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Baker's Dozen

Burn Again: Lawrence English's Favourite Albums
Kate Hennessy , November 19th, 2015 10:52

After celebrating Room40's 15th birthday, the label head and ambient composer pauses in his hometown of Brisbane to go from Swans to Japanese court music in taking Kate Hennessy through his 13 "foundational" records


Luc Ferrari - Presque Rien
Luc Ferrari is an artist I wish I'd had the chance to meet. In 2005, when I was co-curating the Liquid Architecture festival in Australia, Ferrari was due to pay us a visit. Just before the festival he suffered his first heart attack and, sadly, the opportunity to bring him to Australia never came good. I regret not being able to thank him personally for Presque Rien and for his presence at a critical juncture in the formation of contemporary understandings of musique concréte. Another artist, making this work, would have no doubt utterly changed the focus and patience of the piece.

Presque Rien translates to "almost nothing", which is what Ferrari said he did to these field recordings of Vela Luka, a town on Korčula, an island just off the now-Croatian coast. Ferrari made these recordings in the late 1960s and they are, to me, the first real example of a desire to transmit listenership. I've been spending a great deal of time developing a theoretical framework within which field recordings can be analysed as a kind of sonic art form, over and above the 20th-century desires to 'document', that stems from outmoded ethnographic traditions. Presque Rien, and others, eschew the notion of documentation in favour of a more personal, anecdotal approach to recording. It was a landmark record and, at the time, a huge provocation to his fellow concréte composers who were polarised by it.

In 2013, I visited Vela Luka and recorded in similar locations to those were Ferrari made Presque Rien. The curators at Muma and MSU, were interested in me revisiting this site to consider the impact of Presque Rien across the generations and it was my great pleasure to make a response called Approaching Nothing. It should see the light of day as a publication in 2016.