EM1001 – e1999:1

EM 1001 e1999:1 - front

Elektron Records – initiated by famous composer of electroacoustics Rolf Enström – is the label of SEAMS, The Society for Electroacoustic Music in Sweden (former ICEM). This is the label’s first release. Music by Palle Dahlstedt, Anders Blomqvist, Rune Lindblad, Sten Hanson, Sten Olof Hellström, Lidia Zielinska and Patrik Thorell.


TITLE e1999:1
YEAR 2001
TYPE CD, Jewelcase
PRICE 12 Euro



1. Palle Dahlstedt: Gummi (Rubber) 11’30” (1994-1996)

Palle Dahlstedt (1971) was born in Stockholm where he also studied mathematics, philosophy,cembalo, piano and composition. He continued his studies in Malmö and later in Gothenburg, specializing in electroacoustic music. He works as a programmer and improviser.
”The acoustic, musical material and form are all about rubber. The basic sound material comes from ordinary balloons which I have treated in many different ways like blowing up, scratching, rubbing, banging, drumming on, etc. Some of the sounds were even made with the microfon inside a balloon. I then sorted out a small collection of attacks from this material, partly using them in dynamic loops, partly in a more natural way. The sounds are often transposed but otherwise not manipulated in any other way. In that respect it is a very concrete piece of music. But Gummi is not about balloons. It deals with movements, accelerating and retarding, set against steady pulses. The piece has several parts, testing different ways to create and transform these phenomena. I suppose Gummi is about to move or not to move.”
Palle Dahlstedt

2. Anders Blomqvist: Spårar (Traces) 9’10” (1997)

Anders Blomqvist (1956) was born in Falun and has been active as a composer of electroacoustic music since the beginning of the 1980s. His long list of works includes pieces for tape, instrument and tape, film music, music for ballet and music for installations. Blomquist has also gained a reputation for his contribution to works involving electroacoustic music and images, composed together with photographer Josef Doukkali. He is also a leading figure in sound diffusion in Sweden.
”The piece is a sequel to Löpa varg (Wolf Run) from 1995 containing texts by Bengt-Emil Johnson. It relates to the the same theme – the wolf as a biological animal, myth and metaphor. Some of the sound material also harks back toLöpa varg. Although Spårar does not contain any explict textual elements, it was my intention that the piece be leavened by the spirit of Bengt-Emil’s poetry. I was once given a book by Bengt-Emil (actually in Paris of all places) with a dedication that ran ‘Welcome to the quiet festivity.’ Since it was rather gloomy in the room I read it as ‘Welcome to the unquiet festivity.’ In some way it’s rather significant that life at this moment is an ‘unquiet festivity,’ no matter how much we search for solidarity and seek nearness, we are and remain hopeless recluses, incapable of communicating, even in theory. Alienation, here viewed from a ‘wolf perspective.’ Spårar was composed during the summer and early autumn 1997 in the electroacoustic music studio of Växjö and was commissioned by MEDIA ARTES and SVENSKA RIKSKONSERTER.”
Anders Blomqvist

3. Rune Lindblad: Optica 2 8’20” (1960)

Rune Lindblad (1923-1991) was born in Gothenburg and after extensive art studies started teaching painting and graphic arts. He also graduated in chemical engineering. He first began composing in 1953. Lindblad was the first composer in Sweden to work only with electroacoustic sound material. This was a time when Cologne and Paris were fighting over the aesthetical differences between oscillator tone music and musique concrete on tape. Lindblad however did not see those genres as mutually exclusive. In fact he extended his work to incorporate other media besides music. In 1957, in Gothenburg, he gave a public performance of his earlier works. Critics slated him brutally and described his concrete music as a ”fad” and ”pure torture.” Rejecting the concert hall, Lindblad began experimenting with optics and sound. The following three years, he produced five works on 6000 feet of film. The last of these was Optica 2. The film, coated with black sealing-wax, was passed through a 35mm film camera, over cogs, to a construction containing three photocells and direcly linked to a tape recorder which recorded the material without any electroacoustic modification. Variations in pitch were made by manipulation of the apparatus. Unfortunatly the film caught fire and was destroyed.
Bruce Kendall-Green

Note: The cover has Optica 1 as the title of this track. This is an error, Optica 2 is the correct title.

