"Planet X" album has been included in the "BEST ALBUMS OF 2012" list by Canadian radio CJSW 90.9 FM.


Liner Notes by Garrett Byrnes
Resonating Universes is a prodigious soundscape that weaves together not only a multitude of sounds, textures and musical gestures, but also disparate musical styles. As its title suggests, the work is a lush mosaic of atmospheric sound. It layers the “pure sound” of live harp performance with previously recorded and manipulated samples and, at times, with live electronics, creating a brazen audio experience.

The idea of composing a work for an acoustic instrument and electronics (whether previously taped or live) is not a new one. As we know, a horde of works for this medium has been created by composers for many decades now. What sets Resonating Universes apart from most of these is the scope of the piece itself. A work that wholly explores the electronic and acoustic sounds employed must naturally be more sizable than the common 12-minute work. It must allow ample time for the listener to become not only familiar with a host of sounds and ideas presented, but also to consciously realize that they are being developed and used in convincing motivic and thematic ways.

A work of extended length is not always easy to balance, and there is certainly real breadth to this work. The form consists of 8 parts and lasts a full hour. Variety begins at the surface level in terms of length of parts, how they are shaped and how the different harps and electronic components are utilized. While most of the parts average about 7 minutes in length, two shorter parts, just over three and four minutes, feel almost like short scherzo and minuet movements between the more substantial parts of a very large suite. The finale, lasting 15 minutes, is certainly more considerable in size than the previous parts, and feels like a true culmination of events that provides an appropriate and satisfying conclusion.

Several phases of creation took place during the composition of Resonating Universes.  Collaborating with harpist Şirin Pancaroğlu, Helvacıoğlu recorded numerous modern concert harp samples of single notes, extended techniques and a plethora of sounds created by using all manner of objects in conjunction with the harp. This process was then repeated, recording samples on the çeng (an early Turkish harp with a metallic edginess to it) and electric harp.  The composer even joined the harpist on the instruments during some of the recorded improvisation sessions. (Music for one piano played with four hands is commonplace, but have you often heard of one harp played with four hands?) As a result, the composer took part in some of the performance aspects of the work, and the harpist took part in some of the composition; for improvisation is certainly a valuable and justified means of creation. This process was surely interesting and rewarding for both musicians, as they were able to engage and react “first-hand” within each others’ mindset - to walk a few miles in each others’ shoes, so to speak.

Experimentation and manipulation of the abundant samples led to a great variety of intriguing sounds, timbres and effects that Helvacıoğlu used in organizing and composing the piece. In addition to all of the standard sounds associated with the harp, there are ticking, tinkling, buzzing and knocking sounds; rattling, chiming, scraping and crashing sounds; warm pedal tones, violent eruptions and everything in between. These intriguing sounds are heard in every part of the composition, and since all source material for the recorded electronic accompaniment, as well as the live electronic components, comes from the harps themselves, a unique and impressive homogeneity runs throughout the piece.

Each part of the work has its own character and exploits material specific to it alone. Some allude to fast music, some to slow; some are violent, while others are soothing; some contain traditional melodic lines, and others simply allude to melody here and there; some have distinct rhythmic patterns, and others seemingly float by without any strictness of time whatsoever.  Certain styles of music are also peppered throughout the piece. A hint of ancient music appears from time to time, evoking middle-eastern modes often paired with ethereal gong and drone sounds. During others the music is markedly more modern, even exploring the realms of electronica and post rock. The variety is simply astonishing.

Finally, in terms of harp repertoire, this work holds a unique position. It is a true sonic journey, and it makes use of the harp in ways that the average listener - and probably the average harpist - is not accustomed. In short, Resonating Universes really creates a new medium, a new sound-space, in which the harp can exist. It is no longer an instrument on which to simply play music - it is now a complete universe of sound itself.

Garrett Byrnes
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Resonating Universes