François Bayle; Cycle Bayle 14

François Bayle – “Camera oscura” (1976, rev. 2000) – “Espaces inhabitables” (1967).
Magison MGCB 1400 Cycle Bayle 14. Duration: 56:26.

The well-merited and highly interesting series Cycle Bayle on François Bayle’s own label Magison continues its important act of diffusion of some of the most eclectic and fluent electroacoustics in the history of the genre. This series really is indispensable to anyone interested in electroacoustic music of the extremely influential, poetic French style, of which Bayle’s oeuvre is a dominant sub-genre, in a style adhering to the general French poetry of sound – yes, by and large having shaped the idiom – but also carrying its very special own characteristics of style and grace.

On the 14th issue Bayle has chosen to present older works, the first - “
Camera oscura” – first realized in 1976, but having undergone a revision by the composer as late as 2000. The work comes in seven parts; the first one called “Seven preludes”: “sequenza”, “smorzando”, “staccato”, “toccata”, “vibrato”, “rubato”, “ripiento”, and the second one titled “labyrinth”. In the vein of the French tradition it is a long work; almost 39 minutes. Bayle says, referring to the titles of the “preludes”, that those titles (indications) are to be taken seriously, and that “they concern the right attitude of hearing that one should adopt to be able to hear with all the necessary cheerfulness”. François Bayle continues: “A sound character appears several times throughout the work like a human modulo, as to provide a reference, a scale”.
The composer provides many interesting theoretical aspects of his music, and I direct the curious reader and listener to the booklet.

I am not surprised by the delicacy of the brittle and beautifully timbred glass sounds that starts the piece. This is Bayle! He binds all these small sounds together in wonderful strands of radiant colors, laying the light-breaking crystals out like strings of prayer prisms, having the different characteristics of sound fan out in a dispersed manner, similar to the way the sound poet treats the morphemes of sentences… and the auditory droplets fall like hardening precipitation of steel in an imaginary Le Clézio desert…
The glassy sounds morph into giant bells of Partchian cloud chamber bowls, and a murmur of intensifying persistence spread the backdrop for the faster events up close, soon displaying all the magnificence of the Bayle sound cache; one of the mightiest and most detailed in the business!
You’re lured into – or simply brought into – an enchanted bird song environment, then on a dive into miniscule insect worlds, through which the misplaced echoes of a ping-pong match swirl!

Francois Bayle

The ingenuity of François Bayle is amazing, and I can’t but marvel at this sound world! The small, faint – but close – sounds of wretched, bent goings-on tie you up in celluloid until your vision blurs! This really kicks ass, kicks mind! Bayle gets right inside your brain, rearranging the cerebral order until your hearing is modified beyond expectations and control! His scalpel of auditory incisions is sharp and precise. He drops perfect ice cubes on sheets of brass in sideway lightings, and it’s cold and it’s shiny, and the resulting sound is golden like the reflections of the pagodas of Eastern visions in Terry Riley’s “Persian Surgery Dervishes”.
Bayle lures an animistic flow of impulses out of the sounding objects. His fingers push them gently towards perfection, towards purely abstract worlds of emotional and intellectual vibrancy, sort of prying open a secret place of raw existence, the starting point of matter and matter’s spiritual radiance…
These surging flows of audio cannot be dealt with in traditional ways. It has to be experienced in the manner of abstract art, and as such it emits sparks of basic existence, basic flow of energy through our bodily manifestations on this rolling sphere in the unfathomable voids of space… “We are stardust, we are golden…”
Sometimes Bayle’s music feels like reminiscences of worlds to come, of lives to pass through later, not yet here – and anything which isn’t eternal isn’t very real… but this music behaves in me like faint echoes – like Northern lights – of that eternal existence of which we must be a part, because if not, everything has already ended, because as I said: Anything that isn’t eternal isn’t very real!

Much glass - bulging, whining, flowing, bending, dancing, swirling, hovering; singing! – constitutes an important characteristic of “
Camera oscura”, and this brings us down into the grains of sand, down into the inner life of minerals beneath the shooting sparks of electricity that span the mineral sky, deep down in the core of matter! Bayle gets on the inside of the inside, and fauns and fairies get inside your auditory meatus, ringing their little tinnitus bells of brass and bronze, elevating your senses into the higher levels of yourself, where your being is directly connected to the All, vibrant in the flow of universal energy; the breath of God – and the material worlds exist in the condensation of God’s breath on the mirror of Spirit.

