Boomkat Product Review:
In physical stature and imaginative scope, Luc Ferrari’s 10 x CD / 11 Hour selection for INA GRM’s series presents a poetic building block of C.20th electronic music from the founding director of the GRM in 1958, presenting a unique art history spanning six decades of ingenious, beguiling soundcraft.
Part of a legendary series including titles by concrète pioneers Pierre Schaefer & Pierre Henry, plus weighty surveys of Bernrad Parmegiani, Éliane Radigue and François Bayle, this lavish boxset of Luc Ferrari’s work is a masterclass exploration of avant garde form and function that charts experimental music’s research and development during a radical phase. While even the notion of such a large storage device for sound was unimaginable when Ferrari began making his cut-up musical collages and sound poetry in the ‘50s, his ‘L’Œuvre Électronique’ covers the progression of musical technology and thought from its most laboriously executed origins, working with tape and raw blocks of sound, to the grander digital staging of his ‘90s and early ‘00s radio plays, plotted for multiple voices and spatialised landscapes.
Collected, this set forms an incredible deep dive into art-music history where the materiality of sound is questioned and reconsidered in relief of its musical connotations, creating in the process a peerless body of work that better approximates the texture of dreams or the audness of waking life than any song, and has long informed the approach to sound organisation by a host of progressive artists, effectively bridging the conceptual precedents of Varèse and Cage and the contemporary futures projected by Lee Gamble or Valerio Tricoli.
The 98 tracks from 31 releases, clocking up just over 10 hours of recordings, delineate across decades following Ferrari’s studies with Messaien and Honegger in the mid ‘50s, and a period of illness that made him better acquainted with the radio receiver, and pioneers such as Schöneberg and Webern, to his co-founding of the Groupe de Recherches Musicales with Schaeffer and François-Bernard Mâche in 1958, and thru his landmark transformation of field recordings made on a Yugoslavian beach, and the ravishing abstractions of later electronic works.
Until his passing, aged 76 in Arezzo, Italy, Ferrari remained ceaselessly active both in his own practice and teaching, and was revered as the poet of musique concrète. He bought a particularly gallic purview to the paradigm, especially when considered against the more hard-nosed academic pursuits of his peers, making singular use of vocals as an elusive or sometimes literal presence in his works in a way that others didn’t, and as such his works all hare a certain liminal quality that appears richly seductive to fans of fantasy storytelling as much as psychedelic soundtracks and sound as dreamfood imagery.