Sunday, June 21, 2009

Pousseur and open electroacoustic music

Three months after his passing, post-war composer Henri Pousseur finally got an obituary in the English-language media. The article mentions in passing a new project devoted to the composer, the Scambi Project at Middlesex University in England. Run by John Dack, a specialist in musique concrète, the Scambi Project is collecting documents relating to Pousseur's open-form piece for tape. Composed and described by Pousseur in the late 1950s, Scambi was intended from its inception to be a mobile form, and Luciano Berio made a version as well as Pousseur's more available realization. Part of the goal of the Scambi Project is to enable new realizations, and the site includes three new versions from graduate students in the Sonic Arts program.

The documents are a treasure trove for Pousseur enthusiasts, and range from scholarly papers by project team members to interviews and transcribed lectures by Pousseur from the last decade or so. His keynote lecture from an Open Work symposiuim at Goldsmiths College not only discusses Scambi, but also his Eight Parabolic Etudes in some detail. This collection of eight long works produced in 1972 (released on four CDs, also available at emusic and iTunes) showcases the possibilities inherent in analog electronic music, and were later reworked by electronica artists Oval, Philip Jeck and Main for a live concert and subsequent CD release.

I've documented by own enthusiasm for Pousseur here on a couple of occasions, and the Scambi Project is a welcome addition to the available material. I still hope for a CD release of Pousseur's piano music, which he composed throughout his career and which would make a varied and interesting recital.

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