Dancefloor With Pulsing
09/11/2018 - Brussels (Belgium), Festival Ars Musica, Bozar - Carolina Eyck (theremin), Brussels Philharmonic, Brad Lubman (conductor)
The French composer, Régis Campo has managed to combine the subtilty of spectral music with lively rhythmic action and a great sense of humor. In Dancefloor with Pulsing, an earthly symphonic orchestra receives a visit from a Martian spaceship equipped with an extraordinary onboard dancefloor. The extraterrestrial sounds are produced by the theremin, an instrument invented in 1919 by the Russian physicist Lev Theremin that has recently became popular again in the electronic music scene. Its particularity is that the person playing it does not touch the instrument. By moving their hands in the air, performers interact with a radio signal that is transformed into synthesized sound. The right hand determines the note, while the left hand determines the volume. Because the instrument is played "in the air", pitches are not specific or predetermined, making it possible to "slide" from one note to another. The instrument's enormous range and great expressive power are its greatest assets and distinguish it from other old electronic instruments. In the upper register, the sound resembles a soprano voice, with the same possibilities in terms of vibrato and expressiveness, but Campo favours raw and "rock n'roll" sounds. The piece's title refers to dancefloor culture. Further, the first tempo marking "wacky, with exuberance", instantly confirms that this is no classical concerto. After the tumultuous richness of the opening, a rhythmic pulsation begins immediately, though very gently. The bass drum marks the "techno beat" while the other instruments produce their usual sounds. The theremin's solo enters into this pulsating motion straight away with, once again, an interesting indication in the score: "very hard and dirty (techno music sound), like a big invader starship". Light percussive heartbeats are occasionally interrupted by a short sonic explosion. The orchestra's role becomes progressively more important, and after slightly less than two minutes, the beat is disturbed for the first time. Throughout the piece, Campo plays with rhythmic stability and instability. Every aspect of the theremin is used, from the low growling register to the highest ethereal sounds. The instrument is obviously kilometers from the orchestra's sonic universe, but the composer succeeds, none the less, in creating moments of convergence. When the glissading violins attempt a dialogue with the theremin, a particular sonic colour arises that almost allows us to forget that the solo instrument is unfamiliar. At the end of the piece, the theremin and the orchestra leave the earth with a great glissando. They seem to break through the sound barrier before disappearing once again into space.