François Bayle; Cycle Bayle 15

François Bayle – “LA FORME DU TEMPS EST UN CERCLE” (“The Form of Time is a Circle”)
(1999 – 2001):
1. “concrescence
2. “si loin, si proche” (“so close, so far…”)
3. “tempi
4. “allures” (“paces”)
5. “cercles” (“circles”)

Magison MGCB 1501, Cycle Bayle 15. Duration: 59:30

The form of time, the shape of time… is a circle… meaning that you will return to the same temporal passage, if you travel long enough through this meeting-place of noses and necks! Time and Space is a rendezvous of noses and necks… If you feel someone breathing down your back, it might be… yourself!
Well, I don’t think many thinkers of today consider Time to be linear, moving in a ”straight” line from A to B, and the circle is one alternative to try to come to grips with this mysterious property of existence… However, I’d rather consider the passage of Time a spiral; you’re returning to the same basic, relative “position”, but it has changed, is layered, is another “same”, with another property of sameness…
Perhaps Bayle’s title of this work is also a consideration of the
Bardo Thödol; the Tibetan Book of the Dead, which has the purpose of guiding the newly deceased on through a limited “time” of purely spiritual after-life, either – for the rare cases – to Enlightenment and Liberation of the Wheel of Lives… or, for the vast majority of us, to a rebirth, which Bardo Thödol then is trying to make as positive as possible, our Karma considered.

This CD is of the greatest interest to the EA community, since it contains a new work by this hero of electroacoustics; François Bayle – who in fact is about to turn 70 at the time of this review (March 2002; the actual day being 25th March). Any new work entering our perception from the workshop of people like François Bayle or Karlheinz Stockhausen, for example, is eagerly welcomed, since anything that comes out of such a vast artistic experience of sound art is bound to harbor a lot of significance, brilliance, splendor - insights!

François Bayle at Eglise St Séverin, Paris
(Photo: Geneviève Bayle)

The sounds that initially arise out of the first part of Bayle’s “La forme du temps est un cercle” – “concrescence” – are flowing in a torrent of bubbly, boiling activity, in which the sound objects are grinding against each other in an energetic friction, conveying the vision of water gushing forth in a creek, hastily taking on the passing shapes of pebbles and rocks in its way, adapting its very temporal shape to any irregularities of the stream, or equipping you – according to your frame of reference – to the forceful and irresistible flux of ice in a Lapland glacier, creaking and crevassing in its inherent temporal shift. Different rhythmic layers move above and underneath each other, while shrill, sharp, short events move in the sky above darker, deeper, murmuring hell-hound audio, even making me think of the feelings that I once got from Åke Hodell’s “Ferry Across the River Styx” with its loud and ominous crows and blowing ship horns.
Bayle’s “
concrescence” later opens up a large crowd of talking people, simply adding a layer of humanity to the music, a town square humanity, representing this thin layer of flesh that covers the planet at the bottom of this bluish layer of oxygen that keeps the flesh-layer alive…
A piano shows up in rhythmic bits and pieces of blues or jazz or perhaps in a loose-knit Conlon Nancarrow mimicry, or even, maybe, like a friendly bow to Mr. Pierre Henry and his utilization of the piano in “
Le livre des morts egyptien”, adding a building block sense to the music, in which imaginary children of all times build a tower, tear down a tower, build a tower… and so forth…
The sounds of voices are but ingredients in a temporal sonic mix of many layers, in which Time and Sound show up like different aspects of a graph, or of a general stew of Time, good to eat a thousand years, like Allen Ginsberg might have put it in his writings of the 1950s!

Voices may seem familiar to the listener, simply because they’re human, but there is nothing of actual familiarity about vibrations reaching your tympanic membranes through the air, causing electrical charges to move up your auditory nerves into the depths of your brain, even though their origin is in another brain – similar to yours - which involuntarily has directed a gush of air up through a throat through a passage between vocal chords and a modulating oral cavity, through this alien music causing a feeling of comfortable – but illusionary! – familiarity to calm your senses.
I believe I heard Stockhausen say once that it was through his work in the WDR studios in the early 1950s that he learned about the nature of sound, down to the last timbre. It turns out everything we experience is but illusionary shapes, actually made up of minuscule electro-magnetic charges or mysterious vibrations, and life takes on a hallucinatory hue – but it is all so beautiful that I don’t care; I just let it happen, like it most likely is supposed to be happening – and this music by François Bayle, which has made me think all these thoughts and feel all this feelings, swirls around me like fresh whirlwinds of early spring!

