Moving on the waters

Katrina DowlingMusicLeave a Comment

In honour of the oceans, let’s listen to a beautiful spatial evocation of push and pull between different states of matter: Beatriz Ferreyra’s Demeures aquatiques (1967).

In both Demeures aquatiques and the instruments it calls upon, the imagination is informed by its past but not bound by it. The music itself and its means (Baschet instruments and electroacoustics) are playful but profound, freely moving but finely crafted. I’m pretty sure that the composer and instrument-makers did not have Genesis in mind, but I think that their work is a good reflection of the vibrant, creative spirit depicted in the great creation poem.

At the start Elohim created the skies and the earth

– the earth was tohu-bohu
darkness on the face of the deep
and the breath of Elohim
hovering on the face of the waters –[1]

If you aren’t familiar with the instruments of the Baschet brothers, I must introduce you first. They have unique sound qualities and lovely sculptural forms (which are part of the functionality of the instruments). Glass, metal and plastic feature in their materials, and not only are they good to hear, but they are a joy to handle and play. In this snippet of an interview with film composer Cliff Martinez, you can see how he feels in his element when he is working with the cristal baschet:

In Demeures aquatiques, Ferreyra makes play between the sounds of Baschet instruments repeating rhythmically, suggesting fixity, and a feeling of “continuous re-creation.”[2] She achieves the sense of continuous re-creation through electroacoustic transformation of the sound, which gives a great deal of movement to the music in two ways: by changing a sound from one timbre to another, and by changing the spatial location of the sound.

The imagery or story Ferreyra has in mind here is of flux between solid and fluid, earth, sea and air: “overlapping elements folding inwards, bursting as tiny particles toward soft and flat surfaces.”[3]

Space and movement are very important elements of this music, so I suggest you listen to it in stereo, and let your imagination move freely with it. Immerse yourself. What do you imagine with this music? The awesome power of the tides? The intimate life of the elements? Growth and regrowth? Exploration through inner or outer space?


[1] Mary Phil Korsak, At the Start. Genesis Made New: A Translation of the Hebrew Text 2nd ed. (New York: Doubleday, 1993).

[2] Beatriz Ferreyra, Liner notes to Beatriz Ferreyra GRM Works, Recollection GRM, REGRM 015, 2015, 33⅓ rpm.

[3] Beatriz Ferreyra, Liner notes to Beatriz Ferreyra GRM Works.

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