Laughter

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Review: Jacques Lejeune, “Parages and Other Electroacoustic Works 1971-1985” (Robot)

Robot Records’ three-CD retrospective of Jacques Lejeune’s music from the early 1970s and 1980s contains over three hours of heady electronic noise, surreal acoustic transformations, deconstructed field recordings, and disorienting aural splutter. It is a collection that spans 14 years and six electroacoustic compositions: one composed for ballet and inspired by Snow White, another inspired by the myth of Icarus, and others by landscapes, symphonic form, and cyclical movement, among other things. They flash with theatrical flair, jump unpredictably through minute variations, and churn chaotically, tossing fabricated scree and instrumental slag into the air. A 28 page bilingual booklet filled with photographs, drawings, and program notes accompanies the set, along with a 32 page booklet of interpretive poetry. In them, Lejeune, Alain Morin, and Yak Rivais offer up remarkably precise interpretations for each of the pieces, but the writing works much better as a rough guide to the visually evocative clamor of Lejeune’s electric transmissions.

Jacques Lejeune’s musical career began auspiciously, at the famous Schola Cantorum de Paris, a private music school in the city’s Latin Quarter whose alumni include Edgard Varèse and Erik Satie. From there, he moved to the Conservatoire National Supérieur, where Adolphe Sax had once taught and where Igor Wakhévitch would eventually study, and labored under the tutelage of Pierre Schaeffer. He finished his education with François Bayle at the Groupe de Recherches Musicales, then joined the GRM in 1968 and became director of the Cellue de la Musique pour L’Image, or The Department of Music for Images, responsible for the production of sound and music for both theater and television.

By 1971 he had finished his first major composition, Cri, which premiered at the Royan Festival in 1972. It was Lejuene’s introduction to France and the first indication that his stint in the Images Department at the GRM had been as formative as the rest of his education.

Early on, Cri delivers brief, sometimes confounding glimpses of particular places and circumstances. Those images are held in focus just long enough to be recognized and then swept away: a marching band stomps through a busy street in the first movement, then disappears into the sound of French horns warming up before a performance; frogs croak in concert with crickets as sheets of tape noise flutter by imitating the sound of water; people laugh and conversations crash against bursting radio signals and gusts of analog distortion. In the second movement entire sentences survive, accompanied by reverse audio and a small gaggle of test tones. Exclamations leap out of the commotion and a radio transmission about Pakistan and the United States floats smoothly by, like a small town seen from the window of a passing train.

Read more… (at Brainwashed, includes sound samples)

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Broadcast 08: The New York School in Boston

max_neuhaus_new_york

Detail from the cover of “The New York School” by Max Neuhaus. Released by Alga Marghen.

An embarrassingly late update for the last radio show I hosted on WZBC, which was broadcast on January the 19th. Below are two links to the audio for that show. They will be replaced this Sunday (February 2nd, Groundhog Day), when I will be back on the air featuring new music from Joseph Clayton Mills, among others. Mills has several new records out, including one inspired by notes that Franz Kafka wrote to his friends while on his death bed. It sounds fantastic and I’m excited to share. The program will start at 6 PM eastern and end at 8 PM, so for those of you not interested in the Super Bowl and looking for an alternative, tune in.

One of my favorite pieces from this show was Max Neuhaus’s rendition of Feldman’s “The King of Denmark.” It comes from The New York School: Nine Realizations of Cage, Feldman, Brown, a CD first released by Alga Marghen in 2004. Alga Marghen is an Italian label that specializes in 20th century music, Fluxus composers, sound poetry, and various other sound arts, and a big chunk of their catalog has recently been made available State-side thanks to Forced Exposure. I’d encourage anyone interested in what they hear on this show to check their releases out. That Neuhaus CD is an excellent place to begin.

Any questions, comments, or requests, please send me an email or just drop a message into the comments section below.

Thanks for listening.

Laughter: January 19th, 2014 – Hour 1 and Hour 2

  1. Sonic Youth “Edges” from SYR 4: Goodbye 20th Century (1999) on SYR — composed by Christian Wolff
  2. Olivia Block “Heave To (Part 2)” from Heave To (2006) on SEDIMENTAL
  3. KTL “Phill 1” from V (2012) on EDITIONS MEGO
  4. Max Neuhaus “The King Of Denmark” from The New York School (2004) on ALGA MARGHEN — composed by Morton Feldman
  5. Burkhard Stangl “Unfinished – Sailing” from Unfinished. For William Turner, Painter. (2013) on TOUCH — performed by Fennesz (first take, no edits, no cuts)
  6. Polwechsel “Hyogo” from Polwechsel 2 (1999) on HATART
  7. Gordon Mumma “Than Particle” from Live – Electronic Music (2002) on TZADIK — performed by William Winant and Gordon Mumma
  8. Noah Creshevsky “Drummer” from The Tape Music Of Noah Creshevsky 1971-1992 (2004) on EM RECORDS
  9. Francois Bayle “Eros Bleu” from Archives GRM (2004) on INA GRM
  10. Franco Evangelisti “Cinque Strutture, per piccola orchestra e nastro magnetico dalla ‘Die Schachtel’ 1962-63” from Franco Evangelisti (1998) on EDITION RZ