4. Sten Hanson: Les sabots du bouc (The Hooves of the Buck) 11’20” (1997)

Sten Hanson (1936) has been an experimental poet and composer since the early sixties. His works include multimedia art as well as electroacoustic compositions. Hanson is a leading figure in Swedish musical life and internationally. From 1984-1994 he was chairman of the Society of Swedish Composers.
”After many years of work with my ‘recyclings,’ a number of compositions in which I have mixed other musical genres into the electroacoustic sphere and treated them according to the composional and aesthetical principals of that genre, I felt an urge to make something completely different, a musical drama without words. A piece in which the music itself could tell an interpretable story. This resulted in Les sabots du bouc following the pattern of a medieval morality, where faith is is a concrete living force and the devil a power to be taken seriously. In the medieval moralities the devil usually gets the worst of it in the end, which, as we all know, does not always happen in real life. Consequently I let the prince of darkness win in my version and shame upon him who thinks ill of it. There is also a motto to the composition, taken from the great work by Carl Jonas Love Almqvist: On Swedish Rhyme.

Who in all the world is it lying in the gutter there
Ah, I see it is my bosom friend Sten
But Sten, what has made you so clumsy, so fumble-footed?
That, said he, is a question, by heavens,
well-founded and natural too,
but understood by none save true fiddlers.

Sten Hanson

5. Sten Olof Hellström: Prequel 5’39” (1997)

Sten Olof Hellström (1956) started working at EMS in Stockholm 1980 after finnishing his studies in music and mathematics. At EMS he studied composition for one year. After masterclass studies in composition at Lund University he was invited to the University of East Anglia to study composition with Denis Smalley which led to a Master of Music degree in 1990. Hellström’s works have been played at concerts, festivals and on radiostations throughout the world.
”Some years ago I had a conversation with a radio-producer about ‘acoustic cinema.’ This talk led to number of ideas resolving themselves into three compositions of mine: SEQUEL, PREQUEL and EQUEL. One of my methods of structuring thoughts, during the process of composition, has been to imagine different worlds with different physical characteristics. The interactions between musical objects belonging to either one ‘world’ or the other, some times co-existing, have been of great importance to me as sources of inspiration. When I, about two years after the conversation earlier mentioned, considered composing a piece originating and and taking place in one and the same ‘world,’ those earlier born ideas insisted on coming to the fore again. Then the ‘cinema world’ appeared a natural choice. Prequel is a kind of sequel to Sequel but relating to older material.”
Sten Olof Hellström

6. Lidia Zielinska: Schon wieder diese weissen Mäuse 8’47” (1996)

Lidia Zielinska (1953) studied composition in Poznan, at the same time playing violin in the Poznan Philharmonic Orchestra. She continued composition studies in France, Holland and Switzerland. Zielinska has written music for a wide variety of instrumental combinations of instruments ranging from solos to orchestral works, and multimedia pieces. She has also lectured, led summercourses, workshops and seminars for composers, and presented the twentieth century music on Polish radio. Zielinska is also co-editor of a music quarterly and runs a music publishing company.
”Where an Anglo-Saxon sees pink elephants, a Pole (or a German or Scandinavian) just encounters white mice. Be it a partygoer’s morning or a workaholics rare break, or anyone’s moment of distraction, there are always small gaps in our perception, barely visible shapes in corner of your eye, reiterating echoes, lots of deja-vus. The composition is by no means a a hangover piece, its sound is clear and cool, its silences refreshing and it dwells on that borderline between sound and silence, dream and reality, half-filled and half-empty, using limited resources (sound of water drops and rubbed and stroked glass) with utmost accuracy and not without a hint of subtle humour.”
Rafal Augustyn

7. Patrik Thorell: Ma 10’52” (1996)

Patrik Thorell (1963) started his career in music as a rock musician. He became interested in electroacoustic music through works by the Swedish pioneers Rune Lindblad and Åke Hodell. Studied at EMS (Stockholm) with, among others, Bo Rydberg, Rolf Enström and Lars-Gunnar Bodin. Thorell likes to collaborate with other artists and his pieces often relate to the text-sound tradition for which Sweden is well-known.
”‘Ma’ is a japanese word which, in its most simple form means ‘between.’ The composition is a story in two parts running in parallel, the poem beeing one part and the sound image a response to that. It is a story about the nature of a meeting between two people, one telling a story and one listening. When we listen to something recounted in a foreign language, we realize what is really being said. The words themselves turn into a thin surface and the meaning, intonation, rhythm and other qualities freely overflow. This also requires much more from the listener: to be able to understand what is really being said, he must get immersed in the voice and be carried away by the story. The poem can speak for itself. The sounding part makes a journey from the objective world into the depths of the most isolated subjective experience, from the concrete and extrovert to the artificial and introvert. The source material consists of concrete sounds and analog feedback. The piece was composed at EMS during 1996.
Patrik Thorell

