Listening to the landscape by Florent Caron Darras

Concerts 19.01.2023

This is the fourth and last concert of this festive week at Ircam, which marks the reopening of the Espro (projection space) after eight years of silence. The program of the TM+ ensemble, directed by Laurent Cuniot, includes the much-awaited creation by Florent Caron Darras, Transfert, which uses all the resources of the 3D ambisonic technique developed in the Institute's research studios.

For Laurent Cuniot , who conceived the uninterrupted unfolding of the concert, it becomes a poetic entity traversed by a theme and heightened by light. Thus, Olivier Messiaen's bird writing, illustrated by two "winged species" from his Catalogue d'Oiseaux (1956-1958), resonates with the sounds of the living collected in the forest of Anjou by Florent Caron Darras and the volatile chirping of women's voices by Natasha Barrett.

If Messiaen 's piano(La Rousserolle effarvatte and Le Courlis cendré) under the fingers of Julien Le Pape lacks a little brightness and clarity in the attacks and articulations - is the piano really well tuned? - the listening comfort is ideal in the acousmatic (heard only through the speakers) piece Hidden Values (2012) by British composer Natasha Barrett. The two-part piece sounds remarkably fine, magnified by the Espro's 3D ambisonic* diffusion for which it was designed: aquatic ambiance and whimsical theatricality in The Umbrella. Optical Tubes balances between external rumor and more intimate sounds (female voice and resonant percussions), modifying spaces and temporalities in a strange and phantasmagorical coming and going.

Sitting in the shadows for the first thirty minutes of the concert, the TM+ musicians appear in a dim light that will vary in intensity during the performance. Without a moment's silence, they move on to Florent Caron Darras' piece dal'niente, which begins with a light tremolo from the wood-blocks (small wooden percussion instruments).
The basis of the piece is a 30-minute ambisonic recording of nature sounds captured by the composer in the forest of Anjou in the early morning (Field recording) with a microphone comprising 32 capsules equidistant on a sphere, each one being oriented in a particular direction of space. The soundtrack will serve as a spatio-temporal grid for the work to come.

Transfer, the title of the piece, precisely designates this passage from natural sounds to sounds modeled by synthesis tools (this is the main issue of the composition) obtained with the help of the Réalisateur en Informatique Musicale (RIM) Augustin Muller in the walls of Ircam. Thus the birds coming from the loudspeakers and distributed in the space are artificial like these strange morphologies which recreate, via spatial synthesis, the sound environment of the living in its diversity and its unpredictability.

To the electronic part, Florent Caron Darras associates an ensemble of ten amplified instruments: 2 flutes, 2 trumpets, 2 clarinets (also taking the bass clarinet), 2 percussions, a piano and a double bass which contribute to the same process of transfer via the writing and the instrumental gesture. The two autonomous parts will cross, interweave and feed each other (the ambiguity of the sources is amazing!) to give to hear the abundance of the fauna populating this artificial forest: and that buzzes, that turns, that tinkles, that turbines, that bubbles, that bursts, that ricochets, that sizzles, that chirps, that stirs, that shudders... in a rhythm always sustained (the composer evokes the imprint of the techno music) and a stretched temporality that he calls of his wishes.
It is particularly felt during this immersive sequence with slow evolution heard through the loudspeakers and animated by rhythmic micro-variations which leads to a superb coda where the electronic framework is enriched by the periodic interventions of the instruments, with this additional voluptuousness brought to the swarming universe of the synthetic sounds.

Under the very invested gesture of Laurent Cuniot, the musicians of TM+ are exemplary as well as the sound diffusion of Sylvain Cadars offering to the public all the modern comfort of the listening via the ambisonic vault and the hundred of loudspeakers deployed this evening in the Espro.

Michèle Tosi

Paris, Ircam Espace de projection, le 7-01-2023
Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992) : La Rousserolle effarvatte (2nd part) ; Le Courlis cendré, excerpt from Catalogue d'oiseaux pour piano ; Natasha Barrett (born in 1972) : Hidden values, for 3D ambisonics device ; Florent Caron Darras (born in 1986) : Transfert for ensemble and spatialized electroacoustic device. Julien Le Pape, piano ; ensemble TM+ ; conductor Laurent Cuniot.

*Ambisonic diffusion is a process of reproduction called holophonic, by analogy with holograms. In the Projection Space, a dome of 75 speakers has been installed for this kind of three-dimensional diffusion called Ambisonic.

Photos © Quentin Chevrier

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