(Mystery Sea 2013)

Review by Caity Kerr

There’s no text on the CD, but there is some lovely artwork, as always with Daniel Crokaert’s labels. So if we go to the online notes we’re told that a score has been drawn by Darius Ciuta and interpreted by Bruno Duplant.

Overall the work is measured and muted. It seems to take place all by itself, that is with little in the way of obvious human agency. It also seems to take place in a very large space. I’m assuming here that the piece is made from processed field recordings, though there might have been some ‘playing’ of various objects. It just doesn’t come over as a work which makes us of live instrumentation of any kind.

Small details almost manage to provide a foreground to this vast tableau in the manner of figures on a ground, a concept I’ve always thought to be worth developing, in opposition to the analogies with perspective (depth, spread and so on) which are expected in electroacoustic music that seeks to follow the ‘rules’ of good composition.

So for what it’s worth I enjoyed the work a lot, though it didn’t do anything very interesting in the field of investigating complexity, developing interesting morphologies, creating merging layers and movement between and within dense and detailed textures, or defying linearity. There are however a few passages of morphological interest, such as the breakthrough of gentle machine sounds which accumulate resonance and complexity. The scale of the work (79 minutes) allows an unfolding and unveiling which hints at non-linear treatment of the material but there’s still an overriding impression of ‘this followed by that’.

Generally the sounds are very effectively processed, no mean feat in a work of this duration. Only a couple of passages compromised this excellent technique, for example one passage in which the filtering is heard as simply filtering which always makes me try to figure out what the unfiltered sound might be.

Again, unusual in works of this scale, the pacing is well judged and the work gets busy at just the right times which implies that the artists have spent quality time auditioning the work with an ear to how it proceeds over its length.

Other positive attributes: the way in which the work borders on the abstract added to the muted gentle timbres almost invites an ambient listening behaviour, but there are some well-wrought passages which require closer listening; the range of muted timbres is well distributed, balanced by some overtly ‘musical’ passages of gentle percussive sounds and even windchime sounds; the recurring sound of a gently droning machine helps with the pacing of the piece as it appears to mark sections or punctuation.

There is a second piece, at least it seems to be detached from the longer work, which is much more sparse and repetitive sounding with recurring resonant pitches sound and background distant sounds. Rightly or wrongly though I was happy to listen to the whole cd as one work.

This might not seem to be much of a compliment, but I always consider long pieces like this to be good research pieces – in fact all the good music (to my ears) in the experimental/electroacoustic vein can usefully be seen as some kind of research, whether it be trying out something new, a technique, concept or undertaking with new and unusual materials, or even working towards solving a problem. Otherwise it’s not really experimental and probably follows a tried and tested formula which I don’t find very interesting. In this context the challenge here might have been how to maintain interest over nearly 80 minutes.

Finally, a small gripe, well quite a big one really – why can’t we see the score? I couldn’t find it online and would have liked to know more about what the music was supposed to be interpreting. Or maybe the secret score was part of the concept?


[Darius Ciuta: left, Bruno Duplant: right]

Darius Ciuta website
Bruno Duplant discography
Mystery Sea website