Photo: Alex Woodward

Jean-Philippe Gross & Jerome Noetinger

Duo performance by two great French musique concrète improvisers using feedback, contact mics, tape, an old Revox tape machine, a vintage synth…

Jean-Philippe creates arcing electric feedback with a mixer, "located speakers", maybe a cymbal. Jérôme uses contact mics, a Walkman, an old Revox tape machine, another mixer, a vintage synth… Exhilarating, high-energy, dynamic; full of malfunctioning crackle. 

Jérôme is a central figure in French experimental music: editor of the influential Revue et Corrigee magazine, member of the film/ sound performance group la Cellule d’Intervention Metamkine (Who we’ve had at KYTN and on our KYTN tour.), proprietor of Metamkine  ( - of one of Europe’s best distributors of experimental music (who also released the incredible cinema pour l’orielle (Trans’: cinema for the ears.) series of mini-cd’s), and one of the Europe’s great electro-acoustic musicians. Jean-Philippe is maybe part of the next generation of French electro-acoustic musicians.  In a relatively short period of time he’s built up a fine solo and collaborative approach. While not as well known as we think he should be, we’re very big fans of his work.


What are they doing?


Jean-Philippe uses a mixing board, mics, small speakers often with what looks like 7”s or cymbals jammed in them and an analogue synth, he has a honed interest in feedback and produces music teeming with arcing electric jolts, agricultural machine clatter, dense organic static and dusty rumblings, quavering bursts of pneumatic breath and what could be some form of inspired blowtorching.


Jérôme uses magnets, pre-recorded reel-to-reel and/ or C90 tapes, walkmans, an analogue synth and a host of small electric devices (I’ve seen him use contact mic’s on a laptop and even on a electric hand drill to great effect). At INSTAL they are using the 6-way PA, that we’ve specifically had installed in the Arches, to improvise a dynamically spatial performance.


Why is it interesting?


So these guys specialise in what you’d call electro-acoustic music and/or Musique Concrète.  They’re very good at it.  Musique Concrète is an important movement in music, which while having precedents in Soviet Futurism, was given firm conceptual ground by Pierre Schaeffer (Schaffer specifically outlined an idea of acousmatic sound: something you hear without hearing its cause.  The name comes from the akousmatikoi, sort of like first year students of Pythagoras, who the great man had sit behind a curtain in silence, so that they might better concentrate on what he had to teach them.) in France, in the 50’s.  It’s important as it’s a significant break with meaning and the visual associations within music, and a bold move towards appreciating the qualities of sound for sounds sake. 


Here’s a good quote from Schaeffer. “Often surprised, often uncertain, we discover that much of what we thought we were hearing, was in reality only seen, and explained, by the context.” The truth of which every Foley artist the world over knows, without the visual stimulus of seeing a man punching a side of beef, it might not immediately sound like a man punching a side of beef. Maybe then we can listen to sound and appreciate it for what it is in itself, rather than the things, actions, materials that make it. And of course, there is a grand tradition of Musique Concrète composition: academic, supported by research staff, big studios, sound libraries, funding grants and so on; pre-recorded and diffused (I.e. played back from tape, which can still sound incredible, as you’d hope anything pre-planned would.) live. 


While sounding like, and developing on this tradition, Jerome and Jean-Philippe start with nothing but experience, everything is improvised: the meshing of sounds, their superimposition, morphing of something into something else, recognisable sounds devoid of context, extreme spatial panning, huge, expanded dynamics: fragmentary detail, quiet and subtle right on through to super-calm and restrained through to restless and ferocious noise. Also, they are both additional examples of turning equipment into instruments: those old Revox reel-to-reel tape decks, walkmans, upturned speakers and mic’s jammed together I mentioned above.  That is, things that were intended, designed and manufactured for the accurate and undistorted storage of sound and/or it’s presentation, are turned into instruments with sound all their own.  That’s not just a welcome instance of handyman abilities from our ever-resourceful French cousins.  I also think that like any other productive activity, art requires that artists have the proper tools in order to do a proper job.  This often requires the intervention and invention of artists themselves (because who else would know what was needed?)

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