Experimental noise art, drone music, and other forms – whatever you might call them – can unquestionably be an acquired taste. Absent the normal landmarks of harmonic and rhythmic structure, they raise questions about just what makes form – and accordingly, as a listener you can be lost in a unpleasantly-formless mass.
But in the music of Latvian sound artist and poet Jelena Glazova, as in the experimental sound I find most appealing, the experience is not cerebral so much as sensual. There is a conceptual background, but perhaps that’s what sound does so well: it can execute a concept in a way that is visceral. Sound by its very nature connects with the deepest recesses of our instinctual brain, and makes literal physical contact with our bodies, rumbling right into our guts. Here, her ideas about Eastern philosophy and poetry and drone tradition become audible and physical.
Some of this, of course, must be felt live. One of the better examples of Jelena’s music comes from a live show she did while touring, conveniently for me, blocks from my flat. That work crackles and roars as though aliens have intercepted the transmission to the PA. Listening to it in person can be transporting, the rattling bass buzzing beneath you. Her work stretches to the outer boundaries of distortion, digital and dynamic, pushing against the hard-red limit then retreating into rushes of more controlled sound textures.
Here’s a sound sample of that very performance:
Perhaps the reason these works speak in person is that Glazova fits her own voice into the sounds. The very formants may be distorted beyond recognition, but there’s somehow presence behind those abstract sounds. For her part, Glazova onstage is nearly frozen behind her laptop. Rather than resist the stereotype of the laptop artist, face aglow in blue, Glazova seems to embrace it, transfixed like a statue but for slight movements of her hands. There are videos composited and collaged behind her, but I found myself closing my eyes and imagining visual potentials possible only in the sound. Give yourself over to the work, and you can imagine landscapes full of yawning chasms, the surfaces vibrating with electricity.
Following a short tour, Glazova spoke from her home in Riga, Latvia about her work. She walked CDM through what you’ll find online:
On my Bandcamp I have live recordings (long pieces, 25-30min), shorter tracks – agressive short pieces (closer to minimal harsh noise) in “She clones herself”, calmer quiter ambient on “A breathing shadow”, monotonous walls of drone in “Red Material” (processed Sylvia Plath poems), minimalistic “A Man enters a grey cube” etc.
You’ll find those here:
and there is also Soundcloud with few live recordings http://soundcloud.com/jelenaglazova
She also shares with CDM a bit of her musical technique:
At the moment, I primarily work with filtered recordings – usually of my own voice (as a generator) or other conceptually-justified material, heavily altering it and manipulating it with the help of digital processing. At the moment, I’m working in Ableton Live, but planning to switch to live coding in SuperCollider or Max/MSP.
I consider voice processing to be a kind of deconstruction of vocal elements – a form of expressing unpronounced speech – connecting it with my practice as a poet and the issue of physicality. Formally, that technique is inspired by the sound poetry tradition of using the human voice, having roots in Dadaism and Futurism. Drone/noise form is a metaphor for an eternally-flowing development of “primary” matter versus human body development ([at the] macrocosmic/microcosmic levels).
As you see, I consider myself a conceptual artist and am more interested in the philosophical justification of my work.
Among the other samples, here is a free downloadable set of live performances, plus some video collaborations. Glazova also routinely collaborates with other artists, including most recently musician and electronic instrument builder Derek Holzer, who helped organize the hacklab CDM hosted at CTM Festival earlier this year.
Videos, working with Zane Raudina:
Desription for the second video:
What is this?
A calendar, map, attractor, portal, tunnel, rift, compass, game, ledger, reflection, space, spiral, sign, movement, gateway, journey, time machine, memory, guide, path, door, year, projection, paradigm, adventure, discovery, creation, act, art, key, myth, legend, universe, quest, bridge, potential, tool, canvas, picture, extension, immortal trace, trip, pulse, breach, amplifier, image, vision, sequence, idea, testimony, language and power are just a few ways to identify this work, it is what you make of it, because symbols speak more than words.
And live selections:
Jelena’s bio doubles as a kind of artist statement, putting this in context:
Jelena Glazova is an artist and a poet from Rīga, Latvia. She is working in the interdisciplinary areas of contemporary art, combining in her works image, poetic text, experimental sound and installation.
Her signature sound might be described as experimental, drone and noise, usually constructed from processed vocals. As a conceptual artist she is primarily using her voice as a generator, heavily altering it and manipulating with a help of digital processing. She considers that type of vocal elements deconstruction as a form of expressing unpronounced speech – connecting it with her practice as a poet. As a visual artist she is often dealing with physicality, which is also a basis of her work as a sound artist.
Jelena started introducing her records to the public in 2011.
Started performing in 2012 – took part in experimental music and sound art festival Sound around Kaliningrad (Kaliningrad, Russia), Vilnius Noise Week (Vilnius, Lithuania), adventurous music festival Skaņu Mežs (Riga, Latvia), video festival Ūdensgabali (Waterpieces) (Riga, Latvia), Art’s Birthday electronic music festival 2013 (Stockholm, Sweden) etc.
Collaborated with artists and poets – Derek Holzer (US/DE), Alexei Borisov (RUS), Ernesto Estrella(ES/DE), Edvins Raups (LV), Constantine Katsiris ( Scant Intone, Canada), Platons Buravickis (LV) etc. Started performing with video artist Zane Raudina (LV) in summer 2012, audiovisual performance REBORN was shown at Ūdensgabali video festival in August 2012 – http://www.zaneraudina.net/reborn/
Jelena has chosen experimental and drone/noise form of expression after disappointment with tonal music, as she did not find it creative enough as a form of expression (she was playing few instruments and had classical vocal training, as adolescent performed parts in children’s operas).
She became interested in philosophical issues of sound self-sustainability (John Cage, La Monte Young etc.), historical origins of drone music (Ancient Eastern musical tradition), minimalism, especially mentioning inspiration from work of Eliane Radigue (an example of combining Eastern philosophy with the Western minimalist practices) and 20th century avant-garde and experimental music tradition. Jelena considers drone as a metaphor for eternal flowing development of “primordial”, “primary” matter on macrocosmic level as opposed to human body development’s physicality. Her sound is also formally inspired by sound poetry tradition of using human voice (dadaism, futurism practices) that is linking her sound work with her work as a poet.
She combines interest in postmodernism with its collage aesthetics and deconstruction practices (obtained BA at Latvian Academy of Culture with work on postmodernism in audiovisual culture) and interest in Eastern philosophy with the concepts of nothingness and eternal development.
Currently studying towards MA in audiovisual arts at Arts Academy of Latvia.
There are certainly many other examples of this kind of work, on a surface level, though I think Jelena’s approach philosophically is special and personal. It’s a reminder of the breadth of possibility in laptop music, though, that we can talk about this kind of music and something very different, so it’s nice to offer this small glimpse of one musical world.