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M. Holterbach & Julia Eckhardt: Do-Undo (in G maze)

img  Tobias Fischer

Nada Brahma – to Julia Eckhardt the world really is sound. For years, the Berlin-born and Belgium-based Violinist has collected a massive pool of recordings of her playing nothing but the tone G. According to German musicosmologist Hans Custo, this is by no means a coincidental obsession. By doing so, Eckhardt has supposedly rather plugged herself straight into the sound of the earth day: Transposing G down twentyfour octaves creates a note lasting exactly twenty four hours, which, according to Custo's theory of the cosmic octave, awards it a host of remarkable effects - including anything from „stimulating a vitalising and tonic effect“ to attuning the listener to the „micro-biological molecular area of proteins“. If this sounds just a little too esoteric for you, fear not, however: The press release makes no mention of these discoveries and neither does Eckhardt's biography, which  focuses on richness of overtones as the main criterion for her mono-tonal explorations instead. It's the sound that counts and with this in mind, „Do-Indo (In G Maze)“ certainly doesn't require any cosmic support to make an impact.

Besides, the collection was of no inherent value as such to Eckhardt. Rather, the recordings were distributed among a list of Sound Artists, ranging from Argentinian improviser Lucio Capece to atmospheric dramaturgist Michael Shoemaker with the kind request of using them as a point of departure. Manu Holterbach's approach, the first to be officially released on CD, seems particularly well attuned to the aesthetics and sonic qualities of the material. Rather than ignoring the original state of his sources, Holterbach has allowed them to directly feed back into his own work. Next to gently processing and arranging Eckhardt's sustained tones into two ebulliently humming drones around the twenty five-minute mark, he collected a wealth of field recordings connected to them in both obvious and obscure ways: On „Two stasis made out of electricity“, Holterbach adds the noises of electric power plants, arc lamps, „the buzz of an amplifier in a Frederic Le Junter installation“, subway sizzlings from Paris as well as the fridge of his friend „Jean-Christophe Guedon“ - all of which resonated naturally in G. Thereby, Holterbach positions himself not just as an able craftsman, but as a true explorer, fascinated by parallels, simultaneities and curious juxtapositions in seemingly inanimate acoustic objects.

This tendency is most apparent on opener „Julia's ecstatic spring phenomenon“, if only because these contrasting elements are still presented as distinct. Over the course of its duration, subtle close-mic'd events take turns with passages of pure, undulating drones, a warm gong sounding through the piece in intervals of several minutes. Man-made music, the sounds of nature and organic resonance are considered one here, segueing in and out of each other like entirely equivalent phenomena. On „Two stasis made out of electricity“, the dividing line between them is becoming even more blurry and vague. Holterbach moulds his components into a single texture, brimming with tension and triumphant majesty. By maintaining and minutely transforming the underlying pulsation and allowing his recordings to pass by one by one like models walking down a catwalk, he is awarding them thematic character, creating a stage for subtle movement and discrete change. Even though, around the quarter-of-an-hour mark, the music rises to a dynamic climax, there are no real peaks and troughs here – and if there are, one could compare them perhaps to sudden, unpremeditated gusts of wind occasionally reinforcing a gentle summer breeze.

Anyone routinely avoiding releases tagged „drone“ should take a close listen: Especially at their moments of greatest density, these pieces radiate an uplifting, exhilarating energy comparable only to the sound of a classical orchestra pushing its way through the endlessly jubilant final major chord of a Mahler symphony. Astoundingly, this puts them directly in line with Custo, who associates a „dynamic character“ as well as „a stimulating and activating effect“ to the tone G. As if to reinforce this thought, the artwork of the CD – which, with its slightly rough paper inserts and delicate ink-work, puts many Vinyl-releases to shame – includes an elliptical astrological sphere at its back, possibly as a hint towards the search for models of cosmic harmony which kept philosophers like Hegel busy.

Whether or not Julia Eckhardt and Manu Holterbach intended the album to be heard in Lotus-position or as a background to a meditation remains anybody's guess. But the purity and searching nature of their contribution certainly points to a hidden musical language in everything around us. If the world really is sound, then these two artists currently rank among its best translators.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Julia Eckhardt at Q-O2
Homepage: Manu Holterbach
Homepage: Helen Scarsdale Agency Recordings

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