To people I meet I always say:
I wish the hot sun of the desert would set fire to my body
I wish to drink the burning thirst to the dregs
I wish to climb sharp-pointed rocks
barefoot and with empty hands
and, standing close to heaven,
lick the blood from torn wounds
Oh, the place I love is the deep black blue sea
I want to breathe its unbreathable air.
But it is not true,I am lying.
After all I do not want to go anywhere
Only to listen attentively to the frozen calls of the heat
and rest for a thousand years in the ice river of sleep

Kyung Hye Lee: Texts and voice




For a while there it seemed that electroacoustic music had faded somewhat, in phase with the general availability of both hardware and software, i.e. computers and sound programs. Once upon a time it was a treat just to enjoy the weirdness of sounds produced by the gurus in their hinterland studios, but given that the opportunity to make sounds digitally is widespread these days, good old compositional thinking has gained justified recognition again, which is why – in the last few years – really high quality electroacoustics has been produced and diffused. Elektron Records – initiated by famous composer of electroacoustics; Rolf Enström – is the label of SEAMS; The Society for Electroacoustic Music in Sweden (former ICEM). This is the label’s first release.

Connecting back to the matter of compositional skill in the electroacoustic idiom, it is obvious that anything really worthwhile in this musical discipline – which some people of late thought was the ultimate free-form, available to anybody for instant artistic utilization – always has been the fruit of skilled compositional work and talent. If we glance back at earlier pieces in the vein of musique concrète and electronic music we find that those works that remain fresh and bright till this day are those that have risen out of the creative act of an artist in a thought-through composition. We might for instance dwell on Herbert Eimert’s “Epitaph für Aikichi Kuboyama” (which also revealed a political standpoint), Karlheinz Stockhausen’s “Gesang der Jünglinge” and “Kontakte” (and much much more!), Gottfried Michael Koenig’s “Funktion Rot” (with the variations “Grau”, “Violett”, “Blau” and “Indigo”), Henri Pousseur’s ”Trois visages de Liège”, Bruno Maderna’s ”Le Rire”, Pierre Henry’s ”Voile d’Orphée” and a few years later “Bernard Parmegiani’s ”La Création du Monde” and ”De natura sonorum”, as well as François Bayle’s ”Grande Polyphonie” – just skimming the surface of the wealth of classical, now historical electroacoustic compositions. Sweden has had a disproportionate part in the electroacoustic genre, especially if you allow text-sound composition under the arch of the electroacoustic definition. Sweden has harbored and nourished giants like Åke Hodell and Öyvind Fahlström, as well as pioneers like Lars-Gunnar Bodin (I remember how I heard Bodin’s “For Jon III” like a sonorous revelation out of hitherto unknown magical worlds!).

Among true masterworks with a rare radiance in the realm of Swedish electroacoustic composition I have to mention Rolf Enström’s “Final Curses”, Pär Lindgren’s “The Room” and Tommy Zwedberg’s “Bavarde”. I return to these works frequently, whenever I want to sharpen my attention to discern what is highly qualified and what is not in the batches of music that arrive at the Sonoloco reviewing desk.

The composers of the works mentioned have in common the knack of utilizing their sound tools as a means – not as an end – and they own a deep artistic ability, which reaches its expression in the composition. There are no short cuts! However, lately a set of new, very qualified electroacoustic compositions has reached us from all ends of the world, which feels very gratifying indeed!

This new CD from Elektron Records contains both old and new in a nice mix.

“Rubber” (1996) by Palle Dahlstedt (1971) is a charming and ingenious balloon story. It is easy to extract an array of sounds out of a balloon, and Dahlstedt has achieved a funny variant. For comparison, listen to Jonty Harrison’s magnificent “Hot Air” (1995), or Swedish Renaissance man Sune Karlsson’s “Wet Balloon” (1988). Perhaps Dahlstedt doesn’t really reach that intensity, but he achieves enjoyable electroacoustics.

