Sándor Szabó

acoustic guitar artist, composer

Untitled Document

Self-comment on Echolocation IX. About the Aquarius album

It’s been quite a few decades since we first heard the designation ambient
music style and, of course, the music marked with the name Brian Eno associated
with it. The term ambient can relate to music in two ways. One way is to make
the music part of the environment and also appear in places where it would not
otherwise be typical. The other connection is when the ambient sound heard in
nature is incorporated into the sound of music. Unfortunately, this connection has
since been pushed to the level of kitsch by the ambient genre. Echolocation IX
builds on the latter connection, avoiding the typical pitfalls of this connection,
because I by no means wanted to create background music for minimalism. I had
to create a complex artistic concept, where the ambient style features that can be
used for me are integrated into the original Echolocation sound concept, which in
short means that the sounds of music appear in the closer and deeper layers and
depths of space, and musical events are much more depicted, and as a result, we
will have a three-dimensional sound experience in stereo space.
I supplemented the musical and sound concept outlined here by drawing
sounds taken from nature in the process of a story, to draw a path from
somewhere to somewhere. Compared to the usual static ambient music, which
typically sounds continuously and allows only minimal musical change, often
unpredictable modulations can be heard here. Between the parts of the pieces,
silence also appears in the dynamic fabric of the sounds. With these differences,
this music does not belong to ambient background music anymore.
The album consists of three tracks. The first two are Aquarius I and II. They
are about water. Not only did I visualize the sound of water, but I formed music
and rhythmic fabrics from the sound of water drops. The two pieces follow the
path of the water from the dripping through the thunderstorm to the roar of the
sea. The third piece titled of Day of Birds and Forests is also about birds and the
forest. The special feature of the piece is that the 1.6-second-long bird song of
Hylocichla Guttata collected by Dr. Péter Szõke, slowed down to 1/16 speed,
sounds four octaves lower and sounds like a song with a perfect intonation. (I
dedicated a separate chapter to this natural musical phenomenon in an expanded
edition of my book, The Metaphysics of Music.) I played a musical
accompaniment to the song of a bird using electric guitars and harmonizers. As a
song emerged from the slowdown in the bird’s voice, I used a reverse process in
my music. I placed the guitar solo behind the guitar at fourfold speed, making it
feel like we were hearing a chirping “electric bird” song deep inside the stereo
space. This brought about a kind of dialogue between bird and man, forming a
gateway between natural and human music.
Here, too, the music tells a story, followed by a forester wandering through
the forest from morning to night, who sometimes stops and wonders at the
miracles of the forest. From the second third of the piece, we can feel in larger
and larger outdoor spaces. As the forester occasionally hits one or another of the
trunks of a large tree with his stick, the sound of the blows evokes swelling
echoes stretching between mountains and valleys. These unusual sounds in music
have now been given a dramaturgical role here, as they have a permanent
natural presence to illustrate the space of the environment. Music performed on
electric guitars, guitar-controlled synthesizers, and percussion instruments sits
into this ever-changing atmosphere.
In recent years, a so-called cinematic ambient style branching can also be
observed, which can perhaps only be called the background of videos and movies,
somewhat supporting the spectacle. With the Aquarius album, I tried to go
beyond and surpass the original cinematic term with the fact that this music is
not a video or film-supporting piece of music, but in itself an internal visual and

imaginative piece of music, while some of its parts would certainly stand their
ground as soundtracks. I started this essay with reference to the ambient style
just because I also use style elements that are characteristic of it, although it is
not yet considered that style.
The album was made in accordance with today's modern age. We sent the
music basics to each other online with my Estonian composer and guitarist friend
Robert Jürjendal. We played to overdubs in our studios and then I did the mixing
and finishing. It was extremely exciting, and so far it has been the most complex
musical and studio work of my career, where all the parts that make up the
pieces were made in a separate session and ended up being put together into a
final composition in a summary session. My colleague Balázs Major and I live in
the same city, so making sound recordings was not a problem. This time, the
creation of the sound went far beyond the extensive use of effects, as the spatial
layering and harmonization of soundtracks was already a real sound design work.
The background harmonies were all made of guitar tones and thus realized
another important element of the Echolocation concept, the rethinking of electric
guitar tones. In this I found an excellent partner in the person of Robert Jürjendal
who thinks in similar concepts. Finally, as a simple “instruction manual,” I can
suggest you listen to this music, paying attention to the effect of the music that
captivates you, and if possible, - like all Echolocation albums, - you should listen
to Aquarius on a high-fidelity system, because the atmospheres embedded in the
spatiality give a real sense of space only on a high-fidelity system.
I believe that just as music, sound creation must become art and that is what
we are working on.

Sándor Szabó
Vác, 25 November, 2020

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