“Ephemeris” is the title for both the project (i.e. Helga’s Ephemeris) and Elena’s experimental electronic suite consisting of several “movements” (musical parts). Chronologically the suite precedes the things we discussed before (see “Helga’s Runology“). Ephemeris Suite was written and recorded before “Runology” but published along with it in 2012 on a CD compilation.
Ti Sci Tang: An ephemeris is a table used by astrologers. But I have a feeling that your music is not about tables as such?
Elena Stepanova: Of course not, I’m not that good at maths! But my music still has some relevance to astrology. Conventional ephemerides show planets’ positions as they are seen from the Earth. My idea was to come up with a table, I mean to come up musically, for a certain planet which no longer exists. In this ephemeris, of course, the Earth should be shown as a celestial object, too.
T.S.T.: You’re talking about Phaeton?
E.S.: Exactly. Did you read “The Destruction of Faena”, a science fiction novel by Alexander Kazantsev? There is a very important idea in the book: humans are the successors of the race of aliens, i.e. Faetians. Faetians were people just like us. Their civilization was extremely advanced in terms of technology. Their planet was destroyed in a global cataclysm, but they sent a space expedition to Mars and then to Earth shortly before the disaster, and those people survived. They had nowhere to return so they stayed on Earth. And Phaeton exists in the form of the asteroid belt.
T.S.T.: Is there any reason to create ephemerides for the lost planet?
E.S.: Indeed, for the asteroid belt, into which the planet turned, these tables are not important. But for the ancient memories of our cosmic origin, they may have a value.
T.S.T.: Do you really believe in it?
E.S.: Good question. Of course, I believe in the cosmic origin of human mind. But I am trying to say that my Ephemeris Suite is musically relevant to the idea that Kazantsev expressed. This is not a direct illustration of what is written in the novel. This is a picture of the universe, as I saw it. To keep an imaginary star table in mind was a convenient concept for me at the time.
T.S.T .: Well, that’s OK. Because I honestly thought you were a female kind of a “mad professor” working with formulas and some weird tables in all seriousness, synthesizing sounds in attempt to awake the cosmic memory for people…
E.S.: Really? No, I composed Ephemeris Suite simply because I wanted to compose it. There was no specific idea about the awakening of cosmic memory. The idea was to write “music of the spheres”, as I heard it at the time (or more precisely, as I imagined it). Well, if it helps to awake memory, I do not see nothing wrong here… What can you say about your memory? Did the suite do anything? 🙂
T.S.T.: Hmm, I’m not sure… I think, when I listened for the first time, nothing happened. It was the part of the suite which you gave to Le Musée di-visioniste. I just listened to it with interest.
E.S.: This is the movement that describes the planet Earth. And besides, the version for Le Musée di-visioniste is an earlier mix made in 2003. The final mix differs a lot.
T.S.T.: So, what idea did you put in your “Ephemeris”? If it is not astrology and other mystic things?
E.S.: Each planet is a certain energy. A certain frequency, if you like. A music frequency. This is the simplified concept. In fact, I thought of each planet as not just frequency but a musical instrument. Imagine the Solar System as an orchestra. Each instrument plays its own part. So when Phaethon was destroyed, one of important instruments was lost, and something else formed…
T.S.T.: A source of noise.
E.S.: If you mean all the space debris that collide with each other…
T.S.T.: Yes, they collide and produce a terrible roar…
E.S.: An absolutely silent roar, because it all happens in a vacuum. I mean, silent from the physical point of view. But indeed there are multiple sources of interference and therefore a huge source of interplanetary noise…
T.S.T.: And you tried to convey this in the sound.
E.S.: Not only that. Not only noise. But, by the way, once upon a time I was completely fascinated by a special kind of theremin, a “tershumfon”, that played not sine waves but a narrow-band noise. It could be called a “noisephone”, if you keep in mind that the other name for the theremin is aetherophone. Lev Korolev, who designed this wonderful theremin, demonstrated it to me. Unfortunately, it was impossible to buy that instrument, because the model I saw was a one-off. I would definitely love to buy and use it.
(See also Elena Stepanova (interview, part 3)).