Valencia’s accordionist and composer Isabel Latorre and sound artist Edu Comelles met in 2016. A couple of months down the line, and Comelles had commissioned a concert for Latorre: an interpretation on the Deep Listening philosophies and principles of Pauline Oliveros. The commission was scheduled to be premiered at the Ensems Festival in 2017, of which Comelles was the curator. But later on in the year, on 24 November 2016, Oliveros sadly passed away; the composition and commission became a eulogy. A central figure in the development and exploration of experimental music, Oliveros was one of the most influential musicians of the twentieth century. For Pauline has much of the same ethos and spirit.
Isabel Latorre has studied Pauline’s music to such an extent that she performs in a similar vein, with a great deal of maturity and concentration but never forgetting the stunning magic of its creation. Latorre, already deep within her philosophies and submerged in the moods of the music – both physically and emotionally – kept on going, and her live performance is a heartfelt dedication. From the moment of its inception, and as a reaction to her passing, the music veered away from its original intention, and this has resulted in a very different work. The live performance, recorded at the end of May 2017, is at almost twenty-two minutes a long-form piece where, after a quiet opening, elongated tones gradually begin to stir, stretching their limbs in a high, bright, and sharp register before overlapping, evolving over the course of the first five minutes to produce a range of quiet gymnastics.
It’s gloriously playful, as all experimental music should be, but it’s edged with a serious intention. After simmering for some time, the music’s distant, occasional percussion and laser-like tones begin to bubble and froth, rising up, pulsing, building strong dynamics and engaging the listener with the strobing electronics. The electronics wash in and out of sight, demanding one’s attention while swaying like a pendulum. Benevolent or threatening, the intent is never made clear. One thing’s for sure: they come close enough to touch, invading the listener’s personal space before backing up, rocking from side to side with a tight, robotic functioning. An accordion blares inarticulate chords. Its screeching sounds are on the verge of leaving rationale behind. That’s the crest of the piece. Everything else becomes quieter after that, retreating back into silence and winking out of existence.
The second piece, ‘La Isla Plana’, was completed a little later, at the end of 2017. Comelles took inspiration from Latorre’s earlier recordings, and the two are somewhat symmetrical. The drone is similar, but the two pieces exist in alternate dimensions. Latorre’s drone is lighter, while ‘La Isla Plana’ is stronger, dripping a dark-red or a metallic crimson, throbbing instead of pulsing. Drones cut a little deeper, and when it comes to volume tampering there’s a little more in the way of variety. The two pieces could be sisters, and they’re both equally playful.
The drones occupying the second side seem to be more aware of their surroundings, their eyes blinking as they look around at the world. As it progresses, the drone moves into the range of a slow melody. And as the track ends, the sound of something like surf enters, foaming white and pushing its thunderous roar into the heart of the drone. This twenty-minute island cleanses the listener, but For Pauline has a much larger message: one of thanks, deep appreciation, and the utmost respect, wearing its influence proudly on its sleeve.