In the fall of 2005, in the briefing room at the police station where I was a crime investigator, a colleague of mine, an Inspector Peter Sehlin at the Judicial Section, showed me some peculiar laws in the Swedish law book; some old laws that were included in Swedish law already back in 1736 – and that are still in place, unaltered!
A couple of them were especially intriguing, concerning language as well as content, and I was primarily attracted to one of them, which regulates the handling of a situation when a swarm of bees has left their owner and ventured into another man’s forest. This law regulates the formalities around how the swarm can be brought back, plus all kinds of detailed aspects of this. This law can be read in Swedish above.
I was immediately struck by the obvious possibilities to use this text in a text-sound composition, so after work that day I went home and drew a sketch of the basic formula for a composition.
The following months I worked with the piece, on and off, and finally arrived at the version that I committed to CD.
Track 1 – Prolog (Prologue) – includes echoes of music from the 1700s, played on different kinds of historical, Swedish keyboard instruments from the period, to get the atmosphere of the time of the law. These vinyl samples are swung about and treated in a way that makes their origins untraceable, but the general web of sounds provide a dreamy, lofty essence of the 18th century.
A particular sound in this Prologue, repeated a couple of times, may sound like someone frantically flipping through the pages of a law book to find a certain paragraph (which they are intended to!), but in reality it’s a sound that I happened to catch once at the local supermarket: a second or so of a lady handling the thin paper that she wraps around some flowers she just bought.
The Prologue starts with a soaring, shiny, fleeting glassy sound. I got that from a good quality wine glass that I struck with a sandal wood pencil from India that a former girlfriend once gave me on returning from the sub-continent. I simply extracted the resounding sound without the attack, spread it across several channels and let them loop unevenly, thus achieving a beautiful, glassy transparence.
The glass is slowly disappearing while a spinning, whining high-pitch bee sound emerges, moving hither and thither on a backdrop of very low, gusting thunder-oriented layers of sound. All of these, pitch-wise very different sounds, that none the less move about in a similar pattern, are actually derived from the actual sounds of a hovering bee.
Track 2 – Lagens bokstav (The Letter of the Law) – has a long subtitle, or clarification: A densifying meditation. The letters are gathered into a collection of laws that head out on a shamanistic letter raid…
I got the idea for this part – which is important in the composition as a whole – from the expression Letter of the Law. I recorded the letters of the Swedish alphabet – which has three more letters than the English -, letter by letter, in different pitches, as I uttered them in haphazard and unclear scales.
I then extracted the letters one by one, making each one of them into separate sound files, which I consequently allotted their own channels. I let them spin in varied loops for 80 minutes, while recording the result, after which I cut the piece in 8 ten-minute pieces. I gave these 8 pieces of letter-mixes their 8 separate channels, and then got closer to the effect I strived for by first starting track 1 for a few minutes; then adding track 2 to make the sound denser, and then, after a while, adding track 3 and so on, so that, for the last minute or so, all 8 tracks would run together, making the many-pitched and random mix of letters extremely dense, as if a huge crowd or choir was singing the letters of the alphabet; the Letters of the Law.
Then I went on to pitch some of these channels down, the first 3 semi-tones, the second 6, the third 9 and so forth. I blended this down-pitched sequence into the former letter choir, which slowly receded, allowing for this rumbling letter choir of the giants, but at certain places I kept the original, untreated letters, for contrast and remembrance. This part in turn had to give in to a further treatment of the giants’ choir, now leaving all intelligible letters out for a roaring, panning fuzz-box type event, which nonetheless was constructed from, and retained, the pattern and motion of the letter choir. The effect throughout this section is very dramatic, effective and swinging! I’m sincerely satisfied with this particular track, number 2.
Track 3 consists of two sections that are seamlessly joined. First comes Interlude I, which sounds like a muffled barrel organ or a submerged wind instrument or perhaps the calls of foghorns from the sea, or even some kind of sordid wind ensemble. This dreamy, introspective, unhurried music is actually the result of some basic treatment of a recorder recording. I went to the bathroom for some firsthand reverberation, and sat myself down on the toilet seat and played scales on my recorder. In a way similar to my treatment of the letters, I isolated short extractions of variously pitched recorder sounds, which I let play by themselves in different channels. I pitched everything down a few semitones, different channels at different degrees. The result is quite beautiful and meditative. I used 32 recorder channels running simultaneously to arrive at this result.
