Since their founding during the early years of the new millennium, the Italian imprint, Holidays Records, has stood at the vanguard of forward-thinking sound, building a carefully curated catalog of releases that collectively build context and conversation across numerous avenues of exploration - contemporary and historical sitting side by side - within the wider field of experimental and improvised music. Their latest, a beautiful, first-time vinyl reissue of the French composer and musicologist Jean-Yves Bosseur’s 1982 LP, Musiques Vertes, stands among their most exciting to date. Entirely singular in the history of recorded sound, featuring a collective of untrained musicians playing a vast array of homemade instruments - based on ancient predecessors - constructed from organic material, its wildly experimental sounds are a revelation that remain radical and startling accessible four decades after they were laid to tape. Truly stunning on every count.
Jean-Yves Bosseur is a tragically obscure figure in the history of the French avant-garde. A student of Henri Pousseur and Karlheinz Stockhausen, as well as a close associate of Knud Viktor, with fellow composer, Pierre Mariétan, he belonged to the legendary collective, Groupe d'Etude et Réalisation Musicale GERM, widely celebrated for their realization of Terry Riley's Keyboard Study 2, issued BYG Actual in 1970. Sadly, of more 200 works created by Bosseur over the course of his long career, very few have been released in recorded form. Of all of them, the pure power and singularity of his 1982 LP, Musiques Vertes, originally issued by Atelier 82 and now reissued on vinyl for the first time by Holidays Records, stands as a towering testament to his remarkable creative vision.
The “Musiques Vertes” project began in South East France during the late 1970s, spearheaded by Christine Armengaud, who was investigating, via elderly people in the region, a long tradition of musical instruments made with organic materials and plants. With their help, she was able to construct 240 instruments, collected in her book “Musiques Vertes”, published in 1978 by Christine Bonneton éditeur, that had long been used for bird calls, dancing, toys of young shepherds and children, and much more, but had been lost to common usage following the First World War.
In 1980 the Direction de la Musique awarded the composer Jean-Yves Bosseur a grant to start a collective practice of music using the instrument constructed / reconstructed by Armengaud. Rather than working with professional musicians, he chose to use locals and children he encountered in Aix-en-Provence between 1981 and 1982. The album, Musiques Vertes, recorded by the legendary French ornithologist and wildlife field recordist Jean Claude Roché, is the result of hours of practice and recording by these players, in each case, within the album 11 musical excursions, utilizing a series of instructions or games set up by the composer in an attempt to create collective musical exchange, as well as a dialogic exchange between this practice and active listening within a natural environment.
While the acoustic practices that underscore Musiques Vertes display a deep resonance with those embarked upon by artists like Akio Suzuki, Toshiya Tsunoda, and Jeph Jerman, the structural resemblance, held deeply within utopian avant-garde principles, falls far closer to experimental electronic works that might have emerged from experimental electronic studios like Groupe de Recherches Musicales or EMS during roughly the same era, or subtle object oriented efforts in free improvisation. Bubbling textures and atonalities, blended with sounds from the natural environment, intermingle with staggering tonalities - ranging from the explicitly music to mimicry of birdsong - and rattling percussive passages, producing striking moments of abstraction that retain a remarkable sense of humanity and ease.
In many ways, Musiques Vertes offers new dimensions to those observations made by ethnomusicologist, Charles Duvelle, about the sonic resonance displayed between numerous forms of folk music and the attempts of the 20th Centurt avant-garde, producing something that is simultaneously both; a radical music of purpose and play, made by people who belong to everyday life. This is a visionary and joyous music that links the future with the past. A music of possibility, humanity, warmth and hope, that connects the actions of human creativity to nature and the tools it naturally produced.
Emerging in the final days of 2021, Holidays Records stunning vinyl reissue of Jean-Yves Bosseur’s Musiques Vertes is one of the most engrossing and wonderful listening experiences we’ve had all year. It’s pure magic. Including a stunning booklet that features extensive liner notes about each work and the processes and instruments that created it - in both English and French, as well as mesmerizing photos of some of the instruments and players, it’s impossible to recommend enough.