Monday, 12 March 2018

Claude Schryer - Autour (1997)


 More environmental/radiophonic sound composition to kick off this week, courtesy of Claude Schryer, born 1959 in Québec.  Four of his works covering 1995-97 are featured on this collection, but rather than being lengthy tracks like when I've previously posted this sort of thing, Schryer works in short snippets averaging two minutes (excepting the 11-minute closing piece).  The result is more like a gallery of photographs in sound than an immersive film, but no less evocative for that.

First up is Musique De L'Odysée Sonore, which did actually start life as the soundtrack to a National Film Board of Canada documentary about Québec City, before Schryer revised and condensed it into 11 minutes.  For me, the most striking of the seven sections here is Église, which encapsulates Schryer's talent for weaving together his sound sources (a grandfather clock, a boat horn, a Popol Vuh-esque choral improv, a Native American chant and garbled spoken poetry) into something truly ear-bending.

Switching continents next, Schryer uses recordings from Mexico City and Oaxaca state for El Medio Ambiente Acustico de México, itself cut down from a 50-minute radiophonic work Marche Sonore II.  Ocean sounds and fields give way to inner-city subway sounds, trains, trucks and marching bands in a parade, and another ambient trip back into nature - all of it evoking its sense of place beautifully.  After that, there's a trip back in place and in time with Vancouver Soundscape Revisited, where the source sounds were recorded in the early 70s for the World Soundscape Project.  Schryer describes his method as selecting a few hundred samples from the project by sonic spectrum, pitch, function and context, and again deftly combines them all into a stunning work.

Closing the disc is the standalone piece Autour d'Une Musique Portuaire, where the harbour sounds, bells and trains originally used for a live radio broadcast (with Schryer directing the 'performers' on the boats, trains and cathedral bells to play together by walkie-talkie!) were re-purposed in the studio for a saxophonist, trombonist and clarinetist (Schryer) to improvise over.  The result makes the most of the wide open spaces and long boat-horn drones to let the instruments fill in the gaps perfectly.

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