Michael Pisaro / Oswald Egger / Julia Holter - The Middle of Life (Die ganze Zeit) (GW 008)

Michael Pisaro’s new piece The Middle of Life (Die ganze Zeit), just released from the Gravity Wave label in January 2013, is his 2011/2012 composition inspired by Austrian contemporary poet Oswald Egger’s 2010 book Die ganze Zeit. The 47’20” long piece consists of Oswald Egger’s readings of the passages Pisaro selected from Die ganze Zeit, Julia Holter’s vocals, Michael Pisaro’s piano and sine tones, Antoine Beuger’s flute, and seven speakers’ readings of the one short sentence of a poem in their own languages. The seven speakers were: Taku Sugimoto (Japanese and English), Kristín Haraldsdottír (Icelandic and English), Kunsu Shim (Korean), Graham Lambkin (English), Didier Aschour (French), Lucie Vitková (Czech and English) and Julia Holter (English). Pisaro also inserted two other field recordings he made on the banks of a river in Neufelden, Austria. Egger’s poetry readings of the passages were recorded in the fields outside of his residence in Hombroich, Germany.

The atmosphere running through this piece is similar to the sense of drifting somewhere between reality and unreality. Oswald Egger’s poetry often contains simple surprises coming from his close and sensitive observations on the subtle beauties of phenomena happening amidst idyllic nature scenes, while at the same time also containing his profound thinking concerning philosophical issues happening in his inner world. In his poetry, the nature scenes in the outside world and his deep thoughts in the inner world move forward together in parallel like two rivers that occasionally meet, while being half overlapped or intertwined with each other, by sharing the same passage of time in the poem. In this piece, Egger’s soft, natural tone of voice with no forceful attitude sounds like he is travelling in tune with the environmental sounds of the river and the bird chirpings, as if he was a part of the forest as well. Meanwhile, his soft yet steady, unpretentious tone of voice conveys the warmth of human nature and the vibration of life. His German readings allow the non-German listeners to hear the sounds and rhythms purely with phonetic perception, without forcing them to be swallowed up in the vertical depth of understanding of the meaning of each word. The listening experience of Egger’s reading is similar to that of listening to the music, or listening to the subtle changes of sounds and rhythms of the river.

Occasionally, Pisaro’s soft sine tones overlap with the sound of the stream of the river or Egger’s reading voice. His sine tones remain subtle and discreet throughout the piece, almost hiding behind the ambient sounds, but also contain a human warmth and thoughtfulness in each tone. While sometimes synchronizing with the sounds of the river or other ambient sounds, his sine tones also seem to reflect the subtle vibrations of a human mind, perfectly echoing Egger’s poetry world where nature and human mind often intertwine with each other. Also in Egger’s poems, it is often found that one nature scene cross-fades to another nature scene and their faint images overlap with each other. A similar beauty is found in Pisaro’s music where his sine tone changes its subtle nuance slowly and gradually as the sound of the river changes its tone.

Another signature force in this piece is the field recording sounds of the rivers appearing in various parts of the piece - sometimes as a peaceful murmur of a brook, sometimes as a swelling torrent of a rapid stream, sometimes as a layer of heavily processed bass sounds of the water. Each change in the texture of the river sound resonates with the sounds of the instruments and Egger’s voice, and it casts a different shade of light on each part of the piece, resembling the delicate mood shifts in the poem.

Around 4 minutes in, there is a break in Egger's speaking parts, and Pisaro plays slow, simple piano sounds in a minor key over the ambient sounds of the river. The slightly melancholic tones of the piano casts a gray shadow over the piece, affecting the way of the sounds of the river and the chirping birds are heard. Soon after that, seven speakers start to read a passage of a poem in different languages of their countries (Japanese, Icelandic, Korean, French, Czech and English), in turn: “In the middle of life I found myself again in a forest (with no path).”

The quiet, contemplative tones of these seven speakers’ voices deepens the melancholic shadow of the piano tones, casting a vertical contrast in the horizontal flow of the music, like the birds’ chirps cast a vertical contrast in the flow of the river sounds. Here, the image of a deep forest overlaps with the depth of human life, and the dark tones of the scene draw the listener to contemplate life momentarily. The melancholic atmosphere in this section was later developed further via the dark night image of Mallarmé’s poem in Pisaro’s companion 2012 piece The Punishment of the Tribe by its Elders (GW 009).

Before long, the melancholic shadow disappears as if the sun came out between the clouds, and Egger’s reading voices begins again over the river sounds and the birds' chirps. In this section, the sounds of the river become louder and more intense, and the birds’ chirps become sharper and piercing. In the middle of these intense ambient sounds, Julia Holter’s soft and quiet vocal comes in. The fleeting, mysterious tones of Holter’s voice evokes in me the ambiguous beauty of two translucent images overlapping with each other somewhere in between the human world and the natural world, reality and unreality, or sound and silence. In Oswald Egger’s poems, there are often scenes like that where one word evokes in the reader’s mind two different images at the same time. This feeling of ‘experiencing something in between two worlds’ is similar to what Holter’s vocal evokes in me.

While Egger’s reading voices came and went over the ambient sounds of the forest, the processed sounds of the river grew more intense like a swelling torrent of a rapid stream. The contrast between the hard, intense sounds of the river and the soft, faint voice of Holter become more distinct here. The intense sounds of the rapid stream gradually recede as Holter’s soft vocal penetrates the air of the scene, as if the spirit of the forest slowly calmed down the tempestuous wind of the storm to reinstate a peace. This sequence is a symbolic moment when the human voice (performer) and the sounds of the river (environment) seem to interact with each other like two human beings – which is a signature of many of Pisaro’s recent pieces.

