Processes and Potentials
(3LEAVES. 2013)

Review by Jay-Dea Lopez

“Processes and Potentials” is the latest work by Icelandic composer Bjarni Gunnarsson. Meticulously presented by the 3Leaves label “Processes and Potentials” is Gunnarsson’s attempt to explore theories of compositional practise within the realm of computer-generated sound. Over the course of 6-tracks we hear minimalist clicks, airy drones, rumbles and scratches panning from left to right. Elements that would normally create cohesion, such as rhythms and melodic structures, are missing. Instead continuity is achieved through the sounds themselves, all of which are heavily dependent upon computer synthesis. A relationship exists between their timbre and tone unifying what could otherwise have been a muddle of disparate sound.

In 2012 Gunnarsson completed his Masters Thesis titled “Processes and Potentials: composing through objects, networks and interactions” at the Institute of Sonology in The Hague. The tracks on Processes and Potentials were composed to support Gunnarsson’s thesis. Although Gunnarsson’s work can be enjoyed as a stand-alone project, a more informed listening experience can be gained by reading the thoughts that influenced his creative process. Gunnarsson writes about the need to change his compositional process from one that is “goal-oriented” to one which allows musical moments to unfold more naturally. One of the first steps in this process is to acknowledge the ways in which material elements should instruct the compositional process. In addition Gunnarsson questions the relationship between the psychological perception of time and music. What creates the feeling of “now”? Does music hold a single “now”? Do we understand music through a series of non-linear memories? Just as we construct memory Gunnarsson believes that music can be experienced as “being like a chain of musical events. How these chains are formed and how the links between elements are made is what makes the whole for a piece of music”. This theory guides Gunnarsson’s compositional process in “Processes and Potentials”.

Theories aside, the success of “Processes and Potentials” is that it exists as its own entity independent from Gunnarsson’s academic realm of production. A dark, almost claustrophobic, world of miniatures crackles from beneath the surface of walls and earth. The mood continues from one piece to another without ever rising to any dramatic moments of crescendos or diminuendos or noticeable melodic structures. This could be suspenseful or monotonous depending on your personal taste. For those who are interested in minimalist computer generated sounds this is one release that is definitely worth listening to.


[Bjarni Gunnarsson]

Bjarni Gunnarson website
3Leaves website