Sarah Davachi will perform a concert for synthesiser in the Museo Reina Sofía, with approaches to her new album Gave in Rest, which, recorded in 2017 in Vancouver, largely explores timbre and space.
The quality of timbre can distinguish between a sound through the source emitting it: a piano, a car, dripping water, with its huge variety conducive to the possibility of being widely explored in the sounds created by both analogue and digital synthesisers. Davachi, however, crafts her music interchangeably on analogue instruments like the modular synth, with digital programmes for recording and editing, and with acoustic instruments such as the organ. In fact, her early interest in music saw her work with different keyboard instruments simultaneously, and on her last record she used a lute, a Mellotron, organs, piano, synthesiser and voice, as well as interpretations with double bass and violin.
Davachi’s fascination with investigating timbre has led to her interest in the foremost composers of the American and European tradition – Alvin Curran, La Monte Young, Èliane Radigue and Alvin Lucier — who have explored the spatial qualities of sound, while her own collaborations include Donald Buchla, Morton Subotnick, Aki Onda, Oren Ambarchi and Ellen Arkbro.
These collaborations have doubtlessly resulted in her study of timbre becoming something abstract, concerned with the way in which vibrations resonate with, or rather in, the listener. This focus on seemingly phenomenological aspects of sound evokes the introspective, almost intrinsic and necessary, capacity of contemplative listening, her album Gave in Rest seeking to share a solitary meditation, a way of perceiving space in its historical scope. It was no accident that Davachi devised the work in a period in which she ensconced herself in European churches to listen to organs and bells. Yet in a modern-day context it becomes hard to associate the timbre of those two monumental instruments with calm and rest. Bells and organs, in their journey to the north of the American continent over 350 years ago, were at the centre of a fight against demonic noises in the forest, but today the places around sanctuaries have changed on both sides of the ocean to such an extent that forests and temples – two barely accessible locations – are craved for their isolation, for their proximity to nature and spirituality.
This concert by Sarah Davachi is set out as a request for asylum, a strategy to combat the unease of solitude imposed by the rhythm of production, over-exposure and information overload, and their encroaching pervasion of today’s society.