Elements87: Francium is the twenty-fifth album in this series of music on the Elements, a very large work in progress consisting of electronically/digitally created architectural music compositions by Oscar van Dillen.
The cover art in the Elements series consists of color inverted pencil drawings made by the composer.
A word of warning: after careful listening, the world around you may not sound the same any longer.
The work on this album was created, composed, recorded, and produced August-September 2023. All works, cover art and booklet of this album were created by Oscar van Dillen.
All sounds were generated using a granular source, which was processed by a virtual body and resonator. The hypnotizing sounds of these modular patches were then each post processed differently, with more modular patches applied to each of the many layers.
Whereas music normally sounds against a background of time, this music suggests sounds on the inside of time itself…
The tempo of the music of Natrium resembles the Jazz concept of forward motion (fast music without fixed structures in time). Such pulsations, sometimes resembling rhythm, but always with a certain drive, play a role in all the alkali elements, most of all in Caesium, the atomic resonances of which have been used in extremely precise atomic clocks since the second half of the 20th century.
Element 19 is found in the 4th period of Group 1 in the periodic system, the group containing all alkali metals (excepting Hydrogen, element 1, which although residing in the same group is very different and can be seen as an element in a category of its own). Its symbol derived from the Latin Kalium, its common name in English is Potassium, named after potash. It is the 7th most abundant element on earth, present in plants, vegetables, and fruits. So much so that vegetarians have a higher intake of it that meat eaters do. In animals, which of course includes us, the human animals, it is a crucial element to make the nerve system work. Without it, there is no reactiveness in animals; no motion, no awareness, no brain, no science, no art.
Daily salt intake is much to high in the richer parts of the world, were food companies build their businesses on selling edibles deliberately containing far too much salt (and sugar and fat), because the human body craves these as a result of our species’ history in which there was often a lack of these. But sodium is essential for our bodies too. As an example: neurons, nerve cells, contain a subtle mechanism in their membranes involving both sodium and potassium (the next heavier alkali metal, element 19), using the single electron in their outer shells to create alternating negative and positive electric charges, for nerve impulses to travel, which are electrical pulses. Sodium makes us tick, move, feel, see, hear, and think, and may one day make us aware we are a minor part of a global ecosystem, and not some “crown of creation”.
Lithium has a wide variety of uses and is very much in demand nowadays. It is an essential element in batteries used in electric vehicles, among them cars, motorcycles, bicycles, and recently also skateboards and autopeds. Lithium as Li2CO3 is original ingredient of the soft drink 7Up, named after Lithium’s atomic weight of 7, it was banned in soft drinks in 1948. Used as a medicine since, Lithium facilitates the release of Dopamine and Serotonin in the nervous system, producing a soothing, calming effect.
Prepositional analysis is a new approach to the creation and analysis of music, not restricted to any style or vocabulary, but based on how humans hear music and perceive its elements Sound and Silence in interaction. Sound manifests itself in spectrum, time, and space, and from this observation 5 categories are derived, which sum up to 6 with silence included. These both include and transcend Stockhausen’s 5 dimensions of sound (pitch, duration, volume, timbre, and place). Based on the interactions a set of 22 prepositional analytical concepts is postulated, for use in creative composition or analysis.
Boron is the lightest element of Group 13, and neighbor to Carbon, to which it is very similar in many of its properties. Despite the fact that Boron has 3 electrons in its outer shell, which would suggest metallic properties, its relative small size make these bond too strong to behave as a metal.
A very special fact is found in its origins: almost all elements are created by nuclear fusion in the cores of superheavy stars, but not Boron. The Boron we find on Earth is actually formed in space: fast travelling protons colliding into atomic nuclei they encounter in interstellar space. This process called spallation has been the main inspiration for the music of Boron on this album: travelling particles, now and then colliding, sometimes fusing.
