The Defeat of Time at Sonic Acts: Pitch Police says “Respect the Hertz!”
The drone. An unmanned aircraft, flying over enemy territory by itself. Secretly photographing enemy targets. Session moderator Mike Harding vividly explains to the audience at De Balie, during Sonic Acts XII, the properties of the drone, which is, in the first place, this information based weapon system. The drone now has numerous references in modern culture, of which drone music is one.
Harding pours out a hard to find drone of the midshipman fish, courtesy of BBC, which finds its source in the animal kingdom. It is what Harding calls a ‘true drone from the animal kingdom’. It is a continuous sound that doesn’t change much, but Harding is ‘not content with that definition. A sound can change radically but still retain drone qualities. There are no temporal limits on a drone, how short can a drone be? A starting point for a drone could perhaps be, that it is longer than your natural breath.’But drones are not just that. The role of the drone can also be to ‘underpin, or underscore, a composition an an essential part of the orchestra’. A drone can also be a part of a musical instrument in itself, as is evident in Leif Elggren’s Royal Organ.
Definitions of drone music are still fluid, a member of the audience for example pointed that throat singers can not be forgotten in the discourse. But what is drone music according to its musicians? Carl Michael von Hausswolff says: ‘It is silent and beautiful, it can make you stop skiing in the middle of a forest and in that moment you achieve a certain kind of rest. A state that you would like to be in for a long time. You lose a lot of the separation that can stand between yourself as human being and nature. There are no cars rushing by and its a personal dialogue. if you want to use it as a tool for practical living: It helps me understand the processes of life and being alive’.
Von Hausswollf also mentions a connection with Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari: ‘There is no start, no end. A kind of eternity. You become aware of a flood in your life. It is really stimulating and perhaps a positive way of trying to… well… live’. According to Von Hausswollf, this even applies to a live performance situation, where faders tend to remind you of time. Harding responds by asking if it is perhaps a kind of metastate. Von Hausswollf: ‘If you look at a concept such as transcendental meditation. Perhaps I could do it too, but I’m too western… And I’m too f*cked up to be able to list myself. I try to find other methods to achieve this kind of calm, or… whatever’.
Joachim Nordwall tends to touch upon the other side of the drone music spectrum. Nordwall: ‘How do you make drone? The drone is an illusion of safety for mankind, I like to recreate a certain feeling I had when growing up. The only fun thing of growing up for me was: cheap drugs and some place me and my friend could experiment with analogue synthesizers. There was this mix of drugs and analogue drones. In my work I have realized that I wanted to recreate that room where we grew up. Yesterday (during the Paradiso performance, ed.), I wanted to fill the room with the sound. A drone is convenient to fill up the room, and filling up the room creates a kind of safety. And moreover, that specific room where life was in front of me’.
During live shows, according to Nordwall, a ‘loud volume is important and the physical aspect of the drone is very interesting. To physically feel a change can be more interesting than the mental change. You get a feeling in the stomach. You can feel some parts of the body that sometimes do not exist’. Nordwall mentions Sunn as an example of a band that is enormously loud: ‘It has an effect that will get stuck in your bones for days after’.
In the discussion afterwards, volume levels at live performances sparked an interesting discussion. Is the artist responsible for exposing people to that kind of volume? Undoubtedly, there are physical consequences of sound. However, these consequences are largely unknown to the artist. The Pitch Police says: RESPECT THE HERTZ!