Bayle - b. 1932 Tamatave.
Childhood in Madagascar, self taught during the fifties, then professional
training alongside K. Stockhausen, 0. Messiaen, R Schaefter, as well as
at the GRM, which he headed from 1966 to 1977. Spearheading the acousmatic
movement all over the world, F. Bayle has conceive the design of the Acousmonium
in foundation of the Acousmatheque in 1991, which for decades has inspired
hundreds of composers and generated thousands of works, concerts, radiophonic
and discographic productions. He has won several awards and distinctions:
Grand Prix des Compositeurs 1978 with l’Experience Acoustique, Grand
Prix du Disque 1981 with Tremblement do terre très doux, Prix Ars
Electronica 1989 with Theatre d’Ombres, and recently the Grand Prix
do Ia Musique de Ia Ville de Paris 1996, Tribute from Sao Paulo 1997.
In 1997 F. Bayle installed his own multiphonic home studio - the Magison
Studio -, and now fully devotes his time writing and composing.
Sound and musicality, human and cosmic dimension
by Gerard Oenizeau
François Bayle likes to remind us: a long time ago, the pedal sounds
of the organ established a duration of sound that went beyond our idea
of such duration and was no longer subject to the limitations of the gesture,
and therefore of the body. Consubstantial with the organ, even though
it partly results from the stability of the foot (or its relative awkwardness),
this relative duration, which disorientates our perception of ‘normal’
sound information, is also associated in our European culture with the
mysteries of Oriental music (‘which does not regain its breath ‘),
or more recently with the modality of electroacoustic music. However with
the arrival of synthesizers, and therefore keyboards, there was a spectacular
shortening of sound units and, at the same time, the creative gesture
became radically different, the pressing of a key replacing the turning
of buttons for transferring the required quantities of electricity
Moreover if electroacoustics permit sounds of unlimited duration, they
also generate a new scale, from the static quality of great expanses of
sound to sounds that are most briefly ‘ruffled’. When it comes
to listening to such music, its raison d’ètre maybe to relate
cosmic forces (benevolent or otherwise see Raphael and his Saint listening
attentively to the heavenly voices, she lets fall the pipes of the ‘lascivious’
organ) to the human condition, if electroacoustics did not at the same
time lead to secularisation of those universal elements.
Furthermore, electroacoustic music has opened up a vast discussion as
to the principle of recognition of forms. A neighing sound, for example,
will immediately give rise to a type of ‘equine curve’, a
related form; but on a soundtrack for radio, for example - this new agent
will have a direct bearing on the action. Any sound during a classical
symphony (coughs, an aeroplane flying over; etc.) will be untimely electroacoustics,
a simple cracking sound (a sound that is singularly ambiguous, as there
are so many possible sources, including the accidental) reverses the problem
of causality in relation finality. In musique concrete, that same sound
becomes the form, the outline of the work. Thus, as the formal principles
(in the Gestalt/st sense) tell us: the origin of a sound/s its very form,
as in painting the colour blue may in itself be a form (see Matisse),
for the basic form does not have to burden itself with causality A person
listening to a sonata, for example, does not hear simple conflicts of
timbre, but takes into account the distinct morphologies of the to-ing
and fro-ing of the violin bow and the rippling of the piano in the complexity
of their union. Even if the idea of effect is present, the essential thing
lies in the intertwining of sound morphologies, and therein lies the composer’s
victory: a shower of sounds which move the listener as such (with particular,
though marginal, gratitude for the excellence of the performance). If
there is still a notion of peril (there is always an element of tauromachy
in art), success lies well beyond that. Electroacoustics images further
complicate and shift this whole idea of causality, of the reading of forms,
of the right momentum for crossing-points, indeterminations, junctions,
For François Bayle, music is a very realistic metaphor for specific
things (nceuds) and unspecified things (which he calls fuseaux), corresponding
to needs, to the image of the child who, learning to walk, chooses his
props at random. Practice in listening limits those needs: the listener
then finds himself swimming in the indeterminate space of the sea or the
And it is that constant indetermination that becomes a state of music,
Gerard Denizeau is Professeur dHistoire de Art - University of Paris V-Sorbonne
Dedicated to Karlheinz Stockhausen, Morceaux de Ciels - ‘Pieces
of skies’ - calls to mind the early successes of electroacoustic
music, refers to its earliest finds, the re-injection of a sound’s
energy into itself gives rise to striated layers of colour circulating
amongst themselves and upon which the wave exists before it has been perceived.
The sounds move from the inside.
As the body of the classical musician invents spontaneously... after twenty
years of experience! This rustic looping of energy with the body is here
doubled by other modalities, thanks to electric power, but without losing
the perceptive models. For ‘listenability’ works only through
archetypes. The need for innovation remains, provided that the unheard
is only a variety of a standard model. Otherwise it would not be perceived.
An archetypal model is necessary for perception. It is maybe because he
became aware of this body of necessities that François Bayle ‘threw
his javelin into future fields’.
The person listening to Morceaux de Ciels finds himself travelling in
the composer’s head. Everything is open.
If the figures seem to be entangled, the form adopted boils down to a
series of states (the listener can easily detect the ‘seams’(.
From the macroformal point of view, it is not a question of spotting the
signposts but of determining how the references to early circumstances
result through bifurcation in the coming of those events.
