ROLAND KAYN – Scanning


Editor’s note: this essay appears in the booklet of the 10-CD box set. Heartfelt thanks to Ilse Kayn for having involved me in this epochal release.

Roland Kayn’s proverbial disinclination to the accurate detailing of a recording is perfectly symbolized by the succinct narrative accompanying the 10-plus hours of Scanning. Accordingly, a writer called to comment on this amazing opus should deliver him/herself from the curiosity concerning the technical issues, for the exposure to Kayn’s inscrutable soundscapes connects with different dimensions of insight. Eager listeners are like open flowers; the rain of awareness brought by a multiform harmony from alternative spheres is the lone necessity.

Conceived from 1982 to 1983, Scanning – somewhat unsurprisingly – shares several of its acoustic traits with Tektra, born three years prior and rightly highlighted as a pinnacle of Kayn’s output. In absence of actual clarifications from the composer, his notes contain definite clues; the most important being that of “resilience and instability of an oscillating system”. While the processes for the self-regeneration and diffusion of the electroacoustic substance are scientific, one can’t help thinking about the battling of strengths and weaknesses as the basic representation of our life. Or, extending the concept, the firmness of a young organism versus the inexorable decay related to transience. After all, nothing more than a member of the human race “oscillates” between states.

As a matter of fact, the fluctuating resonances of Kayn’s music project abundant ramifications on the psyche. Scanning is a significant model in that sense, regardless of the difficulty in intuiting the sources. In essence, what we get is a repeated demonstration of how a false security can rapidly turn into a silent anguish of irresolution. What begins as a pure agglomeration of pitches – quasi-tonal on occasion, or shaped in suspended clusters – inevitably loses its “static solidity” with the elapsing of time. Slowly drifting tones obey to rules not dictated by expectation; they simply perform the bio-cybernetic task relative to that precise moment. Outlandish choirs appear and disappear. Unruly electronic impulses try to disrupt one’s focus. Enormous frequency halos provide shelter from the lingering doubt, only to amplify it later on. We are at once burdened by gliding recollections and relieved by a knowledge that does not require verbal transmission. The information is already embedded in the deepest core, though we’d love to understand at least a fraction of what is happening.

But a real answer never arrives.

Kayn talks of “innovative trajectories” in relation to this work’s aesthetic perception; it’s another nugget of subversive wisdom for brains exclusively considering an ingrained orthodoxy. A foolish presumption of “authority” implies the refusal of anything that might constitute an advancement; a flexible ratiocination scares those who keep someone’s brain and actions in check during their limited shard of eternity. What is not comprehended cannot be controlled. To put it ironically, how do you explain concepts such as “anisotropisation of the textural layer” to the preachers of a farcical “celestial perfection” based on the elementary principles of digestible consonance?

You don’t. Just continue to collect meaningful data by listening.

With Kayn’s archive in safe hands, we’re witnessing a major evolutionary step. Other consequential revelations are going to follow; we will be there, still trying to delineate the reasons of an inexplicable attraction to this man’s single-handed dissolution of sonic conventions.

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