In their introduction to Stones Air Axioms, Thomas Tilly and Jean-Luc Guionnet refer to the air volume of a cathedral as being “enclosed and defined by stone”. This album reflects their attempt to map and reflect the sonic architecture of St. Pierre Cathedral in Poitiers. The organ is used as a sound generator instead of a traditional instrument; sine waves are added as accompaniment; white noise and silence interject at regular intervals. Stones Air Axioms is an experimental work in the purest sense, conducted with theories, measurements, and the collation of raw data. The line drawings indicate that it may also have been great fun to prepare.
The recording grows more engaging as it progresses, accumulating resonance like pews accumulate dust. As the harsh whooshes of the first track are joined by the pulsating sines and deep bass rumblings of the second, the album begins to feel a little warm, mirroring the feeling of entering a cold, empty church and experiencing a slow rise in temperature as additional parishioners enter and reluctant radiators kick in. The static bursts of the third track lead to a growing drone and what sounds like the high-handed, heavy-pedaled playing of a mad organist. (But don’t be afraid, it’s only Guionnet.) Then a descent into silence, foghorn warnings, a high-pitched trill.
If only Sunday morning services sounded like this! Tilly and Guionnet are saying, “They do – we just can’t hear them.” The sounds of the empty building were merged with the recorded “music” in the studio in order to provide a fuller portrait of architecture in action. By the concluding piece, all of the elements are in play: the whoosh, the trill, the mad organ, the drone, joined by insect crackles and wooden creaks, as if someone were hiding on the altar or a raccoon were rustling in the bell tower. These more immediate noises indicate a sense of presence: the altered frequencies of an occupied room. If only these walls could speak. They do so here, in a mysterious manner befitting their undefinable origin: what may or may not be the robe of God, dragging across the ancient floor. (Richard Allen)
For Standing Waves, Disturbances (Excerpt)