The time scale of the work is large, leaning more towards the time scale of a whale song than that of a classical symphony. This music requires patience and an attention span well beyond that conditioned into us by our social media apps so popular in our mobile phones. Almost a sound movie, best listened to in stereo and in a quiet environment, preferably your own living room. A few decades ago our living rooms had stereo systems at their core, giving more meaning to the time spent listening to music, putting a work into a personal context. In the 21st century music listening has developed into something which is done while on the road, walking, moving, running, travelling. Most music is listened to on headphones or earplugs, turning it into a solitary experience, quite the opposite of a traditional concert setting, and also of a concentrated listening session at home.
Aluminium became a study in plurality within singularity.
Its basic sound story was developed from the sources mentioned before. These were then brought into many layered mutual phase modulations, in this way adding new harmonies while suppressing others by phase cancellations, or by almost phase cancellations. In this way an extremely complex moving sound mass was created from which the work to be was to be sculpted in several stages, a process akin to distillation almost.
Sculpting and mixing variations until coherent versions were found was the next stage, some versions were close to or over an hour long and needed drastic shortening.
In the end three versions came out from which one was chosen to serve as the master for the final process. It is this final process which you will find documented in the graphic score further down. The accelerando was chosen for both increasing intensity and duration shortening.
“The new BIG STORIES are all told by science, their scope is vast, and their telling has only begun relatively recently. We are daily getting updates on answers to all the ancient basic questions of life that inspired human art, cultures, and religions for millennia, and we are getting verifiable answers this time. Most important is perhaps that we are also facing completely new questions.
It is high time the old myths and beliefs are abandoned and replaced by contemporary, that is to say: scientific sources of information, imagination, and inspiration. The vast field of modern science is far more complex, has a verifiable and direct relation to reality, and it offers a far greater abundance of possible stories and references for artists in all disciplines than any older belief or myth system, however poetic, could ever come up with.
In our times we need new and innovative operas and symphonies, whether electronically or no; let these forget the simpler stories of our past and use these new narrative sources of our present and future for reference and inspiration.”
The music of Indium contains very slow transitions with pantonal use of tanpuras, suggesting the world of the traditional transparent element of Akasha, prior to and behind the ragas in which these instruments are usually employed. In opposition to their traditional use here the many tanpuras take an almost melodic role, meanwhile keeping their normal harmonic horizon function. The music is developing so slowly that discerning its overall long form is a challenge to the attentive listener, and the sections created in this album can help as a guide.
The tanpuras and a variety of sonorities created with several modular synthesis systems play the backbone of the harmony of Indium which is based on strict serial pantonality, using a 12-tone row which has its origins in a hexachord already used by Scriabin and Bartók, in this way creating a synthesis of various traditions: East may be East and West may believe it is West, but the two here meet and find themselves deeply interconnected.
van Dillen, with a background of years of studies in Hindustani music, has long had a vision of a larger work featuring many tanpuras on many pitch classes, and here it is to last: Indium.
In the recording, four sections are presented, along with a complete track containing Radium uninterrupted. This last is for reasons of streaming media reacting to tracks: some insert pauses which should not be there, others change volumes of individual tracks, deviating from the overall balance decided by the composers/producers. Whatever streaming service you listen to, the complete track should provide a reliable reference for the composer’s intentions.
The four sections can be viewed, and even treated, as parts, yet are not called that way. The overall form is that of an archipelago of musics, consisting of the same and similar elements yet in endless variations of balance, pitch, register and gesture. In between these islands of music is silence, not a cold digital silence, because there is a residue of noisy digital circuitry ongoing mostly beyond the horizon of perception, but a musical silence, part of the music itself and precisely timed. These General Pauses are an integral part of the Archipelago-Form of Radium.
Barium (Ba) has a special use in a single group of living organisms, the single-celled Desmidiales or Desmids, green algae containing Barium Sulfate BaSO4 crystals in constant Brownian motion. It is suspected these heavy molecules, suspended in one end of the cell only, may help it sense gravity, space, and facilitate up and down orientation.
