Hallow Ground

SIMINA OPRESCU - Sound of Matter LP

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»Sound of Matter« is the debut album by Romanian sound artist and composer Simina Oprescu. The two pieces draw on research conducted with 15 historical church bells at the Märkisches Museum and the Stadtmuseum Berlin. After the artist had presented the results of her studies of the connection between matter and harmony in the form of a multi-channel installation, she has translated the underlying approach of this site-specific work into an album that unfolds slowly, consistently setting in motion subtle tonal changes that continuously change the mood of the two pieces. »Sound of Matter« is both minimalist and maximalist, creating an infinitely rich and multi-layered dronescape that modestly invites its audience to get lost in the sonic experience.

Oprescu has been fascinated by church bells since her childhood spent in Transilvania since the instruments were shrouded in mystery, as she explains in an in-depth essay that accompanies the album. Having received a Bachelor’s degree at UNArte in Bucharest and after studying at the Royal Conservatory of Mons in Belgium, Oprescu enrolled at Berlin’s Universität der Künste for an M.A. in Sound Studies and Sonic Arts. She started working with the archive of the Märkisches Museum, which included 15 historical church bells that were built between the 15th and the early 19th century.

Since every bell sounds different according to its shape, material, and density, Oprescu abstracted these qualities in the formula f = K1t/d^2√E/s(1-m^2). This enabled her to recreate the harmonic tone of the individual bells with Max/MSP. She then composed a piece with semi-overlayed tones, i.e. overlapping frequencies. Naturally, this resulted in a beating effect that provided the music with a sense of urgency, though the five second-long natural reverb of the Märkisches Museum’s Große Halle turned it into a »warm blanket of sound,« as the artist herself puts it. This is perfectly recreated on »Sound of Matter« due to the music being presented in mono, bringing out the intrinsic movement of the beatings with more nuance than a stereo version would.