Bernard Parmegiani R.I.P. (1927-2013)

I was 16 when I was turned on to the music of Parmegiani (along with so many other things, in the record shops of my youth) ; this at a time when anything that wasn't on Shrapnel or Leviathan (consisting of anything other than a bedroom-bound guitarist shredding through several multi-effects over "canned" sequencer-rock) was largely off my radar … but still, something about the chopped-up, rolling rhythms & keening electronics of "Capture éphemérè" seemed genuinely otherworldly, unhampered by earthly concerns or abilities (really, my gateway to the world of musical freedom(s) & a-temporality) ::

It wasn't again until the mid-90's, upon transferring to the (ultimately, too-good-to-be-true) Tower Records outpost in Harvard Square (from the Nanuet, then Boston locations) that I was confronted with Parmegiani again, this time via a stack of "cut-out" INA-GRM CD productions (a gift inherited from my predecessor, bought on a non-returnable basis from a distributor, marked down to the point where I could afford a stack … even on my $5.5 hourly wage) - this time I bonded with his proto-granular "La Création du Monde" - even after I'd decided to delve into electronic music production, still very much a mystery ::

In 2011, on a joint commission from Kontraste, Sonic Acts, and the GRM, I was invited to work in Paris at the Maison Radio France for a week on what would become "Rythmes Naturels" - I remember meeting the GRM's François Bonnet on the second day & asking about their collection of experimental instruments, specifically, "whatever the hell it was that Parmegiani used to make 'La Création du Monde'" - lo and behold the Publison ::

… this week was a major turning point for me, wherein I was given front-door access to the hallowed halls where Parmegiani, Bayle, Ferrari, etc. had all convened & executed such an amazing body of work. Parmegiani's ghost, pre-departure, loomed large in the hallways at night, & it was him I thought of the most during those sleepless nights, giddy as a schoolboy in FAO Schwarz on Christmas eve, barely containing my excitement & bewilderment on being allowed back in the next morning. It was an excitement fostered by the music itself, which, to be frank, remains the high-water mark of what can be done with the tape-studio as an instrument … its finesse & clarity unparalleled even 45 years after those initial pieces were issued. 

The recent vinyl issues of "L'oeil Ecoute," "Dedans Dehors," & the "De Natura Sonorum" suite have been crucial in turning on a new audience to his work, but I recommend clearing out a few days & contending with the "L'Oeuvre Musicale en 12" set straight-on (esp. the third disc) in a room free of distraction (this is not a music you can fully grasp with your attention divided) through a great stereo setup ; it's as significant & rewarding a listening experience as you're likely to have.