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Speaking concretely

img  Tobias

When looking at music, it is one of the most prominent features of modern times that hardly anything gets lost and even the smallest or most outdated genre perseveres. Rock n Roll, Swing, Punk, Synthie Pop - they're all relicts of the past but at the same time, they're alive and well in an isolated niche of society. Nothing dies, so it would seem, and we should therefore not really be surprised, that even "musique concrete" has made it to the 21st century. Still, the phenomen of Lionel Marchetti is more than a footnote in musical history.

For a few years, "musique concrete" was all the rage in the world of the arts. A frenchman by the name of Pierre Schaeffer had conceptualised it shortly after WWII and given it a name, an obvious counterpoint to the usual "abstract music" which had dominated the debate ever before. Instead of artists, scores, sheet music and orchestras, his was a world of sound: The objects that formed its compositions all derived from the world around us and were put together in ever new constellations. Examples could be the chirping of birds or the screeching of a tram, melting together in an aural collage. There was no end to this idea, as sound is infinite, but to his contemporaries, the hell of artistic anarchy seemed to have broken loose - after all, who was to draw the line between what was music and what was merely everyday noise? Eventually, time smoothed the waves of fury - the electronic scene which evolved in Cologne postulated new dogmas and was probably even more radical  - but it at least gave listeners back their beloved sine waves. And the Industrial movement, which came to the fore in the 70s, subjected Schaeffer's vision to a shocking reality check - in which fragments of the old "musique abstrait" played an integral part. "Musique concrete" itself retired into school books and cd compilations on the tiniest of labels. If you wanted to listen to it, you needed to go to the library.

It all changes when Lionel Marchetti meets Xavier Garcia. Garcia is already an up and coming name in the French experimental scene and still today hails as a composer and live performer and an eager collaborator with video-artists, choreographers and fellow musicians (former partners include Brian Eno and Chris Cutler among others). He introduces Marchetti, who is a complete autodidact, to the ideas of Pierre Schaeffer and instantly hits a chord. What follows is a rapid learning process and an equally quick career as a composer. Marchetti established himself as an avid and active member of the CMFI of the University of Lyon (Centre de formation de musiciens) and continues his musical studies in his personal home studio. "Portrait d'un glacier", one of his early pieces, dating back to the end of the 80s, is an ear-opener to many. Stewart Gott of WebZine Fluxeuropa puts it into words thus: "Minutely detailed splashings and rumblings and icy cracklings high up on Mont Blanc". In 2001, Marchetti releases his first full length album, "Knud un Nom de Serpent (Le Cercle des Entrailles)" and again it is greeted with enthusiasm. It seems as though his work, retrospective in its general approach, seems to have landed right in the here and now. Performing live with Jerome Noetinger, he presents his vision with a special microphone and equipment design.

Then, he takes on a big project, that will take him three years over all: "Red Dust" comes as a box set made up of three 3'' CDs (continuing the theme of 3's) and even though it only consists of some 70 minutes of music, it covers all the facets of Marchettis work. The well respected Crouton Label, reponsible for this exquisite package states: "The material reveals sounds old and new, acting as a modern looking glass into a tapestry of ideas still grappled with today; human attraction, narcissism, and the function of the artist. The music flows story-like over the course of the three discs; a novel-esque concept/approach to a triptych visual presentation. The combination of ridiculously old recordings melting into obviously modern sounds makes this listening an experience to ponder on many levels." On disc one, there's a collaboration with Japanese dancer Yôko Higashi. While their live collaboration consists of very physical interaction (with Higashi trying to distract the musician from his work, before retreating into a space of her own), here she contributes vocals in what Frans de Waard of "Vital Weekly" describes as "ongoing crackles, rhythm particles, a guitar and percussive sounds", which "make up an intense atmospheric piece of music". On the other two CDs, the typical "musique concrete" sound is more present, with various sound sources coming to a head-on collision. Beautifully packaged and coming with a wealth of information, this is a real treat for anyone into the poetry of sound.

So, with this strong statement now available for the price of $24 internationally (US-locals only need to spend $20), it looks like "musique concrete" has also found its way back into the present. Maybe renewed interest will also do away with some common misunderstandings - after all, Schaeffer was a very methodical man and his intention was as far away from creating chaos as possible. It might well be Lionel Marchetti's achievment that neither his musical, nor his ideological legacy gets lost.

Homepage: Crouton Music
Homepage: Xavier Garcia
Source: Vital Weekly
Source: Electro CD

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