breath, but the intangible contents of sound. An instrument vibrating beyond the fundamental(s) generates an extraordinary richness that turns into fascination. This calls for extreme simplicity, i.e. sounds maintained between piano and mezzo forte dynamic levels, beyond which the fundamental again becomes predominant. Hence the famous law from Occam’s Razor, never overdo anything, concentrate instead on breath control, or a gentle stroke, that caress of a key or a string that is sufficient to develop and enrich this infinite universe.” Eliane Radigue
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