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The Sound Barrier: Sunday, 3 June 2018

Artist | Track/Song Name | Album Title | Label/Distributor | Comments

Tonight's edition of the show comprises just two pieces: two large pieces that each capture the ungraspable nature of time. To read more about them, be sure to check out the blog for tonight's programme. The playlist is below, listing the artist and composer first, followed by the name of the piece, which is also in both cases the name of the album (followed by the year of its original composition/digital realisation), the label on which it is released, and, finally, the duration.

Important note: each piece on tonight's show is long and deeply focused. It is important to try to listen on good equipment and with as few distractions as possible. Concentrating on the sound, and its subtle changes throughout both pieces, will help you appreciate these two extraordinary works.

William Basinski | Nocturnes (1979-1980/2013) | 2062 | 41:00

Eliane Radigue | Transamorem-Transmortem (1973/2011) | Important Records | 67:00

The Sound Barrier for Sunday, 3 June 2018

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Low bandwidth:

The Sound Barrier confronts the time barrier!

After the last two weeks of The Sound Barrier, playing lots of (by Sound Barrier standards) short pieces, many of them injected with hyposprays of energy, with lots of talking in between, telling you all about the wonderful value of becoming a member of PBS, this weekend's show is going to be something completely different.

This weekend I'll be bringing you two long-form works that in many ways crystallise what The Sound Barrier is all about: focussed listening, immersion in sound, and challenges to some of the most fundamental notions of what music, and we, are all about.

Both William Basinki's pensive, hoary Nocturnes, as treated loops of a prepared piano from a long ago past resurface in cloud-clad grey memories, and Eliane Radigue's glacially-paced Transamorem-Transmortem, with synthetic drones shifting imperceptibly yet unstoppably through its 67 minutes of suspended intensity, of motion microscoped, change not just how you hear music, but how you hear time too.

These are big works that put very different, but equally important, challenges on our approach to music. For me, those are also challenges on how we use radio, and the unfortunate conventions of today where radio so often presents music as something that happens quickly and easily as an adjunct to our daily lives – a commodity to be played with, to switch on and off in the background.

These pieces ask something very different of us – to stop and listen to them, to give them time. And they are pieces that repay us for the time we give them – repay us with their own altered senses of time, and of how it passes around us, through us, and within us.

In the case of Basinski's Nocturnes this is largely about contemplation and reflection – it is faded music that blurs the lines between past and present, quietly, wistfully. You will hear the constant loop of a prepared piano, not exactly in the steady decay of his more famous Disintegration Loops, but more in a state of perpetual flux, fragile, with distant resonances that are always on the border of being forgotten.

Radigue's Transamorem-Transmortem is a deep and immersive journey into the ambient drones of synthesised sound in what, from a casual glance, seems like a single pulsating electronic chord of white noise, its overtones in a constant interlocking of pulsation and stasis. But when you stop and listen to it, really listen to it, you hear how ceaselessly changing it is: restlessly, seamlessly, morphing its shape and the intensities of its layered frequencies. It is like you have walked into the very depths of your own body, hearing the sound of blood pumping through veins, of neurons quivering in your brain, a body trying to settle, immersed in a place where time itself has given way to the deafening sound of silence.

These are two extraordinary works and I wanted to write just a little about them here so you would be ready for them – ready to give them the time and space they require. Radio doesn't always encourage this of us. It's easy to carry it around in our pockets and cars, to switch it on while we do other things, maybe stopping now and then to notice something catchy. But that won't be the way to listen to these works. Instead, I urge you to plan your time for them – try to find a place where you have nothing else to do other than to listen. Try to listen on good equipment, especially for Eliane Radigue's piece, where the frequencies of the sounds are so wide-ranging, and their changes so subtle, that you need to give them every opportunity to be heard. Some of the sounds you will feel more than hear. All of the sounds, in both pieces, are sounds that you need to take into yourself and hold onto. It is such a better way to listen to music.

Give Nocturnes and Transamorem-Transmortem the time and space they and you deserve, and you will come out the other end changed. The music will linger in you. Time will be different.

And hopefully radio will be too.

As always you can listen to the show live either on your radio or online. PBS broadcasts at 106.7 on Melbourne's FM band, and on PBS Digital Radio, as well as through the PBS app and here on the website. You can listen live wherever you are, as well as listening back afterwards, here on the website, where the show's audio will be available for about six months after the live broadcast. This week's edition of the show will go live to air on Sunday night, 3 June, 10.00 PM to midnight (AEST).

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