This down-pitched recorder ensemble slowly gives way to myself mimicking bees. In accordance with my treatment of letters and recorder recordings, I also pitched these bee mimicries, but both up and down, resulting in a maze of wheezing, whining and rumbling sounds.
At a few places short incidents from Letter of the Law are inserted into the bee mimicry, as recollections, flashbacks. They emerge briefly out of the web of sounds only to recede and disappear again.
Track 4 starts with Interlude II. It is similar to Interlude I, but has a darker, more ominous and fateful atmosphere to it. The sound is pitched down some more. The music is brooding, lingering, like an ocean heaving in the fog.
Interlude II is seamlessly followed by The Words of the Law, which carries a longer subtitle: A densifying meditation; a condensation of 161 words of the law in speckled linguistics.
The Words of the Law called for a tedious and lengthy process, which I, nonetheless, executed over some weeks.
I went about it by recording all the words of law text I was working with; in all 161 words. I saved them as individual sound files, and spread them out unevenly across a large number of tracks, around 20, in the manner of my method with Letter of the Law and the recorder recordings, but now I allotted each tracks more than one word.
I recorded several – about ten – rounds with these looping series of words in 20 channels for about twenty minutes, each one of them, consequently, representing 20 looping channels of words from 1736.
In the end I did exactly what I did with Letter of the Law, that is, a final recording wherethe Words of the Law gradually turned denser as I started with one of the ten recordings mentioned above, then adding recording after recording, so that the randomly appearing words slowly filled up the whole space with those 161 Words of the Law in a magical choral speech; a thundering wall of judicial linguistics.
Track 5 begins with Interlude III, which is a deepening and darkening of Interlude II. This recedes as the Beenary Observations kick in. There is a pun in this that is detected only in Swedish (where the section is called Binära betraktelser), which has the same word for “binary” and “close to bees”.
I use real sounds of bees here, treating them almost like I treated the words of Words of the Law and the letters of Letter of the Law, but to a lesser extent. I have used pitching much more with the bees, though, both up and down, making them sound like knots and thunder and everything buzzing in between! As the sounds appear at different angles in the sounding space, it is quite a dizzying experience to hear this at a generous volume!
At certain places in Beenary Observations there are brief insertions from Letter of the Lawand Words of the Law.
Track 6 is called The Retro- and Introspection of the Law. It begins smoothly with a section of slowly thickening glass sounds. I use the same sounds that appear on another of my CDs called Winter Glass. I have explained above how these glass recordings came about. Here I have used several glass tracks in the same densifying method as I have done with Letter and also Words of the Law. You could say that a thin, clear, transparent glass slowly moves into denser properties of glass, ending up in a state of thick crystal.
The first retrospection is a dense section of Letter of the Law, which appears for a minute or so. Into this another retrospection grows; Words of the Law – also for about a minute. This recedes into the emerging retrospection of Beemicry, my impersonation of bees, for a few minutes, until that part is relieved by a section of Beenary Observations.
The introspection part is primarily represented by the section that kicks in after the sample from Beenary Observations, called Dialectus Gothensis Finalis. It’s really the final section of another piece that I have in the works, which deals with all the different dialects of the Swedish language that you find in Sweden today. The section that I use here is a mix of people – male and female - talking in various Swedish dialects, but I’ve filtered and manipulated the sounds so much that you can’t hear what is being said. It sounds more like a partly liquid ghost whispering chaos, wherein dark secrets are being conveyed, mouth to ear. It’s pretty ghastly music, really, like eavesdropping on your own sub-conscious or something.
The Letter of the Law and the Words of the Law pop up in a few places into this demonic sequence, recalling earlier sections.
The noisy, crude and brute final part of Letter of the Law kicks in and takes over, until the paper crumpling event from track 1 – Prologue – opens a re-run of the Prologue, which, altered, constitutes the Postlude.
The final part of track 6 is the last part of the Postlude, which is a thinning of glass, i.e. an inversion of the thickening of glass, which opened track 6. Here, towards and into the conclusion of Lagboekeri, the glass moves from dense crystal to a highly transparent, thin layer of glass.
released August 28, 2016
Composition: Ingvar Loco Nordin
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