| 33 RPM: 10 Hours of Sound from France
23F/SFM 903, Compact Disc
published in 2003
$12.98, plus shipping
An exhibition companion compilation to SFMOMA's 2003 listening room program 33 RPM: 10 Hours of Sound from France, curated by Laurent Dailleau. 33 RPM's Compact Disc companion features compositions from Kasper Toeplitz, Kristoff K. Roll, Jean-Claude Risset, Lionel Marchetti, Christophe Havel, Laurent Dailleau, Mathieu Chamagne, pizMO, Jean-Philippe Gross, and Mimetic. Comes with a 24 page booklet and original program details.
33 RPM, which follows on from Ju-jikan, documenting the Japanese scene, and Variable Resistance (idem for Australia), represents a brief snapshot of the recent 33 RPM: Ten Hours of Sound from France exhibition at San Francisco's Museum of Modern Art. The elegant and informative booklet lists all the participating works in the exhibition, whereas the CD features work from ten composers / sound artists / groups (delete where appropriate): Kasper Toeplitz, Kristoff K. Roll, Jean-Claude Risset, Lionel Marchetti, Christophe Havel, Laurent Dailleau (who also provides the extensive liner notes, of which more later), Mathieu Chamagne, pizMO, Jean-Philippe Gross and Mimetic. Attempting to convey the diversity of the scene on one disc - let alone in ten hours - is quite a task, and it's relatively easy to find things to complain about, notably the conspicuous absence of many older generation GRM musique concrète pioneers and the more media-friendly practitioners of "French touch" techno, but the selection is rich and rewarding nonetheless. Dailleau, whose work on theremin and electronics is well worth seeking out for those unfamiliar with it (start with Triolid's Ur Lamento on Potlatch, with Isabelle Duthoit and David Chiesa), has an evident familiarity with the electroacoustic improvisation end of the spectrum, hence the inclusion of Metz-based Jean-Philippe Gross, whose work with printed circuits you will definitely be hearing of in the years to come. The most "traditionally" concrète offerings here come from Risset, as might be expected, three superb miniatures entitled "Resonant Sound", which feature the kind of delicate transformation of objets trouvés that the French have long been famous for. In comparison, Topelitz's bombastic "PURR#2", though impressively executed, sounds heavy-handed; just as well it opens the disc, because it makes the Kristoff K. Roll offering "Zocalo masqué" right after sound even better than it is. Lionel Marchetti, perhaps better known to readers as an improviser, contributes an early (1989) piece, "A rebours", that builds up ghostly strands of bandoneon into a dense and thrilling climax, and contrasts spectacularly with the digital roadkill of Christophe Havel's "excerpt / metamorphosis".
Dailleau's own "It Was Too Dark to Hear Anything" is more sedately paced and beautifully mixed. Equally impressive is Mathieu Chamagne's "On sonne", the kind of high-speed splatter/scatter that digital technology has made possible. So, unfortunately, is the scrappy assemblage of bloops, swoops and buzzes that makes up pizMO's "nim". At least Gross' "Gris épais" reveals evidence of a good ear and sense of structure, after which the closing "évolution" by Mimetic sounds oddly out of place, being the only track included to work explicitly with pulse in a post-techno context.
Dailleau's notes are wide-ranging and not without their merit, but I'd like to see some documented proof of his assertion that Jean-Jacques Perrey was the first to incorporate tape loops into popular music. And lines like "improvisation as it is practiced today, outside the influence of jazz, was invented in London around 1965 by the founders of AMM" should not go unchallenged. Such glib blanket statements - one presumes Dailleau knows about the work of Robert Ashley, Gordon Mumma, Alvin Lucier, Alvin Curran, Pauline Oliveros, Kenneth Gaburo and a whole host of others, so why does he not acknowledge their input too?- are sadly rather typical of the booklet, whose defiantly Francocentric positioning is potentially misleading to those unfamiliar with the history of electronic music. IRCAM of course gets a mention as the place where Miller Puckette dreamed up Max/MSP, but the music the Institute has produced since it opened for business in 1977 is not mentioned (indicative as much of Dailleau's curatorial stance as it is of the relative dearth of great new music emanating from the place). Instead, neglecting to mention Parmegiani, Mâche, Malec and Henry in favour of namechecking interesting but so far little known figures like Olivier Queysanne, whose Max/MSP glitch microworld is more interesting to read about than it is to listen to, raises eyebrows, and I imagine Jérôme Noetinger's Revox is overheating in righteous fury at statements like "the tape recorder has already begun to fade into memory". Such quibbles aside, though, 33 RPM is a superbly produced document with much to commend it. - Dan Warburton
In the fourth of an impressive series of exhibitions by the San Fransisco MOMA, French theremenist Laurent Dailleau selected ten hours worth of experimental French music. Ten one-hour compilations of the music were rotated in the museum's theater, spanning Pierre Schaeffer's earliest experiments with what would become musique concrète in 1948 to more contemporary works by the likes of Lionel Marchetti, erikm, and pizMO. Dallieau's program leans heavily upon more recent works, and the twelve tracks on this compact disc are all products of recent years work. Still, the ten artists on the album (Jean-Claude Risset gets three tracks) represent a fairly even selection from the ten segments of Dailleau's exhibition roster, divided by era, instrumentation, and/or philosophical bent. Excluded are the more canonical works of Schaffer and Luc Ferrari, and the more rock-influenced variations on electronic music offered by the likes of Heldon, Art Zoyd, and Métal Urbain, but the artists that Dailleau does include do provide some diversity within the realm of electronic experimentalism. An abstract austerity bridges the disc, from Marchetti's slowly growing fusion of arcing whines and sampled acoustic instruments, to the gritty static of "Gris Épais" by Jean-Phillipe Gross. Mimetic, otherwise known as Jéreom Soudan, provides the disc's only track reliant on explicit beats with the clean, stylized IDM of "Evolution." The visceral energy of Kasper T. Toeplitz's "Purr#2," which begins as a furious maelstrom but fades into atmospheric ambience, is an anomaly, though the rest of 33RPM isn't devoid of pathos. Kristoff K. Roll's many contributions to the project are represented by "Zócalo Masqué," in which squeaks and squeals flirt with a tribal African field recording. Jean-Claude Risset, who pioneered digital synthesis in France, presents a work in three parts, but as the disc's most noted performer, he doesn't obscure the music of his younger compatriots. "It was too Dark to Hear Anything," performed by Dailleau himself, is another highlight, a slowly shifting stream of ambient whisper and whine.
Most likely, 33RPM is replete with name sand music unfamiliar to all but the most industrious student of the electronic French avant garde, and while the disc may not include some of the more seminal pieces included in the MOMA's exhibit, it does offer a look into modern French music that, at least on the side of the world, hasn't been easy to gain, until now. This means, of course, that further research will be required for full immersion, but 33RPM is a more than adequate start. - Adam Strohm
The French wrote the damn book on audio collage or musique concrete, some 50 years ago, discovering that tape-edits can make the world sound differently. Last September, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art invited patrons to 10-hour listening marathons of key sound pieces from conservative America's favorite punching bag. This compilation of exhibit highlights stupefies. Kasper T. Toeplitz's "PURR#2" resembles a freeway accident victim's last moment of life, while Kristoff K. Roll brilliantly fingerpaints with samples of a Zapatistan rally in "Zocalo Masque." Jean-Claude Risset enters Edgar Varese territory with his mix of an orchestra slipping everywhere. Check out Laurent Dallieau's linear notes for a clear, unpretentious overview of French avant-sound history. - Cameron MacDonald