Polyphonie-polychrome Patrick Ascione

  • Ina-GRM

Like an acousmatic Jackson Pollock, he composes massive, intricate textures… Contact!, Canada

Polyphonie-polychrome constitue, pour moi, un très bel album qui me donne envie de connaitre d’autres œuvres du compositeur. Crystal Infos, France


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Patrick Ascione


Voice Within

It is Patrick Ascione who perhaps first formulated the idea, which he here presents perfectly in his own terms and with a great originality of thought, that electroacoustic music — employing magnetic tape or other supporting media — was comparable to a painting in sound. Without him, I could have never elaborated upon the notion, which is often used today, of “fixed sounds”, a notion which seems to me to characterize the essence of this genre.

But these few lines are above all meant to express my esteem and admiration for the work of a composer whose world is personal and intense. The music of Patrick Ascione possesses a unique character, which comes not from any particular outside process, but directly and authentically from within. It speaks to me like a multi-voiced expression, fantastical, haunting. At least to my ears; others may find it more abstract and plastic, and others still in a completely different way. It is due to its richness that this music is at the same time both fleeting and captivating. The present disc, Polyphonie-polychrome, which reveals in its vastness all of this world, and which offers a chance for auditors to acquaint themselves with one of the major composers of the new generation of electroacoustic composers, should truly be considered an event.

Michel Chion, Paris (France) [xi-94]

Polyphonie-polychrome, the Disc

Electroacoustic music immediately attracted me because it permitted me access to a world of sensations and emotions which I had never before discovered in any other form of expression. The meeting of an unknown world, of a new language arising from behind the veil of conventions, sufficiently abstract, sensitive and powerful that only my essential creative intentions remain, without artifice, and such that one day I would also be permitted to participate in its edification. The present recording represents a part of my work to which are added several other pieces composed for concert presentation as well as some ‘program’ works created in collaboration with visual artists.

If the painter’s canvas makes it possible to work on colors and their nuances, it is because it permits one quite simply to retain in the most minute details the successive wishes of the artist, the fortunate accidents, and by progressive approaches to establish concordances, contrasts and oppositions of meaning, of values and of forms. All this while at the same time conserving the actual impression of it, and without having need of an intermediary codification between the intention and the object.

In the sound field (without necessarily speaking of music), there has long been a lack of an equivalent approach which affords one this much freedom and flexibility: this ‘canvas of sounds’ which today is indeed magnetic tape and its most recent derivations…

I have always been struck by the existence of this interesting correspondence between acousmatic art and painting, an observation which has been distinctly decisive for my work from the beginning (Métamorphose d’un jaune citron, 1978).

This correspondence was not necessarily decisive from the point of view of synæsthetic relationships (which are subjective perceptions), but rather because to compose with sounds, which presupposes their fashioning one by one, to combine them, to erase them, to replace them, then to finish by laying them down on tape, seemed to me very close to the manner of organizing colors on a surface… that a common point existed which was particular to these two disciplines, an analogous basis as indispensable to one as to the other, and without which neither one nor the other could really exist and develop.

This common principle of fixation is at the origin of the essential and irreducible particularities of these two distinct mirrors of human sensibility and thought, painting and acousmatic art.

And if there really exists a distinctiveness, and consequently, if it offers us today this extraordinary freedom of expressivity and this new world of meaning to discover, it is precisely to this ‘immediate-memory-aid’ that we owe it first and foremost; to this generative working surface, at the same time the starting point and the finishing result, because by avoiding any mediating system and all compromise, it leads the work to an original and primordial level.

This ultimate simplification, by one stroke, radically dissociate concrète work from that of traditional music. It is the singular power of an art of which we are probably still far from reaching the limits…

It is, in any case, in this spirit and by these particular convictions that, thanks in part to the commissions from the Ina-GRM, as well as to the renewed confidence of François Bayle, that I have been able to compose the present triptych, the title of which seems to me to accurately describe my work.


I would like to thank Jean Schwarz who produced the master tape of this recording, as well as Christian Zanési for his concerned (and thus precious) advise. I also wish to thank in particular Michel Chion regarding the concerns of the preface, François Bayle and the Ina-GRM for having encouraged this project by their support, and Francis Dhomont (to whom I owe more than he will ever know!).

Patrick Ascione, Menetou-Salon (France) [vi-94]

Polyphonie-polychrome, the Triptych

The acousmatic triptych composed for concert presentation, Polyphonie-polychrome, was produced between 1984 and ’89. The concert order of these three pieces was modified for this recording; Sur champ d’azur (In a Field of Azure) et Valeurs d’ombre (Values of the Shadow) were also adapted for this recording in January, 1994.