Barium, the 6th period element of the 2nd group is a heavy atom, much heavier than its upper neighbor Strontium, yet not nearly as heavy as the true heavyweights among the elements, such as Gold (79) or Lead (82). All elements heavier still (except Bismuth) are unstable, too big and in decay, slowly disintegrating and therefore radioactive.
Barium is opaque to x-rays and used daily in hospitals. People are fed a “Barium Meal” before x-ray images are taken of their intestines, showing these in a clear outline. Barium itself would be highly toxic, so again we see Barium Sulfate being used here. These ions Ba2+ and SO42- are like best friends, very hard to separate. Their atomic bond is so strong that even the acidity of the stomach does not affect it, and for the better. Barium would block Potassium moving out of nerve cells, killing nervous activities and life.
Beryllium (Be) is the lightest of all the alkaline earth metals, and a strange one as it does not form ions. It is a rather rare element too, named after the precious stone beryl, a gem, from which it can be extracted with great difficulty.
Beryllium is unusually rare for such a light element. Almost all larger than Hydrogen elements are formed in stars, as a consequence of the nuclear fusion in their core, but in this too Beryllium is an exception. Along with Lithium and Boron, atoms of the element Beryllium cannot survive long inside stars and will form other elements before being ejected into space. It is assumed therefore that Beryllium is formed in interstellar dust clouds instead, by the influence of cosmic rays splitting up heavier elements.
Created in a similar process to the other music of the elements in group 2, the composing started with the creation of a spectral Pijperian germ-cell.
This germ-cell was used in a strict polyphonic sense, almost as if in a modern fugue: it was set in counterpoint to itself, transposed many times, stretched to various durations as well as reversed. The original has 5 layers that can be seen by their hues and shades, which also appear separately in places. This hybrid process mixes germ-cell composition technique with polyphonic and atonal techniques in using various versions of an original “cantus firmus”.
Listening carefully gave the strong impression of the presence of an implicit fast tempo slightly and gradually speeding up 88-92 bpm. As a consequence the composer added several rhythmic patterns, that keep changing and shift their parts in a minimalistic manner, similar to say Steve Reich’s Clapping Music, but more complicated.
The meaning of the term electronic music has changed dramatically since modern composers started to work with electronic equipment in radio studios after the second world war. In the 50’s and 60’s of the 20th century it meant mostly avant-garde esthetics by an elite group of mostly male composers making the headlines for this at the time niche medium. Today the term changed meaning but at the same time its history is in the process of being rewritten as more and more female composers are being credited for having played a defining role in the development of the medium. In 2021 the acclaimed documentary film called Sisters with Transistors was released, it demonstrated this process for a larger than specialist audience. One can also conclude that on the whole and over time the term electronic music defines a medium, not a style.
Calcium is the normal metal which in the form of a hydrated Calcium Phosphate is the main component of mammalian bones, yet the Calcium ion is somewhat small to fit perfectly into the crystal lattice of bone, and its lower group 2 neighbor Strontium would fit much better due to its larger size and in fact will do so if the opportunity arises. Calcium is also an essential element in blood, so much so that it is suspected that the very formation of bones in early evolution originated in the need to have a Calcium reserve to draw upon when blood levels decrease. Even before Calcium levels are getting low, the body will have already borrowed it from the bones. Of course later in evolution, these bones acquired their current purpose of bodily structure and support for muscles, and movement.
A reflection of and on the volatile basic nature of the element Phosphorus can be found in the sparkling and resonant distorted sounds used overall. In all three parts a variety of rhythmic elements arise and decay. In view of the overall presence of the complete spectrum of sound, this album comes close to being a kind of sculpted noise.
This has been achieved in two ways: by sculpting noise from various sources (white, pink, brown) into resonances, and by sculpting and distorting resonances and sounds into noisiness. Both latest and more traditional electronic modular technologies have been used to achieve this.
