(Silence and Variations) (for tape)

Variasjonar over ei stille (1997) (Silence and Variations) (for tape)

Risto Holopainen



Variasjonar over ei stille (silence and variations) is based upon two poems by the composer, originally written in Swedish, although here they appear translated by Elin Lotsberg into her own west-Norwegian dialect. Her readings of the poems, with widely differing characters, provided the sonic and structural material for the entire composition.

Several phrases were transcribed using the ratio notation of Harry Partch, and then resynthesized in a "blown-up" manner. The overall time proportions in the piece also relate to proportions of speech and silence between the stanzas in a particular reading.

Many techniques of sound transformation were used, some familiar and some perhaps unorthodox, such as digital distortion (at most with as much as 90 dB), granulation, employing csound and a few routines written in C for this purpose, and phase vocoding. An original approach to phase vocoding has been developed at NoTam by Oyvind Hammer in his program Mammut. This program makes one single FFT of the whole sound, and makes possible some unusual kinds of transformations.

Here follows some fragments of the poems (English translation by the composer).

stirring the cup of tea in her room
at pace with the revolving music
- - -
discover a new way
of making yourself misunderstood:

silence and variations

she repeats herself

spreading out
like sweet marmelade

this tense atmosphere cannot be reproduced
with high enough fidelity
- - -

Behold the volcano, the lavae,
the living ash
- - -
Smoke of a flute is diffused
the frosen bay
- - -
Invisibly, we walk on the water
and draw portraits of each other
again and again

The material was recorded at the Norwegian Academy of Music in 1996, and the work was realised at NoTAM (Norwegian network for Technology, Acoustics and Music) in october 1997.