Patrick Ascione [vi-95]

Some recommended items

In the press

  • Denis Streibig, Crystal Infos, no. 14, March 1, 1997
    Polyphonie-polychrome constitue, pour moi, un très bel album qui me donne envie de connaitre d’autres œuvres du compositeur.
  • Frank Koustrup, Contact!, no. 10:2, March 1, 1997
    Like an acousmatic Jackson Pollock, he composes massive, intricate textures…
  • MP, Vital, no. 22, March 1, 1996
    … everything shifts, jitters and moves.
  • Albert Durand, Revue & Corrigée, no. 25, September 1, 1995
    … un bouillonnement de grands mouvements stéréophoniques…
  • Jacques Lonchampt, Le Monde, December 1, 1989
  • Création de Sur champ d’azur au Grand Auditorium de Radio France
    Jacques Lonchampt, Le Monde, April 1, 1986
    … une extrême violence avec une très pure poésie. C’est une œuvre et un compositeur.


Denis Streibig, Crystal Infos, no. 14, March 1, 1997

Patrick Ascione fait partie, aux côtés de Michel Redolfi, Christian Zanési et quelques autres, des compositeurs les plus doués de ce que l’on appelle la “troisième génération” de la musique électroacoustique (la première remontant à Pierre Schaeffer et Pierre Henry, la seconde constituée par leurs premiers élèves comme François Bayle ou Bernard Parmegiani).

Membre du GMEB (Groupe de musique expérimentale de Bourges) de 1976 à 1984, il est devenu, depuis, un compositeur autonome et reconnu dont les pôles d’intérêt peuvent définir deux périodes distinctes. La première, de 1977 à 1987, correspond, de sa part, au souhait de comparer et de rapprocher la pratique électroacoustique des arts plastiques. Ses conceptions le rapprochent de Michel Chion, autre théoricien de “l’art des sons fixés”. La seconde, depuis 1987, a vu ses préoccupations glisser vers la notion de “polyphonie spatiale” (notamment avec l’utilisation de systèmes de diffusion comprenant seize pistes réelles).

C’est encore à la première période que se rattache Polyphonie-polychrome, triptyque composé des titres Lune noire (1987-89), Sur champ d’azur (1984-86) et Valeurs d’ombre (1986). Ces trois pièces illustrent des aspirations esthétiques différentes mais complémentaires, unies par une “griffe” sonore très chaleureuse et reconnaissable.

Lune noire est une œuvre très plastique, dans le sens où elle met en jeu des combinaisons d’associations et de métamorphoses (par recours fréquent à l’utilisation de filtres) de textures de longues durées. La pièce est à rapprocher de [l’album] Érosphère de François Bayle ou de l’album Mundus Subterraneus de Lightwave. L’écoute en est magique, le degré d’attention pouvant varier au fil du temps. Selon les moments, l’éclairage des sons change, modifiant leurs caractères, leurs rôles et la perception qu’on en a.

Sur champ d’azur reste plus événementielle, alternance de climats de tension et de repos. Elle se veut plus musicale, selon la définition schaefferienne de la recherche de variations sur les objets sonores. La composition s’ouvre sur une brève étude rythmique basée sur l’utilisation plus le traitement des sons désuets d’une vieille boîte à rythmes. Puis s’enchainent les phrasés et trames électroniques, réutilisant avec bonheur la chaleur des timbres des synthétiseurs modulaires.

Valeurs d’ombre semble, peut-être, plus difflcile d’accès et constitue une sorte de synthèse formelle des deux pièces proposées précédemment. Les lentes textures du début (un son me fait penser à l’orgue utilisé dans les albums Zeit et Atem de Tangerine Dream) cèdent vite la place aux conflits qui opposent des événements brefs et dramatiques. Il se dégage certes de cette dernière œuvre une certaine aridité, mais c’est une sécheresse aussi passionnante à regarder que l’est le fourmillement de vie d’un désert.

Polyphonie-polychrome constitue, pour moi, un très bel album qui me donne envie de connaitre d’autres œuvres du compositeur.

À signaler également le mini-CD Métamorphose d’un jaune citron [MKCD 014] du même auteur, dans la collection “Cinéma pour l’oreille” chez Métamkine, qui offre un autre aspect de son travail à travers une pièce plus ancienne.

Polyphonie-polychrome constitue, pour moi, un très bel album qui me donne envie de connaitre d’autres œuvres du compositeur.


Frank Koustrup, Contact!, no. 10:2, March 1, 1997

This disc crept up on me. During the first couple of listens, I took little notice. The music made no impression. But with a few more tries, this disc grew more and more compelling. I now find it nearly indispensable and among the best acousmatic music I have heard. Patrick Ascione’s style is acousmatic and in the same family as that of Francis Dhomont and Michel Chion. Perhaps my earlier disinterest was due to the distracted way I now listen to most music. I almost never make time to lie still and listen. I have lost touch with my old habit of meditative listening, the type of listening this music deserves.

