Monday, April 20, 2015

Luc Ferrari PRESQUE RIEN n.1 - le lever du jour au bord de la mer

The recordings for Presque rien no. 1 were made during the summer of

1968, in the town of Vela Luka on the isle of Korcula, in what was then

Yugoslavia (now Croatia). Ferrari had travelled there that August to

participate in an arts festival, and was particularly impressed by the

stillness that fell over the village at night: “It was very quiet. At night

the silence woke me up—that silence we forget when we live in a city.

I heard this silence which, little by little, began to be embellished. . . . It

was amazing.” Inspired, Ferrari began making recordings of the hours

just before dawn. After accumulating a number of these tapes, he

noticed certain events that would recur from morning to morning—“

the first fisherman passing by same time every day with his bicycle, the

first hen, the first donkey, and then the lorry which left at 6 a.m. to the

port to pick up people arriving on the boat. Events determined by

society.” From the material he had collected, Ferrari pieced together

over the next few years a sonic representation of a typical morning in

Vela Luka, completing it in 1970. In his interviews with Pauli, Ferrari

describes Presque rien as inaugurating a new genre, although he is quick

to deny its status as a “ work”; rather, Ferrari explains that

these things, which I call “The Presque Riens” because they are lacking

development and completely static, because really almost nothing happens

musically, are more reproductions than productions: electro-acoustic nature

photographs—a beach landscape in the morning mists, a winter day in

the mountaintops.

He continues by stating that one can play these recordings in one’s

apartment or house, “just as one might hang photos or pictures on the

The Politics of Presque rien wall.” Uncannily prefiguring the ambient

nature recordings that would meet with commercial success in the 1990s,

Ferrari’s comments suggest that Presque rien no. 1 was not to be listened to

as much as heard, used to colour or to decorate an interior space.

Friday, December 5, 2014


In the 1960s Vera Linhartova was one of the most admired writers in Czechoslovakia, the poetess of a prose that was meditative, hermetic, beyond category. Having left the country for Paris after 1968, she began to write and publish in French. Known for her solitary nature, she astonished all her friends when, in the early 1990s, she accepted the invitation of the French Institute of Prague and, on the occasion of a colloquium on the issue of exile, she delivered a paper. I have never read anything on the subject more nonconformist and more clearsighted.

The second half of the past century has made everyone extremely sensitive to the fate of people forced out of their own homelands. This compassionate sensitivity has befogged the problem of exile with a tear-stained moralism, and obscured the actual nature of life for the exile, who according to Linhartova has often managed to transform his banishment into a liberating launch “toward another place, an elsewhere, by definition unknown and open to all sorts of possibilities.” Of course she is right a thousand times over! Otherwise how are we to understand the fact that after the end of Communism, almost none of the great emigre artists hurried back to their home countries? Why was that? Did the end of Communism not spur them to celebrate the “Great Return” in their native lands? And even if, despite the disappointment of their audience, that return was not what they wanted, wasn’t it their moral obligation? Said Linhartova: “The writer is above all a free person, and the obligation to preserve his independence against all constraints comes before any other consideration. And I mean not only the insane constraints imposed by an abusive political power, but the restrictions—all the harder to evade because they are well-intentioned—that cite a sense of duty to one’s country.” In fact people chew over cliches about human rights, and at the same time persist in considering the individual to be the property of his nation.

She goes further still: “So I chose the place where I wanted to live, but I have also chosen the language I wanted to speak.” People will protest: sure, a writer is a free person, but is he not the custodian of his language? Isn’t that the very meaning of a writer’s mission? Linhartova: “It is often asserted that a writer has less freedom of movement than anyone else, for he remains bound to his language by an indissoluble tie. I believe this is another of those myths that serve as excuse for timid folks.” For: “The writer is not a prisoner of any one language.” A great liberating sentence. Only the brevity of life keeps a writer from drawing all the conclusions from this invitation to freedom.

Linhartova: “My sympathies lie with the nomads, I haven’t the soul of a sedentary myself. So I am now entitled to say that my own exile has fulfilled what was always my dearest wish: to live elsewhere.” When Linhartova writes in French, is she still a Czech writer? No. Does she become a French writer? No, not that either. She is elsewhere. Elsewhere as Chopin was in his time, elsewhere as, later, each in his own fashion, were Nabokov, Beckett, Stravinsky, Gombrowicz. Of course each of them lived his exile in his own inimitable way, and Linhartova’s experience is an extreme case. Yet after her radical, luminous declaration, we can no longer speak of exile as we have done up till now.

Milan Kundera, Encounter

Tuesday, December 31, 2013



                                                                                                                           falling L