Monday, 25 February 2013

50 Ans D'Acousmatique - Francois Bayle (Ina/GRM)

This dropped through the letterbox a few weeks ago. I love to say it was a surprise promotional gift from GRM because they just know I'm their main man in the UK when it comes to hyping electro-acousmatic vibrations - but what do you think? I bought it - how extravagant!

'In the acousmatic approach, the listener is expected to reconstruct an explanation for a series of sound events. ' - Francois Bayle

But I can't explain...I think it's love...a 15-CD box set...a box, a cardboard one containing 15 slim cardboard sleeves on which the details are printed...same design as the Parmegiani set, also from GRM, which I'll say again is an essential collection. OK, so it's cheaper (£15) to buy the MP3 version of this but a material object has many advantages, least of all the booklet, which I've yet to read properly, and titled sequences, plus all the dates, some of the which are 1980, 2001, and the starter, 1963...

...back then Bayle was intimidated by the company of Parmegiani, Luc Ferrari, Xenakis and others...who could blame him? He waited about five years before feeling confident in his abilities, and since he was running GRM knew he had to deliver. Not being 'a symphonist at heart', Bayle was free from either rigid 12-tone dogma or the shackles of older classical schools. As a child of the stereo generation he was the right age to enter new territory, the unmapped sonic regions beyond early electronic and musique concrete beginnings.

There is so much music here that I couldn't do it justice in a few hundred, or probably thousand,words. It changes according to the technology used, of course, from tape to analog synths, MIDI and real-time computers. Bayle said 'Acousmatics is the art to fill with nuances, to work with spatiality', and there is much 'spatiality' going on. Sounds move, but not like stereo panning Rock gimmickry. Instead, to advocate a philosophy of creation and listening. You have to listen hard. Your head becomes an auditorium in which sounds shift, disappear, leap out, shimmer and so on - the sound of sounds, alien and vaguely familiar.

I've lived with this collection for almost two months and it feels as if I've barely scratched the surface. That might be normal for a big set of 'normal' songs, never mind music as deep as this. It's deep and above all wide. Bayle's realm is the space in-between, which he seeks to expand, rather than simply fill, by seemingly stretching it. In short, this is mind-expanding music, ma-a-an, if I dare say so. Bereft, though, of clich├ęd psychedelic effects. Instead, technology becomes...transcendent?

Radio interference, distorted piano chords, plucked strings, whispered voices, chimes, silence, fluttering noise, hum, drones, bird calls...but what is that...and that? Primordial off-world field recordings...a broadcast from planet Bayle calling prisoners of the earth - come out? Layered sounds, remote sounds...gentle, menacing, disturbing, dense and airy sounds...

It's pointless recommending this kind of thing - you either get it or you don't, and if you do, spend the cash. You won't regret it.

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