The three compositions on this disc each last twenty minutes and longer. Lune noire starts mechanically but sensually. Despite their metallic quality, the timbres sound voice-like. Sur champ d’azur is a panoramic landscape, painted not photographed, a rendition rather than a document. Its range is vast. Valeurs d’ombre finishes the disc in a more sombre, sweeping mood. It is a beautiful piece. However, it ends too abruptly with no feeling of cadence.

Mr. Ascione describes his approach to composition as painterly. He juxtaposes sonic colours as an abstract expressionist would juxtapose coloured pigments. Like an acousmatic Jackson Pollock, he composes massive, intricate textures on a wall-sized canvas. In space, time, and in orchestration, the music is huge and richly complex. Two speakers constrict these three works. They stubbornly demand a concert hall, multiple channels, and darkness. To fake a deeper space, I recently listened to the disc over headphones, but with the sound also coming out over stereo speakers. Then the higher frequencies flew about my head while the bass notes resonated from farther away. This arrangement gave me a better sense of the musical space of these compositions.

The packaging by empreintes DIGITALes is, as usual, complete and attractive.

Like an acousmatic Jackson Pollock, he composes massive, intricate textures…


MP, Vital, no. 22, March 1, 1996

I first heard the work of Patrick Ascione on a collection of stuff released on CD as an audio documentation of the Prix International de Noroit 1989. The piece was titled Lune noire and it is also the first of three compositions on this 1995 release of some of his work on the impeccable Canadian label empreintes DIGITALes. Lune noire is sonic topography, little is recognisable in this new audio terrain which is viewed multi-dimensionally from extremely unusual angles in strange attractor space. many of the studio techniques, and I suspect, some of the sounds used on Lune noire occurred earlier on Sur champ d’azur which was finished in 1986. It’s a study of the sky as canvas and the clouds that cross it. Huge slabs of sounds interspersed with microscopic investigation move us across this azure field as it slides past us. Truly enormous — this man has seen how big clouds can be.

Valeurs d’ombres (Values of the Shadow) ends this CD with its “exploration of a sombre region of dark sonorities of the electroacoustic palette and is also therefore a quest for the light” (of course!). Domains of the Shadow are flat space… the edges are sharp. Nothing offers protection or cover, everything shifts, jitters and moves. Electronic insects buzz and whirr, are silenced violently and then return mutated/evolved. Space tightens as we advance. Oozing ahead of us… A Glimpse of Light.

Ascione incorporates a broad spectrum of techniques in his work. He has signature trademarks and they are good because they work effectively as suggestive audio information. This, together with his knowledge of how fast audible space can change raises him a notch above his contemporaries.

As usual with the empreintes DIGITALes series, the full power of the sound quality is best appreciated under headphones unless you have extremely tolerant neighbours.

… everything shifts, jitters and moves.


Albert Durand, Revue & Corrigée, no. 25, September 1, 1995

Des nouveautés chez empreintes DIGITALes, voilà qui fait plaisir car cette étiquette de disques nous fait régulièrement découvrir des compositeurs ou des pièces délaissées par d’autres plus institutionnalisées.

Voici le premier CD de Patrick Ascione (ex-æquo avec Métamorphose d’un jaune citron chez Métamkine, MKCD 014) qui, dans son travail, s’intéresse à l’espace (il compose beaucoup de pièces en multipiste) et à exprimer une relation entre peinture et musique concrète. Une musique agitée avec beaucoup d’éléments rythmiques et un bouillonnement de grands mouvements stéréophoniques qui, cependant, n’effacent pas les nombreuses teintes de ces dégradés sonores.

… un bouillonnement de grands mouvements stéréophoniques…


Jacques Lonchampt, Le Monde, December 1, 1989

[…] Lune noire, à la fois raffinée dans ses matériaux et d’un art très puissant dans le développement […]

Création de Sur champ d’azur au Grand Auditorium de Radio France

Jacques Lonchampt, Le Monde, April 1, 1986

Un peu marginalisée, la musique électroacoustique (dite anciennement électronique ou concrète) n’en continue pas moins de montrer une grande vitalité, avec des créateurs nombreux à travers la France: le récent concert du Cycle acousmatique, organisé par le Groupe de Recherche de l’Institut National de l’Audiovisuel, présentait trois œuvres remarquables […] Sur champ d’azur, de Patrick Ascione (1953), plus purement musical, est une immense composition symphonique, plein ciel, sur de grandes orbes lumineuses, des tambourinages frénétiques, des chants d’oiseaux électroniques; une virtuosité d’écriture assez prodigieuse allie de superbes mouvements avec un travail de détail joliment ouvragé, une extrême violence avec une très pure poésie. C’est une œuvre et un compositeur.

… une extrême violence avec une très pure poésie. C’est une œuvre et un compositeur.