For sometime I have been fascinated with music in its widest sense whether it is where it spills into opera or the Avantgarde. It has been an unexpected journey for because whilst the pursuit of all things experimental came naturally for me, opera as art form was not on my map for many years. I was far more obsessed with exploring experimental theatre and where it touched dance and the body as in physical theatre, new dance, post-modern dance, performance art, and other cultural movement forms such as Butoh and Body Weather.
It was by chance through my first visit to Argentina with a travel grant from Wales Arts International that I discovered the work of Oscar Edelstein (Composer) and Manuel Eguía (Physicist). Their joint research into the field of acoustics and music was taking sound into an extended form which contained the architectural qualities that I enjoyed in dance and site specific work. In other words they were exploring the exciting world of audio perception and the sense of sound in space.
Their cutting edge research is actually nothing new. Edelstein and Eguía are taking up a conversation between the art and science of music that has a long and fascinating story.
I approach this without the benefit of a background in acoustical science. musical composition, musicology, or physics but as a multimedia artist dedicated to creating artistic experiences that cross that special line from the ordinary to the extra-ordinary, to the oft quoted liminal space, to that otherness that only poets and maybe priests get to occasionally visit and play.
This extensive collaboration between Edelstein and Eguía (which succeeded in being the first research project in Latin America to win major science funding as well as arts funding) re-establishes the old link between science and music - this ambiguous relationship that developed early on in science from the fact that when so often words and vision failed to find adequate explanations for the universe, musical metaphors were a final resort offering concepts such as resonance, vibrations and so on.
In recent times the metaphor of vision has dominated science. This makes Edelstein and Eguía’s work together at the Universidad de Quilmes so important as they take us back into the prioritising of the ear and the process of listening.
The research of historians like Penelope Gouk of Manchester University offer an intriguing parallel to this modern exploration of music as equally a science and an art, as she establishes the importance of music in the development of modern science. Her book "Music, Science & Natural Magic in Seventeenth-Century England" , shows how in the late 16th century and early 17th century the tradition of new experimental philosophy was developing out of the earlier tradition of natural philosophy, and how natural philosophy itself developed out of the tradition of the natural magician - the picture of the lone experimenter who sought to discover universal truths for his personal use or perhaps for that of an elite master. Often music was the source of metaphors used to represent hidden phenomena that could neither be seen or easily put into words. For example the sympathetic resonance between the strings of two instruments was a metaphor frequently used as a way to understand and control unseen forces.
So as well as taking us forward in the field of acoustics, Edelstein and Eguia's work follows in the footsteps of a long line of experimenters who used musical models to illustrate links between the seen and the unseen, right back to the early experiments of the “natural philosophers” of the 16th century, individuals who were working even from before the birth of whom we now call scientists (which is a 19th century term), and whose work itself followed from that of the so called 'natural magicians.'
These experimenters designed instruments as the first attempts to explain the universe in what has been called the “Naturalisation of the marvellous.”
Many of these early experimental philosophers, explains Gouk. were themselves musicians, such as Robert Fludd for whom the practice of music was a step “towards true philosophical knowledge and divine illumination.”
It was only later with the new experimental philosophy that figures like Isaac Newton (1642-1727) searching for underlying structures would begin to draw on maths as a language to reveal the unseen. Before that the properties of bell, lutes, trumpets, and keyboards were frequently used as musical models to describe the functions of the body.
As pointed out by Gouk, the paradox and perhaps the break with the prevalence of the use of musical models came when polyphony was introduced - it was one thing to listen to one instrument and imagine a universal harmony and cosmic order, but this order was under threat when more than one instrument played together. The practice of tuning and temperament had to be introduced as a way to compensate. It was one thing to imagine universal models linked to antiquity such as Apollo - God of Harmony and Cosmic Order with his association with the lyre - an association that court magician John Dee (1527-1608), frequently used. However, put two lyres together and there was a problem. The cosmic order appeared to break down and new models were needed.
It is in this fascinating terrain that Edelstein and Eguia orchestrate the re-meeting of music in its scientific and artistic form. Their work has been patiently and gently taking weight now for over ten years, and the team is ready to show more of the performative results. As a proud member of the production team, I hope this blog begins to identify some of the exciting aspects of this extensive project. I am only beginning here to scratch the surface of the scale of the project and there are others who can speak better about the acoustical science. However I see this as a space to begin new conversations and to offer some material in English and in layman's terms to go alongside the many scientific papers that the research has produced. I hope that little by little I will be able to share a deeper sense of this intriguingly resonant project.
Deborah Claire Procter
Multimedia Artist & Mentor
Founder Clear Insight Productions
For questions and more information: email@example.com
 Gouk, Penelope, Music, Science & Natural Magic in Seventeenth-Century England, (Yale Uni Press, 1999)
 Natural Magic itself in this moment was seen as an antecedent to the ancient tradition of Priscia Theologia (Original Theology) and the belief that God had revealed the processes of nature to Adam who in turn revealed them to the “magi” - e.g. Abraham, Moses, Hermes, Orpheus, Pythagorus and so on. Gouk p.103
Argentina's main cinema magazine reviews the double album and book of Oscar Edelstein.