“Spårar” (“Traces” ) (1996) by Anders Blomqvist (1956) has been circulated on tapes off of the radio long before this issue. Blomqvist is one of the veterans (though comparably young…) of Swedish electroacoustics. This story is inspired by a text by Bengt-Emil Johnson, and constitutes a sort of runner-up to “Löpa varg” (1995) by the same composer. He joins a Swedish electroacoustic tradition; to apply small, flaky, close-up sounds, spattering forth in hasty swarms on a backdrop of a sweeping, distant wall of extended, droning events, sort of punctuating the foreground in sudden cuts. It is an effective method to achieve a stubbornly spatial experience of the musical space.

Rune Lindblad (1923 – 1991) is represented by “Optica II” (1960). It is the oldest work of the compilation. “Optica II” is one of three works that Lindblad based on studies of sound sketched on frames of film. First he used a 16-millimeter projector wherein the lens system had been modified to enable usage of the whole width of the film for sketching. Eventually he switched over to 35-millimeter film and projector. He drew with thin black enamel on the film, in the shapes of arabesques and short signs. The film was registered through a photocell unit at varying speeds, while the resulting sound was taped on reel-to-reel machines. Since I have in my possession – transferred for me by Rune Lindblad himself shortly before his untimely death – copies of about 75% of his vast output, in its entirety kept under lock and key at the Musical Science Department of Gothenburg University, I know that there are much more interesting works hidden in the Gothenburg institution than has been hitherto released commercially. I would sincerely hope for a retrospective Rune Lindblad box to eventually rise out of these storage rooms!

It is exemplary of Elektron Records to include Rune Lindblad on this CD. Lindblad was looked upon as a rather dubious figure by the more established culture mafia back when, which makes his posthumous recovery all the more welcome. It is true that his works are distinguished by a certain roughness, lacking much of the sophistication of the works of Lindblad’s contemporaries – but when you get accustomed to the roughness, it almost feels like a liberation to dwell inside long Rune Lindblad works, which emit a luster of poetic energy seldom experienced.

Sten Hanson (1936) has been around since the start, so to say, both as a composer of electroacoustics and as a textsound author. In this work – ”Les sabouts du bouc” (1997) – he shuffles and deals. A medieval ring is inserted into the clattering and accelerating harshness, and the human voice is never distant, in an atmosphere of the happy and thirsty sittings of Rabelais, right in the dreary ravages of the Black Death, which released the lecherous lusts of Man in the Valley of the Shadow of Death.

Sten Olof Hellström (f1956) entered the electroacoustic stage as a full-fledged composer. I recall how impressed I was when I heard his first works on the radio. Here he presents his ”Prequel” (1997), which belongs in the triptych ”Sequel”, ”Prequel” and ”Equel”. In these works you find reverences to Denis Smalley and Jonty Harrison, and you will recognize fine influences from the French musique concrète school, skillfully administered by Hellström. Here alien layers of sound out of different sonorous worlds converge in a mix, which probably is the most enjoyable on the CD. It’s a true adventure to join Hellström for a ride through his world of electroacoustics. He’s generous with his electronic gunpowder, but he never lets go off the compositional structure, running through the musical construction like the girders of the Eiffel Tower, and he is in full control. This is a very good example of genuine, consummate electroacoustics!

Lidia Zielinska’s ”Schon wieder diese weissen Mäuse” (1996) is a child of the same thought as Hellström’s ”Prequel”, but depicted in a sparser phenomenology, on a string of beads of clearly distinguishable moments; gleaming pearls on black velvet. Close your eyes and listen. Very beautiful (and I choose to forget all about those little rodents…)

Patrik Thorell (f1963) was introduced to the world of electroacoustics through works by Åke Hodell and Rune Lindblad. His “Ma” (1996) consists of a poem written and recited by Kyung Hye Lee, electronically permuted in a kind of counterpoint with the electronic sounds. I detect a clear lineage back to ”Aikichi Kuboyama” by Herbert Eimert from 1962 and Pierre Henry’s ”Voile d’Orphée” from 1953, so in this relatively young composer there is a connection back to the classical electronic works. I personally harbor a certain faiblesse for this type of electroacoustics, and lift my hat for Patrik Thorell!

