Frequencies (a/archives) by Nicolas Bernier

9ED004 cover (border)

Nicolas Bernier | frequencies (a/archives)
901 Editions (CD/DL)

frequencies (a/archives) will be the final release in a series by Nicolas Bernier for which he earned the Prix Ars Electronica Golden Nica, a swan song to the tuning fork (which he subsequently gave away his collection as part of a successful Kickstarter campaign that launched this). The composition is based on archives from Rennes 1 University. “This impressive collection of antique scientific apparatus includes one of the few remaining “Grand Diapason” built by Rudolph Koenig circa 1880. The two gigantic forks of the Grand Diapason can generate acoustic vibrations between 32 and 48 hertz. This range of frequencies are (barely) heard in the composition, among other sounds from the archives, mainly tuning forks.”


From the first extended tone the listener is keyed into the mystery of these incredible instruments. The reverb and warp is indelible and peculiar. Though on f(a/a) concert stereo redux Bernier manages to enchant the ear with additional static, and physical movements/actions that act as percussion.  Sure there are pulsations and sudden bell tones that flux through, but the way the composer arranges the entire cadre of variables is a feat of cosmic proportions, moving from warm to chill over the course of the first five of this twenty minute work. The passages he creates appear hollow at times, with that incredible echo glow of vibrations looming in the air. Elsewhere you will witness some tinkering that sounds as though you may be located in the belly of a ship at rocky seas.

HERTZ SO GOOD: As the actions proceed ones imagination may get the best of them. Bernier’s use of hiss, stops/starts, and murmurs of brief conversation lead to tiny squeaks and near absolute silence (if there were such a thing). The piece seems to activate the memory by way of these acoustic resonators. I’m unsure if there is a turntable in use here but every once in a while there are references to *vinyl static which just manages to bring an uncertain tangibility to the otherwise bizarre events at place. It’s as though your ears are on a dark sea-fearing journey somewhere in the Baltics. You see, my imagination is susceptible to such elusiveness.

* Bernier assures us: “No vinyl, only tuning forks. The «static» comes from the mechanical friction between the tuning forks and the microphones.


On f(a/a) radiophonic version it seems we have instantly entered into someones private conversation describing the action (ala Français). Ethereal synthy waves flow as a backdrop to this narration, as do variable tones produced by the tuning forks. This second and final piece has a more minimalistic approach than the previous, almost has the feel of doodling inside a grandfather clock, working deeply embedded mechanisms. It goes without mentioning the sudden power/effect of these instruments, the way in which when struck how quickly they ignite a pitch based on a wide assortment of polarities. Therein lies a certain improvisational quality, like using any instrument really, it takes practice and patience, lots of it.


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