Tomoko Sauvage – Musique Hydromantique

Tomoko Sauvage - Musique Hydromantique, crystal of ice suspended by string.

Tomoko Sauvage is a Japanese musician, artist, and inventor of unique electro-aquatic instruments, now based in Paris. Using ceramic bowls, water, and hydrophones (underwater microphones), she produces music from drops, waves, bubbles, and hydrophonic feedback. “Musique Hydromantique” is her second album, and develops her practice by incorporating the effects of the sounding environment — architecture, temperature, humidity, and the presence of human bodies. This included recording in a former textile factory, the architecture of which formed an ideal echo chamber with 10-second reverb.

First track ‘Clepsydra’ is perhaps the most straightforward of the three: a random percussion created using waterbowls and dripping water. Full, resonant chimes and plinking of water droplets occur at a drifting, semi-regular pace, allowing each sound to breath. Pitches are altered by adding and removing water in the bowls. The sounds are attractive and absorbing, but with little change in the structure of the piece, they resemble a static display of jewels in glass cases — pretty, but that’s about it. ‘Fortune Biscuit’ is much more complex, possibly because there seems to be more sound sources: strange gratings or whirrings decelerating and accelerating, crescendoing and fading, sounding on their own or in multiple cacophony. I was fascinated to discover that these sounds were made by the bubbles emitted as pieces of ‘biscuit’ (porous terracotta) absorb water, something I never would have guessed but makes a whole lot of sense.

In many ways, closing track ‘Calligraphy’ feels like the album’s most curious and obscure. The resonant chimes and plonks of waterbowls return, but unlike the very loosely clocklike ‘Clepsydra’, here the structure is more open and expansive. The afore-mentioned 10-second reverb helps with this, but it’s the hydrophonic feedback, the droning hums and buzzes, that binds things together at the same time as carrying them along. Freed from keeping time, the waterbowls become sites of experimentation: full single tones, rapid splashes, quiet chinks, and sudden bursts all emerge. Towards the end, quiet feedback and splashes alternate several times, a simple but absorbing way of bringing things to a close.

Tomoko Sauvage

Shelter Press

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