Bernard Parmegiani (1927) is a French composer of musique concrete who trained
(1959) under Pierre Schaeffer in person.
Originally a sound engineer and a mime,
his first major composition was the theater piece Violostries (1964), compiled on the double-disc Violostries (Ina-GRM, 1992), that also contains
Pour en Finir Avec le Pouvoir d'Orphee (1972),
Exercisme 3 (1986),
Le Present Compose' (1991),
Violostries is a three-movement suite. The first movement, aiming for
a delicate balance between noise and silence, juxtaposes
multi-faceted electronic drones and dissonant violin tweets (the violin parts
were provided by Devy Erlih). The second movement is the "allegro" of the
suite: chaotic and convulsed. The third movement is an agonizing deconstruction
of the violin parts.
Pop'eclectic (Earphone, 2001) collects material from 1966-73, in particular the collage of musical snippets Du Pop A l'Ane and the free improvisation of a jazz combo versus electronic tape of Jazzex (1966),
a piece conceived with saxophonist Jean-Louis Chautemps.
La Memoire Des Sons (Ina-GRM, 2002) contains three pieces from three
Capture Ephemere (1967),
the 21-minute Sons-Jeu (1987), the lyrical and varied 24-minute La Memoire des Sons (2001).
Another ambitious project was
the "imaginary concert" La Roue Ferris (1971).
Le Diable a Quatre (1971) was a collaboration with Michel Portal's jazz combo.
After a brief parenthesis in the USA, and three musical videos (L'Oil Ecoute, 1973; Jeux d'Artifices, 1978; L'Ecran Transparent, 1973), Parmegiani began to "jam" with jazz and rock groups, juxtaposing their improvisations to his electronic compositions.
Chants Magnetiques (Fractal, 2007), composed in 1974, consists of
nine abstract vignettes that straddle the border between
Musique concrete, psychedelic music and Brian Eno's Before And After Science.
La Creation du Monde (Ina-GRM, 1986) contains his masterpiece, La Creation Du Monde (1982-1984), a phantasmagoric mythological suite of electronic collage that evokes an hyper-kinetic version of Karlheinz Stockhausen.
The extreme rarefaction of Moins L'Infini, evoking microsounds of
quantum lattices, the terrible storms of Instant 0, the contrasting
android and organic flows of Premieres Forces, evoking the emergence
of form out of chaos, establish a form of art which is interior as much
Lumiere is a catastrophic composition that creates a highly dynamic
soundscape by employing a broad spectrum of timbres.
Cellules mimicks the first moves by the first living things, and
Polyphonie evokes the way they multiplied and become frantic
communities: suddenly the world is filled with angst. The crescendo of
tension leads to Expression 2, where the confusing concert of voices
The whole "symphony" stands as a powerful statement
about the emotional power of musique concrete, equal if not superior to the
means of the symphonic orchestra.
The two lengthy suites of De Natura Sonorum (Ina-GRM, 1990), derived
from De Natura Sonorum (1975),
added live instrumentation to his abstract electronic soundscapes, frequently combining the droning sounds emitted by the instruments with the dense and wild textures spun by the machines.
Accidents is just that: a flow of accidental disjointed noises over a layer of dirty drones.
More accidents but this time of a percussive nature and with prolonged echoes populate Dynamique De La Resonance.
Etude Elastique is a more complex collage of sounds that at the beginning
seems to imitate rodents and towards the end mutates into
industrial music ante-litteram (music that evokes work in a factory).
Natures Ephemeres piles up more of those funny fat fast-moving electronic
sounds that work equally well to evoke animals or to parody machines.
Matieres Induites is another "elastic study" whose object morphs from a
crackling fire to running water and to wind chimes, and is also his
quintessential hybrid of natural and artificial sounds.
The atmospheric fresco of cosmic drones that is
Geologie Sonore belongs to a different kind of music.
Conjugaison Du Timbre complicates the idea by toying with a deep rumble
that first sounds like a trombone, then like harbor's sirens and finally
blossoms into the equivalent of a lively didjeridoo improvisation.
Ondes Croisees is a duet between a jazz bass and a gritty buzz.
Points Contre Champs is the most subliminal and Zen-like piece of
the cycle: a majestic crescendo of hissing drones that is disturbed by naive
and very un-majestic chirps.
The double-disc Divine Comedie (Magison, 1995) contains a disc with
Parmegiani's L'Enfer (1971), another peak of his oeuvre, and Paradis (1974); and a disc for Francois Bayle's music.
L'Enfer, that includes a poet reading Dante, is, in turn, made of a
number of sub-suites.
After the overture of La Decouverte De L'Ombre, whose drones display the
threatening quality of a swarm of wasps,
The five-movement Les Portes Ou 1ere Contrainte recites Dante (in
French) and complements the words with an electronic "soundtrack".
The four-movement L'Impouvoir Ou 2eme Contrainte creates a
musical background that is much more profound psychological and pathological,
almost a sonic representation of a nervous breakdown.
The bombastic two-movement Mal Mort Ou 3eme Contrainte is a melodramatic
The four-movement Les Monstres Ou 4eme Contrainte toys again with
silence, but it still manages to unleash
some extreme hissing (Metamorphoses)
and rumbling (Cerberes).
The three-movement Les Abysses Ou 5eme Contrainte metamorphes from the
apoalyptic winds of Le Styx to the flickering mirage of
Le Reve Du Reve.
The three-movement Ou 7eme Contrainte consists of three narrative
the shrieks, blows and gallops of Bataille Des Dragons,
the galactic flames Le Noeud Ardent,
a the starry silence of Le Crepuscule De L'Aube.
The "descriptive" use of electronic sounds is not Parmegiani's forte.
Too often this sounds like the high-brow equivalent of a Disney cartoon.
The sounds interactor with an actor in pieces like Trio (1973), Des Mots et Des Sons (1978), Mess Media Sans (1979) and Demons et Des Mats (1988).
Sonare (Ina-GRM, 2002) contains the dreamy five-movement suite Sonare (1997), which opens with a few bars from Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata.
Other compositions include:
L'Echo du Miroir (1980),
Rouge Mort (1988),
Entre Temps (1992),
JazzEx (Fractal, 2005)
collects some of his earliest works: JazzEx (1966),
a 17-minute free-jazz jam with Jean-Louis Chautemps (sax), Bernard Vitet
(trumpet), Gilbert Rovere (double bass) and Charles Saudrais (drums)
that feels brainy but also intimate and spontaneous (and inventive)
and was assembled by
having the quartet play against a manipulated tape of itself;
Pop Eclectic (1969), musique concrete with natural sounds;
Du Pop a l'Ane (1969), a collage of pop and classical music (three decades before the vogue of the mash-up);
Et Apres (1973), an austere tango for bandoneon and tape.
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