Looper's Delight Archive Top (Search)
Date Index
Thread Index
Author Index
Looper's Delight Home
Mailing List Info

[Date Prev][Date Next]   [Thread Prev][Thread Next]   [Date Index][Thread Index][Author Index]

Re: Terry Rileys' mysterious French engineer tape loop innovator

A few thoughts.
First, the french engineer of the Radio Télévision Française was part of 
the team which work was to radiobroadcast the theater performances of the 
international festival "Théâtre des Nations". They had a special mobile 
studio for that, located inside the théâtre Sarah Bernhardt. Nothing says 
that our engineer was linked to Schaeffer's GRM. There were hundreds of 
sound engineers at the RTF during this period.
Second, 1963 is the year of the relocation of the RTF from the old studios 
to the brand new "maison ronde", avenue du Président-Kennedy, Paris XVIe, 
and its transformation into ORTF the year after. Because of this moving, 
1963 is a dislocated year for the archives of the institution. By the way, 
in general the archives of the french radio are disorderly dispersed all 
across the country (Paris, Fontainebleau, etc...), not easy to find 
something quickly.
I found pretty fun to dedicate the first loopfest in Paris, last year, to 
this unknown guy (we have a tradition here in France to celebrate unknown 
guys), he is certainly a fifth business of looping, but there is really no 
certitude for us to achieve this identity quest.
Third, this is my interpretation of the 1963 TLA story :

"In 1963, the Theatre des Nations, a Parisian international theater 
festival, invited American playwright Ken Dewey’s company to present a 
performance at the Recamier Theater. The festival gave voice to the 
happening, a new movement initiated in 1957 by a student of John Cage 
named Allan Kaprow and that took off in New York and California. Dewey’s 
American Conservatory Theater (ACT) is multidisciplinary and includes 
choreographer Anna Halprin’s dancers in addition to members of the Living 
Theatre. In California, they experimented with new forms of theater and 
dance to create "multimedia" production in association with members of the 
San Francisco Tape Music Center. The Tape Music Center was a group of 
musicians that were interested in creating music by using magnetic tapes 
recorders. This group included Terry Riley, who created “Mescalin Mix" in 
1962 for one of Halprin’s shows.
In 1963, Riley scraped together a living in Paris playing jazz standards 
in bars in Pigalleand on NATO bases. Upon meeting Dewey, he agreed to 
create the soundtrack for the playwright’s intended performance at the 
festival: an adaptation of his play "The Gift" created the previous year 
in San Francisco. Dewey rented a ruined castle in the southern suburbs of 
Paris for rehearsals, while Riley made plans to work with Chet Baker - 
just released from prison in Italy for possession of heroin - and his 
quartet as musicians and actors. At the time, the quartet played regularly 
on the left bank at the cabaret le Chat qui pêche and included Luis 
Fuentes (trombone), Luigi Trussardi (bass) and George Solano (drums).
Riley recorded the quartet (together, then separately) in the studios of 
the Radio Télévision Française, installed in the Sarah Bernhardt Theatre 
(current Théâtre de la ville) to broadcast the plays presented during the 
Théâtre des Nations. Baker chose to interpret "So What" by Miles Davis, a 
modal piece perfectly adapted to Riley’s intentions. Riley also recorded 
excerpts from the text of "The Gift" read by John Graham. Riley described 
to the RTF sound engineer assigned to assist him the echo technique he 
used to record “Mescalin Mix”. In Riley’s words: “I described the effect 
to the french engineer, a very straight guy in a white coat, wo fooled 
around and ended up hooking two tapes recorder together. Boy ! When you 
heard that sound it was just what I wanted… What you do is connect two 
tapes recorders. The first is playing back, the second recording, the tape 
streched across the heads of both. As this machine records, it feeds back 
to the other machine, which plays back what it’s added. It keeps building 
up… »
Repetition and accumulation: the Time Lag Accumulator was born and would 
permanently alter Riley’s musical approach. He followed this development 
to its logical conclusion the following year by composing the founding 
piece of minimalist music: “In C”. Riley would also use a similar system 
in the 60’s for all-night improvisations in which he accompanied himself 
on the harmonium and saxophone.
When Chet Baker heard his quartet’s music passed through the mill of the 
Time Lag Accumulator, he exclaimed "Man, that's some crazy shit!" Many 
shared his negative reaction to this deconstruction of the rule of music. 
The performances of "The Gift" on July 8, 9 and 10 1963 caused 
misunderstanding and even anger among a Parisian public that had come 
mainly to hear the famous trumpeter and expected a kind of musical 
theater. Baker was not even present at the premiere and Riley had to 
fill-in for him on short notice, using a toilet plunger as a trumpet. 
Actors, dancers and musicians were precariously balanced on a huge metal 
mobile hanging from the ceiling created by sculptor Jerry Walters. The 
title object would move from hand to hand during the play and was 
improvised at each performance. This created all kinds of opportunities 
for provocation and forced the musicians to play ever louder to cover the 
screams of the crowd. The maelstrom of sound created by Riley met the jazz 
quartet’s music. On the last evening, an actor concludes his line "This is 
an incredible experience" by destroying recorders and tape of which only 
fragmentswould ultimately survive: the 23 minutes of recording known since 
as the "Music for the Gift"."