Here and there I hear sounds of African drums, and some sounds, preceding another over-crowding crowd of talking people, remind me of “
Motion-Émotion” (1985), another work by Bayle, reissued as Volume 11 of Cycle Bayle.

Bayle is using the voices – the crowd! – as an instrument among instruments, as a color of his palette. It is brilliant! You experience the voices in Bayle’s crowd like you perceive the metronomes in György Ligeti’s “
Poème Symphonique für 100 Metronome” (1962), wherein you first just hear a rattling, soaring magnitude of clicks and harsh, sharp noises, but where you after a while begin to distinguish individual metronomes, individual rhythms in this maze of rhythms. It’s a good listening exercise, a crash course in the art of perception – and that is what this work by François Bayle is too; a crash course in the art of perception!

concrescence” eases down into the gentleness of a lullaby, softly repeating the same simple melody with the addition of some enchanted imaginary birds.

Bayle himself says about ”concrescence”:

A sound effervescence is established and fills the listening space like a gas, but at times it is as though there are holes, sudden amnesia, parasitical reminiscences. Some unreal segments of durations coming from nowhere appear. Strange multiples.

Bayle's drawings of his envisioned sounds of
"La forme du temps est un cercle"

In his essay “The Battle between Chronos and AïonGianfranco Vinay says:

La forme du temps est un cercle”, François Bayle’s most recent acousmatic poem, invites the listener to explore ’time in its various states, in five passages’ through very rich, poetic, philosophical sound images. […] In this first movement […] the sound image of ’a spinning top in the sky’ [alluding to Bayle’s piece ”Toupie dans le ciel” from “Erosphère” (1980) (reissued on Cycle Bayle Volume 1); oh, I remember my intense excitement at getting that first compilation CD “Concert Imaginaire” from the GRM way back when!!!] creates a vortex generating a long series of fluid images: liquid fluidity of running water, atmospheric fluidity of crickets, verbal fluidity of a crowded market-place, rhythmic fluidity of jazzy fragments, and finally the bucolic and wooded fluidity of a Pan flute […]; in Homer’s Hymn to Pan (verses 19 – 26) the ’nymphs that live in the mountains sing with a clear voice while dancing in rounds’, celebrating the god playing his flute.

Track 2 – part 2 of “La forme du temps est un cercle” – is “si loin, si proche” (“so close, so far…”). It’s pastoral feeling that opens up to your senses, with calm bells of a chapel or a church or a monastery, and the bells and the chirping garden birds transform your day into a Medieval dream, in wavy crystal glass visions of love and death, of plague and tender caresses, of poets, minstrels, bards passing through the muddy streets…
Glass beads are rolling down the declines of this dreamscape, wherein anguished faces are upturned like white prayers for mercy towards the endless empty skies of silence…
Suddenly the country scenery is seen through a magnifying glass; the passing flies and insects swirling right around your head as you rest in the grass, and Bayle’s electroacoustics fit right in, fly like sonic streamers in the wind across the meadow; the sunny wind that reflects from the bending blades of grass… and up above; the white summer clouds drifting in the wind – and you realize you’re inside the property of timelessness, in a grand NOW that never ends, reaching out in all directions from your own center point of existence…
The acousmatic scenery is an ever-changing layering of abstract aspects on life, confusing the listener’s perception, if he doesn’t let go and just float and soar in and out of phase, in and out of a meandering breath of colors that beautifies and mystifies… and the bells reappear like a memory of something long forgotten, of a peaceful state long since abandoned, or perhaps of something yet to come, of the Eloi of a future so far off that we cannot even imagine the abyss of time that opens up between them and us… Lonely calls out of a machinery alien to current forms of life reaches back in time to us, conveying cryptic messages of future cloudscapes of towering feelings, of psychological traits not yet experienced by mankind… and it’s as lonely and desolate as the wood of our furniture, longing for a long-last return to the forest and a process of decay among proud and tall trees who still let the winds whisper through their crowns… while a safe retreat for the mind is that pastoral meadow from where you can listen to the calm bells of bliss and fruitful family lives in a village somewhere in southern France, perhaps in 1912 or 1913, before the Storm…

François Bayle on “
si loin, si proche”:

