Didier Blanchard & Georges Bloch ‘Le son d’un château d’eau de Le Corbusier’

CD coverPodensac's water towers (front: Le Corbusier's, rear: the new one)Didier Blanchard's resonating platePodensac's water towers (front: Le Corbusier's, rear: the new one)

Didier Blanchard:
01 Composition n°20 – Un  corps sonore (34:44)

Georges Bloch: ‘Fragments Corbuséens Palmés’
02 Vocalise (1:57)
03 Antécédant-conséquent (0:48)
04 Hystérie 1 (2:42)
05 Valse ? (4:45)
06 Interaction 1 (10:23)
07 Hystérie 2 (8:17)
08 Interaction 2 (6:24)
09 Totale (2:09)
10 Tango (2:15)
11 Ganz zum ûberfluss (1:47)

Total time 76:10
CD privately released by ‘Groupe des 5’, France, 1996

Le Corbusier‘s relation to music is tangible, if infrequent. He took care of his cousin Louis Soutter, a former professional violinist, inpatient in a Swiss psychiatric hospital for 20 years until his death in 1942. In 1958, he build the Monastery of Sainte Marie de La Tourette complete with a large acoustic conch on the church roof to transmit liturgical chants, “a sonorous machine producing a new style of electronic broadcast”, he said. The same year, assisted by Iannis Xenakis, he famously designed the Philips Pavillon in Brussels, using Edgard Varèse’s Poème Electronique as musical score.

Le Corbusier (1887-1965) build the water tower pictured above in Podensac, near Bordeaux, in 1918, aged 21, when he was still called “Charles Edouard Jeanneret”, his real name. It is said to be his first professional release and of course makes extensive use of concrete (what else?). Back in 1986, it was in a state of dereliction when an association called ‘Groupe des 5’ decided to save the building from collapsing. Part of their plan was to use the disused water tower for cultural events, including these specially comissionned electroacoustic compositions in 1995, whose title translates ‘The sound of a Le Corbusier water tower’. Didier Blanchard (b.1967) is an acoustics engineer interested by architecture’s relation to music. He sat up a microphone inside the water tower to record all the latter’s vibrations. The signal is then fed to a computer for further electronic processing and feedback monitoring, and then send to a large metallic plate whose vibrations produces the music (see picture above). The vibrations are of course re-injected in the process via the microphone. Any sound inside or outside the building (visitors’ voices, steps on the stairs, cars, rain, wind) can activate the resonances. The recording on this CD probably can’t do justice to the sound installation itself, but the feedback sounds are really gorgeous, if a bit monochromatic, close to Harry Bertoia’s steel sculptures recordings, for instance.

‘Fragments Corbuséens Palmés’ is an electroacoustic suite composed by IRCAM associate Georges Bloch (b.1956) for resonating steel plate, voice and readings from Le Corbusier. Mezzo-soprano Sylvie Deguy is slowly climbing the water tower’s stairs while vocalizing and hitting the stairs railing with a stick. The work is a dialog between controlled feedback and singer, making full use of the water tower’s acoustic properties.

Download [new link, as of Jan. 2012]

8 Responses to “Didier Blanchard & Georges Bloch ‘Le son d’un château d’eau de Le Corbusier’”

  1. 1 rem koolhaas June 12, 2009 at 10:40 am

    great time when communism don’t just producing anti-aesthetic arte povera

  2. 2 continuo June 12, 2009 at 11:09 am

    Certainly Le Corbusier was no communist in 1918, if this is what you imply, and his USSR projects were all rejected. You might possibly refer to his ‘brutalism’ period.
    Thanks for dropping by if you’re actually architect Koolhaas.
    [the link you provided doesn’t work]

  3. 3 damned fucker don't cry June 15, 2009 at 7:13 am

    but everyone where communist in 1918

  4. 4 acousmata July 1, 2009 at 2:46 pm

    Another lovely offering. I am amazed at how many recordings of architectural music and sound sculpture there are out there. Thank you for saving them from oblivion.

  5. 5 continuo July 1, 2009 at 4:52 pm

    Thanks for your sensible comment. Coincidentally, one of the first posts on this blog was a compilation CD for an architecture exhibition curated by the real Rem Koolhas. It was called Mutations-Sonic City.

  6. 6 fabtimer January 3, 2012 at 4:40 pm

    Perhaps I’m a little bit late…
    the links don’t work no more :(
    I was so happy to hear this château d’eau…
    By the way… your collection is really amazing
    thank you very much for posting all these things

  7. 7 continuo January 3, 2012 at 5:59 pm

    I re-upped the file for your convenience.
    Thanks for your comment.

  8. 8 fabtimer January 4, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    Thanks a lot Mr. Continuo !
    I’ll listen it right now.

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