Témoins cover

Mathias DelplanqueTémoins

Crónica 138 tape

Release: 6 February 2018

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  1. Roz
  2. Bruz
  3. TU

A series of commissioned works, each connected to a location given to me. The sites were used as recording studios for creating multilayered compositions with minimal to none post-production. All instruments were played on site. Roz was recorded in Roz-sur-Couesnon in April-May 2014, mixed in Nantes in September 2016. Commissioned by the sound art gallery Le Bon Accueil (Rennes), as a workshop with schools from the area of the Mont Saint-Michel. Bruz was recorded at the Faculté des Métiers (IFA) de Bruz (Rennes) in March-April 2011, mixed in Nantes in May 2011. Commissionned by the Festival Electroni-K in Rennes, for the “Sound Postcards” program. TU was recorded at the Théatre Universitaire de Nantes, 8 October 2011, during a rehearsal of Stomach Company’s Ô l’air frais des bords de route. Mixed in Nantes, 9 October 2011.

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Témoins (Witnesses) is a series of sound pieces composed between 2011 and 2016, as part of various creation residencies. They share a specific writing and production protocol, initiated with Bruz, the first piece in the series.

In the spring of 2011, I was invited by the Electroni-K festival, in Rennes to participate in their “Sound Postcards” program (sound creations linked to various locations across the city of Rennes, FR). I quickly realised my inability to fully relate to the site on the basis of mere documentation, the recording of the sonic life of a space regarded as an objective “datum”, with a supposed “report”, etc… In short, I realised that the documentary approach did not suit me and that I needed to establish a more complex relationship with the place I was meant to work on. A relationship based on interaction, a form of disrespect and mutual disruption, blurring the lines between “context” and “intervention”, between “material” and “formal proposal”. I was also thinking that “a sound capture” should always be accompanied by a "sound release". So I decided that each recording would give rise to an in situ sound diffusion, and that the recording process would both constitute the opportunity and the testimony of the encounter between a triggered sound and a given space.

As I was asked to run a workshop at the Faculté des Métiers, in Bruz (in the suburbs of Rennes), I started exploring all the spaces in could get into (classrooms, corridors, library, halls, stairways, workshops, labs. etc…), equipped with a minimal instrumentarium: a melodica and a small metallophone, which, at the time, was all I had on hand for such interventions, but these quickly became the tools of a kind of personal sound vocabulary. In each space, I would switch my mikes on, position myself somewhere and play a few notes, always the same ones, deliberately scarce and spaced, so as never to occult the sonic atmosphere of the place, but on the contrary, to reveal it. Indeed in some of the rooms (a disused photo lab, an empty hall), these triggered sounds helped highlight the acoustics of the place, revealing its volume, the coating on the walls or the floor etc… In areas with a more intense sound activity (for instance a metallurgy workshop, a noisy classroom or a dental prosthesis lab), they tended to get lost in the overall mass of sound. But no recording was produced without its counterpart, i.e. the release of a sound, as tenuous as it may have been. The recordings thus generated complex conglomerates of instrumental timbres and sonorities specific to the acoustics and sound of a given place.

I would only play single notes, never a pattern nor chords, my idea being that the mixing process alone should bring out the musical motifs, following rather strict specifications:

  1. A recording is never presented alone for listening purposes. We should always hear the superposition of at least two recordings, i.e. two separate spaces and two temporalities (though we can often hear a lot more!).
  2. No effect (such as a reverb or filters) should be added in the studio.
  3. No “overdub” recording should be done in the studio.
  4. The post-production must be limited to editing, equalizing and gain, with a total respect for the original recording.

Therefore, the compositional process, consisted in superimposing the various recordings and discovering what bridges could be built between them, especially from the instrumental timbres they included — what “happy arrangements” could arise from these multiple encounters. This operational process was strictly applied to all three pieces in the series.

The second composition (in chronological order) is called TU and was recorded at the Théâtre Universitaire de Nantes, in the autumn of 2011, during rehearsals of the play Ô l'air frais des bords de route by Colyne Morange (Stomach Company). Wandering around the various spaces of the theatre (dressing rooms, cafeteria, offices, etc.), circulating outside the rehearsal room without ever entering it, I refreshed my approach by adding to my instrumentarium an acoustic guitar on which I had placed an e-bow, or whose strings I would strike, and an upright piano found in a corridor, on which I would sporadically play a few notes. The need to take into account the music of the play (composed by Pierre Bouglé) filtered through the doors and walls of the rehearsal room, provided the other key sonic element of this creation: a long electronic layer, used as a harmonic basis for my own in situ sonic inventions. Once again, the composition took place through the mixing process, at the time of the random overlay of these tracks made from chance recordings. In a more accurate (and in my view more successful) manner than in the previous piece, the aim was to build a consistent space from recordings made in disconnected locations. No melody, no chord were actually played in this room, every note heard having been recorded in a separate time and space.

Roz was recorded in the spring of 2014 around Roz-sur-Couesnon, in the Mont Saint-Michel bay, as part of a residency of several weeks organised by Le Bon Accueil gallery in Rennes. I made numerous recordings, alone or with groups of children from the local schools. Unlike the two previous compositions, "Roz" includes outdoors sounds. Indeed, most of the piece was recorded in a house in ruins, with all winds flowing through, lost in the middle of a field. The other recordings were carried out in the woods, in gardens, near a wash-house— Unable to carry cumbersome instruments during my countryside drifts, I resorted to small sounding objects: bells of several sizes, flutes, rattles, small percussions, and especially a tuning fork, that can be heard resonating throughout the composition. I also used a smartphone as a sound source, which allowed me, during my recording sessions, to include more electronic textures, likely to widen my musical palette. This piece was presented as a quadraphonic sound installation, as part of an exhibition called Nul mouvement de terrain n’indique la campagne habitée, produced in collaboration with the photographer Estelle Chaigne, who took the picture of the derelict house (where most of the recordings took place) featured on the album cover.

Mathias Delplanque, February 2018

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