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Chansons pour le corps (1988-94)
Elise Caron, voice Carol Mundinger, Sylvan Frydman, clarinets Christine Lagniel, percussion Michel Maurer, piano Michel Musseau, synthesizer
Et si tout entière maintenant… (1986-87)

Symphonic tale for actress, tapes & orchestra

Anne Sèe, voice Nouvel Orchestre Philhharmonique/Yves Prin, conductor

mode 81

Luc Ferrari (1929 - 2005) was one of the most distinct and original voices to emerge from France in the second part of the twentieth century. He is one of the most significant exponents of musique concrete and a composer who used computer technology meaningfully to successfully express musical and visual ideas. This CD consists of two substantial works that use pre-recorded samples with live instrumental sounds.

Chansons pour le corps (1988 – 1994) is a delightful contemporary “song cycle” where real and synthetic voices alternate with instrumental interludes. The music is often repetitive and has frequent tonal/ neo-tonal influences. This is partly because the composer is using well articulated and widely understood musical objects ranging from late nineteenth / early twentieth century as points of reference. Nevertheless, this is also very meditative music at parts, highly expressive and intensely colorful. Ferrari makes the most of the small ensemble of clarinet, percussion (mainly vibraphone) piano and synthesizer. This combination or in small variations has subsequently featured heavily in many works by IRCAM composers. 

The text for Chansons pour le corps is by Colette Fellous. The process of collaboration between the writer and the composer is very intriguing as in many ways the composer pre-directed the writer in his direction. The process was that the composer first interviewed random young women who were asked questions about different parts of their body. These interviews were then developed in the studio as to create an artificial “speaking choir” that supports the singer. It is from that part that the writer wrote the texts.

The formal concept of the work consists of four songs that deal with different body parts and a final fifth song that serves more as a recapitulation. The singer (Elise Caron) is superb throughout and she is very successful in conveying and projecting the different sensations and images that the composer is trying to capture.
Et si tout entiére maintenant (1986-1987) works particularly very well after Chansons pour le corps even though the concept and instrumentation are very different. This symphonic in concept collage of “experiences” has its origins on an Arctic voyage of a Swedish icebreaker that in fact Ferrari did not participate. He did however ask for detailed recordings to be made, which he then edited at his studio. The process of collaboration with the writer is very similar to the artists’ previous collaboration.

The instrumental recordings are performed by Nouvel Orchestre Philharmonique, conducted by Yves Prin. The sound of the orchestra is always assuring and well balanced; all explosions of sound, colour and gesture are particularly well controlled.

The singer (narrator rather) this time is Anne Sée who does a superb job in giving each word its full (and at times multiple) meaning, thus skillfully contributing greatly towards a convincing realization of the composer’s intended atmosphere.

Here again, the live music is structured more as Interludes, its linear development usually coming to an abrupt end by the pure electronic parts. At first hearing, the work sounds bizarre but one can always feel that music and text merge together very naturally. The transitions between clear story telling, anecdotes and real visual imagery portrayed by the real conversations of travelers have very clear music representations where sometimes the material sounds extremely original whereas at others extremely classical almost reminescensing seminal works of early twentieth century. The overall result, typical of the composer, has highly ambiguous meaning oscillating between reality and fiction.

Traditional processes - almost an imitation of well defined classical music objects combined with repetitive processes, good taste and the composer’s ability to know exactly when to move on - make these two works highly artistic and this CD a wonderful compilation definitely worth purchasing.

Evis Sammoutis