Among the inspirations for this album have been works such as Sisyphus by Pink Floyd (which was on the very first record the composer ever bought in his life), Free Form Guitar by Chicago, and the overall sound explorations of many of the later Jimi Hendrix solos. Van Dillen found works such as these to capture best the basic nature of the character of the element Phosphorus in sound.
The human impact on biodiversity is one of the main ideas behind the name Anthropocene.
In the music of this album, the composer imagined a sounding musical stratigraphy, with partly eroded fossil sounds of instrumental music long dead, among which are remnants of human made harmonies, encased in a matrix of eroded noise. In the course of the work, one travels as if through geological musical time, gradually meeting more and more less familiar memories, artifacts, forms and substances, preserved and left behind.
This collaborative Oneirology touches on deep emotions; the lyrical long lines of the bandoneon lead the listener through landscapes of sometimes ambiguous feelings. After hearing the final mix, Vervelde observed that in fact, although the work as a whole does leave a strong and clear impression, the precise meaning left behind seems to change at the next listening. Did hearing change the listener, or the music itself, or both perhaps?
There is a fluid quality to this music, now with long lyrical melodies, sometimes in a canonic counterpoint, filled with a longing feeling, then again with rhythmical accents, as if impatient, and then again with long chromatic harmonic progressions in more pensive and ambiguous moods.
The 3 tracks follow a path of reverse deconstruction and unraveling, going back to the origins of this composition, and presenting earlier stages of creation as later tracks progressively. In this way the listener is not only able to hear details that might be hard to hear in the tutti version (track 1), but also the tracks become more introvert, while striving to keep their emotional impact. Gradually the clear and concrete music of We will never forgive you merges into the slightly more abstract The song without words, which is in fact a minus-two version, to be followed by the even more abstract Planet of the Ants, connecting to the sound universe of van Dillen’s earlier Dronescapes. The title of the last track explicitly refers to Dronescape 5 – Myrmecology, this time as a planet of the ants, which may be the very thing we are currently creating and heading towards. As mammals succeeded the dinosaurs, now ants may have a good chance to succeed the mammals, once extinct. If that happens, may they thrive and develop collective intelligence instead!
After having recorded all the 40+ tracks in Italy, Falconi sent these to van Dillen in Rotterdam to composite and compose the final blend of both composer’s work by creating the mix and final master. His creative mixing went through several stages before a satisfying result was approached, which was refined in his mastering process afterwards. With great care this very complex music had to be mixed, composited, composed and mastered, so as allowing for the complexity to come out while maintaining transparency and optimal spatial placement and width of every sound as well as the overall sound. After sharing the result, this time sending from Rotterdam to Rome, both composers finally agreed on the end result after what had amounted to over a year of intense collaborative work.
One can imagine that at the reality of a larger than primal atom, the road is open for more complex atoms, and so it was: in the heavier stars, thermonuclear fission processes produced heavier elements still. In fact, there is not a single heavier atom that was not created at some point in time in some star. All matter is stardust. All heavier atoms are the product of nuclear fission in stars.
We ourselves are the children of stars become aware.
It is with Helium that this process of atom creation takes its very first step: forming an atom with 2 protons, over twice as heavy as the primal atom Hydrogen. It is a strange coincidence that so many human cultures worshipped the sun as a creator god: the sun being our star is de facto one of the many creators of matter, in its shining we see the life-giving light: a waste product of this process.
Now imagine ourselves the size of a planet, listening to the sounds of this process of matter creation. We are become huge cosmic ears now, listening to the sounds of the sun.
