Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Luc Ferrari - Unheimlich Schön (Metamkine, 1993)

This 1971 piece from the late Luc Ferrari marks another contribution from an elder statesman in the Cinéma pour l’oreille collection. As with Radigue's Biogenesis, this is a piece that diverges from the path most often identified as the author's. He begins with a deep breathed refrain by Ilse Lau, "Unheimlich schön"--roughly translated as "terribly beautiful"--which repeats on, as a steady breath and an increasingly prominent room tone swamps the phrase. Fragmented echoes begin to crowd the short line, until one can hardly distinguish the voice from the echoes. The piece bears an uncanny resemblance to Robert Ashley's She Was a Visitor, so much so that it could act as Ferrari's response to that piece in mirrored form.

Unheimlich Schön


  1. great shot ! another ferrari record or more "cinema pour l'oreille" if you have ?

  2. "The piece bears an uncanny resemblance to Robert Ashley's She Was a Visitor [...]"

    It resembles Alvin Lucier's "I Am Sitting In A Room" too.

  3. The CD sleeve explains: "Comment respire une jeune femme qui pense à autre chose". And indeed it sounds very much as if she was told to keep repeating the phrase for a ridiculous amount of time - until her mind had drifted on to thinking about something else altogether. What I've never established is whether she was aware that it was her breathing that would be the focal point of the exercise or if she had no idea what the project was that she was taking part in...

  4. The woman was an actress. Ferrari wanted her to repeat the phrase "hypnotically". Then it wasn't spontaneous enough, so he said "try not to be so self conscious." This of course had the result of making her more self conscious. Ferrari considered the recording a failure. But after it was all collected, he decided to accentuate the breathiness by using filters and other on-board techniques, and to track the breathing. Neither Ferrari not the actress thought about breathing, at least not consciously, during the recording.