Solace (2012) — Robert Scott Thompson — Long-form Ambient Music

What once was an alto saxophone is now a truly Eno/RST-Ambient soundscape. It functions extremely well as a backdrop to working, meditating, thinking or as an interactive work where one can experience the nuances of undiscovered sound. It also does not shove you one way or another, mirroring the artist’s emotional sway, but provides a blank slate by which you impress your own sentiment into the mix.

— Brian Bourassa

...immersive and calming...

Two things about Solace immediately stand out, the first a technical detail and the other sonic. The first is that the ambient setting, in its originating form, lasts over five hours, while the second is that, though the source material is a nearly hour-long alto saxophone performance by Dr. Jan Berry Baker, the result retains little of the instrument’s natural, identifiable sound. Instead, the saxophone material, having been radically transformed by Thompson using re-synthesis techniques, is heard as glassy, crystalline tones that play like fragile sounds softly resonating within a cavernous empty space. Don’t let the five hours detail scare you, either, as the recording presents a time-scaled and thus easily digestible forty-two-minute version of the work.

In the project’s multi-hour form, no repetition occurs as the music continually renews itself, and a similar quality characterizes the shorter version, too. Despite that, the piece retains a clear uniformity and coherence throughout its gentle flow, especially when it unfolds as a single uninterrupted piece (despite the fact that it’s presented as six indexed parts). The experience for the listener is immersive and calming, with Solace allowing the receptive listener to enter into an almost trance-like state during playback. Thompson’s own description of the work as a kind of “sonic tinting” ideal for colouring the sound spaces of multiple architectural spaces is apt.

— Textura

...a coherent structure of continuous flow and development...

Solace is a work created using sound analysis and re-synthesis techniques. The source materials are from the alto saxophone performance of Dr. Jan Berry Baker.

The idea of this project was to create a long-form ambient work that would be highly immersive and engaging for close listening but would also create an atmospheric quality at lower volume levels. The sound of the music is continuously renewed – there is no repetition of any sonic element or gesture throughout the entire duration. At the same time, the sound materials are somewhat uniform in timbre, spectral envelope, and sonority, creating a coherent structure of continuous flow and development.

Solace is related to other long-from works composed over the past two decades including Siren (Ambient), Sapphire, Manifold, Mantra and Music for a Summer Evening. All of these are available on recordings at the Aucourant Records website.

Over the duration of the composition there are extended moments of silence and repose – some lasting for a relatively long period of time – that break the flow the sound and provide pockets of silence into which the sounds of the listening environment might flow in order to be heard re-framed.

Solace can be used as a kind of sonic tinting for meditation, bodywork, thinking, and creative activity and to color the sound spaces of living environments, architectures, museums and other spaces.

From a technical point of view this work was created in three basic steps. The first of these involved the transformation of a nearly hour-long source recording using formant re-synthesis techniques – which imbued the saxophone line with a singing quality of resonant complexity. A second layer of processing recasts the sound according to tempo and pitch transformations, a process which exposed the complexity of the evolving timbre with greater detail. If you are interested to know more about the techniques used please feel free to contact me by email.

— rst


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