Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Musique Concrète Soundtracks To Experimental Short Films

At UbuWeb you can find the audio of Musique Concrète Soundtracks To Experimental Short Films (1956-1978). This was a precursor to Creel Pone - a series of six unofficial CD-R compilations of the electronic and tape-music soundtracks to experimental animations and films, released by the New England Electric Music Company. Many or most had never appeared as isolated audio outside their filmic context. 

Some of these films have appeared earlier on this blog. A few more are added below. 

Tom Dissevelt – Glass (1959) directed by Bert Haanstra

Gershon Kingsley – Pixillation (1971) directed by Lillian Schwartz

Percy Grainger – Free Music (1970), director unknown

Pierre Boulez – Symphonie Mechanique (1955), directed by Jean Mitry

Joan La Barbara – Dance Frame (1978), directed by Doris Chase

Bernard Parmegiani – Jeux Des Anges (1964), directed by Walerian Borowczyk

Włodzimierz Kotoński – Dom (1958), directed by Walerian Borowczyk & Jan Lenica

Pierre Henry – Les Amours De La Pleuvre (1967), directed by Jean Painlevé & Geneviève Hamon

Włodzimierz Kotoński – Labyrinthe (1963), directed by directed by Jan Lenica

Bernard Parmegiani – Steinberg (1966), directed by directed by Kassovitz

Bernard Parmegiani – L'Arraignelephant (1967), directed by Piotr Kamler

Robert Cohen-Solal – Délicieuse Catastrophe (1970), directed by Piotr Kamler

Bernard Parmegiani – Le Pas (1975), directed by Piotr Kamler

Bernard Parmegiani – L'Écran Transparent (1973), directed by Bernard Parmegiani


Here's Andy Beta's write-up of some of the earlier volumes: 

An amazing collection of crucial and lost slivers of both celluloid and sound, from right along the rim of the memory hole.

Tom Dissevelt's soundtrack to "Glas" (dir. Henstra, 1959) is almost like an Henri Chopin poem, with weird squeals and reverberating breaths and crackling radio voices intoning with dreadful menace among the cycling noises. Turns out to be about glass-blowing, go figure.

Gershon Kingsley provides a percolating soundtrack to "Pixillation" (dir. Schwartz, 1971), which shouldn't be too much a surprise for those familiar with his duo work with Perrey on The In Sound from Way Out. Very reminiscent of a coherent Sun Ra moog fugue and the most funky and taciturn of the entire set by far. 

"Free Music" from 1970, has Percy Grainger taffy-pulling some gossamer sound waves that thicken in a brief two minutes. 

The biggest name of volume one is Pierre Boulez, contributing his one and only electronic music piece to "Symphonie Mechanique" (dir. Mitry, 1956). It is an incredibly violatile magnetic tape piece that shimmers at a frentic pace, as if Raymond Scott and Xenakis are brainstorming sound ideas at the same time. 

A highlight of the set, as is Joan LaBarbara's piece. Probably more renowned as a 20th Century contemporary vocalist, along the lineage of Cathy Berberian, here she provides the pouring water, alien-lipped trills, and revolving rhythmic flutters for "Dance Frame" (dir. Chase, 1978), and it is vertiginous and brain-vaporising in its overall effect. 

The second volume brings forth two pieces by director Valerian Borowczyk, one being an historical soundtrack by Bernard Parmegiani for "Jeux des Anges" (1964). Roaring blindly with electric intrusions, it reveals itself to be the sounds of trains passing, slowing into drones of electromagnetic fields and distorted piano (or are they organ?) keys, which merge and split apart. Voices gurgle in with a percussion sound not unlike dropped microphones at the track's end. Noisy, and a very primitive bit from one of the future masters. 

Polish composer Wlodzimierz Kotonski's piece for "Dom" (1957) is flittering bits of key strikes and metallophone clops, swirling about each other with birdcall electronics. Percussion and metal scratching seeds the middle section, as more tape sounds swoop down to feast. A mysterious, melancholic, oddly reveberating horn theme joins in on the boings and gurgles to end the piece. 

With Yo La Tengo re-scoring the nature films of Jean Painleve recently, it becomes all the more crucial to hear Pierre Henry's original slithering and carbonated contribution to "Les Amours de la Pleuvre" (1964), which makes up half of Volume Three. Matching the onscreen movements of the octopus, Henry wags disturbing tentacles around the loud French narration, dropping in cavernous water drops between all the wiggling sounds, and making it all feel as clausterphobic as if you were yourself in its clutches underwater. 

Another Kotonski soundtrack, for "Labyrinthe" (dir. Lenica, 1962), ends the series. Pianos, black boughs, and looming maze walls are all set to vibrate in the shadows, along with some chilling laughter and odd chatters. The wind breathes ominously, and one cannot help but to put this in the changer next Halloween. While overall sound quality is hissy due to generational dubbing, the scope of these three volumes is of crucial historical value. If only these films could be so readily retrieved for each listen.