Far-West News (Sept. 11, 1998 – June 30, 1999)
At first the idea went something like this: A composer, with a weird life
full of instrumental and electroacoustic compositions, specialist in
travel-microphone is planning to make a random trip across South-West USA.
The trip took place in September 1998.
Day after day, the highway unfolds, recordings are dated, places indicated
in an atmosphere of car (rented), day after day, sound encounters are made,
people are passed, life’s fabric is woven.
Back home, after listening, a three-part composition takes shape, each part
built in the same way out of different events.
What to say about it.
It’s not a report or a soundscape, not a Hörspiel or an electronic work,
not a portrait or a recorded reality exhibit not a transgression of reality or an impressionist account, not a so on or so forth.
It’s a composition.
At first I thought it was manifest, a soft, derisory manifesto. I also thought that my “radiophonic” compositions were a new way of writing a biographical book. Then I called it a sound poem around a real voyage since it may very well be that poetry is playing life like an accordion, and that composition in some cases, especially in mine, and increasingly in my life, is a perverted game with truth.
What more can be said? That the subtitle could be “sound poem after nature.”
And what else?
FAR-WEST NEWS No. 1 (March 1999) — (29’30”)
September 11 to 16, 1998
From Santa Fe to Monument Valley
FAR-WEST NEWS No. 2 (May 1999) — (29’45”)
September 17 to 24, 1998
from Page to the Grand Canyon
FAR-WEST NEWS No. 3 (June 1999) — (28′)
September 25 to 30, 1998
from Prescott to Los Angeles
Far-West News 1
Stopover at Houston. It’s about the same time as it was when we left Paris.
It’s raining heavily. Another plane takes us and leaves us in Albuquerque.
It’s late afternoon. It’s sunny.
The agency confirms that our rental car is waiting. “Take La Sabre” the man
in charge tells us. I’m not used to driving an automatic, and I have
trouble moving into reverse and finding the brake pedal. Then I drive the
wrong way up a one-way lane in the parking lot. The man scolds me gently. I
tell him that I can’t get the trunk open either. Finally we get our luggage
in and the man, with a touch of concern in his voice, wishes us a nice trip: “For Santa Fe just turn right at the bottom and it’s straight ahead.”
Sunset on the desert. Tomorrow I’m starting my recordings. I feel like I
haven’t slept for a long time.
In Taos, in the Indian Pueblo-village, I listen in my headphones for the
first time to the sound of my footsteps on this foreign soil. A dry, crunching sound, not European, the same sound until the end of the trip.
Then there’s the road. The silence of the road.
At noon, we’ve got to get something to eat. It’s usually hard to recognize
the places where it’s possible. Often it’s a sort of shack hidden behind gas pumps at an intersection. It’s full of people from nowhere considering the fact that we haven’t seen a single house for hours. A friend had warned us, “when you see a gas station, fill her up” and I soon learned that when you see anything resembling a restaurant, you’d better get something to eat. Tres Piedras, Teek Nos Pos, each one offering unforgettable sandwiches.
I wanted to see Monument Valley. Now here we were. So many films and ads
with cowboys, so many pictures seen over and over again. You know the place
by heart yet it’s altogether different. And then there’s the sound of my footsteps.
Far-West News 2
I wanted to see Page and not die. Page is not Venice even if it’s on the waterfront. I didn’t realize that Page was a city. Things do not always happen as they should.
For example, the boat we get on makes such a low-pitched noise that the digital recording loses all its bits; the water does not echo sounds like it does in a Swiss lake; I record over another recording and, furious, I accuse myself of being an amateur. I do another recording of the one that was lost and it’s much better. I feel like a professional.
Several times, we take the wrong road and miss the sites we are looking for. I have to remind myself that I’m here for the sounds and that they are not necessarily in the most beautiful spots. Sometimes they don’t coincide at all.
We visit some friends, microphone in hand. They’re always surprised and so
am I. Even though it’s been the same for years. I like it. My microphone I mean. Always the same one.
In Monument Valley I left my shirt in a Navajo friend’s jeep and we’re too
far away when I realize it. Brunhild lost her cap somewhere around Mexican
Hat and I forgot my camera at Springdale Mayor Philip Bimstein’s place. I went back to get it in the middle of the night. Both were there and we had one last drink.
At the Grand Canyon, sitting on a boulder the microphone on the ground, I eat a sandwich and drink a coke. I don’t worry about what will come out of it musically. It’s a grand moment!
Far-West News 3
Prescott looks a bit like a European city. There’s a street life and there are even people walking around, some with piercing. The contacts here are easier than in Paris where a look in the eye is taken as a sign of aggression. All around there is desert; not the slightest sign of the ocean on the horizon.
We see more and more of Monica on TV and she keeps getting fatter and fatter. I find myself thinking that if I were her I wouldn’t wear shorts and the next day there she is in shorts. Clinton looks drawn and tired. I guess we’re in for some air strikes soon.
I’ve got used to the desert; a car every hour suits me fine.
When we reach Los Angeles I’m scared stiff. There are cars all over the place. We turn off at the beginning of Welshire Boulevard; the hotel is at the other end but at least we’re heading in the right direction. An hour later we’re still driving.
From certain characteristic signs, it is clear that we’re back in civilization. There are buildings, houses that are not on wheels, even men wearing suits, elegant women wearing makeup, and a piano bar with post-modern music. Friends take us for some wild nights in LA.
I continue my recordings
I’ll be going to the end of the voyage.
Sound recordings: Luc Ferrari, Brunhild Meyer
Voice-over: Brunhild Meyer, Dan Warburton, Gerard Pape and Stéphane Kim.
Composed, realized, edited and mixed by Luc Ferrari in his studio Atelier post-billig.
A NPS, Hilversum-Piet Hein van de Poel and Atelier post-billig-Luc Ferrari coproduction.
Luc Ferrari – Paris, July 4th, 1999
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