Bayle says that the second piece on this CD – “
Espaces inhabitables” (“Uninhabitable Spaces”) (1967) was his first real work, pushing him in the direction that he has headed ever since.
Espaces inhabitables” is divided into the following parts: “jardins de rien”, “géophonie”, “hommage a Robur”, “le bleu du ciel” and “amertumes”. He explains a little about the character of the parts, here using the English translations of their titles:
Gardens of Nothing: […]…was my first deliberate attempt at organizing dynamic processes […]: “the order of solids: notes on a zither, attack/resonance, descending chromatic figures; the order of fluids: the sound of trodden gravel, the murmur of waves, sudden movements dissolving, […] a reminder of rake traces in a Zen garden
Geophony, […] a plastic construction in a futuristic style of vast sound blocks…”
Homage to Robur, […] from vague to distinct, from muffled to distinct… […] pulsation and its echoing answers…”
The Blue of the Sky works on a constant melodic equivocal, a drawing easily spotted, though concealed by harmonics.”
Bitterness [amertumes] is to be understood as a continuation of Gardens of Nothing, delayed by the insertion of the other movements. The previous dynamic species are found again at the end of a long preamble of harmonic mist and informal rustles”.

Harmonic mist and informal rustles”… That is the language of a master of the nuances, down to the last audible vibration of sound in all its possible timbral spectras.
It is a wonder that this music was done and shaped as early as 1967. Had I heard it then I would not have known at all how to relate, so I probably wouldn’t have related at all. It would have passed me by through the blank stages of ignorance… However, after decades of exploration into the vast expanses and deep crevasses of music – old and new – it is a treat to indulge oneself in François Bayle’s “
Espaces inhabitables”.
The zither renders the piece a touch of antiqueness. Different kinds of zithers are useful in electroacoustic compositions, due to their timbres, but also to the associations the sound of a zither might give the listener. It has to do with past epochs and also, sometimes, eastern connections. There are many layers of human culture embedded in the overtones of a zither. Tommy Zwedberg used an old Swedish zither in his award-winning “
Hanging” (1984). Ingvar Karkoff used the Indian instrument sarangi much to the same effect in his electroacoustic piece “Sarangi” in 1985. Watery swirls and bulging, nauseating zither tones pan wildly, and gravel growls grind gruesome gestures out of the web of sound. Rocky events remind mo of a much later work; Gabriel Poulard’s “La Mémoire des Pierres” (1988) – which in fact, in some ethereal way, was inspired by Martin Heidegger! Evidently these composers mentioned have been amply inspired – electroacoustically – by François Bayle.
The “
géophonie” part instills in me quite fond memories of my years at a steel works in Sweden, where I occupied myself with a number of jobs in the 1960s and 1970s. Bayle’s music gives me these flashes of giant halls with distant roofs disappearing in the dusty air on high, where overhead crane creep like enormous threats. Sunlight through dirty windows way up under the roof cast rays of light diagonally down into the inferno of thundering activity, where intense showers of welding sparks fountained while giants trucks moved like ancient beasts through the jungle of steel…
Hommage a Robur” has a certain muffled rhythm and persistence to it, as from objects in space rubbing against each other on a journey through time and thought… or from worn and wood-bent drawers being opened and closed in a crofter’s holding somewhere in a backwards part of the land… The sounds are basically brownish, grayish – screeching in a wooden way, reminding me of some works by Ákos Rózmann, even though Bayle’s grinding wood blocks aren’t quite as brute and invading as Rózmann’s… Rózmann’s wood is dry, while Bayle’s is wetted, moist… and there is an evening meadow mist around Bayle’s sound, hiding it from direct view, even though you can clearly sense the body of the sound inside that mist…
Le bleu du ciel” comes on in slow, subdued gestures of a tinkling piano, which apparently staggers across the stage in a desperate spark of energy from Hades and its chained inhabitants… Careful spectral screeches worthy Iancu Dumitrescu stretches concretisms that Bayle has caught on his reel-to-reel. Watch out for strings of the sorceress! We are lured into dangerous, ominous environments, and the only way to fight this spell is with another spell! Conjure up all your magic abilities!