The Tubes   CB0024

The music

This CD is made up of three compositions: Sevan, The Tubes, and Coimbra 4, Mundi Theatre.

Sevan is built from a recording of Armenian musician Parik Nazarian’s vocalizations in massive pipes near the shore of Lake Sevan, Armenia. It explores resonance, echoes, and voice properties.

The Tubes weaves together the breath-like sounds of the Atlantic Ocean as it strikes tubular volcanic rock formations on the Island of El Hierro (the westermost of the Canary Islands) with the breathy tones of Jon Hassell’s trumpet and Mark Atkin’s didgeridoo, creating a starkly beautiful study of breath patterns and the sounds of air in tubes. (The Tubes was mixed by composer/producer Michael Hoenig.)

Coimbra 4, Mundi Theatre is a bright, colorful soundscape of the Portuguese city Coimbra during a recent music festival/spectacle that involved most of the townspeople as participants.

The composer

Michael Fahres, who studied composition with Louis Andriessen and Ton de Leeuw, is a composer whose recent work has been devoted to electro-acoustic soundscapes. He also is an award-winning producer for Dutch radio and television—NPS, VPRO, NPS. He has been director of the CEM electronic studio, director of the “European Minimal Music Project,” festival programmer for “Soundscapes be(for)e 2000” and other international music events. Previous recordings of his music have been released on the ECM, Trikont, and Goethe Institute labels.

The performers

Mark Atkins is an Australian Aboriginal musician known for his skill on the didgeridoo, a traditional instrument. He is also a storyteller, songwriter, composer and painter. He descends from the Yamitji people of Western Australia. He was the 1990 winner of the Golden Didjeridu competition. He has worked with Robert Plant and Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin, Hothouse Flowers, Philip Glass, and the London Philharmonic Orchestra, among others.

Jon Hassell, composer/trumpeter, is generally credited with creating “fourth world” music, a hybrid of Eastern and Western styles of composed and improvised music. Since 1977, he has recorded a dozen category-defying solo albums that have been so influential that many of their innovations have become woven anonymously into the texture of contemporary music, high and low. After collaborations with Hassell, such pop-based innovators as Brian Eno and Peter Gabriel steered the fourth world idea into the avant-pop sphere, where it has morphed into myriad forms. Hassell’s theatrical scores include Sulla Strada, created for the Venice Biennial, and Zangezi, directed by Peter Sellars. He has done dance works for Merce Cunningham and the Alvin Ailey Dance Company. The Kronos Quartet commissioned and recorded his Pano da Costa. A contributor of music to many film and TV projects, in Wim Wenders’ film The Million Dollar Hotel, Hassell played both onscreen and offscreen musical roles. Hassell has recorded for the ECM. Warner Bros., Capital, Elektra, Lovely, Tomato, Water Lily Acoustics, Edition E.G., Sub Rosa, Virgin, Intuition, and Materiali Sonori labels. He may also be heard on an earlier CD on the Cold Blue label, Rick Cox’s Maria Falling Away (CB0006). 

Michael Hoenig, a former member of the group Tangerine Dream, is an Emmy-winning film and TV composer.

Parik Nazarian, is a popular singer of traditional Armenian music. In 2000, the U.S.-based Armenian Music Awards nominated her as Best Female Vocalist, and nominated her first album, The Cycle of Life, as Best Traditional Album.


“I was transfixed by the haunting sounds and the poetic pacing of Fahres’ music on this CD. Rather than the sound floating through the room, it was as if I was floating in the sound.” —Morton Subotnick

“Fahres is skillful in creating drama and blending the recorded materials into intriguing, musically satisfying soundscapes. The Tubes, which lasts over 30 minutes, is an especially impressive achievement.” —Stephen Edins, All-Music Guide

“The Tubes is an exceptionally well-composed album, comprising very well-thought out concepts that have been delivered in an utmost ingenious and abstract way.” —Unknown Public (where it was a “favorite releases of the week” pick)

