Martin Rach - Labyrinth Garden / Concerto for Imaginary Ensemble and Electronics

Artist: Martin Rach

WTF Album: Labyrinth Garden / Concerto for Imaginary Ensemble and Electronics

Tags: Contemporary-Composition, Chamber, Electro-Acoustic, Avant-Garde, Electronic, Soundscape. Experimental, Drone

WTF Quality: A bizarre mix of slow loop beats, contemporary composition and dronal mist, other-worldly soundscapes, a schizophrenic indecisive quality between sleep and dance - "sleep dance" perhaps (?)

Country: Lithuania


It may be a childish activity on my part but I enjoy playing various listening games with myself while listening to music.
One such game I call Creative Active Listening.
It involves imagining that the music is different than what it actually is.
For example, a basic first step in starting this game out would be to imagine that it's from a different time in history.
I sometimes do this when I hear some neo-psychedelic music that I can't get into. Tricking myself into believing that it's from the mid to late sixties will always spark an appreciation for it.
Sometimes placing the music in a different area will help:
Pretending that an uninspired acoustic version of Terry Riley's "In C" is from an undiscovered tribe hidden under the Amazon River.
You can turn it around as well by imaging that something that is not being played as music is music.
I survived a plane flight with a baby who would go off crying every hour or so by imagining that the sounds of the cries were lost recordings of one of my favorite free-jazz sax players, Charles Gayle.
Of course this game can be taken further beyond using it simply for false appreciation. 

Let's see.

Anyone who gives me permission to review their music should know that I'm gonna have fun with it, and more than likely it will involve some kind of imagery imagination connected with the music in question. And this was no exception.
I went around and played excerpts of Martin Rach's album "Labyrinth Garden" to various people.
I did this to mostly Japanese people of various ages, a few Americans, one African and two Swedish girl strangers who seemed so friendly to me at first but grew scared the more I talked to them and played them music. 
I would ask the people to close their eyes and to tell me what images conquered in their head with the sounds I played. 
During the song "Dark Piece" the most used words were "horror movie " - or variation of the word movie such as film (13 times), "scary" (12), "dark" (12 - no, I didn't tell them the title of the piece), "ghosts" (9) "crawling" (7), and so on. 
And understandably, with the dense low clusters of chords and swelling arrangements.
After the song ended we would talk a bit about why they imagined the things they did and about the music itself. 
The next step was to reverse their initial ideas. 
I instructed them to close their eyes and place the same music in an opposite scenario of what they previously imaged - say a colorful happy children's movie. Let the music roll and their imagination flow and see what happens.
It was also important to note not to use the contradicting superimposition effect that films use to heighten a particular emotion. For example, a happy folk song playing on top of bloody visuals of war combat. No, the music should lead the visuals and create them but the person must control it in a predetermined way - the reversal of their initial ideas of the music.

So, what was the outcome?
Same song and same people. 
Some favorites (all paraphrased for translation and to give the idea in short sentences) :

*A sand-dune whirl-pool sucking in trees doing push-ups. (WTF?! - from a square looking salaryman)

*Various house appliances raining down in slow-motion from the sky. (from an African musician)

*A swarm of ants rushing to feed their queen as if something big was going to happen. (from a female university student)

*Doraemon (famous Japanese kids character) rolling down a mountain and then rolling back up. (from a 7 year old girl)

*Extreme close-up shot of a woman's face talking with no sound coming out of her mouth, slowly pan out to reveal she is surrounded by hundreds of other people squashed together, facing random directions and also talking with no sound coming out. (from an older man who I frequently see walking his dog in the park)

*The earth turning itself inside-out to reveal a bunch of balloons tied together as they fly away into space (from a male university student) 

*"I don't know, an old lady eating soup?" (as her friend replies) "Yeah . . . out of a straw . . . ?" (not paraphrased. From those two young Swedish women. Possibly the worst one so I had to post it here.)

Martin Rach's music is well designed and artistically balanced with tight arrangements between "traditional" instruments and electronics. It's long drone like qualities with a knack for evolving loops might be difficult for some to digest and fully appreciate. 
I was trying to find a way to get people who may not easily gravitate towards this kind of music to understand that they have the power to play with it - to squeeze it into digestible chunks with the help of their imaginations and the natural desire to simply play with foreign yet safe external stimuli. 

In the composer's own words about two particular releases:

"This is a particular body of work constituted around wave shaped power electronics together with electroacoustic/acousmatic soundworld. These are two albums, in sequence, where my exploration into that composing/sound world are made clear. From walking the angles and cul de sacs in 'Labyrint Garden' to more conceptually clear and contrastingly resolute work in 'Concerto for Imaginary Ensemble and Electronics'."

These releases are also filled with surprises. Once I felt as if I understood the pattern of the music it would take a hard turn into something completely unexpected. 
For example this continued to happen in the song "Su Holy Ambientas" - It begins on a light breathing drone and soaks me in on it's pillow of sound. A light motif shimmers down from the clouds and eventually a quiet rhythm unnoticeably emerges from the lower smoke. Suddenly I'm hit heavy by strong dub-step drum beats and circular hissing. It feels as if a train is chasing me. Before I know it the engineer is yelling distorted screams at me from the train window. All this eventually quiets down again to finish the whole thing off. Just beautiful! 

But trying to describe this artist is extremely difficult because everything I've heard from him is completely different form what I heard before. You're gonna have to go explore Martin Rach's music yourself. 

I'm sure most people of this community don't need any help in appreciating this kind of music but that doesn't mean you should miss out on all the fun.
So, I challenge anyone willing to try and force their visuals of this music the first time you listen to it. 
What do you see?
Old ladies drinking soup from a straw perhaps?

Further discussion of this artist and album can be found HERE.

Links for free downloads:

*Labyrinth Garden (This album contains the song that I used on the visualizing experiment "Dark Piece") -

*Concerto for Imaginary Ensemble and Electronics -