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Hidden calypso: Gerard Grisey

February 28, 2011

Something I’ve enjoyed doing recently is recording quite abstract songs and claiming that they are calypso songs (I should say, to use the proper terminology, that they are calypsos) – ears pricked up all the time with the suspicion that this wasn’t entirely a unique idea. Well, just now I was listening to Gerard Grisey’s Quatre chants pour franchir le seuil, which are super-spectral art songs about, to be frank, death. And I’ll be buggered if they’re not calypsos. Or at least haunted by a thin and princely ghost of calypso. (I’m reliably informed that Grisey’s spectral music is not all about phantoms and ghouls, but rather is about sneaking around sound spectra as a compositional approach – making more of timbre than melody, in layman’s terms. But sound is ghostly for a reason.)

Of course, not everything featuring steel drums is calypso – calypso as a form is older than the steel drum as an instrument, for starters. But just listen to the steel drum and other percussion in Gerard Grisey’s songs!

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