The Tubes will appeal to devotees of the more ‘environmental’ side of Ingram Marshall’s oeuvre (Alcatraz and Fog Tropes), though Fahres pushes the album’s material even further into electro-acoustic abstraction than does Marshall. The opener, Sevan, presents Parik Nazarian’s haunting vocalizations as recorded in massive pipes near the shore of Lake Sevan, Armenia. Heard over a pulsating hum, her singing resembles phantoms calling to one another, and consequently the piece is best heard with headphones in order to appreciate the voices’ spatial positioning. Sevan is bookended by Coimbra 4, Mundi Theatre, a vibrant soundscape of a citywide festival in Portugal, that weaves bright trumpet fanfares Tavener-styled choral singing, bells, and voices into a collage-styled work—Fahres calls it a ‘geophony’—that’s similar in style to recent works by Janek Schaefer. It’s the title piece, however, that’s most striking. At El Hierro, the westernmost Canary Island, Fahres recorded the sound of the ocean’s ‘breathing,’ an effect created when water pushes its way into underground tubes of volcanic rock and forces its way upward into fountains through holes and cracks; throughout the half-hour meditation, the ocean sounds do in fact suggest the amplified exhalations of a sleeping giant, though sometimes the waves’ roar violently escalates to a viscous lash. Fahres found the ideal interpreters in trumpeter Jon Hassell and didgeridoo player Mark Atkins as the two merge at times indissolubly with the ocean sounds. Hassell’s breathy smears and Atkins’ guttural tones alternate like primitive creatures’ mating calls. In essence, The Tubes unfolds as a remarkable three-way dialogue between the didgeridoo’s croak, the waves’ relentless surge, and Hassell’s explorations.… [A] compelling addition to Cold Blue’s catalogue.” —Ron Schepper, Signal to Noise magazine

“The three compositions on this disc form a little travelogue, beginning in Armenia and ending in Portugal.… This is the kind of recording that lets you get wondrously lost in someone else’s sound world.… Coimbra 4, Mundi Theatre…is absolutely compelling, and stands squarely with the best of musique concrète.… a wonderful counterpoint to the preceding material. It brings the disc to a stirring close and leaves the listener wanting much, much more.” —Joe Drew, Sequenza21

“The three pieces by composer Michael Fahres collected here are each constructed from sounds—and sound environments—unique to specific places. Such specificity of sonic geography, however, seems to lead both composer and listener on a far-reaching journey, from precise locus to something more imaginative and adventurous…. Two shorter pieces bookend the 30 minute-long title piece. Sevan features Armenian singer Parik Nazarian performing within the deep reverberant spaces of large, rusted and abandoned irrigation tubes designed to help clean and restore Armenia’s ecologically besieged Lake Sevan. The hollow echoes, and Fahre’s multi-tracking and processing, produce a cloud-like choir of saturated hues that seems rooted in the Armenian liturgical vocal tradition and blends mysteriously with the nearby sounds of industrial stone-cutting. In Coimbra 4, Mundi Theater, the most recent piece here, Fahres collages source tapes from a festival that took place within the ancient stone-walled Portuguese city of Coimbra, creating what he describes as “a non-location-specific sound map.” Again, the human voice, both choral and solo, is of central concern; and again, the way sound—voices, horns, percussion, pure noise—behaves to saturate enclosed-yet-large and reverberant space is crucial both to the composer’s expression and the way he manipulates his raw material…. Fahres has been at work on this disc’s central piece, The Tubes, since 1994, and it is a powerful work indeed. The generative sounds are of ocean water roaring through volcanic sea-caves in the Canary Islands. Hissing and foaming, the water-sounds are arranged to form rhythmic cycles of awe-inspiring white noise. The sense of in-take and out-flow suggests breath, and Fahres accentuates this with the addition of Mark Atkins’s pulsing didgeridoo and Jon Hassell’s slower-breathing, overtone-rich trumpet…. Faced with the larger scale of The Tubes, one can perhaps best appreciate Fahres’s depth as a composer: He works with motifs and patterns in ways that indicate a profound grasp of formal structure and a wonderfully subtle mastery of thematic development. (In this his approach harkens back quite clearly to that of the ‘classical’ electronic composer Vladimir Ussachevsky.) One can find pure sensory evocation of sonic spaces within Fahres’ music and be quite satisfied. Available to deeper apprehension however, and at least equally compelling, is the composer’s command of shape and proportion in the arranging of sound and its environment into art.” —Kevin Macneil Brown, Dusted magazine

“The three works on this CD are portraits of three different regions of the world–electro-acoustic landscapes, if you will…. [T]he longest of the three is The Tubes, which (I assume) refers to the tube-like rock formations created as lava spilled into the ocean surrounding El Hierro, the most western of the Canary Islands. The Tubes, pervaded by the sound of the ocean itself, is a figurative expedition in sound around El Hierro. Jon Hassell’s signature breathy trumpet and Mark Atkins’s didgeridoo, the Australian wind instrument developed by the aboriginal peoples of the northern part of that continent, both are, in essence, tubes, and so they serve as atmospheric metaphors for the lava formations on El Hierro. Hearing this work, one knows how the fish feel, never having to come up for air. Very nice. This version of The Tubes (from 2003) was mixed by Michael Hoenig, formerly of Tangerine Dream.… Sevan (2000/03) includes the haunting voice of Armenian singer Parik Nazarian, vocalizing in large empty pipes that were discarded around the shores of that eponymous lake after the Soviet Union relinquished control over Armenia. The work also includes the processed singing of an Armenian choir, and the sound of stone cutting and polishing. In this particular work, Fahres’s techniques and electroacoustic landscaping are reminiscent of earlier compositions by Paul Dresher and Ingram Marshall.… Coimbra 4, Music Theatre is based on a ‘sound spectacle’ that occurred in the Portuguese city of Coimbra in 2003. Together, Portuguese composer Carlos Alberto Augusto and Canadian composer R. Murray Schaefer mobilized some 1,700 musicians or sound-makers for a one-of-a-kind event, which was called ‘Coimbra Vibra!’ Fahres took sound documents from that event, and made his own work out of them, innocent of any first-hand experience of the event itself. ‘Coimbra’s “geophony,”‘ writes Fahres, ‘was projected onto a non-location-specific sound map. It no longer had anything to with Portugal. If it has any geographic connection, it is with my composing environment, Utrecht.’ Coimbra 4, Music Theatre is a sound-collage of events both large and small. It marks Fahres’s skill as a composer that the results sound neither haphazard nor lacking in context, but robust and inevitable, and quite viable outside of the milieu that produced the source materials.” —Raymond Tuttle,

