Friday, January 22, 2010

We want a wild and ephemeral music


Iannis Xenakis, who is seen above, appeared at the Centre Universitaire expérimental de Vincennes in February 1969. During the événements of May 1968 the graffiti slogan Xenakis not Gounod was scrawled on the walls of the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris. The experimental university at Vincennes on the eastern outskirts of Paris was created by the French government as an open and self-governing college following the 1968 riots.

Xenakis' open session at Vincennes on February 25 1969 took place three days before newly elected President Richard Nixon arrived in Paris, the first US president to visit France in eight years. During his visit Nixon met with French President Charles de Gaulle twice. De Gaulle resigned in April 1969, his reputation tarnished by his handling of the events of 1968, and he died in November of the following year. Richard Nixon resigned in 1974 following the Watergate scandal. As another Paris slogan of 1968 said - No replastering, the structure is rotten.

As one would expect from a soixante-huitard blog, Xenakis is a regular fixture On An Overgrown Path and he composes in glass here. But why can't we have Xenakis and Gounod? Charles Gounod's later rococo indulgences may not be to all tastes, but there are some wonderful things in his early music and his sparse contrapuntal Messe Chorale with its use of Gregorian themes is a delight from start to finish.

The rare Messe Chorale is available on the CD below with the Ensemble Vocal de Lausanne directed by Michel Corboz and organist Marie-Claie Alain in a coupling with a two organ transcription of Saint-Saëns' equally rare and delightful Mass Op. 4. At less than £5 on Warner's Apex label you can buy it with the budget Naïve Xenakis box I featured here recently to get Xenakis and Gounod plus a Saint-Saëns bonus for remarkably little.


To remind us of those heady (in the clouds?) days here is yet another slogan from May 1968:
We want a wild and ephemeral music.
We propose a fundamental regeneration:
concert strikes,
sound gatherings with collective investigation.
Abolish copyrights: sound structures belong to everyone.
The experimental university at Vincennes closed in 1979, the site was razed and no physical traces of it remain today. The more conventionally structured Nanterre University, which was at the centre of the 1968 unrest, has gone from strength to strength and numbers centre-right President Nicolas Sarkozy among its graduates. Nanterre is profiled here.

The Apex CD of Gounod and Saint-Saëns Masses was bought at retail years ago. Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report broken links, missing images and errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk

2 comments:

Bruce Hodges said...

Fantastic graphics on that Xenakis poster! Thanks so much for a) locating it (where did you find it?) and b) for putting it up.

And just for the record, no reason not to enjoy both Gounod and Xenakis, at least in my house.

Pliable said...

Bruce, many thanks for your kind comments.

Unfortunately I have pulled the poster from the article and replaced it with a photo of Xenakis which is striking if not quite as powerful.

I have had the poster image for some time and was working on the assumption that as it had been freely and publicly distributed around Paris in 1969 there would be no copyright hassles with it.

On reflection I do not think that was the right decision. I am not clear what the copyright position on that image is but am aware that it comes from France where the rights of the creator are staunchly protected.

So better safe than sorry, and a different image on the post. With apologies to readers and any possible copyright holders.

Vive l'exception culturelle!