I’ve rarely had as neutral expectations for an album as I did with e 1999:1, a compilation from the Swedish electro-acoustic label Elektron. I must admit that I was completely unfamiliar with both the label and the artists represented on the disc. But since listening is the best way to find out, I dove in the contents of Pelle Dahlstedt’d almost 12-minute piece Rubber (1994-1996). As you can almost tell from the name, the whole track has been made by manipulating (scratching, rubbing, slapping, drumming, piercing and blowing) ordinary rubber balloons connected to microphones. The sounds have then been looped while trying to keep the soundscape as authentic as possible without manipulation. The idea itself is very clever, despite the fact that for example Japanese artists like Aube and Keiji Haino have experimented with similar organic and inorganic sound sources. Had this been presented to me as ”new amaterial by Aube”, I would have believed it to be just that. I can’t nevertheless say that I would have been inspired to listen to it several times, as the piece would probably function much better as a live performance.

The next track is Andreas Blomqvist with Traces (1997). In it the artist seeks mood to the central theme of alienation. The chosen method is ambient, and I must admit that Blomqvist – who has been composing music since the 80’s – manages quite well, as the entire 9 minutes consist of quite competent (not extremely original, though) soundscapes. The closest suitable comparison is another Swedish artist, Raison D’etre, close whose work the song occasionally comes to, while at other times sounding like the soundtrack to a horror movie.

Continuing with the first-and-last-name artists is Rune Lindblad’s Optica II (1960). The track has sounds reminiscent of the acceleration effects in ancient Commodore 64 formula racer games. Thus it’s a trip to old times and screaming oscillators, but then again it is a piece that has to be examined in the same light as the works of Erkki Kureniemi, i.e. that of a pioneer of the genre. The track is, after all, over 40 years old, and Lindblad (1923-1991) himself has been dead over a decade. If I understood correctly, the piece is an experiment with sounds and optics, with a 35mm film linked to a tape recorder. If Mr. Lindblad were still alive, and would do such stuff now, a good contemporary comparison sounds-wise could be found in the Finnish tape-loop duo Mnem. One of the best tracks of the album.

Sten Hanson’s The Hooves of the Buck (1997) follows the Medieval morality-pattern in which faith is the true guiding force of life and the Devil is a real, serious threat. Normally in that context evil gets what it deserves in the end, but since that doesn’t always happen in real life, Hanson lets the Prince of Darkness win in his composition. Musically the piece contains sometimes very annoying sounds, but as their opposite also a short clip of truly beautiful Medieval chorals. Even though one could see the analogy with the back of one’s head, I must admit that I really liked this slightly over a minute long slice of ”real music” more than the confusing mass of hisses, grunts and clicks that gets the major part of the track. A slightly more refined production of the idea would have been necessary.

The shortest track on the record (5:39) is Prequel (1997) by Sten Olof Hellström. A method of the composer is the use of imaginary worlds and combining the products of those worlds into the same piece. Despite the creative idea, the music itself doesn’t sound as interesting in this case, but rather like simply mediocre experimental music. A certain amount of psychedelic feel exists, though. A disquieting track. The only artist on the album who isn’t a born Swede is the Polish Lidja Zielinska. Her track is called Schon wieder diese weissen Mäuse (1996). White mice are in Polish (and German, for example) tradition an equivalent of the ”mandatory” pink elephants people supposedly hallucinate when they’re hung over or very tired. It’s precisely that disturbing feel which Zielinska transforms into music with the use of clear sounds, so this is not in the least a slack piece. Unfortunately this song too fall victim to the most typical sin in experimental music.- it leaves an empty feel as the dissonant sounds simply fail to raise enough interest in the listener.

The last track is Patrik Thorell’s Ma (1996). The word is Japanese, and means ”between”. This almost 11 minutes long piece has thus two levels, one of them being a Japanese poem and the other the musical soundscape. A lot is staked on the idea that the listener immerses into the poetry reading’s intonation, rhythm and emphasis of the words. Through that the poem starts living a life of its own within the track, with the listener placed ”between” it and the music. Again, an interesting idea, but that doesn’t mean I like stuff like that, because it too easily leaves a sense of an improvisation instead of a track with carefully pre-considered sounds.

As a general positive comment, the record contains only tracks that have a clear idea or motivation in them, executed by the artists. This is definitely not always the case in industrial music, where the message often nowadays is just” I made some tracks, because I felt like it”. (Which isn’t bad, but not as good as being able to read about the real intent of the song.) The downside of the album was that the pieces would feel more at home as parts of art installations or performances, a use where the artists probably do aim most of their work. Unfortunately only a few tracks were strong enough by themselves to be truly of interest when listened to at home.

Kimmo Niukko, Kuolleen Musiikin Yhdistys