Thursday, January 2, 2014

Luc Ferrari

Luc Ferrari was born in Paris, and was trained in music at a very young age, studying the piano under Alfred Cortot, musical analysis under Olivier Messiaen and composition under Arthur Honegger. His first works were freely atonal. A case of tuberculosis in his youth interrupted his career as a pianist. From then on he mostly concentrated on musical composition. During this illness he had the opportunity to become acquainted with the radio receiver, with pioneers such as Schönberg, Berg, and Webern.

In 1954, Ferrari went to the United States to meet Edgard Varèse, whose Déserts he had heard on the radio, and had impressed him. This seems to have had a great effect on him, with the tape part in Déserts serving as inspiration for Ferrari to use magnetic tape in his own music. In 1958 he co-founded the Groupe de Recherches Musicales with Pierre Schaeffer and François-Bernard Mâche. He taught in institutions around the world, and worked for film, theatre and radio. By the early 1960, Ferrari had begun work on his Hétérozygote, a piece for magnetic tape which uses ambient environmental sounds to suggest a dramatic narrative. The use of ambient recordings was to become a distinctive part of Ferrari's musical language.

Ferrari's Presque rien No. 1 'Le Lever du jour au bord de la mer' (1970) is regarded as a classic of its kind. In it, Ferrari takes a day-long recording of environmental sounds at a Yugoslavian beach and, through editing, makes a piece that lasts just twenty-one minutes. 

It has been seen as an affirmation of John Cage's idea that music is always going on all around us, and if only we were to stop to listen to it, we would realise this. Ferrari continued to write purely instrumental music as well as his tape pieces. He also made a number of documentary films on contemporary composers in rehearsal, including Olivier Messiaen and Karlheinz Stockhausen.

Luc Ferrari: Facing his Tautology (2005) 
2005 52 mins
Music: Luc Ferrari, Jean-Philippe Collard-Neven, Vincent Royer

Shot shortly before Luc Ferrari's demise, Facing his Tautology has the fundamental merit of avoiding the temptation of a sentimentalist epitaph mode. Indeed, the fact that the film's subtitle alludes to this sad coincidence may perhaps, given the general tone of the picture, be more of an imposition by the producing label than a decision by the directors. Facing his Tautology was recorded in France, during the initial stages of a new Ferrari production, a new version of his 1969 piece Tautologos III. 

The score is actually nothing more than a set of rules, whose results are to be decided by the musicians' inspiration and Ferrari's sensibility. The film allows us an intimate glimpse of the composer's methods and centers on his relationship with the performers (which, in this case at least, amounts to the same). 

The picture we are presented with is one of an active, sagacious, good-humored and open-minded man, miles away from the stereotype of the composer-dictator in complete charge of his output (as seen in, say, documentaries on Stockhausen or Boulez). 

In fact, Ferrari allows himself, and concomitantly the directors, to demystify the concept of the composer itself: although never declining is position, Ferrari assumes the role of a guide, someone who is steering the wheels and coordinating efforts and sensibilities to achieve a result in which all participants can claim a finger of their own. What is perhaps more rewarding in this fascinating documentary is the human confirmation or translation of the composer we hear in his pieces: such generous, transgressing, humorous, intelligent, sarcastic, joyful music does indeed stem from a man with all those qualities. -- Eye of Sound

Ferrari, Luc - Und so weiter - 1966 - electric piano and tape 1
  1. Ferrari, Luc - Und so weiter - 1966 - electric piano and tape 1
  2. Ferrari, Luc - Und so weiter - 1966 - electric piano and tape 2
  3. Ferrari, Luc - Und so weiter - 1966 - electric piano and tape 3
  4. Ferrari, Luc - Und so weiter - 1966 - electric piano and tape 4
  5. Ferrari, Luc - Und so weiter - 1966 - electric piano and tape 5
  6. Ferrari, Luc - Und so weiter - 1966 - electric piano and tape 6
  7. Ferrari, Luc - Music Promenade - 1964-69 – 4 sound recorders
  8. Luc Ferrari – Visage V 10:32

Tracks 1-7 from History of Electronic / Electroacoustic Music (1937-2001)
Track 8 from Electronic Panorama: Paris, Tokyo, Utrecht, Warszawa (1970) 

Presque Rien No. 1 (Le Lever Du Jour Au Bord De La Mer), 1967-70

Presque Rien No. 1 (Le Lever Du Jour Au Bord De La Mer)
Producer [Realized By], Mixed By - Luc Ferrari

Presque Rien ou le lever du Jour au Bord de la Mer - almost nothing or daybreak at the sea -. This piece illustrates or rather suggests unconsciously a minimalist process, about which one will speak much in the following years.

Indeed, Presque Rien ou le lever du Jour au Bord de la Mer, from between 1967 and 1970, is a composition which materializes the break with the practices of the classical electro acoustics. Still more directly than what was called after Hétérozygote, anecdotic music, he requires for himself clearly the continuous sequence and the fixed sound image - like a slide - offering a slice of real as a work method and as means to escape from the habits. " « At the beginning the concept Presque Rien does not have anything to do with the music. One must carry oneself back into the time; in the sixties one said: noises on a side, music on the other one. » " 

Ferrari did not get involved in this play. He was concerned with making something coming from a deep desire without worrying whether this something fits into a category. The concept in his opinion cannot be defined as genre, as aesthetics or as technology, but only as idea. That means that the concept at the beginning cannot be seized physically, but rather as a general impression, which one lends to a body. This concept consists of: only one place - only one time - a certain acoustics - components, which he continues to develop from one Presque Rien to the other.

France Culture Tributes and Documentaries

Champ documentaire

  1. Part 1
  2. Part 2 

    France Culture Champ Documentaire
    Hommage à Luc Ferrari
    Emissions du 27 et 28 Août 2005
    Par David Jisse

  3.  Le carnet nomade

Luc Ferrari Interview (April 11, 1973)

Host of KPFA-FM's Ode to Gravity series Charles Amirkhanian, interviewed French composer Luc Ferrari at his home in Paris in June of 1972. The night before the interview, Ferrari had a world premiere performance of his "Monologos I" at the Opera Comique. Ferrari discusses his compositional practices and experiments in voice and tape delay that developed into Monologos I. The two also talk about Ferrari's activities since 1970 which included the writing of his book "Les réalisable et le journal d'un autobiographe", a work of text compositions and part autobiography; and creating the first sonic chapter of his "ecological" series in observation, "Allô ici la terre". The interview also takes a philosophical turn as Ferrari describes the non-existence of "truth" or any correct "system", political or otherwise, and how we must devise many different ways of going about the act of living.

Musical selections during the program include:

Monologos I [live recording]

Performers: Luc Ferrari, electronics; Elise Ross, voice

Music Promenade
Presque Rien, 1