By Austin Franklin, Special to the Sybaritic Singer
Matt Barbier’s first release comes to us in the form of a 10-track album released through Carrier Records titled “Platonic Solids.” This album, written between 2013-2018, is inspired entirely by Tristan Duke’s abrasion holograms, in which according to Barbier, “lights reflect off of the intersection between hand etched circles to create floating geometric images in space.” These geometric images, known as Plato’s five geometrically pure polyhedrons or the platonic solids, create the conceptual framework of the album. Barbier applies musical characteristics to each of these platonic solids, creating with them a field of incredibly opulent sonic landscapes that explore density, noise, and the harmonic spectrum. Throughout the album these solids are overlaid and combined in different ways to create new and interesting harmonic relationships between them, until the very last track “Overlay”, in which all five platonic solid holograms are overlaid to create a crushingly dense and hauntingly climactic conclusion to the album.
Modular synthesizer samples create a permeating drone in Barbier’s “Platonic Solids”
The musical makeup of “Platonic Solids” centers around the use of the drone. This drone, which permeates the entire album, is created through the use of string instrument and modular synthesizer samples provided by several guest artists. The basic sound sample from all of these instruments is of a slowly, but constantly shifting glissando, that when layered together with itself or others create various combinations of consonances and dissonances. Barbier also takes acoustic advantage of the beating that results between more than one frequency, especially ones that are extremely close together. This adds a nice, but subtle rhythmic element that finds its way into most of the tracks, but is most apparent in track 3, “Tetrahedron [FM Synthesis]”, through the use of the modular synthesizer.
Many of the tracks begin with the voices in unison, which after a moment of stasis slowly begin to fray like a piece of twine unraveling. The unraveling is what gives birth to these harmonic combinations and keeps the sonorities momentum ever-changing, and it is this process of layering samples that gives “Platonic Solids” its unique sonic voice. Barbier creates, through limited material, endless musical possibilities, and gives the listener multiple opportunities from which to hear the same material in a different light.
Layering as a fundamental feature of Matt Barbier’s new album
A kind of organic mutation from track 4 (“Cube”) to track 6 (“Octahedron”) is created from the combination of the two overlaid on track 5 (“Cube/Octahedron”). This layered track in between introduces a new dimension to this album, because it creates a way to phase between two separate tracks while simultaneously creating new material that can then be heard in the original. One of the most attractive examples of this can be found (another one happens on tracks 2 and 8) on “Cube/Octahedron”. There a few places, and only for brief moments because of the constantly moving glissandos, in which harmonies resembling (out of tune) dominant seventh and minor seventh chords can be heard, as well the creation of intervals that become suspended because the voices shift independently of one another. This constant motion from the voices also creates internal climaxes as they both grow increasingly tense before resolving to the octave, unison, or to various other consonances that resolve this tension.
The concept of layering is certainly not new to music, and it is especially not new to electroacoustic music. The way in which this album places layering as a fundamental feature of the album and as a way to connect the musical and visual worlds through the properties of symmetry, form, and space (or time in music) that are shared by both is, however, a new way to approach music as synthesis of art more broadly. “Platonic Solids” is an incredibly successful experiment in intonation, noise, and in visual art and its relationship to music and sound.
Austin Franklin is an emerging composer from Baton Rouge, LA where he is pursuing a master’s degree in music composition at LSU under Dinos Constantinides. His primary area of interest pertains to the development of hierarchical pitch structures and complex patterns in music. Austin’s works have been performed throughout United States and Greece. He has won several awards and commissions, such as the Sound/Sight Art Collaboration and the First Annual LSU Composers Competition, and has several pieces published through C-Alan Publications.