Transfer for 10 Musicians and Electronics
Transfer as a Compositional Tool - Artistic Issues
Many boast of it, but few really are: Florent Caron Darras is an exception among the young generation of composers. Not so much because of his training, like many of his colleagues, he passed through the composition (with Stefano Gervasoni, Luis Naón and Gérard Pesson), improvisation, analysis, and aesthetics classes at the Paris Conservatory. But rather by his interests related to composition. He devotes a large part of his academic research to field recording and soundscapes - subjects that he has also been teaching at the university for almost a decade.
Esquisses, Transfert by Florent Caron Darras © Florent Caron Darras
This why how the title of the work he is composing at IRCAM Transfert can be interpreted in many ways. This "transfer" is first and foremost that of all his research in the field recording domain directed towards his composer's studio. That is to say, to "compose" a soundscape from scratch (or almost), but above all, to immerse his audience in a different kind of listening. A listening that could be compared to listening in the middle of nature. An ambient, contemplative, and immersive listening of microvaried repetitive materials, in gentle evolution, barely perceptible. A listening that, according to Florent Caron Darras, would be closer to the world of techno - an aspect that is also found in the power of the sounds used.
In collaboration with computer-music designer Augustin Muller, the composer has developed a different way of thinking about space. Differing by the multiplicity of fixed points in the space (such as in the forest), with a certain spatial finesse and complexity, but also in relation to listening to a place and its resonance. "Ambisonics allows us to work on the very idea of acoustics," says the composer.
Florent Caron Darras and Augustin Muller, in Ircam's studio 1 © Ircam - Centre Pompidou, photo : Quentin Chevrier
Another transfer: the transfer of a particular pattern of sound figures, found in nature (starting with bird songs) to musical writing.
"Each bird song has its own temporality, with rhythmic-melodic microfigures that recur, slightly varied, interspersed with silence whose rhythms are also specific to each species. The idea here is not to reproduce or imitate a bird song, as other composers such as Messiaen have done so magnificently, but to create new musical figures inspired by the typologies of bird songs that I have studied."
To put it simply, we could compare this work to that of a composer who wants to compose a song. He analyses the repertoire of existing songs, notices that he can find a global form with verses and chorus, and will then try to produce a similar form, with chorus and verses. Although each bird song is unique, they have common characteristics (notably temporal), which make it possible for individuals to be heard in nature, to recognize each other, and to communicate (which requires silence from time to time). For example, some birds will sing in the morning, others in the evening. Their song will first present repeated calls in slowing down and decrescendo, followed by a silence of a certain length (and one observes that these durations are roughly identical from one time to another, and even from one individual of the same species to another), then again these same repeated calls, but for a shorter time, etc.
It is this kind of phenomenon that Florent Caron Darras tries to produce in order to populate his soundscape, and to transform his instrumental ensemble into a flock of chimerical animals that will coexist with those that already populate the ambisonic dome...
Exemple de suivi de chants d'oiseau avec la synthèse FM spatiale
Technology as a Transfer Tool - Technological Issues
The musical framework of Transfert is provided by a recording made by Florent Caron Darras in the forest, using a device capable of capturing a sound field with a precision that corresponds more or less to that of human perception. Caron Darras uses a microphone with 32 capsules, each one oriented in one direction in space. The 32 signals collected are used to encode this sound field with a complexity of order 4.
Florent Caron Darras, in the forest, during the recordings
This notion of order can be a little difficult to grasp, but a little analogy with a subject well known to musicians allows us to understand its meaning. Let's take a sound signal (which unfolds over a certain duration): a spectral analysis called a Fourier transformation allows us to decompose it into a sum of sinusoidal frequencies of varying amplitude. And the more of these simple frequencies that make up the sound are determined the more accurately it can be described. With the description of a sound field, we use a Fourier-Bessel series decomposition - and the order of the ambisonic encoding gives an indication of the quantity of "spherical harmonics" (i.e. the components of the sound in space, and no longer simply in time) that we will have been able to determine from the signals captured by the microphone. In this case, for an encoding of order 4, we will have 25 spherical harmonics.
This being said, the idea of Transfert is to take the spatio-temporal imprint of the forest landscape and to use it as a support, or a source, for several other "transfers". First, the reconstitution of the soundscape recorded on the ambisonic dome (and even on all the ambisonic domes because, between that of the Espace de projection, IRCAM's concert hall, where the piece will be premiered, and that of Studio 1 where Caron Darras works with Augustin Muller, the director of computer music who accompanies him, many adjustments must be made so that the perceptions, notably of proximity, are faithful to his musical vision), and its restitution in its duration and temporality - these being therefore "transferred" to the concert hall.
There is also another transfer, that of the recorded sounds to synthetic sounds. The sounds of nature and bird songs captured by the recording will no longer be entirely audible in the final piece. At the precise location of their release into space, melodic fragments will certainly be heard, but these will be produced by synthesizers whose parameters are guided by certain characteristics found in the original songs and chosen by the composer for aesthetic reasons.
"You don't hear the actual landscape," Florent Caron Darras insists, "but synthesizers driven by wildlife, based on the same locations of space and time."
"My objective," the composer asserts, "is to obtain like an artificial forest, which would reproduce the organicity of the original forest."
Former project at IRCAM
2019 – Technotope for baritone saxophone and electronics, 8 mn (Cursus)