Estudios Sobre La Grilla Acústica - Libro I (2014) & II (2011)
FORMAT: Book (13 x 13cm) & 2 audio CDs - ENS
LANGUAGE: ENGLISH / SPANISH
TEXTS, NOTES & DRAWINGS: Oscar Edelstein
ART DIRECTION: Deborah Claire Procter
DESIGN: Deborah Claire Procter & Gisela Formoso
PRINTED IN ARGENTINA: Rolta, Buenos Aires
PUBLISHER: Patina Publisher, Amsterdam
AVAILABLE: CPR Bookshop
"With a long career as a pianist and composer, Oscar Edelstein is in our country - counting international recognition enjoyed as much as in Latin America as in Europe - almost a "cult" musician. An author difficult to define, in his works come together a surprising amalgam elements of contemporary classical music, jazz and the avant-garde progressive rock. This double album, recorded with his regular group, the Ensamble Nacional del Sur, plus the presence of several guests, is the finished sample of the aforesaid thing. With a basic formation that includes dual keyboards, guitar, bass and drums, plus the presence in various tracks the saxophonist Martin Proscia and the formidable Welsh singer Deborah Claire Procter (her voice acting as an instrument), the group offers a fascinating program which, except for in some specific case, I omit the titles of the themes due to their disproportionate length. The first disc begins with a special duo of drums and piano between Edelstein and Pablo Torterolo, a remarkable percussionist. In a couple of themes appear as invited two other great musicians, pianist Ernesto Jodos, and clarinets Marcelo Moguilevsky in clarinet (one of the many wind instruments that he interprets), and in “Fuga del Cristo Negro” (Fugue of the Black Christ), the ensemble accompanies an incredible intervention of Procter, a singer that is a sort of cross between Cathy Berberian and the free jazz vocalist Lauren Newton. But the most ambitious and complex of this “x-ray” is “La Grilla Acústica En Doce Planos” (The Acoustic Grid in 12 planes), where several instrumentalists are added in an authentic musical tour de force. The second disc, with the more established formation of the ensemble, plus Proscia and the singer, in some tracks is nearest, if it’s possible, to the academic music; and it is worth mentioning the initial solo of Edelstein; the three “Cristales Sónicos”, with great work of the keyboardist Axel Lastra and Mauro Zannoli, and the drummer (Pablo Torterolo); the notable interaction of the guitar of Leonardo Salzano with the vocalist in a track dedicated to the painter Jackson Pollock; the furious crescendo of a fugue; and the requiem of the epilogue (“Requiem Al Hombre Desde Una Mariposa / Requiem To A Man From A Butterfly ”), a poignant duo between the piano of Edelstein and Procter, dedicated to the memory of the pianist and philosopher Harold Rubens. A remarkable double disc that will be enjoyed essentially by those listeners willing to experience sounds that escape the more or less common conventions, and as a welcome bonus, comes with a book in which Edelstein explains his compositional method."
OSCAR EDELSTEIN Y EL ENSAMBLE NACIONAL DEL SUR. Estudios sobre la grilla acústica. Libros I y II. Ed. Patina Publishing, Amsterdam.
Con una dilatada carrera como pianista y compositor, Oscar Edelstein es en nuestro país – a pesar del reconocimiento internacional de que goza tanto en Latinoamérica como en Europa- casi un músico “de culto”. Autor difícilmente encuadrable, en su obra se dan cita, en sorprendente amalgama, elementos de la música académica contemporánea, el jazz de vanguardia y el rock más progresivo. Este disco doble, grabado con su formación regular, el Ensamble Nacional del Sur, más la presencia de varios invitados, es una acabada muestra de lo antedicho. Con una formación básica que incluye dobles teclados, guitarra, bajo eléctrico y batería, más la presencia en varios temas del saxofonista Martín Proscia y la formidable vocalista galesa Deborah Claire Procter (su voz actúa como un instrumento más), el grupo ofrece un fascinante programa del que, salvo algún caso puntual, omitiré los títulos de los temas por su desmesurada extensión. El primer disco comienza con un extraordinario dúo de piano y batería entre Edelstein y Pablo Torterolo, un percusionista notable. En un par de temas aparecen como invitados otros dos grandes músicos, el pianista Ernesto Jodos y Marcelo Moguilevsky en clarinete (uno de los múltiples instrumentos de vientos que interpreta) y en Fuga del Cristo negro, el Ensamble acompaña una increíble intervención de Procter, una cantante que es una suerte de cruza entre Cathy Berberian y la vocalista de free jazz Lauren Newton. Pero el tema más ambicioso y complejo de la placa es La grilla acústica en doce planos, donde se agregan varios instrumentistas en un auténtico tour de force musical. El segundo disco, con una formación más estable del Ensamble, más Proscia y la cantante, en algunos temas está más cercano, si cabe, a la música académica y corresponde destacar el solo inicial de Edelstein, los tres Cristales sónicos, con gran trabajo de los tecladista Axel Lastra y Mauro Zannoli y el baterista, la notable interacción de la guitarra de Leonardo Salzano con la vocalista en un tema dedicado al pintor Jackson Pollock, el furioso crescendo de una fuga y el Réquiem del epílogo, un conmovedor dúo entre el piano de Edelstein y Procter dedicado a la memoria del pianista y filósofo Harold Rubens. Un disco doble notable que será disfrutado esencialmente por aquellos oyentes dispuestos a experimentar sonidos que escapan a las convenciones más o menos habituales y que, como bienvenida yapa, viene acompañado de un librito en el que Edelstein explica su método compositivo.