Pierre Charial – Swing Valse Machine

Pierre Charial - Swing Valse Machine LP front cover
Pierre Charial - Swing Valse Machine LP back cover
Pierre Charial - Swing Valse Machine LP side 1
Pierre Charial punching music rolls (from record cover)

French street organ prodigy Pierre Charial has been championing mechanical music since the end of the 1970s and is now considered a National Treasure by the government (call him “Maître d’Art” since 2004). A classically trained pianist, Charial is particularly acclaimed for unearthing early barrel organ compositions by Mozart or Haydn and for his own music roll adaptations of classical, popular or contemporary music – he plays the Orgue de Barbarie, or street organ, on Ligeti’s Mechanical Music CD on Sony, where he adapted Continuum (1970) and Musica Ricercata (1951-1953). Charial claims the organ offers unlimited virtuosity thanks to the large number of notes the instrument can play at the same time, at any desired speed. Note the French Orgue de Barbarie is a little different from the barrel organ and exclusively uses paper or cardboard music rolls. Charial’s official website is Musique Mécanique Paris.

♫ This was Pierre Charial’s first LP under his own name (he had previously been credited as arranger and guest musician on a couple of discs). Swing Valse Machine was released on Parisian STIL label, famous for Scott Ross’ solo harpsichord LPs in the 1970s, playing Rameau and Couperin. And indeed, Charial’s technique and arrangements bears some of the clarity and refinement of these composers. The arrangements of film music and jazz tunes (Nino Rota, Ennio Morricone, Gus Viseur, Toots Thielemans, Duke Ellington, Dave Brubeck, Antonio Carlos Jobim) are full of nuances and virtuosity, not necessarily expected from a street musician. The recording was brilliantly conducted by Michel Pierre (with help from electroacoustic composer Bruno Menny – see previous post) and birds can be heard in the background on some tracks, showing the recording session took place in Charial’s workshop, not in a regular recording booth. Some tracks include a deluge of notes that recalls Conlon Nancarrow’s player piano, but overall the music is pure magic and poetry.

01 Bluesette (2:52)
02 Nola (2:07)
03 Kitten On The Keys (3:12)
04 It’s A Raggy Waltz (2:46)
05 Dancers In Love (2:16)
06 A Bout De Souffle (Blue Rondo A La Turk) (2:58)
07 Children’s Game (2:23)
08 Huit Et Demi (3:45)
09 A l’Aube Du Cinquième Jour (2:03)
10 Rimes (Il Camino) (2:06)
11 La Valse Du Carrousel (1:49)
12 Dardanella (3:33)
13 Swing Valse (2:19)
14 Amours Et Printemps (3:48)

Total time 38:00
LP released by STIL, France, 1984


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9 Responses to “Pierre Charial – Swing Valse Machine”

  1. 1 øשlqæda January 10, 2011 at 9:18 am

    thy blawg has been murdering the competition of late my brother. so many interesting & ineffably wondrous artifax to behold. many thx in kind fer yer invaluable taste & generosity pal. oh & happy new year

  2. 2 continuo January 10, 2011 at 9:34 am

    I didn’t know I had any competition (just kidding). Seriously, I just want to be part of a varied sharity blog network covering a wide range of musics. Thanks for your – I mean, yer apweciatiun.

  3. 3 newname January 10, 2011 at 2:20 pm

    I’m glad you upload this album, nice music pictures with this instruments and playing ofcourse…really virtuoso.Sounding great.Thanks Continuo.

  4. 4 continuo January 10, 2011 at 2:32 pm

    I reckon I fall easily for this kind of releases.

  5. 5 josephnechvatal January 13, 2011 at 10:43 pm


  6. 6 continuo January 13, 2011 at 11:54 pm

    Hi, Joseph. Glad to read you here. Hope you’re doing fine.

  7. 7 josephnechvatal January 14, 2011 at 8:38 pm

    Fine in the bitter cold. I really got a kick out of A Bout De Souffle. Thanks for what you do so well.

  8. 8 Lucky February 7, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    i love this so much – it gives me the shivers! i first heard pierre charial on albums by michael riessler and sylvie courvoisier’s ocre. i found his second solo album right after i found this here, and posted it at the psychic hut.

    salut continuo,

  9. 9 continuo February 7, 2011 at 9:13 pm

    Hi, Lucky. I noticed your post, of course, and thought it was a good thing more people get to know Pierre Charial thanks to our joint efforts.

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