Ferran Fages: Electronics

Thursday 22 July 2021

I think it’s safe to call Ferran Fages eclectic. These two reissues from 2010 are works for electronics, different from the sparse works for guitar and piano previously reviewed here. There’s a form of economy at work in these pieces too, but where the later works use sound sparingly, each of these two pieces crowd out all available space with unbroken blocks of sound. In Llavi vell Fages determinedly bows an electric guitar, exploiting the harmonic nodes on the fretboard to create simultaneous layers of sound, ringing harmonics over the rapid brushing of amplified metal-wound strings. Towards the end a contact microphone is used to produce feedback hum as additional drone. It’s a vast monad of sound, at once impenetrable and insubstantial, combining the chatter of a hundred randomly-tuned radios with tambura and sferics, a fixed piece made of constant molecular movement. This is a revised version from the original release and also a little shorter, although an extended playing time would not hurt.

On the other hand, further exposure to Llum moll probably would hurt. Each time I’ve heard it, even at low volume, I’ve had a persistent ringing in my ears hours later. It goes away eventually. This piece actually does use AM radios, combined with digital electronic interference to create narrow bands of noise at various frequency ranges. The piece begins with bracing bursts of coldly abrasive sounds but then about five minutes in it quits playing nice and locks into a persistent high-pitched squeal that threatens to brick your cochlea. The remainder of the piece zeroes in on one static frequency after another, usually at an extreme of hearing range. A cleverly constructed piece that may harbour malevolent intent to the listener, it might be a one-and-done listening experience as you rely on your memories of the piece to discuss it rather than sit all the way through it again. As a worst-case scenario, it makes its case on conceptual grounds ahead of aural.