Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Bernard in a box

One of my recent arrivals is the new Bernard Parmegiani 12-CD box set, released by the INA-GRM on the occasion of their fiftieth anniversary. It is an impressive set of the major concert electronic works by one of the best purveyors of the French school of electroacoustics, but its value will vary depending on how much Parmegiani one already has. Most of the previously released discs are here, including the major masterpieces La Création du monde, Plain-Temps, and De Natura Sonorum.  The newest material, as well as a couple of early works that were released on vinyl back in the day, is otherwise unavailable on CD. There are also a couple of pieces from the 1980s that are released here for the first time. All told, there is about 38 minutes of music that has been released on vinyl but not on CD, and nearly three hours of music previously unreleased in any format.

In case there are other Parmegiani devotees out there who might be wondering more precisely what's in the box, compared to what they already have, I thought I'd provide more details than the promotional material I've seen. All of the text in the accompanying booklet (in French and English) comes from an INA-GRM publication on Parmegiani in the Portraits Polychromes series, but this is the first time most of it has been published in English (French readers may not find anything new here). There is an interview with Évelyne Gayou which has been significantly edited from its original publication. Lots of pictures, including a snippet from the score for Violostries for violin and tape. The entries on the individual pieces often incorporate Parmegiani's program notes which generally have appeared on the previous releases, but there is often additional commentary from the annotated catalogue in the Portraits Polychromes book. However, even Parmegiani's original program notes have been newly translated into English. The CDs in the box are basically in chronological order from Violostries, composed in 1964, through a piece that premiered in 2007 on the occasion of Parmegiani's 80th birthday.

CD 1 contains Violostries (released on the INA-GRM Violostries album from 2003), Jazzex (released on the 1999 Plate Lunch Pop'eclectic album, which was also released on Fractal in 2004), L'instant mobile (previously unreleased on CD as far as I can tell, but on the vinyl release Chronos), and Capture Éphémère (released on the INA-GRM La Mémoire des sons album from 2002).

CD 2 contains Parmegiani's collage pieces, most of which were released on the Plate Lunch Pop'eclectic album. Bidule en ré is previously unreleased on CD, but was on the vinyl Philips Silver release with Violostries. It's very much in the collage spirit, sourced from old records and some prepared piano. From the Plate Lunch album we have Pop'eclectic, Du Pop à l'âne (Parmegiani's most amazing collage piece, juxtaposing Stockhausen and Zappa, with the Doors and Stravinsky and who knows what all else) and Et après.... It also contains Ponomatopées, a film soundtrack using heavily modified voices previously unreleased on CD, but available on the vinyl Philips Silver Electronic Panorama collection; and Musico picassa, a 1978 tribute to Picasso, previously unreleased as far as I can tell. Musico picassa is very much a collage piece, including several fragments of spoken French.

CD 3 contains L'oeil écoute and La Roue Ferris (both on the 2004 INA-GRM album L'oeil écoute); and Pour en finir avec la pouvoir d'Orphée (on Violostries). Interestingly, when L'oeil écoute was originally released on vinyl, it was nearly five minutes longer. It was originally composed for a video soundtrack, which may account for the time difference. The longer version was released on the Agon label as a mini-CD, but the shorter version is the only one that has been released by the INA. I haven't heard the Agon version, but the track listing matches the sections given in the notes in the box, suggesting that the sections were shortened for a concert release.

CD 4 contains Enfer, which was originally released as part of the joint effort by Parmegiani and François Bayle Divine Comédie. This was most recently released in 1995 as part of Bayle's complete works but has been out of print for many years.

CD 5 contains De Natura Sonorum, identical with the INA-GRM release of the same name.

CD 6 contains Dedans-Dehors (released on Violostries); La Table des matières (1979) and Des Mots et des sons (1977), both previously unreleased as far as I can tell. While La Table des matières is a purely electronic work, the "electroacoustic satire" Des Mots et des sons alternates spoken text with 1970s-style electroacoustic sounds and may be tough going if the listener doesn't understand French.

CD 7 contains La Création du monde, identical with the 1996 INA-GRM release.

