Joanna Bailie – symphony-street-souvenir

Score for the piece here!

symphony-street-souvenir is an atmospheric, illusory work for large chamber ensemble and tape by contemporary British-born, Brussels-based composer Joanna Bailie. The piece is in three movements (though the third movement is unfortunately not available to be heard) that delve into different dreamlike, hazy soundscapes. The first movement features a music box that she has manipulated electronically to become gradually lower in pitch over the course of the movement while the ensemble play lowering glissandi behind it. In the second movement, the sounds of cars and streets are united with glissandi in the strings while the vibraphone and woodwinds play along with bell sounds around them. The unfolding of these pieces reminds me in a way of how one experiences the music of Morton Feldman as a listener. What I mean by this is that the same sorts of events keep reoccurring, but never exactly identically. However, these non-repetitions are constructed so similarly that one can’t quite recall exactly what came before and one can’t quite predict what’s coming next even though you have a strong approximate idea of both.

Where in Emanuele Casale’s 11 the acoustic instruments are being shaded and colored by the electronics, in Bailie’s piece the electronics certainly are at the highest level of order with the live instruments providing depth of timbre. Even with the score in hand, the timbres in this piece are incredibly deceiving. It becomes very hard to discern where the acoustic sounds are at times because they become so engulfed in the sounds on the tape track. I find Bailie’s approach very interesting because it is so opposite of the approach of people like Casale and Katharina Rosenberger (like in one of my favorite pieces, parcours iii), who are more prone to color acoustic sound with electronics, while in essence arriving at a similarly elegant approach: to make the two inextricable from each other, to make the ear unable to decide where the acoustic ends and the electronic begins.


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