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Impressions of the composer

de Isabelle Sabrié

Pleasure in spatialized rhythms, « walking » on Time

There is a real physical pleasure in rhythm-space harmony ! I feel it as in the human walk, when the leg which went up to the sky in a temporary imbalance so that we can go further, finally falls back to the ground to regain the stability of the earth gravity. Gravity asks this leg to return to the ground, and we feel the pleasure of “getting back on our feet”. It absolutely evokes me the “up-down” necessity of the rhythm-space harmony : up, we feel the need of the ground, and vice versa, down we feel the need of the “sky”. Musically, this necessity of a spatial balance between the opposed poles is also exerted on “left-right” and “front-back” dimensions. It is a physical pleasure which results of it, an auditory pleasure of the time-space sound balance.

I have sometimes the impression that 3D rhythms are a creature of 4, 6 or 8 legs, which locomotion needs to « fall back to the ground », I mean, “to fall back on time” as say the musicians, on precise places so that the balance can be restored. If all the left legs of a polypede creature are going up at the same time, it will lose the balance in the “up-down/left-right” vertical/lateral dimension, and this will trouble its walk. It is then not this way that rhythm-space harmony works. And it is also not this way that works the insect locomotion.

To continue in this biomimetic analogy, insects walking with 6 legs or arachnids with 8 are obeying to very precise locomotion systems optimized by nature, which does not work or badly in other configurations, a fact that the XXIst century roboticists recently discovered. Following my experience as a composer, 3D rhythms do obey to very precise rules too, and lots of rhythm-space configurations are not “working”. Suddenly the French verb “marcher” (it´s walking”) meaning “it´s working” seems very adapted ! And the musical term “andamento” (from “andar”, “to walk”) in portuguese, defining the velocity of the chosen pulsation (the musical “tempo”) looks so greatly adequate !

In another biomimetic analogy, a vegetal one this time, the plants and trees development do not cease to fascinate me. At every appearance of a new branch, the balance is restored little after, in the 3 dimensions space by the birth of the next branch, which weight and position in space are compensating the ones of the other branches, continuing to grow at the same time until its adult size. It is the same thing for every leave, every rib, every flower, every petal, and every fruit. In the plants world, the pulsation (temporal) which governs the movements of their “walk on Time” is slower than the one of the movements of animals or humans, but the space laws of their 3D spatial balance are the same. To me, it is rhythm-space harmony too !

We are « walking » on Time with more or less « legs », more or less complex shapes or datas, and this time-space balance is found incessantly in Nature. Until the cosmos with the temporarily “balanced” galaxias obeying to the mathematics laws of spirals : rhythm-space harmony again ! And I am certain that it is exactly what Olivier Messiaen was meaning when he composed his extraordinary “What is written in the stars”, during his stay in Colorado where reside the Native people Hopis, great observers of the sky.

I write “time-space” and not “space-time” because among musicians Time is first: it is not on space that we are “walking” in a stable shape of human being with 2 legs and 2 arms, as we usually think about it. But it is in Time that the moving spatial shape is redefining itself. 3 legs up or the 6 on the ground, 1 leg up, the opposed arm accompanying the movement by a little counterweight on the front, or the “left-right-up-down” beat of 2 wings opened by new instruments in the composition: the shape of the sound being moving is redefining itself at every instant of new balance, every instant of provisory stability after “falling back on time”.

Besides, when I compose in live with my 6 or 8 loud speakers, if I applied badly a principle of rhythm-space harmony, my ear perceives it immediately as if it was an error of classical harmony. To me it is again a clear indication that we have an unknown sense guided by the brain amygdala [1], that requires at every instant restoring the spatial balance between the sounds or the beings, as earth gravity is requiring that the leg falls back on the ground.

As if a “temporal gravity” was exerted on the sound, on every “time” of the pulsation or of the compass. As if a temporal “ground”, an invisible ground was existing under the “feet” of the rhythms, the “feet” of the poetic verses and all the movements of the living beings, attracting them irremediably to stabilize the shape of the being in movement, on the next “strong time”. A shape which is evolving in the 3 dimensions of the physical space, and which “walks”… on Time. Invisible to the eye, but perceptible to the ear. 

And indeed, why do all the sounds have rhythms ? If gravity explained the fact that the apple falls on the ground and does not stay up floating, what is then which explains that all biophonic sounds have to “fall” regularly on the strong times, with its accents of duration, height or intensity ? Science still has no answer to this fundamental question.

I am far from having specified all the principles of the 3d rhythms, but I progressed a lot on their bases, since 12 years. I leave the inspiration guiding my compositions and showing, little by little, what works well, very well or badly, keeping in mind the incredible time-space sound balance that I observed in Nature, in the Amazonian forest. This fascinating forest which have the greatest number of simultaneous sounds in the minute, emitted by the greatest biodiversity of the world. A creature of millions of resonant “legs” which are balancing themselves at every instant in every place of life !

[1] See “Scientific foundations of rhythm-space harmony”, and “Proxemics and neurosciences”, notes 2 and 3.