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Ferreyra: Echoes (1978/2020)

Listening exercise for Ferreyra's Echoes (1978/2020)

Listening exercise

Beatriz Ferreyra’s piece Echoes comes from the record Echoes+, which was released by the Room40 label in 2020. It comes in at around eight-and-a-half minutes. As an aside, Room40 is a great label to check out if you’re interested in contemporary artists making abstract electronic music in a broadly-defined ambient aesthetic!

This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.

So far we’ve looked primarily at two examples that shaped the direction of the French idea of electronic music. In these works, we’ve heard a really strong fascination with the manipulation and contrast of recorded sound, something that will be important to keep in mind when we look at the German experience tomorrow. But for now, I think it’s worth jumping forward by a few decades to see the kinds of music Schaeffer and Henry’s ideas of music concrète led to. I think Beatriz Ferreyra’s work is a good example of this.

Beatriz Ferreyra is an Argentinian composer who worked in Paris in 1963 as a researcher at the GRM and a lecturer at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris. Aside from creating truly compelling music, she is notable as one of a few female composers of music concrète working in the mid-20th century in what was, quite honestly, the very male-dominated field of electronic music. She continues to make music and perform today, releasing Canto+ on Room40 in 2021.

All three tracks on Echoes+ are made from the original recordings Ferreyra made in the 1970s, reworked to create entirely new works. Echoes draws on recordings made of Ferreyra’s niece Mercedes Cornu who was killed in a car crash years later. As such, the piece has the uncanny quality of allowing Cornu’s voice to persist across decades, harnessing the power of the recorded medium to allow unreproducible occurrences to recur and replay.

The piece is composed from these original recordings on magnetic tape. While the benefits of the modern day are clearly present – high quality tape delay and reverb processing, for example – the materials retain the physical tangibility of the medium. More importantly, the deliberateness of each cut and splice are clearly audible and shape the work into something really emotionally resonant. As you listen, pay attention to how the recordings merge between being fragmented to cloud-like textures. Have a think back to Schaeffer’s sound object classification from earlier, and consider how the different textures Ferreyra creates shift from state to state.

Over to you

What similarities can you hear between Ferreyra’s music and that of Schaeffer and Henry? How are their compositional interests similar or different? What role does recorded sound play in this piece? How does the musical material Ferreyra works with differ from that of Schaeffer and Henry? What other musical parameters (melody, harmony, rhythm, tempo, and so on) can we use to discuss this piece?

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