NMSAT :: Networked Music & SoundArt Timeline

1929 __ « Recorded noises. Tomorrow's instrumentation »
Bérard (1885-1942)
Comment : Which is far more than what can be said of this other symphony that I came across some time ago while working on the metalanguage paper, the subject of which led me to dwell in a somewhat haphazard way along the back alleys and through the caverns and crypts of the history of twentieth century music. It is in the general context of the italian futurists and Luigi Russolo's intonarumori (noise makers), that several authors mention the french composer Carol-Bérard, who was born in Marseille in 1885, and died in Paris in 1942. Apart from being an innovative composer, Carol-Bérard seemed firmly integrated in the world of classical music of his days. He regularly wrote, for example, concert reviews for french newspapers, and occupied several music related administrative key positions. In 1929 he published a paper with the title "Recorded noises. Tomorrow's instrumentation", in Modern Music, the quarterly journal of the american League of Composers, which was published in New York from 1924 to 1946, and aimed at informing musicians and the (american and european) public about the new idioms and styles of twentieth century music. "Why, and I have been asking this for fifteen years," Carol-Bérard writes in his article, "are phonograph records not taken of noises such as those of a city at work, at play, even asleep? Of forests, whose utterance varies according to their trees a grove of pines in the Mediterranean mistral has a murmur unlike the rustle of poplars in a breeze from the Loire? Of the tumult of the crowds, a factory in action, a moving train, a railway terminal, engines, showers, cries, rumblings?" ( *** ) It is not a big surprise to see Carol-Bérard posing these questions, as he was the man that, according to several sources, some twenty years earlier (some say it was in 1908, others in 1910), composed a Symphonie des Forces Mécaniques (Symphony of Mechanical Forces), in which - again according to 'sources' - he made use of 'motors, electric bells, whistles and sirens'. This obviously makes Carol-Bérard appear as a futuriste avant-la-lettre. Russolo's manifest 'The Art of Noise', as you will know, was written in 1913. Unfortunately, apart from this handed down information about the work's name and some of its unusual instrumentation, nothing whatsoever seems to be known about it. Even worse. Apart from the writings mentioned above, hardly anything substantial can be found at all about the life and work of Carol-Bérard. (Actually, it seems that 'Carol' is his first name, and 'Bérard' his family name, though mostly one finds - curiously- his name spelled with the '- ' connecting the two ... Of course I am not an historian, and have no ambition whatsoever to become one, but my curiosity was definitely roused. The man led obviously a pretty public life and must have spent much of it in Paris. So why is it that there is so little trace of it left to be found? I started by contacting the library at the Cité de la Musique, who quickly replied that they did not have any documents by or related to Carol-Bérard. They suggested me to contact the Bibliothèque Nationale, who, as I was told, kept the 'fonds Carol-Bérard'. But at the Bibliothèque Nationale that did not ring a bell. They did tell me however that the library of the musée de l'Opéra kept several documents. The online search of that library's catalogue however does not bring up more than a piano score ('Impressions', dated 1903) and 9 letters written to Carol-Bérard by Albert Roussel. No more than that, though. Not the slightest hint of anything related to a 'Symphonie des Forces Mécaniques' and many of his other works 'of a modern tendency and often exotic inspiration' (Cited by Marc Battier in "Bruit et Modernité", a talk he gave at the Sorbonne, Paris, December 2007), as they are characterized in the short necrology that appeared in the Revue de Musicologie shortly after Carol-Bérard in december 1942, unexpectedly, passed away in Paris. Is it because Carol-Bérard died unexpectedly, and in the turmoil of an occupied France in the midst of Second Great War? What happened to his 'legacy', what happened to all the man's papers, manuscripts and music? Has there ever been a performance of his mysterious symphony? Is there a score of the 'Symphonie des Forces Mécaniques'? Would there still be some paper or document around that might tell us a bit more about it? Well, as a matter of fact: there is ... On june 25th of last year there was an auction in Paris which included as its 222nd item a letter by the french sculptor Antoine Bourdelle, glued inside an album amicorum, which apart from the letter contains contributions and dedications by Jules Massenet, Sarah