Some reflections on Plane/Talea


The cycle of pieces that goes under the title “Plane/Taléa” reflects my interest for polyphonic vocal music. It envisions an ‘impossible choir’ constructed by sequencing thousand of modules and fragments of my own voice and rearranging them into polyphonic textures and garlands.

This cycle can be intended as an utopian sonification of an ‘impossible community’, where the voice is atomised into primary utterances and recomposed into clouds of sound too thick and too complex to be sung by an actual choir made of vocalists of flesh and bones.

The music of “Plane/Taléa” is the sonic projection of such acoustic imagery and is recreated here by means of sampling, max/msp programming and voice sequencing. Voice is not ‘processed’ or altered in any way but undergoes a molecular reorganisation. In theory, an hyperchoir could sing this. Luckily, such choir do not exist yet.

Such molecular reorganisation is in fact a series of combinatory and chaotic strategies.

At the end of the 13th century mystic and philosopher Ramon Llull had theorised a Ars Combinatoria which could be practiced with the aid of mobile wheels carrying letters and symbols which took the name of lullian wheels.

In Plane/Talea I made use of sonorous lullian wheels. Within such wheels a limited number of phonetic and linguistic elements have been span or randomly recombined. Quick sequences are created and through acceleration the perceptive dissolution of the discrete elements of such sequences is achieved.

Sequences become textures which are chaotic and coherent at the same time. Each coherent one of them is like a different kind of doe with a specific taste and consistence associated to it.

Other than John Cage aleatoric strategy which leaves sound fragments and objects floating in time without any incantatory or repetitive premeditation such procedure seems closer to the incantatory and combinatory game of “change-ringing” – the art of ringing a set of tuned bells in a series of mathematical patterns called “changes” – than to Cage’s alea. In it a limited number of elements oscillates quickly to the point of generating a new perceived material.

In traditional lullian wheels each notch or box is coherent one to a meaning, be it one of the names of god, a virtue, an attribute, a mineral or a sign of the zodiac.
In my sound version of the wheels each one of the original meaning had been eventually erased. What now circulate are phonemes, emptied in meaning and whose intonation is quivering. Such tiny fragments appear now as small ripples, individual waves that rotate and recombine creating consistent formations. Their main attribute is no longer meaning but inflection. They generate sound archipelagos whose traits are uniform as the rocks of a certain place, all slightly different and yet all ascribable to the same geological origin.

In the beginning these wheels may have articulated a word, aname, even the name of God, or even more simply they may articulated the name of the beginning itself (am anfang / breschit). In such beginnings we were supposed to imagine the whole world, already complete, folded or hidden and ready to appear. Eventually they began to rotate so quickly as to lose sight of any meaning and any narration in a kind of creative ecstasy.

However – contrary to expectations – that which flows from this rotation is not the world – nor an ordered cosmos with an above and a below, a before and after – it is instead a raw material more like mud or mush. A sound doe.

This leads me to say something in regard to the inclination of using language as a musical material; even though language appears to be a very special kind of object, very much implied into the existence of innumerable other things and processes, it retains a certain uncanny and mysterious allure making it endlessly seductive to my consciousness and my ears, way more seductive than other sonic concretions which are far more often used in music; concretions are for example fixed and regular relations between frequencies (intervals), timbres specific to one or another instrument or gestures specific to one or another genre.

The “than” is crucial though since seduction is born out of comparing and out of a distinction with a previously existing types of music.

My work has often brought me on the cliff between music and language in times and places where the post structuralist influence seemed inevitable.
I often asked myself which aspects of such ideas would have been better discarded and expelled from the system in order to get back to a more direct realism.

I had been thinking and admiring theories en vogue in the second half of the past century as the literary and musical constructivisms, Eco’s semiotic interpretations, Perec’s oulipo, Jackson MacLow combinatory practices, Derrida’s deconstructions, Chomsky’s transformational grammatical structures and so on.

Now they seem to get on the way of a fresher and freer creative

process allowing relation and access to the materiality of things and the world with no need of any linguistic or structural mediation.

I recalled how this approach – that of seeing language as a thing among things – had always been my instinctual way of treating language – or what i believe to be a language – in my work. An approach consisting in having it first disappear in a sort of evanescent embrace only to bring it back later as a solid and concrete object among other objects as stone, fire, people and sounds.

“It is difficult to let people do what they do not want to do. If they do not want to do it they will probably not do it. That’s the way it is. In the same way, once you have divided yourself into many tiny individuals, tiny particles of self, it’s difficult to let such particles obey, to let the group function as a flock of notes. Eglisak the organ player may come to help, he may gather fugitives, the tiny particles of voice. Some voices are taking off – unseen – towards the south, some others swallow flakes of wood. Others are attempting to climb ropes hanging from the ceiling. Just a few have remained on the floor to play with cubes of language. They build ephemeral grammars.”

© Alessandro Bosetti, 2016.

© Alessandro Bosetti / 2024