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Hidden calypso: Gerard Grisey

February 28, 2011
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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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