Lance Austin Olsen

Scores & Markings

Entering London’s Camberwell School of Arts at age 15, Lance Austin Olsen was given the choice between carpentry and painting; the realisation that he couldn’t make a dovetail joint led him to the latter. Over half a century later Olsen is still making paintings, and has represented his adopted home of Canada in numerous biennials. However, since the late Nineties his visual art practice has been joined by a new interest in music making, largely thanks to a chance meeting with Canadian artist Jamie Drouin. The pair now run the label Infrequency Editions and regularly release music both as a duo and in various other collaborations. “Scores & Markings” is the latest release on Infrequency, but it doesn’t contain any of Olsen’s own sounds; instead, six other musicians, including Drouin, have taken paintings by Olsen and used them as scores to create new musical works.

Most of the pieces here make use of very small, unadorned sounds, interspersed with plenty of silence, yet there is a flow to each of them, almost a very extended, non-metrical rhythm, that seems to correspond with the glide of a wet paintbrush or a precise t’ai chi movement. Field recordings are used subtly in contributions from d’incise (“craig’s stroke #2”), Johnny Chang (“Three engravings on a space”), and Mathieu Ruhlmann and Joda Clément (“blood and memory #32”): in each case the ‘action’ in the recordings seems a long way off, creating an impression of distance and solitude. The voice of Wandelweiser composer Antoine Beuger, who is himself known for his voice-based compositions, is heard speaking the word “Now” on Jamie Drouin’s “if so, so, if not, not. #1”, and the repetition of this word towards the end of the piece creates a circular temporal reference that undermines and redirects its dictionary definition.

Reproductions of the paintings used by the musicians are included with the release, and I would suggest that one thing the music and the images have in common is the way they hint at specific forms without ever congealing into one, instead remaining supple and fluid. “Scores & Markings” can be downloaded for free in high-quality FLAC format from the Infrequency Editions website, and comes highly recommended.

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