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    Pierre Henry – The Art of Sounds

    Pierre Henry - The Art of Sounds

    When one thinks of the most common male names in the United States, Mike and Dave immediately come to mind. In France, it’s all about Pierre, and in avant-garde circles, the two most well-known Pierres brandish the last names Schaeffer and Henry. The former invented musique concrete, a symphony of cacophonous everyday sounds, in 1948. The latter became his first disciple and helped expose this radical new artform to the public throughout the subsequent decades. Fast forward to 2007. Pierre Henry has aged into quite a charming old man who, with his long, grey beard, resembles a modern day French Santa Claus brandishing a huge sack full of audio treats that he enthusiastically delivers to adventurous listeners around the globe.

    The Art of Sounds is a 2007 documentary mainly comprised of a voice-over interview with the composer layered upon a variety pack of footage shot by a video camera following him around Paris. One minute, he’s collecting new sound clips in a tunnel, while the next finds him sitting at the mixing board in concert and his home studio. Speaking of that, Pierre Henry lives in the raddest-looking house ever! All of the walls are completely covered with complex, colorful geometric patterns and myriad framed collages composed of discarded electronic equipment and other assorted bric-a-brac. Scores of books line endless shelves throughout this labyrinth, along with thousands of reels of quarter-inch magnetic tape–each containing its own unique sound samples recorded by Pierre and housed in a meticulously labeled box. The film occasionally cuts away to live performances from the 1960s through the 2000s–many of them featuring modern ballet dancers flitting about, contorting and undulating their bodies in sync with Pierre’s free-form noises, which is great to see.

    The bonus features include footage of a 2003 loudspeaker concert of Veil of Orpheus from 1953, which, visually, makes no sense, as it consists solely of the composer twiddling knobs and sliding faders at the mixing table. You may as well close your eyes and just listen. Another long clip of Pierre and his assistants puttering around adjusting the equipment before the concert is even more underwhelming. Luckily, the best was saved for last: a fantastic black and white avant-garde short from 1966 called Le Candidat, in which “politics, fiction, mystery and Wellsian lyricism meet.” Soundtracked by Pierre, an endless array of gorgeously shot scenes shift abruptly from desolate beaches to weirdly modern interior spaces to indecipherable public gatherings to close-ups of strikingly beautiful faces, forming one hell of a beautifully confusing, surreal whole. All in all, The Art of Sounds is a fine DVD that deserves a prominent place on the shelf of any fan of experimental whatsis.

    Label: Ideale Audience Catalog Number: DVD9DS43 Format: DVD Packaging: Plastic case Total Time: 109:00 Country: France Released: 2007 More: Amazon, All Music, Discogs, Forced Exposure, Hyper Real, Ed Maurer, Wikipedia

    Text ©2011 Arcane Candy

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