Gamma Plus!

Jean Schwarz
(photo: Isabelle de Rouville)

Jean SchwarzGamma PlusINA e 5006.
Duration: 28:25

Jean Schwarz has always been the wild man of the GRM, and also of Celia, his own label. He’s been a little rougher, with a little more edge, a little more… angry energy! His musical domiciliary rights are not only in the realms of electroacoustics, but also in jazz and extra-European traditions, for instance through his engagement in the Department of ethnomusicology at the Musée de l’Homme in Paris. These different disciplines show up in Schwarz’s works. The jazz influences can for example be easily detected in “Suite Symphonique” (1988). One of the parts of that piece is even named “Gil” after Gil Evans. “Anticycle” (1972) is an example of the extra-European influences. Here Schwarz uses some of the percussion instruments from Musée de l’Homme collection. In fact, in the LP jacket of the original release of “Gamma PlusSchwarz provides information about his influences. He says they're primarily his father, Willy Schwarz, the conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler, musique concrète pioneer Pierre Schaeffer, rue de l'Université (the University street), Musiques traditionelles (Musée del'Homme), Bud Powell, Charlie Parker and percussion!

These varied influences result in a very interesting electroacoustic music. The influences are not always immediately traceable, but the attitude in Schwarz’s works is maybe freer than usual, resulting from his broad experiences.

This CD from
Groupe de Recherches Musicales is a re-release of a vinyl that originally was released in 1983. The LP contained “Suite N” (1982) in addition to this work; “Gamma Plus”. The latter piece was created in 1979.

This is a recording of a performance of the piece by the famous trio of electroacoustics; TM+. This trio was formed in 1977 with the sole purpose of giving concert performances of electroacoustic music. The members of the TM+ trio are well-known personalities in the electroacoustic community: Laurent Cuniot, Denis Dufour & Yann Geslin).

The music starts with a low buzzing as if locusts in the trees outside the Celebration restaurant in Dallas, Texas, until the sounds move over into more readily musical sounds, prolonging themselves in a winding, rolling spiral through space, like the superstrings of the latest cosmological explanations of the universe and all its contents. However, soon enough little breaches are cut through the vibrating bands, in short, birdlike chirps, and the intensity of the superstrings’ vibrations intensify.

Jean Schwarz
photo: Stéphane Ouzounoff
(color adaption: I. L. Nordin)

Somehow this music gives me associations to the xöömej (khoomei) singing of Tuva and Mongolia, where overtones cuts loose and form melodies of their own above the basic melodic line, making this Schwarz endeavor an east-west venture. It’s amazing that this in fact is a recording of a live performance. I wonder what that might have looked like! I wish I’d been there! The musical events are so collected and coherent, while at the same time progressing in an adventurous manner along the timeline, that you’d think a live performance would be impossible – but here it is.

The music slows down, stops to a halt in an imaginary forest, and sounds start to build from a center, slowly revolving around itself, until the line starts vibrating again, with a penetrating sound, mangling your mind, but after a while slowly and gradually disappearing into a dark silence, only inhabited by some shrill chirps.

The beginning of this piece has many similarities with the early (1967) electronic work “
What??” by Swedish composer and musician Folke Rabe, which has been re-released on a CD from Chicago label Dexter’s Cigar (dex12).

Trio TM+ : Laurent Cuniot, Yann Geslin & Denis Dufour
(photo: Guy Vivien)

Schwarz says about “Gamma Plus”: “A chord in E major enriched with the series of the first harmonics establishes the underlying structure at the beginning of the piece”. Later on he says: “Part two uses broken up and transformed sound materials and brings them into play”. Then he finishes by saying: “A sweeping introduction with multiple timbres turns into a rhythmic interplay based on a single material: a universe of machines in an industrial machine factory”. There you go!