ABOUT OMONIA BY LINE GØTTSCHE (ANOTHER ONE BY JASON GRIER BELOW)
I’ve been thinking about lately that it’s funny how the Danish metaphorical language on pop music is focussed on singularyties. We talk about pop stars (as in English), but also about “popperler” made by a “popkometer” [pop pearls and pop comets]. Many pieces are released as singles, or as parts of an album’s series of 10 or 12 separate songs.
For a sequence of years, I was a member of this singularity oriented pop club too, in different constellations producing music within this type of framework. When I left it, going solo in order to create what ended up as Omonia, I was for a certain amount of time still trying to achieve the same structural goals as before.
I worked towards the creation of an album like a bag of candy pieces with no enterrelation; a piece of licorice, a chocolate chunk, a fudge block, wine gum, a cream caramel, one foam banana, some long thin string of a substance kind of in between chewing gum and leather -
I was sitting in my December chilled rehearsal space in the Copenhagen outskirts in the winter 2013, endeavoring to figure out this candy bag album, when I received an email invitation for a 6 weeks’ residency at The Danish House at Athens. Few months later, I flew to Greece.
In Athens I found that wherever I went, I would always be able to descry a mountain at the horizon. Sometimes also Acropolis and its puppy bestrewn green garden hills turned into sight. And always the sweet Greeks and the feeling of balmy air of early summer.
I was given a small concert hall in the center of the city to work in. There was a grand piano waiting for me here; it's new-tuned-ness giving me a feeling of a warm expectation from the institution s kant, for whatever would be doing through my stay, and the way it rang in the room was a saying that it could be something lush.
Warmth and room brought the plant that I somehow is to sprout, freeing itself from the singularity grid that it had been caught in, giving itself up to a new method. This method had its starting point in the idea of how the structures of mind are not divided into entities, and implied an embracement of the fact that the mindscapes that the work was to grow from, was of a sentimental, repetitive and sometimes indecisive kind.
A wealth of thoughts and emotions, appearing in different combinations, enlightening each other from different angles and in varying nuances, became the ingredients of this work, and an impression on the the cyclism and the entanglement of their movements the recipe.
A requisite fascination of this emotions’ and thoughts’ fabric, and of the condition of being a being in a consistent stream of fixed cycles as well as unpredictable coincidences, all caused by the passage of time; plus the the sense of being partaking in this ongoing vibration between inner landscapes and outer conditions, became the catalysts of Omonia.
In a kind of auto-catalytic gemmiparous proces, I thus let the work grow out of itself, utilizing intuition to navigate through the wood of ideas, associations and coincidences that grew up throughout the proces.
Omonia this way grew forth as a mesh of melodic structures and text phrases and of rhythmical and harmonic patterns, all appearing and reappearing between each other in different combinations and variations, enlightening each other in different illuminations.
The same street that you have lived in for years, but looking different because the light changed; the same feeling as yesterday, yet all different because of this change of light. One day, one feeling, one street; the next day the same; yet a tiny bit different, because the river of time ran and changed the context.
This to me so wondrous same yet not the same phenomenon is being mirrored in the work’s own indecisiveness.
Omonia became the name of the work, not only because of the fact that it’s the name of a dark yet alluring area of the city of Athens - a duality also relevant for the person that the suite’s lyrics circulates around - and not only because of my fancying this duality’s resonance in the word’s actual sound - but also because of the fact that Athens was the city in which I learned to work with instead of against myself in art.
This approach let to one final feature of Omonia that I will mention before moving on to the next section of the text - namely it’s continousness. This feature is at its core a result of a personal weakness - the difficulty in creating endings that I touched upon in the beginning and which is relevant not only in terms of compositional work. Seen in another light, this flaw can also be seen as, or maybe rather seen as something which has lead to, an intense fascination of the maneuver of transition. Passages in the days’ and seasons’ cycles, in social relations, in an apple skin’s from red to green. All these seem to mystical elegance in common. The fascination of this transition’s inscrutableness is the reason why most of the pieces in Omonia are interwoven, leaving their transitional scapes open and hazy.
I felt that these soft transitions of Omonia’s called for a kind of instrumentation allowing a similar degree of sensibility. Stringers, a saxophone and my singing and piano play went fine with this, and along with me as I were, re-fallen in love with acoustical instruments after a number of years in the electronic music fields. For the string and wind recordings, I invited three musicians coming from very different corners of Copenhagen's music scene (experimental jazz, commercial pop, classsical music), echoing with this setup the eclecticism of my own musical experience's implication of all these genres. At the sessions in the late summer 2015, I asked the musicians to phrase with the a dynamics and an elasticity close to mind’s and nature’s.
A gentle mixing procedure followed during the fall, and, finishing the Omonia record by Christmas 2015, I went to Los Angeles to study composition at Calarts. Parallelly with this, I was attempting to get a record deal with an European record label – a mission that turned out to be not as easy to as I'd expected. As months went, me alternately trying and waiting, and not succeeding, my mind went dark with frustration.
