Since their launch in 2017, the Paris based imprint, Transversales Disques, has done the seemingly impossible. Not only have they carved out an entirely singular place in the contemporary landscape of reissues and archival releases, but they’ve raised the bar. Largely focusing on previously unreleased recordings and works, one after another, they’ve built an astounding catalog of efforts by seminal artists like Bernard Parmegiani, Philip Glass, François Bayle, Ennio Morricone, Igor Wakhevitch, and many more, helping us challenge the notions of history as it was previously build. Now, following hot on the heels of their recent, revelatory collection of works made by Ariel Kalma at GRM during the 1970s, they’re back with another body of astounding, previously unheard gems - Photophonie, a selection of works spanning the years 1973-1992, from the unpublished archives of Luc Ferrari, one of the great titans of 20th century electronic, electroacoustic, and avant-garde sound.
Across the expanse of 20th century avant-garde and experimental music, few have achieved the towering importance of Luc Ferrari. Born in 1929, and a student of Alfred Cortot, Olivier Messiaen, and Arthur Honegger, despite the accomplishments of his early atonal efforts for piano, like so many of his generation, an almost utopian belief in the potential of sound was to blossom from an early fascination with electronics, ultimately becoming the source of his most singular and influential voice. Following an encounter with Edgard Varèse in 1954, he adopted the practice of Musique Concrète, before taking part in the founding of legendary studio, Group de Recherches Musicales (GRM), in 1958, with Pierre Schaeffer and François-Bernard Mâche.
Over the course of his career, Ferrari, like most of his peers at GRM, sought new forms of democratic access and interface for avant-garde music, and worked across multiple forms - instrumental works, vocal music, text scores, electronic and electroacoustic music, radio plays, theatre, and films, attempting to bring its wonders into more lives. Photophonie, drawn from the composer’s unpublished archives, collects many of the great gems of his largely unrecognized commercial, commissioned, and ‘secret’ music, made between the years 1973-1992. These four works, carefully selected and curated across the LP’s two sides, defy the standard assumptions of what one might expect from an avant-garde composer bending themselves into the expectations and utility of more commercial realms. There is no compromise. None of the edges are rounded off. Each as challenging and creatively rigorous as anything within Ferrari’s larger body of work. Bristling electronic textures and tones, weave abstract expanses, threaded by field recordings and vocal interventions, pushing the mind into uncharted realms.
>Inevitably as rewarding for devoted fans of Ferrari or electronic and electroacoustic music at large, as it is for those at the beginning of their explorations of this remarkable world, Photophonie is an absolutely stunning and revelatory collection. It confounds the mind to wonder how each of these works have remained unreleased for so long. Bare witness to one of the great composers of the 20th century, bend the commission and commercial world to his incredibly forward thinking and optimistic will. Absolutely essential on every count. A joy to the mind as much to the ear. We have to take our hat off to Transversales Disques.
They’ve done it again.