For the concert, the sounds unfold on eight tracks. The ‘leader’
appears on the screen as a superposing of irregular coloured lines, traversed
by a vertical cursor indicating (to a thousandth of a second) the chronological
position of the ‘performance’. For the stereophonic mixing
of the CD, there is obviously a virtual panoramic distribution of the
precise assignments of each track, but this loss of localisation is made
up for by the emergence of the continuum of that imaginary orchestra.
Then the tracks are interpenetrated by colours—from the initial
sky of dawn (ci’el initial) to the slight glimmering following nightfall—which
are proposed as untitled ‘passages’ that are nevertheless
indicated by a word on the score. Thus we find, successively, vibre (inner
vibration(, ciel octo (eight perceptible sources), transbojs (friction
on wood, as a transition), trans-initial (repeat of an element from ciel
initial with an element from transbois), vibre-transbois (a blend of elements
that have already been heard), c/el trompette (the stridency of compact
blocks of trumpet timbres), c/el ooh-aah (on the vowels o and a)... Francois
Bayle uses orchestral sounds (harps, trumpets, wooden scrapers, voices...)
as a virtuoso of ‘timbric’ information, multiplying the slight
contacts between those timbres, restabilised by the determinism of certain
references. One of the remarkable features of this magnificent piece lies
in the fact that it often moves in four-track blocks (arid always, initially,
in pairs). As a result, the listener, aware of an overall sound over four
poles, finds himself with no alternative but to mentally reduce to one
source the turbulent sounds he bears on four tracks. François Bayle
may be compared to a watercolourist who provides an infinite number of
nuances but refuses, in the midst of his experimentation, to set things
down in a definitive state.
In the most (or least) complex instances of sound mixing, chance may play
a part, suggesting a perfectly accidental ‘rule of conduct’;
therein lies a wonderful means of corn bating anguish and doubt, the arbitrariness
of selection: the creator’s inner tumult is arbitrated by an object
that is completely external to him. The only ones who will be worried
are those who do not realise to what extent, before François Bayle,
men such as Bach and Berg (and many others, if not all) made constant
use of figures to orientate the teeming flow of their ideas. The contract
of proportions is then irrelevant to the music, but not to the creative
process—a process that is all the more serious in that its seriousness
is not audible. Therein lies, perhaps, the secret of Morceaux de Ciels,
one of the most enviable and most enigmatic musical successes of our time.
This piece (the title means ‘Shadow theatre’) quite obviously
sets out to be narrative, Is it an Oriental fairy tale? A raga which gradually
gets out of hand? Yet the assumption that the musical discourse is guided
by a literary framework is very simplistic. François Bayle s tale
itself contains the condemnation of its linear virtuality. Here it is
the music that creates the mythical atmosphere and everyone is free to
take it as he wishes.
So we have a land.., a land where everything has always been just right.
A land where people dream and flowers grow... One fine day, a ball is
dropped and it rolls over the border... upsetting that wonderful balance.
So there is no other alternative but to go and retrieve the ball in the
forest of that unknown outside world. Someone therefore has to venture
out, a masculine ‘someone’, for the forest belongs to a wizard,
who shows no mercy when anything disturbs him.
As all the characters have roles to play, it is up to the narrator to
dress this framework. Thus François Bayle’s music expresses
an order that has been disturbed, the urgency of fighting off evil spells
in order to restore the wonderful situation that existed in the first
place. The very long prelude, the build-up to the fight, the fight itself,
the noise of the fight all that is situated behind the image. In the end,
as the enchanting little melismas of the violins disappear, the evil spells
have been defeated... the wonderful world was behind.., a world without
The second part—more whimsical—is that of the elusive ombres
blanches (‘white sha dows’). Are the rungs of the narrative
ladder suddenly missing? The discourse is now arranged in a strange series
of stages. Right from the very beginning of the prelude, things flutter
in space, carried along by an ephemerality which generates gusts of sound
of all sorts: rattling, transformation of vocal sounds, heart beat, impalpable
music, fleeting, startled sounds,... and sometimes a threnody, from a
human throat, constantly renewing the tension...,
the violent trace of a many-coloured bird. Suddenly, in the midst of this
elaboration, there appears a focal point, a column supporting buoyant
elements, the tree in the middle of the garden. The listener perceives
an immense sound, presented backwards, then forwards, like a wave ebbing
and flowing, moment of crisis, of gripping and momentary dazzle. Like
a dream that is about to disappear, everything accelerates, the voices
return in echo, the vision vanishes to the sound of evasive clarinets.
There are many concrete sounds in this piece: the rolling of a ball, sounds
of impact, ‘colourful’ touches from the harpsichord, the human
voice (that of the composer for the incoherent phonemes of the wizard,
frantically juggling with sound), fragments of ethnic chant, sounds of
water and pebbles, sounds of a flute, electronic sounds, threads of very
high-pitched sound, broad or closely woven strips, timpani. But also,
beneath a seal of subtle emotion, a horde of reminiscences: evocation
of the land as it once was, touches of nostalgia, the girl watching for
the hero’s return, return to the wonderment of the beginning.
If derriere l’image reminds us in some ways of Ravel, ombres blanches
is similar, in its absolute success, to the Debussyan’ fantasy,
momentarily shattered by an inconsequential awakening.
Music which would make a wonderful ballet... presenting an imaginary place
built entirely of sound.
Translation Mary Pardoa.