Michael Moser – Antiphon Stein

Posted: 23 July 2016 in Albums
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Edition RZ

Christopher Nosnibor

Returning to a brace of recurrent themes, including that of process as touched on in my write-up of Laurent Perrier’s latest collection of ‘one-way collaborations’, process and place are again key factors in the making of Michael Moser’s sprawling double album, Antiphon Stein. The majority of the sound featured on the album derives from Klaus Lang playing organs in various churches – although the sounds here are very different from those featured on Stefan Fraunberger’s recent album.

As the album cover explains in notes replicated in the press release, Antiphon Stein is a site-specific sound installation in the nave and choir of Minoritenkirche in Krems/Stein that engages with the architecture and sound of this church space. The materials used are hanging and lying flat objects of glass and metal that are played with sound pressure transducers. These objects thus become membranes that resonate in their entire surface and mass, exuding sound to the surrounding space. Of course, the album release is not site-specific, but serves the purpose of transporting the listener to that space, and a degee of visualisaion does enhance the listening experience.

The organ sounds on Antiphon Stein are as much a product of their places, the architectural structures and the decorations within them being integral to their textures. In addition to the organ recordings are drums and percussion courtesy of Berndt Thurner, while Moser himself adds glass plates and electronics. But of course, Moser’s primary contribution is the process. Each source sound exists as a ‘compositional miniature’ of three to seven minutes in duration, but processed digitally to form four pieces each with a running time of approximately twenty minutes. The process is therefore absolutely transformative, and as such integral to the realisation of the end product which bears little semblance to the initial input.

In context, the importance of process is not only significant but central, and the process is many ways is about amplification. The input is relatively modest, in that this large-scale work is constructed from an assemblage of much smaller scale recordings. Specifically, the material itself consists of compositional miniatures of three to seven minutes in duration, which have subsequently been fed through a computer to yield four untitled long-form pieces, each occupying a side of vinyl and running for some twenty minutes each.

The scale of the final work is grand, and it’s not simply about the length of the tracks. The atmosphere is immense, and while there are dark shadows, the overall sensation Antiphon Stein inspires one of awe. The sounds, described as ‘small compositional miniatures of a duration of three to seven minutes’, having been combined digitally to form a vast sonic mass, coalesce to create something which sounds entirely natural. And yet, the work is structured, the realisation of an ambitious project of sonic architecture.

Cavernous echoes amplify the depths of slow, low rumbles. Subtle chimes roll and glissando, throb and whistle. Hums hang heavy in slow-turning air. There is nothing hurried about the way the sounds layer and unfurl, and this deliberate, considered approach to the sculpting of the sound is extremely effective in terms of how the engages the listener.

Perhaps a limitation of the format is the fact that a work that readily lends itself to existing as a single, continuous piece is interrupted by the need to turn the record over. Yet, by the same token, this very act necessitates a physical engagement, and render the tactile qualities of the music tangible.

And so it is that the listener becomes engaged in the process, adding a layer to the process beyond the product itself, namely that of participation, of engagement. And ultimately, this is the level on which the album succeeds. It’s impossible to avoid the sequence of process with Antiphon Stein. And yet the process does not render the material sterile: far from it. If anything, the process is vital to bringing the material to life and is precisely what engages the listener.

 

moser-antiphon-cover

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Comments
  1. […] while Fraunberger’s work and Michel Moser’s Antiphon Stein were centred around pipe organs, Drömloch’s instrument of choice is a Hohner church organ, a […]

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