One of the things that excited people about ambient music in its early days was its unique tendency to absorb whatever other sounds the listener’s environment had to offer. This remains a big part of its appeal.
Occasionally though, ambient works are produced that have the capacity to monopolize our attention. Rotterdam-based Rutger Zuydervelt (a.k.a. Machinefabriek) released an album in October that fits that description exactly. It will not complement your surroundings so much as disconnect you from them.
BECOMING is a soundtrack to a dance piece of the same name by Dutch/Spanish choreographer Iván Pérez. It is number four in a series of soundtracks that Zuydervelt has written for him. The others are Hide & Seek, Attention the doors are closing and Exhausting Space.
The partners worked in tandem. Pérez choreographed at the same time Zuydervelt composed. They’d test ideas together in rehearsal, ultimately producing a 45- to 50-minute piece that left room for improvisation at each performance.
No two presentations are ever the same, as this album illustrates. We get the original CD version along with a 46-minute live performance recorded at the work’s premier during Bassano, Italy’s Operaestate Festival.
Both recordings are breath-taking. BECOMING starts as a drone work and then evolves into some of the most arresting electronic noise we’ve heard this year.
Dance works are often interesting, but few can stand to be pulled away from the choreography. The music is almost always an accompaniment, and therefore needs to be consumed in its proper context.
This one is different. Zuydervelt has given us a work so gloriously all-consuming that it can be appreciated – loved, in fact – no matter where you’re sitting.