Around 24 minutes in, Antoine Beuger’s flute enters alongside Julia Holter’s vocal, both in almost inaudible soft volume, under Egger’s reading voice and the ambient sounds of the river and the birds. The faint sounds of Beuger’s flute and Holter’s vocal are perfectly tuned with the sounds of the river and the birds chirping, while bringing subtle wavers of harmonic overtones to the soundscape. Around this point, the harmonic balance of all the sound sources - Egger’s reading voices, the performers’ sounds and the ambient sounds - is remarkable, as if we were listening to a perfectly matched group of musicians.

In a deep silence near the end, Julia Holter’s vocal and Michael Pisaro’s piano (performing Holter’s composition) come in one after the other, accentuating the beauty and the warmth of this piece. Holter’s vocal echoes the faint lyricism and humane nature underlying Pisaro’s composition, while having an unpretentious, transparent air like the wind. These two essences are also found in Egger’s poems. This lyrical beauty of Holter’s vocal, evoking the subtle gradation between two colors, seems to connect Pisaro’s music and Egger’s poetry in an ethereal way.

In The Middle of Life, Michael Pisaro creates music that is deeply attuned to Oswald Egger’s unique poetry world, via the intimate co-performances between performers and environmental sounds. The sensitivity, the warmth and the translucent beauty of plural images in Egger’s poems are synchronized with the sensitivity, the warmth and the translucent beauty of the wavers of harmonic overtones in Pisaro’s music. Julia Holter’s vocal and Antoine Beuger’s flute gently project the essence of Egger’s poem in Pisaro’s piece, and the delicate, warm humane nature of Pisaro’s sine tones connect the world of Egger’s poem, the performers’ sounds and the environmental sounds of field recordings all together in an intimate manner. In this piece, music and poetry resonate with each other – the music contains the poem, the poem contains the music.

■マイケル・ピサロ/オズワルド・エッガー/ジュリア・ホルター「The Middle of Life (Die ganze Zeit)」(GW 008)

今年1月にGravity Waveレーベルから出たマイケル・ピサロの新作「The Middle of Life (Die ganze Zeit)」は、オーストリア人詩人オズワルド・エッガーの2010年の詩集「Die ganze Zeit」にインスピレーションを得てピサロが作曲したものだ。この作品では、オズワルド・エッガー本人による詩の朗読を軸に、ピサロの演奏によるピアノとサイン音、ジュリア・ホルターのボーカル、アントワン・ボイガーのフルート、ピサロオーストリアで録音した川の急流の2種類のフィールドレコーディング音、そして7人の演奏家(杉本拓、クリスティン・ハロルズドティール、クンス・シム、グレアム・ラムキン、ディディエ・アシュール、ルチエ・ヴィトコヴァ、ジュリア・ホルター)による短い詩の朗読を素材に、47分20秒の曲が構成されている。エッガーによる詩の朗読は、ドイツの自宅の近くで野外録音され、その背景には川の水音や森の鳥のさえずりなどが入っている。

この作品を貫くのは、どこか現実と非現実の狭間にある、何かの中間を漂っていくような感覚だ。オズワルド・エッガーの詩は、自然界で起きている小さな現象の美しさを静かに見つめる素朴で繊細な視点と、人間の内面世界を探る哲学と深い思索にあふれている。彼の詩の世界では、外界の風景とエッガーの内的世界が半分重なり合いながら、同じ時間を共有しつつ川のように流れていく。ここでのエッガー本人による詩の朗読は、背景の自然界の音をさえぎるような強引さは全くなく、 川の水音や森の一部であるかのように、自然音と調和して共に流れていく。その低くソフトな声は、川の水音や鳥のさえずりと調和しながら、人間の生の命の鼓動と温もりをも伝えている。聴き手は、ドイツ語による朗読の意味の理解という垂直的な深みにはまることなく、川の流れの音の微妙な変化に耳を澄ませるがごとく、エッガーの音声とリズムに耳を傾ける。それゆえ、エッガーの詩の朗読は、言葉というより音楽の一部として聴こえている。



エッガーの詩の朗読が途絶えた後、川の水音の上に、ピサロが演奏するピアノの音が、ゆっくりしたテンポとやや重い響きで重なる。かすかにメランコリックな響きを含むピアノの音は、背景の川の水音や鳥のさえずりのニュアンスに、日差しが陰るような微妙な影を落とす。やがて、杉本拓ら7人の演奏家が、同じ一行の詩をそれぞれの母国語 (日本語、アイスランド語、韓国語、英語、フランス語、チェコ語、英語)で一人ずつ朗読する声が入る。7人の朗読者たちの内省的な低く静かなトーンは、水平に流れる川の水音の上に重なる鳥のさえずりの声のように、音楽の中に垂直的なコントラストを生みつつ、背後の静かなピアノの音に様々な色合いの陰りを落としていく。ここでは、深い森のイメージと人生の深遠さのイメージが重なり合い、聴き手を一瞬、深い思索の世界へと導く。このパートのメランコリックな雰囲気は、この作品の続編ともいえるピサロの「The Punishment of the Tribe by its Elders」(GW 009)におけるマラルメの詩の夜のイメージの世界へと引き継がれていく。