“On the title track of this fascinating album, Fahres recorded the acoustic effect of the rock tube formations on El Hierro: a breathing sound created by waves forcing air through the volcanic rocks. Mixed with Jon Hassell’s breathy trumpet playing and Mark Atkins’ haunting didgeridoo, this piece is an ode to the breath of life itself…” —Peter van Cooten, Sound Is Audible Time (The Netherlands)

“Dutch composer Michael Fahres presents three gorgeous examples of his compositional skill, illuminated by a responsive ear which allows him to translate a simple idea—or a few of them—into music that makes us dream at first, then also think hard about the gifts provided by life.… Armenian singer Parik Nazarian lends her voice in Sevan, a haunting piece.… Nazarian’s voice evokes ghosts of lost memories.… The long title track is mostly based on the breathing quality of the ocean water pressed into the underground caves of El Hierro (Canary Islands); the roaring hiss and the wash of the waters are complemented by didjeridoo and trumpet—by Mark Atkins and Jon Hassell—adding further hues of impressive power…putting us in touch with an essential force of nature that owns probably the most beautiful voice on the earth. Coimbra 4, Mundi Theatre…is a splendid specimen of modern ‘acousmatics,’ a grouping of field recordings, crying children, sacred choirs and what sounds like a funeral held in an underwater cathedral—possibly the very best moment of an already excellent album that establishes Fahres among the elects in the contemporary electroacoustic field. —Massimo Ricci, Touching Extremes (Italy)

“Fahres’s The Tubes is a tremendously dense listening experience. The ear tends to become so fused to the environmental ambience created that only further listens can attempt to unravel the enormous nuance layered beneath the obvious sonic discourse. Unlike bedroom ambient dronecrones who must fictionalize their tableaux, Fahres draws his sounds from direct interaction between his chosen ‘scapes and their indigenous fauna. Sacred tones all, these recordings are poster children for how to design beauteous sonics that reflect the proper amount of stylized classical sheen without becoming blinded by the light. Both Sevan and Coimbra 4, Mundi Theatre juxtapose voices stretched tautly across timbral planes by gossamer-like strands of tube-blown wind and hushed magisterial cadences. But it is the mammoth, 30-minute title track that comprises the recording’s centerpiece. Awesome in its scope yet minimal in its undertaking, The Tubes reverberates along breathtaking gulfs of oceanic drift, augmented by trumpeter Jon Hassell’s singularities and Mark Atkin’s psychedelic didgeridoo palpitations. As an exercise in maintaining a lively, lovely, pristine soundspace that literally congeals and ovulates during its lifespan, this half-hour magnum opus has few parallels; for full-on, enveloping atmospherica, it’s positively riveting.” Darren Bergstein, e/i magazine

“For Sevan, Fahres utilized the voice of Parik Nazarian. Lake Sevan is actually a lake in Armenia where many metal pipes were left behind from the Soviet occupation. Fahres used one of these pipes as the basis for his piece. The sound it produces is hollow, yet full. It sounds industrial, yet retains a gentle, lulling quality about it. Nazarian’s voice is as tranquil as it is disturbing. As she sings a motif throughout the piece, you hear it not as one voice but a full choral section. Coimbra 4, Mundi Theatre was recorded in the Portuguese town of Coimbra. It’s centered around the Coimbra Vibra! which was a sound spectacle organized by Carlos Alberto Augusto and Canadian composer R. Murray Schafer. The event involved more than 1,700 musicians and sound-makers who performed throughout the town.… The composer basically listened to the tapes of the actual event, then took the most representative music and built his own interpretation.… The whole piece works quite well not so much as a documentary but as a collage of pure sound. The bulk of the CD is taken up by the title track. The Tubes features sounds of waves crashing on the rocky shores of the El Hierro in the Canary Islands, along with sounds of seagulls. You can hear the gusting winds and a gathering storm slowly building. The apex of the piece features [trumpeter] Jon Hassell doing some very translucent and soothing work, along with Mark Atkins playing the warbling didgeridoo. As the sounds build up, the waves intensify and the sound gets rather harsh, spelling danger ahead. After the climax, the piece falls back to its liquid state, with the didgeridoo growing ever so faint. An excellent release all around, if only to show the variety of talents of this often overlooked composer.—Tom Sekowski, Gaz-Eta (Poland)

