Postcards of Nostalgia | music for microtonal prepared piano & live electronics
produced by Simon Mariegaard
I grew up with pictures into distant peoples and places scattered about the old family house. Open to imaginative speculation and taking me adrift to far-strewn reveries, these postcards, drawings, paintings and papered articles opened portals into old cultures and poignant stories. Often imagined, I shared in their stories. For the images bred nostalgia for something that had been buried in me. Namely, a rootedness that comes with profound identification with place and lineage.
This music – a first journey into microtonal sonic territories – liminally explores the ethos of ancient places and its people and art. It reflects on my travels to places like Chennai (South India), Delphi, (Greece) and the Dordogne Valley (France). Whether explored in wakeful experiences, dreaming or literature, or most notably the liminal psychological planes in between, these impressions lie deep in the subconscious. Stored as memories, they manifest as postcards of nostalgia, that I carry always.
Postcards of Nostalgia might also describe the awe-inspiring Upper Palaeolithic cave art. Poet Clayton Eshleman uses “postcards of Nostalgia” to refer to some kind of eternal longing for something that we know we have lost. A loss of some aspects of an animal nature. The irreversible gain of consciousness, or reflection upon ourselves, and a compensatory need for imaginative creativity. An expression toward a need for reconnection, creativity must have helped us survive. It must continue to help us survive.
Why journey away from the traditional piano and it’s tuning?
In some ways, our inherited tuning system (12-tone equal temperament) can be likened to a clock. A clock is quantitative, rather than qualitative in that it consists of 12 equidistant numbers representing hours of the day. One can recall Descarte’s mechanistic clockwork universe and how these enlightenment ideas, to this day, pervade and largely shape who we are and how we view the world around us. In contrast, bell-time, of say Medieval Europe, could be compared to microtonality. Bells lack the precision, automatization and regularity of clocks and yet find more embodied connection points to surrounding nature and the way human society may organize itself. Bells were, and continue to be markers for important events including births, weddings, death rituals and so forth. It’s important for me to confront and pose questions about this largely quantitative mechanistic world view that philosophically permeates many aspects of our lives. It is, for instance, important for me to evoke the sounds of bells or gongs for they symbolize human agency, present moment-focus and embodied states of being.
Stream of consciousness postcards of sound |
“He understood that the task of molding the incoherent and dizzying stuff that dreams are made of is the most difficult work a man can undertake, even if he fathom all the enigmas of the higher and lower spheres – much more difficult than weaving a rope of sand or minting coins of the faceless wind.” (Jorge Luis Borges: Fictions, the circular ruins)
A fair portion of the project’s process has lacked pre-meditation. It’s been primarily action-based research where “results” and reflections have taken place away from the “doing”. It’s involved many spontaneous recording sessions: improvised and sketch compositions for solo microtonal prepared piano; duet collages consisting of pre-recorded piano, prepared piano; and electronics. Only in the album’s mixing and production stage did a pre-meditated architecture emerge. Perhaps in connection to LaMonte Young’s well-tuned piano and what Morten Feldman might refer to as scale, I’m interested in fostering suspended, drawn-out liminal psychological states exploring one’s own subliminal landscapes.
Sonically re-imagining the piano |
“In a healthy culture differing musical philosophies would be coexistent, not mutually exclusive; and they would build from Archean granite”. (Harry Partch, “Genesis of a Music”)
My curiosity urges me beyond the fixed pitches of the conventional piano and into extended sound possibilities. I ask questions like: why should our ears continue to be so accustomed to only one tuning system? In contrast, can “pure sounds” meet ethnically diverse microtonality? Can magnets and metallic preparations placed inside the piano evoke timbral affects from Balinese Gamelan or Indian classical music? How can this instrument merge with spatiality and electronics to create embodied experiences for audiences?
My piano has been re-tuned (using just intonation and the Balinese “Sedeng” pentatonic scale) and prepared (at times) with magnets and other metallic objects. For it is in Just Intonation that we often find a mathematical or platonic striving and in Balinese Gamelan that we authentically find embodiment. My hope has been towards some kind of synergy in bringing these tuning worlds together.
Exploring spatiality I’ve used transducers attached to the piano soundboard (making it a speaker) for playing electronic improvisations, drone collages and personal pre-recordings. Some tracks, as in “font-de-gaume”, reflect me improvising in real time with these textural drones. In other words it’s a duet with myself. All sounds are coming from the same piano soundboard.
Recorded in an acoustically dry room at the Rhythmic Music Conservatory, we later re-amped the 8 channel recordings into Copenhagen’s St. Augustine’s church. Thus, what you hear on the record is music floating in and out of two physical spaces which allows for multiple listening perspectives.
releases June 23, 2023
Matt Choboter | microtonal prepared piano, electronics, compositions
Simon Mariegaard | Production
Recorded, mixed and mastered by Simon Mariegaard
Recorded at the Rhythmic Music Conservatory and re-amped in St. Augustines Church (CPH). December 2020.
Analog Photography by Raphael Gimenes
Album Design by Žilvinas Jagėla
Released on ILK Music.
Supported by Koda Kultur (DK)