Four Possible Landscapes

steve roden
CD in regular jewel box
trente oiseaux

  1. jellyfish so like the moon (second bench) 9'23"
  2. star cluster (first bench) 5'51"
  3. resonantlightones 18'18"
  4. reflection.refraction (third bench) 11'12"

original liner notes:

‘it seemed i was observing the earth from the outside. i was in great empty space and saw the planets rolling quietly’
f. kupka

the 3 benches were created using processed and transformed sounds from bernhard gunter’s cd ‘details agrandis’. no other sounds were used.

a few years ago in one of our many long emails, bernhard and i realized that we had both sat upon the same bench in the pompidou center and gazed upon a rather strange painting by georges mathieu. this, of course, occurred many years before we met. the bench was metaphoric, since our interests and philosophies share a number of intersecting points in the universe. i think at one point we discussed doing a collaborative CD each using each other’s works as source materials, but this like many ideas, fell away and seemed simply gathering dust. in the summer of 2000, while teaching in paris, i decided to go to the pompidou to make some field recordings of the bench, with the intention of creating a piece using this place as source material. unfortunately, the pompidou has since been remodeled, and the bench is no longer there.

that summer also brought me to bernhard’s home, and i left with a copy of details agrandis, the one work of his i somehow never managed to hear. it seemed like a natural starting point for a new work. so in many ways, the 3 benches are dedicated to bernhard, and those intersecting points, both inside and outside the sound and music world, that we really do share.

resonantlightones was originally going to be a piece using feedback, and the second in a series of works i was creating for robert bresson. somehow, this idea, too, fell away. in september, while on vacation in the mountains, i made some recordings of a beautiful sounding light switch in the cabin we were staying in. when i began working with it, i realized i had come back to the idea of feedback, by finding a mirror-sound to feedback in a resonating acoustic object from the physical world. the piece is still dedicated to bresson – but also to those who shared the incredible moonlight at lake mary.

i originally used the term ‘possible landscape’ to describe my performances – spaces created from spaces, related to the specificity of the location, yet trying to open this specificity up to abstraction. although they use no field recordings, i view these 4 works also as possible landscapes – perhaps tied more to the tradition of painting – where fuzzy edges and hues of color can lead one to wander.

  • reviews:
  • The Four Possible Landscapes Steve Roden offers on this CD develop slowly and remain soft-spoken. If one follows the instructions to listen at a low volume level, it becomes evanescent as the listener’s mind drifts away — but isn’t that what the title implies? Three of these works (the “bench” series) were created using only samples from Bernhard Günter’s CD Détails Agrandis. Concrete sounds and electronic tones blend to create bare textural pieces, with “Reflection. Refraction (Third Bench)” being the most peaceful and delicate one. The material heard on “Resonantlightones” was allegedly derived from the sound of a light switch, which is quite hard to believe considering the beautiful forward/backward electronic notes that are the sole constituent of this work. Whatever the process used, Four Possible Landscapes delivers enjoyable dreamy ambient sound constructions. Some listeners may find it just a bit too sterile.

    francois couture, all music guide
  • Despite often operating at the edges of audibility, Steve Roden’s compositions are never failing in their generosity. Quiet they may be, but this does not preclude a lack of action. Far from it. Unlike next week’s Top 40 Zeitgeist, Roden’s works bear the hallmark of careful, sustained attention to detail that will offer rewards long after yesterday’s hook-filled pop songs have fallen from grace.

    ‘Star Cluster (First Bench)’ opens to a ticking refrain underpinning the most beautiful of melodies whose appeal lies in its almost incompleteness. Layers of sound, each more subtle than the last, slowly define an aural landscape around which the composition focusses; simultaneously clear and yet, paradoxically, also incredibly rich.

    As if this weren’t sufficient, ‘Resonantlightones’ follows with the most delicately poised tones; at a fraction over eighteen minutes it is so gently complex that it never loses interest despite its minimal means. ‘Four Possible Landscapes’ closes, where it opens, with ‘Reflection. Refraction (Third Bench)’ a quiet meditation of pops and clicks whose soft resonances are nothing short of the perfect ending which ultimately, and appropriately, fades to nothing…

    array / fallt
  • I don’t know it for a fact, but it’s my impression that all of this artist’s albums ultimately boil down to some field recording of some sort. So, at the lowest level (for the sake of example), we may have two pieces of plastic being rubbed together, or the sounds of a cooling radiator. Then, these little waveforms make their way into mr. Roden’s computer, whereupon they are subjected to matrix upon matrix upon matrix. Through a series of transmogrifications, these mere earthly occurrances become cyberacoustic events. Far removed from their origin, these mutants can be blended, sequenced and intertwined with absolute peace and serenity. It’s not music so much as a coallition of the unknowingly willing. I mean, under normal conditions, you can’t get two pieces of rubber and a radiator in a room together without someone having to call the vet. Remarkable. Copies of his albums can come and they can go, so you may have to be attentive and deliberate in your pursuits.

    ambience for the masses
  • Steve Roden’s “Four Possible Landscapes” was initially presented as a conceptual challenge to Bernhard Gunter. Roden sent this piece to Gunter for consideration to be released on Gunter’s Trente Oiseaux without explaining that this record was composed only using transformed elements from Gunter’s delicate whisper of an album “Details Agrandis.” While listening to “Four Possible Landscapes,” I really can’t hear any concrete references to Gunter’s recordings, which certainly puts these two records into the now oddly anachronistic theoretical space of the simulacrum — defined as 1. a network of semiological reflections and refractions which only point to references and never state meaning; 2. a buzz word that art theorists liberally slung around in the ’80s, and more than a decade later may possibly be used to actually define something.
    The mirroring that Roden applies to Gunter’s work could be viewed as a brilliant haiku that gets the words rearranged into a sparse yet metaphorically loaded lullaby. The emphasis is thus placed on the major differences between these two ‘lowercase’ artists: Gunter with his Morton Feldman-esque approach to the decontextualized domestic sound, Roden with his beautifully delicate application of melody and rhythm. Roden composes “Four Possible Landscape” with repeating motifs of digital bell tones (which may have origins in a tiny moment of Gunter’s sine-wave feedback) and distant tidal washes of static (which could be from anything). Where Roden succeeds is, of course not due to the conceptual endgame but rather because of compositional prowess.

    aquarius records
  • The landscapes Roden refers to here, are not real ones, but related to his work with performances, the specificity of the location. Inspired by a bench in the Centre Pompidou which may or may not be the same as Roden sat upon, as did his labelboss Bernhard Gunther, watching a painting by Georges Mathieu. Three pieces of music on this CD were made by using Gunther’s Details Agrandis CD. Roden takes samples of the tracks and creates his own, audible, space with them (although if I remember correctly that Gunther CD was his most loud album, I believe he called it his popalbum). Roden is also at the point of pop here: simple repeating loops with organ like drones gurggling underneath… simple, naive music which nevertheless breaths the minimalism of Gunther’s own work, but of a much lighter nature. The fourth piece on this CD were made of ‘some recordings of a very beautiful sounding light switch in a cabin’. The outline of this piece is no different then the other three. The cover recommends to play this at a relatively low level. Your room will be filled with ambience, this music will be present, but doesn’t ask your entire attention. It’s music that can best be described as ambient. Music as an environment. Well shaped environment that is.

    vital 257

    frans de waard