"Cantus Umbrarum" was composed for a performance in the subterranean caves of Choranche in the Vercors mountains in France, in 1996.|
- The Door [0:36]
- The mirror of shades [10:28]
- A mineral light in the subterranean sky [5:49]
- In the labyrinth [1:05]
- Such a delicate music in the woods [2:43]
- Down down down [4:27]
- To the deep! [8:43]
- Waterfalls [1:42]
- The deep music of a rolling world [3:49]
- Drops and life [1:21]
- Silent souls [3:35]
- Geological memories [2:15]
- Farewell to darkness [3:10]
A Musical Map of the Underworld (Live)
- Part one: Erebus [8:09]
- Part two: Elysian fields [10:09]
Christian Wittman - electronics, sound design
Christoph Harbonnier - electronics, sound design
Jacques Derégnaucourt - electronics, sound design, violin soprano, alto
Renaud Pion - bass clarinet, turkish clarinet, bass flute, Cho-Wu flute, EWI, electronics
Marie-Christine Letort, Jean-Luc Revol, John Greaves, Eric Theobald, Christian Wittman - voices
Nearly 600 meters of galleries were equipped with loudspeakers and thanks to a special multi channel sound system, the audience was walking along the galleries at the rhythm of our music, slowly shifting from one loudspeaker to the other, with many spatial effects. Several thousand of people enjoyed the experience, during a whole week.
"Cantus Umbrarum" is a poetical exploration of the Underworld, the world of shades, or stones, of memory and of oblivion. William Shelley, Baudelaire, Jules Verne, Dante, Victor Hugo sometimes appear among the rocks, the subterranean rivers and lakes: a poetical landscape is mixed with a typical Lightwave soundscape, enriched with a touch of melody. Athanasius Kircher is certainly hidden somewhere among the rocks. Music of the deep and of the dark, music of the night and of the mineral world, "Cantus" remains the craziest project we ever achieved.
As a special bonus track, the CD contains one of the 14 live concerts we played within the cave, at the end of the subterranean promenade of the audience. Close your eyes, imagine a gorgeous subterranean lake with green deep waters, some blue lights against thousand of stalactites. Let's the music begin!
2000. Press information
This is the first time I've come across the French synth/ electronica duo Lightwave. Lightwave consists of Christian Wittman and Christolph Harbonnier, along with assorted guest musicians. Cantus Umbrarum is a collection of electronic soundscapes created for performance deep in an underground cavern in the French Choranche Caves. In that respect the music sounds suitably apt: epic washes of echo-laden ambience, whispering voices, fey and ghostly instrumental melodies and most important of all a lot of atmosphere.
The album is split into thirteen linked tracks described as a "poetic exploration of the underworld - a world of shades, of stones, of memory and oblivion". And I can believe that - this is the sort of music that your mind could conceive while laying in an isolation tank.
Music and sounds that disassociate you from reality and delve down into the depths of your psyche. It's both scary and impressive stuff. The CD also includes a two part bonus section containing tracks recorded live in the caves - this "Musical Map of the Underworld" is equally impressive, not least for the sheer technical effort involved in such an undertaking. That aside these live tracks are very beautiful.
Cantus Umbrarum is simply a stunning album, it might not be conventional music but to those open to its irrisistible charms it offers much sonic exploration.
This new album and Lightwave's first on the label, Horizon Music, is their first release in four years. "Cantus Umbrarum" marks another innovative turning point for this extraordinary ensemble, with a powerful, hour-long group of compositions reflecting their unique musical interpretations of the shadowy, mysterious underworld.
Lightwave is the French duo of Christoph Harbonnier and Christian Wittman, and fellow cohort, Jacques Derégnaucourt, exploring the juxtaposition between ambient, mainstream electronic and avant-garde classical musics.
Based upon Lightwave's sound installation at the 38th Festival Rugissants in the subterranean caves of Vercors, France, the album also features a compelling two-part 18-minute live performance recorded at the event. Although the album plays as one, unified extended piece, there is a distinct flavor to each of the fifteen sections.
"Cantus Umbrarum" is a poetic soundscape, which explores the underworld, the world of shadows, of memory and dark reflection. The ensemble describes the album as " music of the dark, of the night." There is an inner logic and necessity within the music on "Cantus Umbrarum", with all musicians involved working in the same direction, towards the same goal, sharing the same basic feelings and visions and giving them strength and persuasive power.
It is a ominous soundtrack, with a blend of electronic and slowly evolving acoustic instruments (turkish clarinet (ney), saxophone, flute, violin) and voices (French,German, English, Italian) spoken by French theater actors, and by John Greaves, a British actor and singer.
The choral music is something between 'Mundus' and 'Tycho', a subterranean atmospheric opera, ...very scenic and evocative. The music and the sound is very sophisticated. It is atmospheric without being blase, organic without attempting to be "ethnic," ... an important document of Lightwave's most recent ambient excursions.
"Cantus Umbrarum" will surely be regarded as a benchmark of ambient music for years to come.
Lightwave has become known for deep, cavernous ambience, and they are really taking that literally with their latest musical endeavor. As the liner notes describe, it was composed for a massive sound installation in some French caverns in 1997. The result is trademark Lightwave, lots of experimentation with music as texture, filled with echoes, crunching noises, water sounds, serene ambient music, and French narration. The blending of abstract noise with music reminds me of Biosphere's Substrata CD, although the end result is quite different. As with prior Lightwave releases, there is very little melody, and the intent was not to create something particularly accessible.
It is more like an artistic impression, an abstract painting using sound as colors. The music conveys the depth of the caverns effectively.
Most of the fifteen tracks are quite short, but the first full track, "The Mirror of Shades," runs over ten minutes, and is a strong opener, blending most of the musical elements that appear throughout. Unfortunately, I found the narration distracting. Perhaps if I remembered more of my French from college, I'd appreciate it more in the context of the music. "Such A Delicate Music in the Woods" reverts to English, with someone simply saying, "there is a cave," surrounded by chamber music. Most of the voices are male, though a French female voice appears midway through this track. The voices reach the height of silliness on "Down Down Down," with someone saying this in English to open the track, starting higher in pitch and working his way down. It sounds very clichéd. Most tracks have some sort of narration interspersed with the music, though the latter half of the CD does focus more on the music.
My guess is that this music may have played out better for audience members actually in the caves. Some of the ambient and chamber music passages are interesting, particularly in the later tracks.
However, this is a difficult listen, and will have limited, specific appeal to fans of very unusual sound experiments.
2000. Phil Derby