The atmosphere alone carries the sound and its reflection… In the same way two tonalities are never more distant than when separated by a small interval, very different sonorities can easily fuse together. Yet, the more they resemble each other, the more they remain distinct.
Here, what appears to me as a song is the interplay of these associations-dissociations between close figures and distant images. Instantaneous perceptions grasp them like an odor. The animal-like nature of listening is on the right track, and by turning memory inside out, rediscovers hidden patterns and desires.
[…] The echo of the bells on the walls of an enclosed courtyard (and in particular those of the Saint-Séverin church that I have heard every day for the last 30 years, with, as a bonus, the chirping of the sparrows that answer back cadentially…) […] …the percussiveness of the wind, accents within the lines, smaller and smaller mutations, distances…

Concluding his essay text on “si loin, si proche”, Gianfranco Vinay states:

[The electroacoustic means applied by Bayle] ”make [the sound images] move around the acousmatic space, which – little by little – is transformed into a dream-like scene, into a mysterious and disquieting nocturnal.

The 3rd piece on the CD is simply titled “tempi”. It opens in a downward glissando, as short, swinging, passing shrills and grain-like bell sounds are transformed into gleaming samurai swords cutting through the air of distant Japanese mist fights in early mountain morns…
Percussive incisions and tapping of tin soldier drums lead over into bee-hive buzzing, or is it the hum of electricity through power-lines, or simply the current of the wiring of the electroacoustic machinery that is whirring? This section “
tempi” is less fluent and more cut-up, dissonant, than the preceding sections. Whispering and then tingling sensations reveal the possible presence of fairies and elves, who appear in shadings under the trees by the river, where playful spots of light move over the water.


Agitated, sliding entities. Subito-presto figures, almost slow gigues. Contracted stretches, contrary accents, widely separated points, harmonized single lines. Where are we, where are we? What is all this agitation, palpitation, alteration? Does all this trembling, swarming concern me? […] Am I the actual place of this temporal vibration?

Bayle's drawings of his envisioned sounds of
"La forme du temps est un cercle"

Gianfranco Vinay:

The 3rd and 4th movements are also connected by a mirror-play based on the relationship between homology and difference […] with all sorts of percussive sound objects: metal-sheet bells, metalophones, sleigh bells […], hand bells, drum heads, human voices and couching bouts, plucked instruments, air punctuated by breath… […] In the 3rd movement, the multiplicity of tempi-phenomena as well as of relationships between objects (sounds) and subject (creator) […] is expressed through shifts of silence and extremely varied animations, between the full and the void. Such a phenomenology of musical time is both very modern and very ancient (consider, for example, Saint Augustine’s sublime speculation in his Confessions on the relationship between musical time and the soul, between ‘internal time’ and ‘external time’

Movement no. 4 is called “allures” (“paces”). It seems inconspicuous enough at the outset, with distant curtain sounds, like northern lights across Lapland winter nights. An organ-like progression follows, in a space-organ guise, in which alien (spiritual?) beings perform sound worlds, which refract down the atmosphere like flickering, disturbed starlight, reaching our ears and brains in blurred appearances.
Loud but rounded percussive sounds introduce meandering, close beads of colored spheres, much like some of the early screen-savers of After Dark on my Macintosh, where the spheres filled up the screen in crowding beauty in the early 1990s.
Dark, bouncing rhythms gallop like horses through the Middle Ages, into states of mind where you’d just better be on your toes, all ears, wide awake with your sword drawn and ready, because I feel danger inside the spell that this music casts. There is a dark force somewhere inside these dangling tones, these glossy notes… but the soundscape opens up into a shamanistic dance, perhaps in a tribal African village, where the good medicine of the shaman and the rattling drums and the dancing crowd of dark shapes conjure up a lofty feeling of good power as the dust rises, to balance out the evil will that was felt right before.
Bayle takes this African drum dance and shoves it through his art, having it bend and wobble out of shape, out of whack, as the intensity tightens and glass shatters, the familiar sounds dispersing out in refracted remnants of timbres, falling all around like shattered crystal!