CD 8 contains three Exercismes. As far as I can tell, only Exercisme 3 has been previously released, most recently on the Violostries album but also on various anthologies. Parmegiani's catalog lists a fourth Exercisme which was composed on Xenakis' UPIC system, but that is not included here (or anywhere else as far as I know). The first two Exercismes date from 1985. Exercisme 1 is for a trio of live electronics performers with tape, an unusual example in Parmegiani's output. This group, the Trio Instrumental Électroacoustique, released a double LP in 1984. They were one of the electroacoustic ensembles that sprouted up in the mid 1980s along with Italy's Gruppe Nuova Consonanza, Musica Elettronica Viva (founded in Rome but mostly with American musicians), and England's Gentle Fire. The LP is long overdue for reissue, and includes two different Parmegiani pieces from the one included in this set.

CD 9 contains Litaniques (a major electronic work from 1987, somehow previously unreleased), Rouge-Mort: Thanatos (on Violostries), and E Pericoloso sporgersi (a radiophonic work from 1991, previously unreleased). E Pericoloso sporgersi is based on a text written by Parmegiani, and consists of a reading accompanied by electroacoustic sounds. I cannot imagine the work being very interesting if the listener doesn't understand French. The text was published in Portraits Polychromes.

CD 10 contains the Plain-Temps trilogy, most recently released on the 2006 INA-GRM release, but the first part, Le Présent composé is also on Violostries. With Le Présent composé, all of the pieces from Violostries are included in the box.

CD 11 contains four movements from Sonare (the 2002 INA-GRM release had five movements, the last of which is not included in the box); Sons -Jeux and La Mémoire des sons, both of which are on the 2002 INA-GRM release La Mémoire des sons. With Capture ephémère, the La Mémoire des sons release is completely included in the box.

CD 12 contains Immer/sounds (1999, unreleased on CD, released on vinyl as a split with Philip Samartzis as Immersion in 2006); Espèces d'espace (on the L'oeil écoute release, which is now completely incorporated in the box); Au gré du souffle, le son s'envole (2006) and Rêveries (2007), both previously unreleased.

From the major works released on CD, the one most conspicuous in its absence is Chants Magnétiques, released in 1974 on vinyl and last year on CD.

The box has been a bit slow getting to US distributors, although it was listed in the most recent Mimaroglu update and should be available from all of the usual sources very soon.


Anonymous said...

How long do you think it will be before your disc-by-disc writeup is spotted in an NFO file somewhere? Seriously-- I wonder about these things!

kaleidophonics said...

Nice review - thanks for all the details! Even though I have all the previous CD releases, I can't wait to get my hands on this box.

A couple of things I noticed when comparing the track listing to the previous editions - was hoping you could clarify.

It appears that the 5th movement of "Sonare" is missing from the box set, as opposed to the original INA CD (4:05 total).

Also, a friend of mine pointed out to me that the Fractal edition of "Pop Eclectic" has a different recording (and longer one) of "Et Apres" than the one on the previous Plate Lunch edition. Which one is on the box?

Lastly, I was curious if the liner notes from the previous INA CDs are also replicated in the box, or if they're exclusive to the previous editions.

Again, nice job - thanks for putting all the time into it!

Caleb Deupree said...

I mentioned in the details for CD 11 that it only contains the first four movements of Sonare.

Thanks for the clarification on Et Apres. The version in the box is the same as the version on Plate Lunch, not the longer version on Fractal.

Sorry I wasn't clear about the liner notes. They are from the Polychromes book, and they generally incorporate Parmegiani's program notes with commentary by Régis Renouard Larivière. So, the program notes from the previous releases are usually present, but any interpretive essays not written by Parmegiani, probably not. For example, in De Natura Sonorum, the short essay by Bernard Noël is not present, but Parmegiani's program notes on the piece are. The English translations are different from the earlier ones as well, but the French text is the same.

Thanks for the comment and the opportunity to clarify. Glad you found it useful, although even if I had seen all this info ahead of time, I would have still gotten the box.

Mark D. said...

I'll add my thanks here - a very useful summary. I'm torn - I have so much of this material on the various INA/GRM CDs, but there's still a lot more including the vinyl reissues and unreleased pieces... This is one of those cases where I find myself wishing that music like this were available for download so that I could just purchase the material that I don't have already. Well, maybe I can be consoled (and convinced to part with my money) by the booklet...

robin said...

Great post! Major information dump. Will have to find this comp.