The name of percussionist David Van Tieghem won’t be familiar to most people, but if you’ve ever heard Eno & Byrne’s My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts, Speaking In Tongues by Talking Heads, any of Laurie Anderson’s early albums or Steve Reich’s Music For 18 Musicians then you’ve heard some of Van Tieghem’s session work.
For Ear to the Ground, a four-minute video piece by John Sanborn & Kit Fitzgerald, Van Tieghem leaves the recording studio to play the city streets of New York: pavements, fences, doorways, etc. This may be a typical product of the NYC art crowd of the late 1970s but it also seems prescient for the way it predicts the urban percussion/performance that would flourish a couple of years later in Europe, a micro-genre exemplified by Einstürzende Neubauten, 23 Skidoo, Test Department, the Bow Gamelan Ensemble and others. Watch Ear to the Ground at Ubuweb.
Igor Wakhévitch and feathered friend.
Continuing the Francophile theme, I felt that now was a good time to plumb the mysteries of the enigmatic Igor Wakhévitch. Who? Well… In 20th century music there’s strange and there’s weird and then there’s off-the-wall unclassifiable which is the place where we have to file Igor’s compositions. After half a lifetime spent trawling record shops for unusual music these albums had somehow managed to remain off the radar until a CD reissue set, Donc…, appeared courtesy of Fractal Records and a friend with similarly outré tastes (hi Gav!). The obscurity of these remarkable recordings can’t solely be due to Monsieur Wakhévitch being French; Richard Pinhas, Bernard Szajner and (of course) Magma, have been given enough attention over the years.
So what does this stuff sound like? Thankfully the redoubtable Alan Freeman tackled the problem of describing the albums in Audion (reproduced below), a task I would have found rather daunting. Docteur Faust is probably my favourite, a crazily eclectic and doomy album which lurches from rock freakout to contemporary orchestral/choral to electro-acoustics and back again. Imagine the witch cult from Rosemary’s Baby jamming with Alpha Centauri-era Tangerine Dream while Peter Maxwell Davies and Amon Düül 2 slug it out in the background. The clincher is a great cover by French comic artist Philippe Druillet.
One other notable album that the Donc… collection omits is the 1974 recording of Salvador Dalí’s opera, Être Dieu. Dalí wrote the libretto in 1927 with Federico Garcia Lorca but the piece wasn’t recorded until Wakhévitch provided a score. The result is pretty much the same as Wakhévitch’s other work, with the added bonus of the Surrealist master declaiming and frequently shrieking over the music.
For more information about Donc… and Igor Wakhévitch see the Fractal Records review page.
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