Wednesday, 22 June 2011

". . . never exactly the same and never really different. . . " : Eliane Radigue's Naldjorlak

[image: from Displaced Sounds blog]

It is difficult to imagine how one could experience Eliane Radigue's Naldjorlak except as some sort of consensual hallucination. In its first movement in particular, for solo cello, you find yourself staring at the body of the instrument, transfixed: you can see exactly what the instrument is doing, exactly how the sound is being produced - and yet, you are bamboozled. Sounds seem to be drifting, floating around the room, moving through space, coming at you from behind. Tones that are familiarly acoustic are behaving in ways one would expect only from electronics - with glacial, infinite sustain and purity of tone; then, tones distinctly electronic behave in ways unmistakably organic - ever shifting, fluctuating, ululating. All just from a cello, and one seemingly just playing one note. Tuned, as cellist Charles Curtis claims, to the instrument's 'wolf tone' - "the essential frequency of the cellos' resonating cavity." This is not, as the Deleuzians would say, a becoming-animal, a becoming-machine - but something bodily is happening. An exobiology. First contact. Music for creatures who exist on different time spans from us. Like a swallow hypnotised by the song of a whale.

The composer who, on a trip to the States in the early 70s, bought an ARP 2500 and left the keyboard part behind, uninterested, deals in stretches, distortions of perspective; a delicate yet highly disciplined exploration of the possible timbres to be teased out of very limited material, developed in very close collaboration with her instrument(alist)s, and with great sensitivity, infinite nuance. Music which is, like the quote from Paul Verlaine in the concert programme goes, "never exactly the same and never really different. . . "