Machinefabriek with Anne Bakker - Deining, white dispersing lines on a black background


For this new release from the ever-prolific Machinefabriek, the Dutch musician worked with string player Anne Bakker. The artist describes the workings of the piece very well on the release’s Bandcamp page, so I’ll just repeat it here:

“I asked violinist Anne Bakker to bow each string of her instrument while sliding slowly from the lowest note to the highest, for exactly five minutes, as fluently as possible… Anne also recorded the same procedure in reverse, following the strings from the edge of the fingerboard to the top nut of the instrument.

“The piece is divided in four sections, each focusing on one string, and layering its recordings. The upward and downward glissandi… [are] emphasized by manually-controlled sine waves that follow the pitches of the instrument. In the middle of each five minute section, the violins and sines hit the same note, which is then ‘frozen’ and continues as a separate, constant drone for the duration of the piece. The final low notes of each part are also held, adding an extra layer and playing a calm, minute-long drone before the next section begins.”

When described in words, the piece seems very simple and straightforward in its composition, as if it could be visually represented with just a handful of straight lines. But this doesn’t really capture what it’s like to listen to “Deining”, because the pitches and harmonics produced by the instruments interact to cause all sorts of fluctuations, consonances and dissonances, interference patterns, and so on. The movement of the piece is hence not merely a progression through two continuous series of pitches. In actuality, it’s more like an entire rolling landscape of tone and harmony, or like a continuously panning film camera affixed to the top of a vehicle cruising through the city. (Someone should make this film, if it hasn’t already been made. Someone other than Google, I mean.)

The ‘freezing’ brings a sense of conclusion and completion to the end of each ‘string’, but it’s only a provisional conclusion, before the piece moves on to the next section/string. It’s possible to imagine an infinite number of strings continuing above and below the four strings of Bakker’s violin. Though relatively short in duration, simple in design, and clear in structure, “Deining” contains a wealth of sonic riches, a sort of index of possibilities offered by a particular way of playing a particular instrument. The index is incomplete, but hints at its potential vastness. Another fine effort from Machinefabriek, and impeccable playing by Bakker.

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