Profund (Deep) (2016)

Percussion (nine Tibetan bowls) and electronics
10 minutes

Premiere
31 March 2017
Festival Mixtur. Barcelona, Spain
Miquel Bernat, percussion


Commission
Festival Mixtur

Programme note
For some years now, Tibetan bowls — and resonant metallic instruments, in general, such as gongs and bells — have represented a particular point of interest among my preferences as a composer; a stimulating fount, offering a wealth of resources with which to create full and deep sound spaces. In this piece, my creative research with these instruments has been given form and been expanded by the use of electronics in real time and surround sound diffusion.

The work is organised in seven main rhythmical movements, connected by six resonant interludes that serve as contrast and repose. The whole, therefore, constitutes a sound continuum that traverses different scenarios, travelling towards an original energy through sounds that recall gamelan music until eventually achieving the vibrant and fluid atmosphere of the last movement.

A number of the bowls are struck upside down, placed with their opening on a mat on the ground. This inverted position produces a brief resonance of between three and eight seconds, depending on the size of the instruments, with what can be called, subjectively, a ‘broken’ or ‘dirty’ effect. It is a colouring that, owing to the brief tail of resonance, provides fertile rhythmic activity. The use of tremolo, syncopation, different kinds of mallets or even the wah-wah effect caused by damping the vibration with the hand, generates a rich palette of timbres that are very different from the usual resonant sound of the Tibetan bowl.

During the interludes, the bowls are placed in their normal, upright position and the group undergoes a progressive metamorphosis: from energetic rhythmical gamelan to a collection of ethereal resonant bells. The title comes from the deep-rootedness of the principle movements - with their energetic, lively rhythm - and the intangible resonances of the interludes, projected into the space. The work’s double, earth-air condition culminates in an ending in which electronics (modernity’s sophisticated artifice) and resonance (beautiful sound envelope) disappear, giving way to the simple, humble presence of the single ancestral Tibetan bowl, its sound damped by a blanket.

In the interludes, pre-recorded tracks in quadraphonic format fuse with the sounds of the instruments, creating an ambiguous atmosphere and ubiquity of sound. The spacing of the sounds increases the Doppler effect, creating varied distances, close and afar. Given that the electronic sounds are derived exclusively from recorded samples of the instruments themselves, the apparent shifting of the aural focus generates an environment in which space and time go hand in hand.

The work can also be enjoyed as a sound meditation. To contribute to the experience, the lights of the performance space should be extinguished, and illumination provided only by three candles placed in front of the percussionist. “Profund” (“Deep”) was commissioned by the Mixtur Festival and premiered by the percussionist Miquel Bernat on 31 March 2017 at the Fabra i Coats centre, Barcelona.

The work is dedicated to Miquel Bernat, with affection and a smile.


Ramon Humet. Vilanova d'Escornalbou, 24 December 2016


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