Bernhardt, Henri Bergson and many more poets, politicians, artists ... But what of course really caught my eye, was that as part of the description of all these celebrities' entries in the "book of friends", it reads: "Le compositeur Carol BERARD a exécuté en pleine page un important fragment de sa 'Symphonie des Forces Mécaniques' " ... (I'm sure that even those of you that don't understand french, will grab the meaning of this phrase.) That's the good news. The bad news is that at the moment when by pure chance I stumbled upon the description of that auctioned item, the sale had been over six months ago already, and the liber amicorum containing a sketch / description (?) of (part of) the symphony in Carol-Bérard's own hand was sold. It now must be part of some or someone's (?) collection. How can I arrange to have a look at it? Ask for a copy or a picture of that page? I sent an email to the auction house. Then not getting a reply, I phoned them up. I was told by the girl that answered the phone that (of course) she was not allowed to disclose information about buyers. So I asked whether she would not want to do the contacting, explain, and ask the buyer whether (s)he would not want to contact me ... please ...? She said she would, but that has been a while already. I will have to try again. Soon I will pass by at their office and ask, insist, once again ... (Harold Schellinx aka HarS)
Original excerpt 1 : « If noises were registered [recorded], they could be grouped, associated and carefully combined as are the timbres of various instruments in the routine orchestra, although with a different technique. We could then create symphonies of noise that would be grateful to the ear. There are plenty of symphonies today which are anything but agreeable, while there are at large and unregistered, a myriad of delightful sounds the voices of the waves and trees, the moving cry of a sailing vessels rigging, an airplane gliding down, the nocturnal choruses of frogs around a pool. [...] Why, and I have been asking this for fifteen years, are phonograph records not taken of noises such as those of a city at work, at play, even asleep? Of forests, whose utterance varies according to their trees a grove of pines in the Mediterranean mistral has a murmur unlike the rustle of poplars in a breeze from the Loire? Of the tumult of the crowds, a factory in action, a moving train, a railway terminal, engines, showers, cries, rumblings? ». »
Original excerpt 2 : « Si les bruits étaient enregistrés, ils pourraient être groupés, associés et soigneusement combinés, comme on le fait avec les timbres des différents instruments de l’orchestre conventionnel, mais à l’aide d’une technique différente. Nous pourrions ainsi créer des symphonies de bruits qui seraient plaisantes pour l’oreille. On compte plusieurs symphonies aujourd’hui qui sont loin d’être agréables, alors qu’il existe une myriade de sonorités charmantes, toujours en liberté et pas encore enregistrées : la voix des vagues et des arbres, les touchantes plaintes des gréements d’un navire, le son d’un avion qui plane avec grâce, les chœurs nocturnes des grenouilles autour d’une mare. [...] Pourquoi, et je demande cela depuis quinze ans, n’y a-t-il pas de disques de phonographes de bruits : la ville au travail, au jeu, assoupie? des forêts, dont les sonorités dépendent des essences des arbres – un bosquet de pins dans le Mistral méditerranéen a un murmure autre que celui du bruissement des peupliers dans la brise de la Loire ? du tumulte de la foule, d’une usine en pleine activité, d’un train en marche, d’une gare de chemin de fers, de moteurs, de la pluie, de cris, du tonnerre ?. » (Translated from English by Marc Battier)
Source : Carol-Bérard, « Recorded noises. Tomorrow's instrumentation », Modern Music vol.6, n°2, 1929, p. 28-29.
Source : Battier, Marc (2007), “Bruit et modernité — Le surgissement du bruit industriel dans la conscience artistique au tournant du vingtième siècle. Phonographie des bruits artificiels et naturels et conception créative. La domestication des bruits comme source musicale et le bruitisme. Le bruit des machines à la naissance de la musique électroacoustique. La musicalisation du bruit”, Conférence du 12 décembre 2007.
Source : Battier, Marc (2006), "Des unanimistes à l'art sonore : quand la littérature, l'art et la musique recréent la technologie", in Musique et Modernité en France (1900-1945), Observatoire International de la Création Musicale, Les Presses de l'Université de Montréal, chap. 15, pp. 389-415.
Urls : http://www.harsmedia.com/SoundBlog/Archief/00627.php (last visited ) http://www.inventionen.de/Inventionen_08/GRMtoMusic.html (last visited ) http://www.omf.paris4.sorbonne.fr/AUX/d-TXT/Battier.Modernite.pdf (last visited )

No comment for this page

Leave a comment