Review

Pauline Oliveros + Musiques Nouvelles

Four Meditations / Sound Geometries

Sub Rosa • 2016

When the album »Breadwoman & Other Tales« by Anna Holmer & Steve Moshier was released through RVNG Intl. not so long ago, it aroused nagging doubts: the story sounded too abstruse not to have been made up. Pauline Oliveros is different: no one can make it up. Similar to the bread-and-butter conceptual figure with the bizarre backstory, however, Oliveros seems to speak in tongues on the track »Four Meditations«. An impenetrable, rhythmically affective scat singing that seems to adopt an Icelandic accent here and then again formulates familiar words there. At some point, recognisable language emerges from the confusion of syllables, which the Belgian orchestra Musiques Nouvelles accompanies with an even greater, but infinitely more discreet confusion. Oliveros speaks of dreaming and travelling, of being I and Thou – in several languages appropriately, but mainly in English and French. Somewhere between the sour atmosphere of Schoenbergian twelve-tone music and the structured chaos of a Xenakis, the music, in front of which the composer verbally sets the scene, nevertheless knows when to withdraw in order to let the magnificent performance take the lead. The somewhat longer 25-minute track »Sound Geometries« is different, in which the human voice returns only as a pseudo-echo: towards the expressive finale, the wind sounds seem to develop their very own tongue-beat. A deception of many, because it is not without reason that »Sound Geometries« bears this title: the expanded instrument system developed by Oliveros distributes the individual recorded instruments according to geometric patterns over a 5.1 system. The result sounds all the more like chaos – and a great deal of pleasure.