Bayle on “

What is pace? In Schaefferian ‘musique concrète’ solfeggio, it means the fluctuating quality that a sound maintains; the movement that animates the life of a resonance through an internal pulse […] In addition, the pace of manner of being is also that which can not hide any psychological flaws: that particular, awkward appearance, developed over experience (that of time)

Gianfranco Vinay:

In the 4th movement […] time becomes less Morse led, now that the author’s attention is concentrated on its pace […] This series of ‘inner pulsations’ is closer to the theoretical notion of Philoxenos’ chronos taxin (rhythm as a series of time measures) than to that of traditional rhythmics measured and codified by writing, based on mathematical proportions between time and notes’ durations. […]

The concluding section of “La forme du temps est un cercle” is “cercles”.
The beginning is a kick-ass alarm-like Bach toccata reverence, shortly introducing an even unevenness of grainy, pulsating, forth-welling fragments of time and sound, dispersed or seasoned with lighter, shiny, almost blinding shrills, and it’s like a massive flow of industrial diamonds rolling, gushing, welling down the sewage system of some future Morloch society with the post-human waste of worlds yet to appear…
There are clear sections, sub-movements, inside this section, and in one of them little figures, harp-sounding or perhaps zither-sounding, decorate the foreground in calligraphic, brief sweeps of the tonal brush, in front of a swaying, bulging wall of white noise, now and then glimmering and shining with pried-loose little fragments of identifiable timbres, shimmering on top of the grainy force, like fireflies flying in and out of dark crowns of leaves in North American August brancheries.
The autumn feeling is enhanced by cicada mimicries and the rustling worlds of electronic mirroring of insect worlds… like fragmented and dissociated memories of childhood in the mind of a schizophrenic youngster as he enters his hebephrenic shadow worlds… and the mental scenery opens up to a gentle embrace of gardens of the future, gardens of the past, where the unidentifiable present can rest in shimmering durations of timbral gentleness…

François Bayle on “

First the light hail of these ‘grains’ of time that trickle out as if from an hourglass and nibble at a steady duration, stimulating it like gusts of wind over water, slight accelerations within an immobile velocity.
Then, these sliding gusts that slowly rise, wandering in a circular manner, up the listening space…
Then, these figures, in constellation form that the wind encircles…
Then, these circles that grow larger, encircling themselves concentrically, stimulating one another, soothing one another…
Then, this fine grain that weaves its thread that itself gives substance and engulfs space…

It is readily understandable, this game could go on…

Gianfranco Vinay on “cercles”:

[“cercles”] begins with a circular image similar to a grain of energy spinning in an accelerator of particles. An image, not unlike that of the first movement’s ‘spinning top’, which provokes a chain and a concrescence of fluid sonorities. A regular clinking resonates in sidereal space, leading to a last repetition of fluid images, further and further distanced. […] Indeed… Pythagoras’ circle […] designates the geometric form of time controlled by Aïon, the god of vital fluid origins, and consequently that of the destiny of mortals and the durations of their lives […]. Two thousand years of Western music could be interpreted as a battle between two temporal principles; a Chronos time, linear and dialectic, expressing the theological orientation of Christian time (from the birth of Christ […] to the Apocalypse) and an Aïon time, circular, pagan […], always present in the collective unconscious as a reservoir of poetic and dream-like images; metamorphic and labyrinthine sequences. […] The fluidity of time, the circular nature of the sound images, the series of sound transformations in François Bayle’s most recent work demonstrate the composer’s vocation […] to let Aïon time triumphantly return during an epoch when Chronos time […] exercises its tyrannical powers, encouraged by the contemporary atomization of existential time.

Yes, it’s true; François Bayle’s music is poetry in motion; a swirling, meandering, insistent breath of life and after-life, in a vibrant recognition of this seemingly bizarre human dilemma of self-conscious existence in the space-time continuum. To see and to breathe! That was a key attitude of one of Sweden’s most original and un-read poets and aphorists; Vilhelm Ekelund (1880 – 1949), and I dare say this attitude permeates the oeuvre of master electroacoustician François Bayle too, who utilizes all the tools of contemporary electronic wizardry to pry deep into the secret worlds of existence, even down into the atomic jitter at the core of the mineral worlds, bringing back to our level of perception messages in disguise, in hues and nuances characteristic of the replies given by the Oracle of Delphi of old, always, as when we answer ourselves inside our dreams, offering metaphorical dreamscapes as responses to our all too concrete – and therefore unintelligible questions.

It is a great pleasure to realize that the Bayle adventure carries on undiminished, which this sublime release from
Magison amply demonstrates. We are eagerly looking forward to coming releases in the Cycle Bayle series, and we congratulate the composer on his 70th birthday!