Ephemeral spaces in movement — K-LC

The work of Kara-Lis Coverdale has mesmerized and inspired me since January 2016. Even without visual aids, Coverdale's work is evocative. Her pieces stand alone as paradoxically concrete, abstract phenomena. As fusions of incadescent melodies and haptic textures, they create impressions of sublime dynamic spaces. All of Coverdale's motifs hover between auditory and "visual" perceptibility.

I have called Coverdale's working enveloping — the manner in which "Ad_renaline" unfolds exemplifies this. The song captivates my attention from its outset. At 0:00 a lighthearted/melancholy melody wavers like playful LED lights — freed from their containers and released into the atmosphere. Reverberation lends the piece a weightlessness that both lends it in immediacy and draws the listener into confrontations with nostalgia. The melody intensifies by 1:00 when it is reinforced by a bass at 1:06 and encirlced by transitive vocals that overlap and recede from one another. Timbres of wood permeate the atmosphere, as a space is assembled within "Ad_renaline" that is brief, texturally rich, and mesmerizing.

My experiences with Coverdale's live work, such as her performance at Mutek this past June and during the Red Bull Music Academy in October, truly did not reflect my experiences with her recorded work, however. The mesmerizing bliss or confusion I felt during pieces such as "Ad_renaline" and the "Informant" (part of a collaborative work with LXV), were reactions to palimpsests — foundations to more complex arguments of beautiful noise in live settings. As in "Saps / H," "Splash 144," and "Disney," Coverdale's music exuded a great capacity for saturation/immersion — to be swept up by tonal/textural/wavering drones pierced by melodies that uplifted and carried me beyond a unilinear-perspective with sound. Receeding and advancing waves of scintillation; augmented horns and pipes; basses composed of superhuman/inhuman voices, which impress themselves upon the body through electroacoustic envelopment.

Moving beyond the screen — Schoen

I have followed the work of Matthew Schoen for a few years now. I first saw Vehicles over a year ago, when Schoen was completing his studies at Conservatoire de musique du Québec à Montréal. The layers of humming that drive this piece epitomize, for me, the unexpected, mesmerizing quality of music without tones.

Yet, Vehicles is not absent of tonal harmony. It seems redundant, but I truly think a difference can be observed between harmony out of chaos (poetic or political), and chords. In the case of Vehicles, it is one that hovers just beyond your immediate perception. It reminds me of the experience Richard D. James compares his Selected Ambient Works II album to: that of standing in a power station.

On another tangent, Vehicles also reminds me of the time I walked into a room thinking my coworkers were playing a musique concrète piece. In fact, it was the soda fountain and coffee machine running their cycles. There is music hiding in unexpected places — Schoen's work exemplifies this. The whir, hum, pulse, and rush of mechanisms in Vehicles come together to produce an ultimate, collective sound. It is profound, yet charming — the cadence of an artificial choir ushering you past the screen into an intricate, brighter atmosphere.

Serene extension, sculpted in folds — Minha

Hidden away within the Cinémathèque Québecoise, Yang Minha's video installation drew me into itself as it radiated into the foyer. Entranced by minimalist spaces and melodies, the crystalline bells and electrical chords of Running Women led me into a long dark room illuminated by the projection.

You could stand before Yang's work for hours. It is peaceful, mesmerizing, and soothes your eyes. and while I do not think it should be confused with meditation or yoga, I admit that it has a similar effect. As my eyes followed the dancers, I found my body turning from left to right at the same pace as their footsteps. I found myself at ease.

The robes of the running women move with a fluidity that hellenistic sculptures would long to possess. Moving across a blank screen several meters long, the dancers imprinted countless possible gestures upon my mind. As they lept forward, I could imagine them twist right or left, kick their legs in arches, or catch a current of air to carry them off the screen. As the motion vectors extended and retracted, I could envision multiple directions. And then, of course, some of the dancers fell. Perhaps it was cliché, but orchestrated or not, the few moments when the dancers touched the ground were the flaws that bound this piece together. They were the difference between a serene loop and a shifting vision of human beauty. 

Sound of the falaises

Reflection on two performances from Soundwich VI at the Conservatoire de musique du Québec à Montréal:

Samuel Béland created movement via encapsulation and the converse. He presented an acousmatic piece filled with air, glass, vapour, emptiness, and momentum. I envisioned rooms rushing past me, as well as moving through the rooms themselves. Water and glass morphed without pause from one into the other. The listener who received the piece would have been weightless, carried through states of matter and moving from the experience of an observer versus a feeler.

The final performance, both digital and acousmatic was entitled Falaises by Guillaume Côté, Alexei Kawolski, and Dave Gagnon. The set featured an oblong cube of glass, a large projection screen, and the typical perimeter of speakers used in the "salle de multimédia" of the Conservatoire. At times, the glass pane of the cube mimicked the images presented on the screen. Alternatively, the screen seemed to project images taken within the cube itself.

Falaises was gripping in its ability to hold the listener/viewer in a base of abstract sound, which undulated like the projected waves. The beginning of the piece carried the viewer into whirring static creating a small amount of tension. The dark waves were pierced by glitchy pulses on the screen, mirrored within the glass cube. There were shifts between footage seemingly taken within the cube (vibrant and alight), multiple returns to dark waves, an array of lines ascending and descending on the screen. The lines appeared to extend beyond their frame, however. They were complemented by the superimposition of footage showing the artists perform the piece in realtime with timecodes. The last two aspects nearly lent a metaphysical quality, as though the images and sounds experienced by the viewer were part of a previous, concrete experience.

Overall, Falaises was a continuous shift from the natural to the digital/artificial. These aspects were constantly in flux, like the graphic hand twisting on the screen about halfway through the piece. Gestures of “update,” “refresh,””process.” Scintillation, static, digital/elemental void alive and dynamic.