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Isolation Journal 4 - Friends

by John Oliver



A collaborative album by John Oliver with 6 amazing creative musician/composers: Douglas Schmidt, François Houle, Lan Tung, Mohamed Assani, Carol Sawyer, and Hamin Honari.

In early 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic set in, I began to think about how this changes the way we make, and share, music, and why I make music. In a time of lack of intimacy, I seek a new collaboration that, in its very concept, is intimate, yet achieved without direct contact. I phoned some of my long-time collaborators, and introduced each of them to a new way for us to make music together, while remaining apart: they would record themselves performing a solo, which I would then transform into a companion acousmatic soundscape composition…extending, enhancing, and, at times, rearranging and totally recomposing their original recording, all the while respecting and embracing their "creative voice.". The idea blossomed into a series of albums featuring the talent of several remarkable improvising musicians. This album is the fourth in the Isolation Journal series.

I believe that we live in a time when transformational art forms are necessary and desirable. My music wants to speak to those who are listening for our common humanity, as expressed through sound.

I situate my work somewhere between the French "musique concrète" or "acousmatic" tradition, and more recent "ambient music" (a term I use loosely). Acousmatic music does not sound like instrumental music, nor does it simply "record" (represent) a sound , but instead invites the listener into the expansive sound-colour and spatial listening that is its main potential and contribution to music. The axiom of acousmatic music proposes the listener focus on the "material" of the sound you hear, rather than naming the object that produces the sound.

The album presents the listener with a series of pairs of tracks that feature a solo artist's composition/improvisation, followed by my transformation. I retain enough of the original recording so that it remains recognizable. By using various sound models from nature and perception, I arrive at a new polyphony of timbre and space, creating a dialogue between the energy of the original performance and the transformations. In this way, the listener will learn how to shift from listening to notes, virtuosity, and performance, to listening to textures, colours, and space. You may realize, as you listen to each pair of tracks, that you are experiencing a transformation of listening. I create a question mark as to which is more prominent in our perception, an image of the instrument making the sound, which we can name, or the transformation of that sound. This is a celebration of co-existence.

The last track, Eroding Dreams, features a remix of all six artists' tracks that I had already remixed, a hyper-remix!

Each track has a companion video which can be found at my youtube site www.youtube.com/c/johnolivermusic



Mohamed Assani, sitar, co-composed a sitar concerto with me, that was commissioned by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and performed by them under Bramwell Tovey in November 2017. We also performed together in an intercultural ensemble that I directed for several years from 2012-2014 called Big World Band.

François Houle commissioned my work "Dust" for clarinet and surround sound tracks in 2004, and toured the piece internationally. We have collaborated a number of times since then. Our duo album Isolation Journal 3 - Restless was released September 17, 2021

Lan Tung, erhu player and composer, commissioned several pieces from me for her Orchid Ensemble, Sound of Dragon Festival, and we have performed chamber music together. She has been an important collaborator in my work with Chinese musicians in Canada and abroad.

Hamin Honari, frame drums and darabuka, is a driving force in Persian traditional music, as well as active in the improvised music scene. We worked together in the Big World Band.

Carol Sawyer is a vocalist and visual artist. We created several performances in recent years as an improvising music duo.

Douglas Schmidt and I first performed together two decades ago, before he departed on world travels. He is now back in Canada and we have reignited our collaboration. Our duo album Isolation Journal 2 - breathe was release on May 21, 2021.


released November 5, 2021


Mohamed Assani, composition, recording, mixing, mastering on "Whispers in the Wind;" source recording for Oliver's track "Wind Whispers"
Hamin Honari, tombak, composition, recording on "Storm Coming;" source recording for Oliver's track "Storm Horizon."
François Houle, basset clarinet, composition, recording, mixing, mastering on "Diegesis of the Tongue;" source recording for Oliver's track "Ouroboros Hymn."
Carol Sawyer, voice and music box, composition, recording, on "Found and Lost;" source recording for Oliver's track "Memory Lost."
Douglas Schmidt, bandoneon, composition, recording on "31 Breaths;" source recording for Oliver's track "31 Clouds."
Lan Tung, erhu, voice, recording on "Swirl;" source recording for Oliver's track "Whirling Double."

John Oliver, composer, sound design, editing, mixing, mastering, and video concept and creation on "31 Clouds," "Ouroboros Hymn," "Memory Lost," "Wind Whispers," "Storm Horizon," and "Whirling Double."
Mastering: John Oliver
Video finalizing: John Oliver

We acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts.

© ℗ 2021 John Oliver (SOCAN). All Rights Reserved.


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John Oliver Vancouver, British Columbia

composer, guitarist and electronic musician. The music here is mostly electronic, soundscape music projects, ranging from more classic musique concrète to granular synthesis and dark ambient. My instrumental and vocal music appears on several other labels and compilations. ... more

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