Soixante dix-huit tours
Soixante dix-huit tours presents two fifteen-minute works by French electro-acoustic composer and radio producer Christian Zanési, who studied music at Université de Pau with Marie-Francoise Lacaze and Guy Maneveau, in Paris at the Conservatoire national supérieur de musique under Pierre Schaeffer and Guy Reibel, has been a member of the Groupe de recherches musicales (GRM) since 1977, and is also a founding member of Ars Sonora, an association for the promotion of electro-acoustic music; a key epiphany in his development came about when he was introduced to Bernard Parmegiani's La roué ferris (The Ferris Wheel) by a teacher in the ‘70s . Sound is primary for Zanési, a principle borne out by the recording's two settings, the first of which uses the conceptual notion of the semaphore as a springboard, and the second of which came to fruition via a fortuitous encounter with a 78 rpm recording.
With respect to the initial piece, Sémaphores, the word “semaphore” (“signal” + “bearer”) denotes the act of signaling that is usually associated with visual signaling using flags, lights, or mechanically moving arms of the kind one might see used at a railroad or airport. In this case, Zanési's choice of title literally refers to the series of electronic signals that surface towards the end of the fifteen-minute piece. Said sounds appear, in fact, throughout the piece but more as eroded background elements that eventually push their way through layers of textural noise to the forefront. A gripping piece, Sémaphores presents a constantly mutating and heavily manipulated sound-world of electronic waves, bleeding fragments of distorted voices, and insectoid signals that flutter and pulsate.
Somewhat different in character, Tours et détours en 78 tours (Round and Around in 78 rpm) came about to some degree by serendipity. In the spring of 2007, Zanési came into possession of a 78 rpm record (pressed by Pierre Schaeffer in 1949) made up of basic instrumental sounds (oboes, flutes, metallic percussion, etc.) presented as locked grooves. He proceeded to work on a few of the sounds and manipulated them by coupling them with present-day electronic materials. Signals appear in this context too, but so too do rhythm patterns, whirring tones, and all manner of textural elements. The piece ultimately registers as the more playful of the two, simply because the sense of delight and joy Zanési derives in assembling the mix of excavated and current sounds is more palpable.