One of the main aims when creating Azote was to create a music in which sounds move musically, and where the pitches are not the necessarily most important sound aspects, but sound, register and dynamics are, and it was composed so that each sound has its own sense of space with it. Also sometimes these spaces move independently within the music, allowing for sounds to enter and sound in these spaces. Thus beat becomes breath, or the lack of it. Although at first hearing it appears that rhythm is the main musical area explored, deeper listening reveals that the music is happening within the virtual spaces created by what we can call breathing rhythmic bubbles of sound. The importance of the sense of architectural space gives Azote aspects of soundscape, but the fact that these spaces are formally treated and move about in an overall very rhythmical way, points again to a possible symphony. But these are mere words, insufficiently able and possibly obsolete to describe let alone categorize this music.
Although perhaps 5 formal parts plus an introduction can be discerned, the work is here presented as a single track, in the spirit of the sister productions in the Dronescape 6.* series. A single almost 54 minutes long track does require some patience contemporary listeners are mostly unaccustomed to, being used to either the standard 3 minutes long popular songs, the standard 3-7 minutes long jazz recordings, or the standard 12 to 20 minutes long composed works, with which the musical mediascape of today is flooded. In this sense, the listener is offered an opportunity to enter another timescape. A dreamscape. A dronescape, where one can make sense or nonsense at will and decide what threads and paths of sound and music to follow with undivided attention.
Dronescape 8: The four Pillars of Reason is the tenth in a series of albums, containing contemporary Electronic Symphonies by Oscar van Dillen. The work on this album was composed, created, and recorded January-March 2022. Music and cover art were created by Oscar van Dillen. Tracks Total duration … read the full text…
The work Jñāna – Rigpa is exploring the boundaries of autonomous drone composition, both in the sense of its duration (it has the longest single-track duration streaming platforms allow today), as in the sense of its minimalism of musical and technical means used. While creating an atmosphere of almost trance and meditation, it also serves as a means, a tool, for deep and inner reflection. Reflection on one’s own hearing is intended explicitly here: a music that serves to listen to one’s own hearing.
Silicon is the second most abundant element in the Earth’s crust, after Oxygen, the latter being also abundant in the atmosphere. In the periodic table Si is placed just below C and the two elements share many characteristics. Still, Carbon is the basic element for life, and no Silicon-based … read the full text…
Oxygen is all around us: surprisingly, it is even the most abundant element on our planet. But the free, breathable oxygen O2 found in the Earth’s atmosphere, without which human and animal life would be impossible, has not always been here; it has been freed from its stable compounds … read the full text…
Carbon is above all the Element that makes life possible. As symbolized by the pencil drawing at this album’s cover, it forms chains, and as basic carbon-based chains the amino acids are found in all life forms. As are the very long chains of amino acids, such as DNA, … read the full text…
Elements 118 Oganesson is the last in the Periodic Table, completing its structure with 7 full layers of electron shells. As an element, Oganesson fits in the group of the so-called “noble gases” but is predicted to be a solid at room temperature. Predicted, because only a handful of … read the full text…
The series Elements are digital compositions which have a more static, installation-like character, crossing the border between musical and spatial composition, linking up music and architecture, both arts concerning Space. Van Dillen’s compositions in the series Elements can be listened to in several ways. Traditionally these are: privately over … read the full text…
Oneirology 2 In Peter Brook’s 1979 film Meetings with Remarkable Men there is a scene in which musicians will attempt to produce a sound that will make the stones of a valley vibrate. In this re-enacting of a famous scene from Gurdieff’s memoires, Kudsi Erguner is one of the … read the full text…
Dronescape 6.0 is the sixth in a series of albums, containing new Digital Symphonies by Oscar van Dillen. The work on this album was composed January-April 2021. Similar to the earlier Dronescape releases, this work can be considered to be an Electronic or Digital Symphony. This one-part work is … read the full text…
Dronescape 5 is the fifth in a series of albums, containing new, digitally created, compositions by Oscar van Dillen. The work on this album was composed November-December 2020. Similar to the other Dronescape releases, this album too can be considered to be an Electronic symphony, the 5th by Oscar … read the full text…