clairières

hi,
i am thrilled to share with you all my first album, commissioned and released by Ryoanji Records.
If i had to use keywords to let you know where it stands, these would be «musique concrète», «field-recording», «lowercase».

I’ll try to give you some insights in the thought process of making these 14 tracks; as this forum is for me a stimulating place to get ideas going, i guess sharing back a few ideas is the least i can do.
The initial context is this: in the last n years i have been «recording in the field» as a mere listening practice, and for 5 years i also have been making standalone pieces of musique concrète. In both these practices, i did record, generate, and use a large archive of sounds.
So i wanted to dive in this archive as a found-sound reserve. Making many tracks instead of one would allow me to keep each track focused on very few of these sounds. It would also be the opportunity to explore some formal processes, to defer a bit of control to a prior stage almost separated from listening (this proved useful for some tracks only).

Contrary to my longer pieces which are more like one “flowing/morphing place”, i thought of these tracks to be each more of a “single location” nature. And i did it quite litterally: most times there is a main field recording that is a non-composite place. Hence the title, for me this listening experience is a path and each track is one of these places you get a glimpse of between the trees, stop to breathe some light, or even get to dwell in for a while.

For “some reason”, i want my work to be the farthest possible from spectacular effects. This does not preclude me from using some musical grammar, i only try to do it quietly and keep the information mostly in the backgrounds, not on the fenceposts. On this aspect i deliberately went further than before, yet actually i feel there’s still quite a lot happening. I don’t think it is «extremely minimal» in any way. Maybe you will tell me otherwise.

I won’t go into too many details on the technical side, but will gladly answer specific questions.

some technical details nonetheless

The main tool was a DAW with a tab for each track, that allowed me to have a very fluid workflow. I made some Csound patches for the more formal experiments and weird attempts (multiband variable timestretching for example ^^). A small eurorack system was used as a “digital tape manipulation” device to which i could quickly send anything from the timeline and easily record back the result of the quasi-physical interaction with the buffer.

Apart from manually selecting and arranging sounds in time, there were a few structural things that i did:

  • one was to simply use transient detection on one audible file to trigger a narrow resonant filter on the file itself. A scale or “melody” (array of frequencies) is stepped through on each trigger. The trick for it to not be boring was to use not every transient as a trigger, but to define (evolving) rules (concerning spacing and simultaneous instances) as to when a transient can be a trigger.

  • another was to generate parallel flows of triggers, each according to a probability distribution, to change a playhead position. A kind of granular synthesis with very long grains and very sparse triggers, if you will.

  • last i can think of for now was using different events from a hidden layer to generate audible events in different “voices”. It creates a not-too-obvious relationship between these voices.

An “auto-mixing” trick i used in several instances was to put an envelope follower on one layer to modulate something on another layer: attenuate the level of an EQ band, move an HPF cutoff or slope, or simply change the track level. Sometimes using a modified (filtered, compressed, or gated) copy of the controlling signal was necessary for a more expressive or subtle modulation.

I hope you enjoy listening as much as i loved crafting these tracks.

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Thank you for sharing this work here !

I really like it. I love the precision of the writing, it does not feel like random processes at all, the energy flows in a very natural way, timbres are beautiful, even when distorted. Space is there when needed but it is not bathed in reverb so it is very dynamic in that aspect also, which I love for that kind of music.
Also, I love how you achieved to make a collection of short pieces feel like a longer work. It is hard to explore concrète style composition in short work, but those absolutely work, I feel like we flow from one to another like glimpses of memories of the same journey.

Congrats !!

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thanks for your nice words :slight_smile:
Until i was halfway through the album i wasn’t too concerned about how it would flow.
When i had 25 minutes of tracks, the question of organizing a larger form along various parameters became a major driving force.
So i’m glad that the flow is right since it is quite baked-in. I tried to use contrast and reminiscence, as well as having some parameters in the short tracks (those with single-word titles) “univocally” evolve over time.

It appears i have retained more than i thought from «Le répertoire des effets sonores» d’Augoyard (and the amusing contrast between the «typical french science book» original cover vs the more recent and “arty” english edition).

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I did not know that book, thanks for the reference, it looks really interesting !

Yes I love when this happens, I feel like it is the moment the “real composition” starts, where you get to organize the evolution of time through sound in a larger scale and the ideas start to flow and come back changing the little bricks now that they built something bigger together !

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