Spanning numerous disciples over the course of roughly half a century, the creative universe of the French artist, Henri Chopin, remains as vital and challenging today as it ever was, a truth bought to light by the Paris based imprint Erratum Musical’s latest LP, Les Gouffres des Bronches Sont des Cavernes Infinies. Gathering two live recordings - an unreleased tape created by Chopin in Besançon during 1995 at Garage Caméléon, and a work created for France Culture radio - it’s a stunning marvel that illuminates the pure power and intellect yielded by the artist during the last decades of his life. We couldn’t think of a more fitting way to celebrate the 100th anniversary of his birth!
Born in 1922, Henri Chopin was arguably the most important and famous French practitioner of concrète and sound poetry, creating a large body of pioneering recordings using early tape recorders, studio technologies and the sounds of the manipulated human voice, as well as producing a remarkable body of efforts as a poet, painter, graphic artist and designer, typographer, independent publisher, filmmaker, broadcaster and promoter. His life and work are totems to the wonders of the post-war artistic vanguard, illuminating its diversity, intertwined discourses, optimism, and ambitions. Few artists pushed the potential of art harder than Chopin, who passed away in 2008, particularly when challenging the very character of what the connection between sound and meaning could be understood to be, a truth that defines Erratum Musical’s latest LP.
In 1995, Henri Chopin traveled to Besançon in order to perform at Garage Caméléon, the birthplace of Erratum Musical activities and label. At the age of 72, he was thrilled to encounter a younger generation interested in sound art and electronic sound poetry, he set to work on the large system in the space.
Reflecting back, the folks of Erratum Musical recall, Chopin “...asked us to project the sound and follow his gestures concerning volumes and dynamic panning, and the resulting high pitch echos and feedback intensity along with the slowly melting speakers (audible here) gave him an incredible excitation and joy that we all could witness - and it was a contagious enthusiasm. Direct energy!” Capturing a palpable impression of the space within which it was performed, the album launches with Fresques de l’Imappable Voix, the work described above. Rattling with a profound sense of energy that stands as a counterpoint to the slowing pace that defined Chopin’s later years, the artist’s heavily processed vocalisations break and reform, swooping and darting in an all-consuming onslaught.
The second side is dedicated to the album’s title track, created during roughly the same era, and given to Erratum Musical by Chopin in 2004 for release, but remaining unheard until it was premiered on France Culture radio in 2013, five years after the artists death. Standing as a lovely contrast to the frenetic live energy and specialisation of its predecessor, here we encounter Chopin in the enclosed focus of the studio, so close that his vocal utterances could be whispers in the listener’s ear. Seemingly unprocessed and dry, failure sounds of breathing - punctuated infrequent speech - take on new potential, drawing out an unexpected musicality from their raw, elemental humanity and inexplicable structural form.
Easily one of the most exciting and engaging archival releases of Henri Chopin’s work we’ve encountered in years, Les Gouffres des Bronches Sont des Cavernes Infinies returns the artist’s endlessly prescient work to the present day, reminding us how ahead of his time he was. These late gestures brim with energy, life, and creative rigour the likes of which are rarely heard. Issued by Erratum Musical as a beautiful LP, whether new to Chopin or a devoted fan, it’s an absolute must.