Le dit des Presque Riens

The known as Almost Nothing


March 15, 1994

by Brunhild Meyer

Presque Rien illustrates, or rather insinuates without knowing it, a “minimalist” step about which one will speak much in the following years.

Indeed, Presque Rien N° 1 or the day raise at the seaside, composed between 1967 and 1970, is a piece that materializes the rupture with the traditional electroacoustic practices.

It asserts clearly (still more directly than what was called, after Hétérozygote, anecdotic music), the shot sequence and the fixed sound image, kind of slide which would give to understand a section of reality, like work method, and means of releasing oneself from the practices.


At the time, this step is in relation to that of the painters of pop-art and the hyperrealism. It is in any case completely different from the given rhythm step which prevails in France and from the various European movements. This explains perhaps why this work had a particular impact in the USA and in Scandinavia, like a new concept, releasing the music of whole implements of complexity already a little tired.


The minimalism of this first Presque Rien coincides in the years after 68, with the concerns of the repetitive musicians, to find the phases, as well as harmonic first steps, which will start the post-modernistic wave.


Luc Ferrari: “Presque Rien N° 1 or the day raise at the seaside, these are recordings that I made in Ex-Yugoslavia during summer 68. Friends had invited me. We were a whole group there.  In this island of Korcula, in the small fishing port of Vela Luka, our friends came from everywhere, we were surrounded by Slavic, Croats, Moslem Bosnians, of Slovenians, there was a beautiful harmony between all and I do not remember the least enmity or aggressiveness between them… this is why I have so much sorrow to understand. From what does this hatred come, who produced it? “


If Presque Rien N° 1 is remarkable by its radical attitude consisting in working out a “composition” that does not contain any musical sound, in Presque Rien N° 2 one finds elements which seem like music, but which plunges the listener in a universe of post-modern dream. These elements mark the anecdotic passage from realism to fiction, or the moment when the sounds of the real night are perceived inside the head of the composer.


For Luc Ferrari, Presque Rien N° 2 is a study over the night and a psychoanalysis of the perception he has. And this night was sufficed for itself, so much that its author had forgotten it in its box, forgetting to publish it.


A few years after, at the time of the first publication by the GRM, he wrote this:

“While seeking almost nothing I realized that it was not easy to find some, one thinks that one will find some here or there but no.

A Presque Rien is a homogeneous and natural place, non urban, which has particular acoustic qualities (transparency and depth), where one hears far and near without excess, on the scale of the ear like one says on a human scale, without technology, where nothing is dominating so that the various sound inhabitants have each one their word and that the superposition of this small world of life never makes but a almost nothing. (…)

Description of a landscape of night that the sound taker tries to encircle with his microphones, but the night surprises the “hunter” and penetrates in its head. It is then a double description: the interior landscape modifies the external night; composing it he juxtaposes there his own reality. (…)


But what is very peculiar in this story of Presque Rien N° 2 is that after having finished it I did not think any more of making it public, as if this thing were too intimate, as if that looked at only me. That lasted two years. One day I forced myself to listen to it again and I said myself whereas I did not have any reason to imprison it jealously, that I should give it its freedom, that there was no reason that this secret night does not see the sun. “


If the two first Presque Rien are kinds of innovations, not to say incongruities in the musical field, and are interesting also as ventures and like such, have something to tear off, to assert, Presque Rien with girls’s characteristic is that it brings nothing new. The waves of the minimalism and the post-modernism passed, the waves of the soundscapers also passed without never referring any to the work of Luc Ferrari.


“Now, he says, came time to look at the things more generally, to make the things without theory, not to have systems, ideology, references, to have the right to invent or to borrow, to have the right to imitate or innovate, by refusing even the analysis as resurgence of the constraint, it is perhaps that which I call post-modern.”


Presque Rien with girls obeys any more the single idea of place or single time, but is located in a kind of poetic tale, where the characters are sounds and where the story is finally not told, where the story is never told but is spread like a landscape just above the sense.”


Luc Ferrari adds:

“In paradoxical landscapes, a photographer or a composer is hidden, young girls are there in a kind of lunching on grass and give him, without the knowledge, the sight of their intimacy.”



Presque Rien No. 1 or day raise at the edge of the sea (1967-1970) — 20′

Presque Rien No. 2 “Thus continuous the night in my multiple head” (1977) — 21′

Presque Rien with girls (1989) — 14′