Penultimate Press presents another piece of unpredictable musique concrète from Melbourne’s Arek Gulbenkoglu, this time mastered by Guiseppi Ielasi. A gift like a hollow vessel comes one year after Three Days Afterwards and finds Arek with an unlikely assembly of manipulated elements - voice and body, text-to-speech Esperanto, animal noises and haunting electronics to name a few.
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Esperanto was a language created in the late 19th Century. Its creator L. L. Zamenhof, designed it to be easy to learn, in the hopes that it would become the world’s second language and improve understanding between different cultures. Esperanto has not caught on. But it has caught the ear of Melbourne based artist Arek Gulbenkoglu. To those who speak European languages, Esperanto is by design, uncanny. It’s simultaneously familiar but also very strange, unsettling almost. For Gulbenkoglu, this made it an ideal tool for the creation of his 25 minute composition, ‘A gift like a hollow vessel’. This is because it is a piece of musique concrete, a genre known for its decontextualising of sounds in unusual and uncomfortable ways. So what better that text-to-voice readings of Esperanto, a language whose existence is built on nothing. No culture, not history, nothing.
Gulbenkoglu places these samples within a 25 minute drone. Their sudden appearance is always shocking. As are those of his other samples, someone breathing too close to a microphone and the sounds of animals are particularly haunting. By association, even the the piece’s sole conventionally beautiful moments comes across as sinister and haunting. Minutes into side 2, a choir (or maybe a single distorted voice) sings a melody. This sudden shift leaves the listener unsure, on edge.
It’s perfectly easy to make music frightening using the occasional very loud sound. It’s harder to create an atmosphere that is tense and forbidding. Gulbenkoglu has achieved the later, creating a piece that is difficult to trust, but always compelling.
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