The Squid's Ear Magazine

Darge, Moniek / Vanessa Rossetto: Dream Soundies (erstwhile)

Bringing together two generations of sound artists and field recording specialists--Belgian composer Moniek Darge, known for her ethnomusicologist "soundies" from global locations; and American sound composer Vanessa Rossetto transforming everyday occurrence--for a meeting at Lincoln Center in NYC to record the city and reshape its sound into four impressionistic sonic reveries.

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Moniek Darge-objects

Vanessa Rossetto-performer, composer

Iouri Grankin-voice

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Label: erstwhile
Catalog ID: Erstwhile 096
Squidco Product Code: 34087

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2023
Country: USA
Packaging: Digipack - 3 panel
Recorded by the artists, mastered by Giuseppe Ielasi.

Descriptions, Reviews, &c.

"Walk along any bike path or stroll through any park, and it's only a matter of time before the bicycle bells ring. The signal is both familiar and unsettling as it suspends time, only allowing for its reinstatement when normality emerges. Vanessa Rossetto and Moniek Darge's new collaboration on Erstwhile, most intriguingly entitled Dream Soundies, will hold that sort of surprise for anyone momentarily bemused by that clear and present crystalline resonance, by the small skittering sound of a falling leaf or the sonic confluence of nature and industry now ineluctably shaping our environment, but its forms and structures penetrate far deeper than transient timbres into the realm of archetype in motion.

Of course, this project had at least part of its genesis in Darge's long and absolutely stunning soundies series, documented on CD by the Kye label. For those unfamiliar, she's an instrumentalist, a composer, and a collector of sounds, all of which makes her the ideal artistic partner for the similarly documentarian and aesthetically diverse Vanessa Rossetto. Both capture and present sounds as unit and in context, emphasizing an object's individual characteristics while also drawing attention to its shape and depth. Both also revel in sonic disrepair, presenting a voice, a room or a street with grit and grime all over it. Underpinning these points of intersection, and maybe even more intriguing, is the way both artists confront and integrate the implications of what might be called "the score." Beyond the complexities and nuances of their field recordings, there is often a musical or rhythmic layer underlying whatever sound is in focus. Frequently, and especially on Dream Soundies, those "musical" occurrences are instrumental, as they are on Rossetto's recent masterpiece The Actress. That score may take on all manner of association, on its own terms and for the rest of the disc, like the music box peppering "Vignette" and which will return later in various manifestations. Even that immediately recognizable signifier is only one layer of a complex and shifting sonic palimpsest replete with vast planes of fluctuating drone dotted with nameless bits and bobs that take on a subconscious character of their own, the dream network of associations only fading as a palpable waking environment, complete with interrogative male voice, foregrounds itself. Yet, even that seeming stability is momentary, as what could be something as mundane as a stapler gathers immense proportion, finally setting a whirling series of rapid-fire repetitions in motion, stamping logic into the dust.

Similar juxtapositions of reality with whatever opposites might be evoked guides the rest of the disc. Time, space, and the sounds representing them are exposed, repeated, dissected, and hurled into various states of order and cacophony, all undergirded by the glacial slowness of area in exploration. It is as if the spaces between each object are highlighted in shades of various luminosities, like the evocative organ specters in ebbing and flowing states of cluster shadowing "Lincoln 1."

Elsewhere in the same piece, what sounds like a toy emits animal sounds to the consternation of a very live dog. Elsewhere, a doggy toy spars with a similarly quickened canine, symptomatic of another series of relationships guiding the music along its whimsically circuitous path. There are giggle sticks rasping amidst sounds of the street in motion, the afore-mentioned music boxes and video games offsetting the sounds of children screaming, not to mention a seemingly non-sequitur rooster obviously plucked from an earlier soundie, perhaps meant to reinstate awareness? All of that enters into dialogue with sounds of heartstopping naturalness and detail, like beautifully and beinaurally recorded birds or a looped rhythmic dance demonstration, anchoring the otherwise shifting landscapes. Loops abound, and so many of the sound objects in interaction sway, wing, and slide past each other in cyclic dance.

