No, it's not Bob Moog

With the sad passing of the Big Boys' singer Randy "Biscuit" Turner on August 18th, a scant week after my posting of some of their classic punk tuneage, I began to fret about a Moistworks curse. Hoping to reverse that with a post-mortem homage, I present selections from one of the most crucial electronic composers of the 20th century, who passed away last week as well.

No, it's not Bob Moog (who will no doubt get all of the obituary notices in the papers), but French composer Luc Ferrari, who passed away on August 22nd at the age of 76. Here is not the place to delve into the vast and chameleonic body of work the man created, first in the company of Groupe de Recherches Musicales in the late 50s, working alongside Pierres Schaeffer and Henry as they created musique concrete (a music based on the focus of sound itself instead of Western compositional conceits), of which "Visages V" is an early example, sure to appeal to fans of Black Dice and noise.

He soon after founded his own studio, but also took his recorders out of the scrubbed-clean studio confines and into the messy world lying beyond the doorstop. Field recordings became a component of his sound, as he crafted tapes of shepherds, children talking, overheard jazz ensembles heard out on an evening stroll, the ambient clangs of village chores to make a music less like the bubbling electronic music of the era and more like Impressionistic paintings, suggesting a story or color wash or village scene through sound, with the presence of the creator nearly-invisible. Not everything he did was so tranquil: see the tense orchestrated minimalism of "Tautologos 3," the sudden stabs of "Presque Rien No.2," and the naughty electronics of sapphic whispers and tingling drones of "Danses Organiques."

Some excerpts from an interview done with Dan Warburton for the Paris Transatlantic in 1998:

On studying serialism in Darmstadt after the World War II:

"We were coming out of a total mess, emerging from violence... Darmstadt was in ruins. It really disturbed me to see a country like that, demolished to such a degree. Terrifying. But there were some smashing girls! You had to choose between serialism and girls. (Pause) I chose girls."

On songs:

"Songs don't interest me a lot. I trust the spoken voice, but not the singing voice. What I prefer is spontaneity."

On creating "Presque Rien No.1," a low-key, barely perceptible masterpiece of the genre

"What's nice about the 'Presque Rien' is that you really notice the things you hear, and eventually there's a moment where sounds stand out more than they normally would. Our bedroom window looked out on a tiny harbour of fishing boats. It was very quiet. At night the silence woke me up-that silence we forget when we live in a city. I heard this silence which, little by little, began to be embellished..."

On revisiting old pieces from his six-decade career:

"It depends, sometimes. When we move house!"