Bernard Parmegiani: ”Matières induites”
From the album De natura sonorum (1975)
French composer Bernard Parmegiani (1927-) belongs to what could be called the second generation of composers working in the French tradition of musique concrète—the first generation comprising the movement’s founder, Pierre Schaeffer, and his gifted erstwhile pupil, Pierre Henry. After Henry’s acrimonious parting with Schaeffer in 1958, a number of younger composers came to work with Schaeffer at the newly founded Groupe de recherches musicales. This illustrious cadre included among others Iannis Xenakis, Ivo Malec, Luc Ferrari, Mireille Chamass-Kyrou, Francois Bayle, and Parmegiani.
Bayle and Parmegiani in particular were associated with the emergence of a distinct aesthetic known as musique acousmatique or “acousmatic music.” The term “acousmatic” had been introduced in the 1950s by Pierre Schaeffer to describe the listener’s separation from the acoustic source through the mediation of recording and reproduction technology. (“Acousmatic” derives from the ancient Greek word for listening, from which this blog also takes its name.) It was later extended by Parmegiani and Bayle to encompass a distinctive approach to composition in the electroacoustic medium. Acousmatic music in this sense means music specifically conceived for reproduction via loudspeakers, taking advantage of a situation in which the listener is confronted with an entire world of sounds whose origin could be familiar, ambiguous, or completely unknown. The acousmatic composer seeks to compensate for the lack of visual stimulus by provoking powerful “sound images” (images-de-son) in the listener’s imagination.
Parmegiani’s groundbreaking 1975 composition De natura sonorum (the title is a play on the Roman poet Lucretius’ philosophical poem De rerum natura, “On the Nature of Things”) was intended as a fundamental, probing investigation into the essence of sound. The first six movements focus on the relationship between electronic and instrumental sounds, while the second half of the work contrasts electronic and concrete sound sources. While some movements, such as “Géologie sonore” and “Conjugaison du timbre,” dilate on slowly unfolding dronescapes in which gradual shifts in texture constitute the primary musical interest, the dominant mood throughout the work is mercurial and skittish. The frequent juxtaposition of contrasting timbres and sonic envelopes calls to mind Anton Webern’s concept of Klangfarbenmelodie, a logic of musical organization based primarily on variations of tone color.
“Matières induites” (Induced Materials) is conceived as a continuous transition between different sonic “states” suggested by a wide palette of sounds including wooden and metal wind chimes, falling rain, and nails, coffee beans, and grains of rice dropped on sheets of glass and cardboard. Each succeeding state is “induced” from the preceding on the basis of certain morphological similarities in sound structure. Parmegiani writes, “Just as molecular effervescence creates transformations of state, in this movement it would appear that the different stages of the sound material are produced from each other, as if by induction. Here one is directly confronted with the theme of metamorphosis. It is an old idea in my work, passing in a systematic and continuous way from one material to another. Does listening to this constant transition from one state to another tell us anything about the nature of sound?”
Played 169 time(s).
June 05, 2012, 10:26pm