When the various emotive states run their course, and when many of the sonic tropes have returned to conclude the evolving voyage, the impression remains of vastness and minutia in uneasy tandem, tiny objects vocalizing in the face of wind, water, and machine. The whimsicality of human utterance, improvised and occasionally imitating the animals elsewhere enshrined, is vanguarded only to become subservient to those larger entities all too ready to obliterate them but with whom they must find a way to coexist. A memorable siren sounds a dire but similarly ephemeral warning. Disparate motors vie with the sounds of washing in a kind of elemental counterpoint, and despite moments of levity, much of the music exudes a disorienting coexistence.

Most moving, though, is the conclusion of "Lincoln 1." The mighty organ fades to impalpability, replaced by the sound of a child in song, stumbling, laughing, continuing. The little voice cracks with heart-breaking innocence until the peaceful ambiance of ocean waves overtakes it. There, in that calm space, the gently cyclic rise and fall of water lulls, envelops, soothes, and subdues, while barely audible beneath it all, beats a human heart. The sounds are as deep as they are unified, each repetition a place of inhabitation both unique and familiar. Here, all of the variously conflicting human and natural juxtapositions are resolved in a moment of staggering beauty needing no score. If the entire suite comprises a sonic feast of many courses, that brief sequence is a cadential transfiguration, bringing sound and cycle into momentary harmony."-Marc Medwin, Point of Departure

Get additional information at Point of Departure

Artist Biographies

"Moniek Darge or Monica Darge (born 1952) is a Belgian composer, musician, audio artist and educator. She was named a Cultural Ambassador of Flanders.

Darge was born in Bruges and studied violin and music theory at the Music Conservatory of Bruges, painting at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Ghent and art history, philosophy and anthropology at Ghent University. She taught courses on 20th century art history, audio art, non-western art studies and introduction to ethnomusicology as an assistant professor at the Hogeschool Gent, retiring in 2012.

She has performed around the world with the Logos Ensemble, with Godfried-Willem Raes in the Logos Duo and with the M&M (Man and Machine) robot ensemble. She was a founding member of Logos Women. She has also designed, constructed and performed on a number of alternate "music boxes". In her travels, Darge has collected field recordings of world music from Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Asia, Brazil and the Canadian Arctic (Inuit) that she incorporates into her soundscapes. She has also published articles and lectured on her musical experiences during her international travel.

From 1970 to 1980, Darge helped organize a series of multimedia festivals. In 1992, she organized the Japanese Performance Festival in Ghent. She also organized an International Women's Festival which incorporated music and performance art.

Darge received Meet The Composer grants for Los Angeles and New York City. In 1997, she was named Cultural Ambassador of Flanders.

Her 2005 composition "Whisper Ears" is one of the pieces chosen to play at the Radio Forest which is a sound installation created by Amy Franceschini and Stijn Schiffeleers near Neerpelt which was restyled by Koen Deprez."

-Wikipedia (

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"Vanessa Rossetto is an American composer. She uses primarily chamber instrumentation, field recordings, electronics and a wide array of objects. In 2008, she launched her own CD-R label, Music Appreciation. Through this imprint she has released four solo albums: Misafridal (2008), Imperial Brick (2008), Whoreson in the Wilderness (2008)and the FILE Festival-honored Dogs in English Porcelain (2009)."

-Vanessa Website (

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Vocalist Iouri Grankin is a Ukranian jazz vocalist, born in 1959 and who graduated from Kharkov University, Department of Mechanics and Mathematics, in 1976. He is best known for the group VocColours.

-Squidco 2/26/2024

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Track Listing:

1. Vignette 17:58

2. Lincoln 2 14:37

3. Lincoln 1 19:00

4. Bricks 18:54

Related Categories of Interest:

Field Recordings
Electroacoustic Composition
Compositional Forms
NY Downtown & Metropolitan Jazz/Improv
Duo Recordings
Staff Picks & Recommended Items
New in Experimental & Electronic Music

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The Squid's Ear Magazine

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