I suspect that roughly not a one of you knows that, in addition to being a mad-brained blogger at night, and in addition to being a swashbuckling programmer at day, I also dabble in music now and then and even run a small tape label together with my wife. We named it Die Brücke after the expressionist artist group of the same name, the one that counted among its members Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Emil Nolde and Otto Müller among others. Until recently, we had released only two tapes, but today we are releasing our third, Variationer, an album that I’ve been working on for the past few years. Before doing anything else, I suggest you go stream it on Bandcamp. It is available there digitally as well as in all its crackling, physical C-60 glory, should you desire it.
Heaven knows I don’t want to sound like a braggart, but I think it’s pretty good. I think it is dense, detailed, varied and rewards repeat listens. I think it’s ambitious and I hope that it succeeds in its ambitions, though perhaps I am not the man to judge. I think it ends beautifully. I think you might like it. At least if you like ambient or drone music generally, but who doesn’t?
Here is the track list:
- Preludium (Prelude) … 08:07
- Fantasi (Fantasy) … 07:23
- Kanon, ton och interludium (Canon, Tone and Interlude) … 13:54
- En flämtning (A Gasp) … 07:43
- Det nya året, hundarnas år (The New Year, the Year of the Dogs) … 21:40
And here is the blurb:
“Variationer” is a set of variations on the opening phrase in the slow movement of Anton Bruckner’s 7th Symphony. It is a blend of the slower and more meditative parts of Bruckner and Richard Wagner, the solemn atmosphere of sacred music and the obsessiveness of modern experimental music like that by Phil Niblock, Alvin Curran, Pauline Oliveros or more recently Kali Malone. The end result is a mysterious journey across a landscape on the border between the classical tradition and contemporary experimental music.
So this is a set of variations. What does that mean? In the classical tradition, this form, also called theme and variation , first presents a recognisable musical theme, and then repeats the theme any number of times, but altered in various ways. Usually each variation is a distinct piece, with a beginning, a development and an end. However, in each variation, no matter how different its costume, the theme is usually recognisable. Some famous examples are Bach’s Goldberg Variations, Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations and Elgar’s Enigma Variations.
This album is not quite a theme and variation, because it does not state the theme clearly in the beginning (instead the theme is a sort of ghostlike background presence), and because most passages are only fairly distantly related to the theme, many of them not being recognisably the same theme at all. So be it. That was the shape that it took while I made it. That being said, there are certainly passages where Bruckner’s original theme is present and will be instantly recognised by those who know it. The harmonic progression appears throughout the first track (albeit slowed and stripped down) as well as in parts of the second and fifth tracks. Various motives from the theme appear in tracks two, three, four and five, though often varied. The theme is stated in full in the second track, by the guitar alone. And the coda, well … I leave that as an exercise for the listener.
Variationer was mastered by my good friend Marco. The other collaborators are Riccardo, who plays saxophone on tracks one, three, four and five; my brother, who plays guitar on the second track; and my sweet wife, who plays a Nord Rack 2 on tracks three and five.
And to close things out, here is the Brücke manifesto:
- We invite the reader to turn their eyes onto the past and glimpse in it a landscape of the future. We look ahead towards an art which is not constrained by money nor governed by hierarchies, which sings as well as feels, which is pointed like an arrow towards the Real or the True or the Ultimate.
- In thinking about art, we take as our starting point the axiom of Spinoza: The more things an image is joined with, the more often it springs into life.
- In the beginning, there were language, movement and symbols. From that time onward, all forward motion has come as someone, obsessed with a certain strand in a certain kind of art, takes that strand, lifts it out of its original situation and frees it from the ossified habits of previous eras, illuminates it, magnifies it and fashions of it the foundational pillars of a New Art.
- We respect the masters of the past and readily admit that we cannot reach their genius, but are conscious also of two advantages which we possess and they did not: (a) modern technology, and (b) the example of those same masters, who once touched the numinous and reported to us something of what it was like.
- On a leisurely walk along the streets of Helsinki, Sibelius once said to Mahler that what he admired in the symphony was its strictness and internal logic and interconnectedness, whereupon Mahler replied that, on the contrary, the symphony must be like the world: it must embrace everything. In this sense we are Sibelians not Mahlerians.
- We have no imagination, only obsessions, which we follow not knowing where they take us: we get our subject matter not from television or newspapers but from the inner chambers of our minds.
- Tools, techniques and methods are not incidental to our art, but on the contrary shape art and shape our way of thinking about it. When asked about them, we are not embarrassed to discuss them openly, for we can remember our having once searched like starved dogs for the smallest hint of a method, technique or tool used by one of our heroes.
- We believe that a true artist does not belong to their time or part of the world, neither of which they expect to reward them; and that true art is no more than an attempt of the artist to explain themself to the world. We do not want to impress, but want to be understood.
- The human race, unique in Earth’s history, has driven itself onto a rocky precipice and seems poised to cast itself into the dark waters below, or rather to stumble hands over ears and eyes pressed closed out into a kind of nothingness. We see and tremble before this likeliest of futures: a world without wild animals, without untended forests, without glaciers, sea ice and coral reefs.
- All humans matter to us, as do all other animals, birds and fishes, as does indeed all organic matter, plants, amoebas, bacteria – every living, striving thing is an end in itself to us.
Though in some sources theme and variation is a subcategory of variation form, which also includes things like the chaconne or passacaglia. The terminology is not so important here. ↩︎