english: firmament - sleepless 16-channel electroacoustic composition year: 2010 duration: 20.25 min studio: Harvard University dedicated to Omar Alvarez first performance: July 29, 2010 , Festival Inventionen, Elisabethkirche, Berlin published on CD Firmament, DVD 30 Jahre Inventionen voice: Sarah SunA universe of sound is surrounding us ‘from within.’ It’s composed of our dreams, fears and longings. It only exists within our body, our own imagination. We want to share it; but there are no words, no possible descriptions. We are sitting on a meadow on a warm night, alone, watching the stars. Nobody is disturbing our thoughts. Nobody is limiting our space. We don’t have to rush anywhere; we have time to let go and to follow these sounding creatures…
It’s not a nightmare; it’s just the interplay of our imagination.
For Firmament-schlaflos (2010), the concert’s twenty-one minute finale, Hans Tutschku, Professor of Music at Harvard and Director of HUSEAC, manufactured a swirling, multi-layered, metallic ocean, diffused in sixteen channels. As meticulously sculpted waves of sound undulated throughout the hall, the listener became an aural seafarer, discovering vast expanses ranging in character from moderately placid to tempestuous. Recognizable utterances slowly surfaced, and one began to suspect that some form of humanity might be near.
Tutschku, a master manipulator, used gradual, highly detailed transformation as well as sudden, extreme contrast to great advantage. In the first section, the fluidity of his billowing sea was interrupted twice by something like a hail shower, with small explosions bursting like popcorn from all sixteen channels. Through one of Tutschku’s unexpected, jump-cut contrasts, the listener was then abruptly dropped into hushed depths, where the only sounds were those of ghostly female voices intoning quivering melodic fragments and whispers. For this listener, the chilling effect vividly evoked translucent specters. They called, perhaps beckoning, perhaps warning, as they drifted, amorphous and wide-eyed, down a small stream in a dark netherworld.
Transfixed in these depths, one easily forgets that this is a high-tech feat of electroacoustic virtuosity. The trick is that technology is not the foundation of Firmament-schlaflos’ success; rather, the piece’s substance and musicality become the foci. Sometimes in electroacoustic contexts, flaws in the hall, the audio components, or the composer’s approach, become impediments to a compelling connection between music and listener. However, the beauty of Tutschku’s writing for the HYDRA is that once immersed, one becomes completely lost in the musical narrative and the startling arrivals, which oscillate on a spectrum between spare fragility and vortexes of organic turbulence.
Boston Musical Intelligencer, David Dominique, December 22, 2010
BEAST loudspeaker orchestra at the first performance