Now, a couple of years after, I see how this time that went between the finishing of Omonia and the final releasing it, was charged with potential. During these months, ideas that would not have had time to push up if everything had gone as planned - a fast release right after the finishing of the record - sprung up. Let me briefly outline this idea festoon that came forth during the months in LA:
A guest teacher at Calarts, an oboist, introduced me to a playing style called velvet mode. This became the name of the record label that I shortly after decided to create for the release, as an alternative to signing with an external label.
A tree outside my window catalyzed the idea for a visual variation of the work, a video was shot when I returned to Denmark later in the year.
This video, displaying the transitional process from day to night in a no-nonsense one shot of a landscape’s passage from day to night, is a visual variation of Omonia’s same yet not the same thematics. The one ingredient in the video, a piece of untouched Danish nature, is chosen upon the same vision as the one from which I determined the work’s instrumentation and its compositional technique, and an event happening during the shooting of it - three wild horses stepping into the camera frame and slow-loping through the picture frame - confirmed the whole Omonia project’s relying on a patient collaboration with natural recourses and natural chance.
This had been a modus operandi in the recording stage too, as I taped different segments of Omonia in Athens, in Copenhagen and at my old music school in my childhood hometown Randers; and it proved its relevance again at this visual plateau, as I created the video with my brother and had my mother painting the cover motive - a watercolor interpreting the landscape in the video.
My partner at the time helped me with the graphical cover work, while a friend took care of a press release with an international schwung. My grandparents helped with a donation that covered of the last part of the vinyl print expenses.
When I released Omonia in November 2016 on Velvet Mode Records, it became clear how I in the last parts of its process, working out the practicalities and the visual parts of the release, had been following a procedure not unfamiliar to the composition’s: A long-stretched, part rational part sensible maneuvering through ideas, coincidences, circumstances and good and bad luck.
Feeling how the assembled course, all in all 3 years of going back and forth between working with music and working for money, had been an exercise in patience, I realized that time had also been one of my most important collaborators. This by always, for the compositional part, giving me new ears to listen, when returning to the piano after a period of bread and butter work, and, for the practical parts, making space for better ideas to grow up. Too, I found that the slowness of the working process suited a piece of slow music well.
The resemblance between the work and the working proces, these being two sides of the same coin, gives a balance to a work which is in itself everything but symmetrical, linear or systematic in any other way. Omonia is to me a mirage of the mind’s expansive structure - a structure resembling a root spread, a tree crown or a family.
Line Gøttsche, fall 2018
ABOUT OMONIA BY JASON GRIER
As fast as the wind I rushed on my own along the country road in order to be blessed by a more open view; then, in a moment, the sun vanished, neither sinking nor behind the clouds, rather as if it had been extinguished or removed. Instantly it was a black night; rain...
– Walter Benjamin, dream transcription from «Das Buch der Träume»
If not by accelerating global crises and surreal election cycles in the west, late-2016 may have been marked, historically, as the moment of «peak TV» when bingewatching immersive Netflix offerings for hours on end produced the opioid mindstate of a waking dream en masse.
In her solo debut, Copenhagen’s Line Gøttsche Dyrholm – violinist, Calarts MFA student, and alumna of Danish electronic popband Belle Ville – furnishes a nearly perfect anti-partner to our streaming video panem et circenses. Omonia’s 28 minutes of delicate piano and bare vocals feels immersive and epic, fractured and dreamlike, yet anything but soporific.
Gøttsche’s voice guides us gracefully and all-too-swiftly through a series of disjointed fin-du-siècle set pieces, her narration smoothing out the incongruities – partial staircases to nowhere, french doors opening onto ivy-draped brick walls, an asymptotic woodland twilight in which the sun never quite sets – both sketching out and soundtracking a kind of «Last Year at Marienbad» world. Tempered flourishes of classical and jazz instruments accompany her drifting piano sonorities, which sound at times straight from the late-romantic playbook (Satie, Debussy, and the final works of Franz Liszt come to mind).
On repeated listens, however, the vocal lines prove to be a brittle leader, seemingly stitched together from some long-lost narrative thread, the peans and barbs of an inflationary love and the bitter arc toward its chauvinistic decline: A shadow-play of heroism, computerized bodies and ameliorating houseplants. Over the course of Omonia’s five sections, allusions and metonymies recur and efface each other’s meanings; fragile sentence fragments coalesce and diverge again.
The performativity of words and decadent asceticism is decisive, and timely. Gøttsche’s low-tech invocation of cognitive dissonance, heightened sensitivity, and circular memory finds itself squarely in the midst of our amnesiac age of digital alienation and artificial dreams. But Omonia comes across as neither a coy sarcasm nor a trenchant critique, rather, something quite original and strange; sincere and surreal in equal measure.
Jason Grier, fall 2016