Digital Voices by Bernhard Living

Bernhard Living | Digital Voices
Sono Space (DL)

Based on the spoken word comes Digital Voices, two extended pieces by minimalist composer Bernhard Living: ‘Composition 2011/03 (Ich Tanze Nicht)’ and ‘Composition 2015/07 (Ольгина история (Olga’s Story). I’m reminded of experiments from Meredith Monk, Jaap Blonk and the essence of Laurie Anderson as Ich Tanze Nicht opens with a short syllabic drawl, repeating, and at calculated intervals. The setting couldn’t be more sparse focusing on this sole variable until an as-low-as-you-go humming drone is added, becoming some sort of mesmerizing metronomic oddity. And I forget my previous references altogether.

Building on this one note atonality, after nearly eleven minutes one cannot help but feel subsumed into the constant repetition that has the effect of observing a Rorschach test, only audibly I begin to imagine being analyzed by the shutter speed of a mad scientist’s scope. Living plays with the tone-drone, shifting the pitch like a sonic sound wave being threaded through the needle of time. And he takes his sweet time to do so, eventually ending up at a blurry buzzing crescendo of distorted noise. At almost a half-hour in a voice speaks (and repeats): …”Ich Tanze Nicht” – which means “I do not dance.” It’s such an odd comment with such flat delivery (Stepford wife, fembot, digital assistant) that it comes off as a wry/wink critique on a cry for help, brainwashing, or something, or other. After forty minutes, will someone please release this lady from her trappings!?

Ольгина история (Olga’s Story) operates in a different sphere altogether, something more like modern day field recordings, and it’s from a live recorded concert in London. Filled with low-end chatter (almost like bats nestled in a cave) it is a collaborative work alongside Russian musician Elena Alekseeva with a sound sample taken from the metro. Captured is the hollow underground atmosphere (hence my imagining of Chiroptera) in a pure whoosh of surging drone. A Slavic voice pops up only at very occasional points throughout (reminding me of one of those watermarked promo recordings sent by p/r agencies), otherwise this cyclone of “voices” and degraded murmur continue in agitation.

This has the constant flow of a cyclone, an avalanche, a babbling brook. It’s odd and fun trying to identify the potential scalability of what is rushing through the both speaker channels and into the auditory cortex. Just who is Olga? Wo/man or machine? Either way this channels something very much at the core of nature and its temporal effects on everything.

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