“Jon Hassell is featured on The Tubes, the latest and quite inspired album by Michael Fahres, who has been a master of mixing since his first record Pianoharfe, released by ECM in 1985. On this Cold Blue Music release, he treats the voice of Armenian singer Parik Nazarian, lets Hassell’s instrument sound in harmony with the wind blowing over the Canary Islands, and recreates a magical ‘geophony’ (his term) from a colorful and slightly melancholy procession recorded in Coimbra, Portugal.” —Classica Repertoire (France)

“The sound sources for these fascinating works were recorded in exotic locations, then so electronically altered as to be almost unrecognizable.… Sevan is eerie and mournful and sounds something like Eastern-European choral folk singing accompanied by strange sound effects.… The sound of waves shooting through volcanic formations in the Canary Islands is the primary source material for The Tubes. Other sounds are contributed by trumpet player Jon Hassell and didgeridoo player Mark Atkins. As combined by the composer, this 31-minute work is mesmerizing.… The program ends with Coimbra 4, Mundi Theatre, a spectacular piece stemming from an event orchestrated by Canadian composer R. Murray Schafer in the Portugese town of Coimbra, where he had 1,700 men, women, and children singing, chanting, and playing various instruments. Into Fahres magic electronic engine—and into his imagination—goes the source material, and out comes yet another enthralling work.” —Barry Kilpatrick, American Record Guide

“Another Amazing CD from Cold Blue Music. Fahres’ recordings and manipulations of Parik Nazarian’s magical voice is almost transformative. Recorded with Nazarian singing into large abandoned pipes on the shore of Lake Sevan in Armenia, this is a stunning journey into a sonic feast of imagination. The second piece starts with the ominous distant roar of waves filtered through a maze of caves and tunnels in the Carary Islands, to which is added the gentle breath of Jon Hassell’s distinctive trumpet.… All in all, a beautiful and interesting approach to soundscape composition.” —Randy Raine-Reusch, Musicworks (Canada)

“Three airy pieces related to tubes and natural environments.… Sevan…here it is as if a voice is trapped in different focuses…. [A]n interesting piece with voice layers and lots of airy movements.… An impressive piece which describes in a composition something of the life of a certain place, a focus Michael Fahres describes as ‘geophony.’… The second site is the windy corner of the island El Hierro in the Canaries. Also here windy and rocky waterline shows tensions of windy pressure between the rocks, driven by the rhythms of the sea. This environment is the basis of an improvisation with the additions of trumpet by Jon Hassell and didgeridoo by Mark Atkins, both known for their instruments’ descriptive style with its own spaces, holes, and breathing winds. This piece is more simple…and it takes a bit time to develop further but it becomes something else in the end, an enriched space with three layers, ending in a more humanoid breathing.… Last piece is something different. Inspired by a spectacle in Portugal (Coimbra Vibra), Michael Fahres recreated accidental interactions between choir, sounds, trumpets, echoing sounds in the environment, children voices and the mixing process itself keeping a sound hanging electrically in the air. Also this one has a breathing depth, to a degree in a more frightening way.” —Gerald Van Waes, Psychefolk (Belgium)

“Cold Blue Music, a Californian record label that everyone enjoying contemporary ambient/electronic/minimalism should follow closely, is about to release a CD called The Tubes by Michael Fahres. On the title track of this fascinating album, Fahres recorded the acoustic effect of the rock tube formations on El Hierro: a breathing sound created by waves forcing air through the volcanic rocks. Mixed with Jon Hassell’s breathy trumpet playing and Mark Atkins’ haunting didgeridoo, this piece is an ode to the breath of life itself.… Stylistically, this is nothing like the more recent Jon Hassell releases (like Fascinoma or Maarifa Street). It’s even more abstract than the Fourth World music releases from the early eighties. If you múst compare it to earlier work, Vernal Equinox comes to mind—but without the rhythm instruments. But remember: this is not a ‘Jon Hassell’ CD—it’s a Michael Fahres CD. And an impressive one, too. The Tubes is produced by Michael Hoenig.”—Ambientblog

“Highly imaginative atmospheres, experimental.” —Aurelio Cianciotta, Neural (Italy)