Paul Dolden


(Copyright © 2014 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions )

The Threshold Of Deafening Silence (1990), 6.5/10
L'Ivresse de la Vitesse (1994), 7.5/10
Delires De Plaisirs (2005), 7/10
Who Has the Biggest Sound? (2014), 6/10
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Canadian electroacoustic composer Paul Dolden (Canada, 1956) specialized in "maximalist" music for a computer-generated orchestra of instrumental and vocal snippets, a technique first documented on the cassettes Sonarchy (Underwhich Audiographics, 1986) and Sonarchy II (Underwhich Audiographics, 1988), that contain the early versions of Veils (28 minutes) The Melting Voice Through Mazes Runnning (21 minutes), and Caught In An Octogon Of Unaccustomed Light (18 minutes).

Two of those collages surfaced again on The Threshold Of Deafening Silence (Tronia, 1990), namely Caught In An Octagon Of Unaccustomed Light and The Melting Voice Through Mazes Running, and the album added Below The Walls Of Jericho (14:33) and In The Natural Doorway I Crouch (14:56). Below The Walls Of Jericho is one of his terrifying apocalyptic visions: an ominous drone leads to an escalating explosion, but just when the world seems to come to an end silence happens, almost absolute silence; and then the vacuum begins to populate again with forms of life, which again quickly self-multiply and generate another protracted firestorm; and then quiet resumes, but this time as a more disturbing cyclical pattern that evokes industrial machinery; and robotic voices begin to populate the factory-like soundscape, shouting all at the same time until manic confusion reigns supreme, and that is when a grotesque dance begins that seems to involve every possible machine tool until it self-disintegrates.

The double-disc album L'Ivresse de la Vitesse (Empreintes Digitales, 1994) contains collages composed in different years. The 16-minute L'Ivresse De La Vitesse is used as the manifesto for his "cut and paste" audio art that diverges significantly from traditional musique concrete because it embraces the whole instead of dissecting the parts. Where early scholars of sound manipulation favored an agonizing analysis of sound properties, Dolden does the exact opposite creating catastrophic hyper-percussive hyper-kinetic music according to a principle of endless apotheosis.
Dancing on the Walls of Jericho and Beyond the Walls of Jericho, complete the triptych that Below the Walls of Jericho started. Childish percussion chaos is the "theme" of Dancing On The Walls Of Jericho (16:14), peaking eleven minutes into the piece with a manic collective march and turning into a hysterical orgy.
Suspense and post-nuclear angst pervade the even more poignant Beyond The Walls Of Jericho (16:25), whose chamber cacophony rises to hurricane dimension with industrial/punk ferocity.
The three-movement suite Physics Of Seduction "remixes" material from the Jericho triptych. A feeling of string chamber music pervades Physics Of Seduction - Invocation #3 (18:28), that repeatedly implodes in pauses of quasi silence, but that feeling also comes with a parallel feeling of extenuating physical effort.
Physics Of Seduction - Invocation #2 (13:18) peaks with a swarm of staccato plucking, after which the harpsichord is used like a hammer; but then, about halfway, it gets too brainy and basically restarts from silence.

Physics Of Seduction - Invocation #1 (15:47) is another piece split in two or more parts. At one point it is the most overtly "rock" segments of the album thanks to the use of the electric guitar. It also competes for the title of most violent (and loud) composition.
The two-movement suite Resonance is ostensibly a remix of L'Ivresse de la Vitesse. Surprisingly, Revenge Of The Repressed. Resonance #2 (7:10), driven by a saxophone, delves into a circus atmosphere with jazz overtones; and In A Bed Where The Moon Was Sweating - Resonance #1 (9:02) stages a clarinet trying to make sense of percussive and vocal madness.
The album also recycles the old composition Veils (28:30), this time divided into three sections: a massive spectral drone of instruments and voices, a slow but steady crescendo of metallic droning and clanging noise, and a less organic but occasionally more brutal third part, with sharper, and occasionally shrieking, wildly vibrating timbres.

Delires De Plaisirs (2005) contains the 49-minute four-movement Entropic Twilights (composed 1997-2002), one of his most solemn works, and two "resonances": The Gravity Of Silence - Resonance #5 (1995) and The Heart Tears Itself Apart With The Power Of Its Own Muscle - Resonance #3 (1995).

Who Has the Biggest Sound? (Starkland, 2014) contains two electroacoustic compositions that demonstrate Dolden's meticulous assembling method. The 52-minute suite Who Has the Biggest Sound (composed in 2005-08) employs music performed in different tunings (and often re-tuned at the computer). It is broken down into short segments (nine minutes the longest one, one minute the shortest one), a format that seems to betray the episodic nature of the composition. It is, however, a multi-genre experience, even more so than on previous albums: The Village Choir Asks the Important Questions of the Day evokes thundering choral religious music, The Village Wind Orchestra: The Answer Is Blowing in the Winds is trivial Michael Nyman-esque minimalism, Who Has The Biggest Noise borders on prog-metal, Who Can Play the Fastest crosses over into punk-jazz and drum'n'bass mayhem, The Village Wind Orchestra - More Blowing in the Wind mixes ethnic folk and cartoon soundtracks, etc. The least interesting sketches are the ones that sound like mere imitations (whether post-modernist or not), and there are too many of them. Even the longest piece, Who Has The Nicest Melodies, disappoints in that it doesn't exhibit any of the beastly insanity of his masterpieces. Frank Zappa's influence is stronger than ever on verbal and orchestral gags such as Who can Talk Faster Crickets or Man? (and its comic coda The Village Orchestra: Tonic Tango). The whole album is a lot of fun, but Dolden without his genocidal pathos is like Wagner without a choir.
The 18-minute The Un-Tempered Orchestra (2010), a reference of sorts to Bach's The Well-Tempered Clavier, is also fragmented and relatively relaxed. Dolden is more interested in "conducting" his orchestra according to his algorithms than in triggering the end of the world.

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(Copyright © 2014 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions )
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