Light Room / Empty Room

Two fine pieces of art music long-form process drone composed by Marta Forsberg on her record TKAC (THANATOSIS THTLP5). The abiding theme on both pieces is “light”, and relates to the aim of this Polish-Swedish composer to transform light into sound, either as a metaphor for the eternal mysteries of life, or as a physical process.

Marta is a violin player, but on ‘LED and Love Sounds’ (first realised in 2015), she confesses she might be in the middle of a “slow transition” away from conventional playing. A video is available showing the set-up of this piece in a Berlin gallery, and the instrument is simply hanging there on a stand while she operates her laptop and multiple effects pedals; the main sound however is still the violin, only created I think from looped samples. That is my interpretation of “frozen and processed violin sounds”, as she describes it. There are also light-emitting diode lighting strips as part of the performance / installation, and it might be that signals from these LEDs feed into the work. The audience sound in the gallery, although barely audible on the record, is also reckoned to be part of the overall piece. Serene, calming, minimal drones float into space, with barely any interventions from the composer necessary; beautiful music, and it has a centre of stillness that is near-spiritual in its effects. I like the way that her bold swoops and pitch-changes appear to be executed in an intuitive manner, and it doesn’t follow a strict compositional grid.

The second piece ‘Weave And Dream’ likewise makes use of LED lighting as a part of its realisation and compositional process. There is “pulsation and upwards-going movement” produced by these LEDs, as Marta Forsberg discovered when she first hung them up in the concert hall in her former music college. The music was almost secondary; in this case produced by a synthesizer, its tones and rhythms reflecting the pulses from the lights. In its realisation, she evidently wants to create quite a dramatic and moving light-show, making use of remote controls and black curtains for maximal effect. On this particular recording of ‘Weave And Dream’, Greek droner Nikos Veliotis did the mix, though she has done it in the past with the help of Sylvain Devaux. The title ‘TKAC’ translates from Polish as “weave”, and is very descriptive of the powerful layering process that she is achieving here. From 24th March 2021.

Swedish composer David Granström has produced Empty Room (HALLOW GROUND HG2102), a powerful set of drones produced by synthesis of electric guitar music. It also seems to have depended to some extent on the disused iron ore mine where it was performed and recorded. This fellow has a degree from the Royal College of Music in Stockholm and has since been pursuing some very forward-thinking ideas about digital / electronic music and synthesis, sometimes doing it at the famed EMS studio.

Some of these ideas, which I don’t begin to understand, are represented on today’s very dense and deep recordings – temporality, spatialisation, Just Intonation, and the use of “cyclical and isometric patterns”; he’s interested in finding new ways to work “algorithmically”, which I assume involves some sort of programming skill, and it seems he has developed his own scripts to run in the framework of the SuperCollider system. This might not all be applicable to the Empty Room recordings. For one thing, there’s a bit more real-time guitar action going down here, and he explains in some detail the reasons for including “actual recordings of the guitar”. This goes against the grain for Granström, who likes to produce compositions through working with blocks of synthesised sounds. On this occasion, the act of playing inside the Bergslagen iron ore mine has also produced extra resonances and echoes which pleased him, and there has evidently been a labour-intensive and elaborate means of feeding back and layering all the sounds together. There’s a lot of grandeur and epic sweep in these artificial guitar orchestrations, even when barely recognisable as a guitar, and the listener certainly won’t feel short-changed by the sheer volume of the sound and the depth of the content that’s on offer.

At the same time, Empty Room just feels a bit precious and fragile, lacking in emotional responses, suggesting that perhaps Granström is a little too involved with his processes, timbres, and very precise tunings that are required for these compositions. Marta Forsberg (above) has a much lighter touch, and uses her intuitive skills more readily; Granström is in danger of being pulled into the vortex of his own technology. From 24th March 2021.