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The Electronic Tiddlywinks Man: Jean-Jacques Perrey

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kainscalia
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Now as some may know, I am a professional opera singer and my main core of musical treasures centers around classical music, opera, with a healthy dose of the French music of Michel Sardou, Jacques Brel, Barbara, Mireille Mathieu, Edith Piaf, Juliette, Julien Clerc and others, healthy doses of ABBA's happy optimist beats, Big Band era and 1920s music, generous selections from the 1980s and so on and so forth.

Well, when I need to have a smile on my face and some of my favorite music just isn't cutting it, there is always a little Frenchman I know who can give me just that: Monsieur Jean-Jacques Perrey!

Long WikiBio short: Perrey was born in France in 1929. He was studying medicine in Paris when he met George Jenny, inventor of the Ondioline. Quitting medical school, Perrey traveled through Europe demonstrating this keyboard ancestor of the modern synthesizer. At the age of 30, Perrey relocated to New York, sponsored by Caroll Bratman, who built him an experimental laboratory and recording studio. Here he invented "a new process for generating rhythms with sequences and loops", utilising the environmental sounds of "musique concrète." With scissors, splicing tape, and tape recorders, he spent weeks piecing together a uniquely comique and optimistic take on the future. Befriending Robert Moog, he became one of the first Moog synth musicians, creating "far out electronic entertainment". In 1965 Perrey met Gershon Kingsley, a former colleague of John Cage. Together, using Ondioline and Perrey's loops, they created two albums for Vanguard — The In Sound From Way Out (1966) and Kaleidoscopic Vibrations (1967). Perrey and Kingsley collaborated on sound design for radio and television advertising.

Perrey has had a fascinating career, working with all kinds of people, like Leonard Bernstein, Jean Cocteau, Edith Piaf, Charles Trenet, Les Paul, and Raymond Scott. He's rubbed shoulders with lots of incredibly interesting musicians and actors: Alfred Hitchcock, Walt Disney—it just goes on and on. His 'fairy godmother', as he calls her, was Edith Piaf, who took him under his wing after he opened for her at L'Olympia, and who essentially got his career started. You may have heard some of his music and sound effects in 2001: A Space Odyssey, or for example, Disneyworld.

For the longest time his music has been a constant production of happy, optimistic material. One of his collaborators spoke on the aim he usually took:

"He took this happy approach to the whole project because we both felt that electronic music has veered off into a little bit of a dark area, and it lost its innocence. We talked about the way this project would be angled before we started the preproduction work of composing the tunes. We both really wanted to do a lot of happy tunes, a lot of ragtime, putting humor back into the music. So that's something we both concentrated on. Not only when composing the tunes, but with the crazy sound effects. It's designed to make us smile."

Nowadays on his 80th birthday, Perrey really shows no evidence of stopping, having recently released a new album titled "Destination: Space." On his most recent interview he said:

"The human soul has lost its sense of magic; people have lost their sense of humor and everything is now banalized. Instead of "joie de vivre," people feel "mal de vivre." So the future is not what it was. Now everyone is increasingly worried, anxiety-ridden, preoccupied and under pressure-and this generates sadness, intolerance, and violence. This can be felt in contemporary music productions, which always reflect not only the present but also what lies ahead.

This is why I always deliberately introduced humor into my creations: I sincerely think that humor will help save humanity from the swamp into which it is sinking. Today we can't afford to be pessimistic, so let's try to keep a sense of humor bolted onto our hearts, soul, and spirit! Let's shove pessimism aside for better days... when we will be in better shape to handle it!"

A pioneer in electronic music, but also a very benevolent man and artist. I consider his music the closest thing today to Rand's "tiddlywinks" music, except -of course- with an electronic retro-futurist touch. From his own website, he hosts some of his old mp3s for free, so you may listen to a sample here: http://www.danacountryman.com/jjp1/mp3/Baroque_Hoedown.mp3

This is the famous "Baroque Hoedown", which he created in collaboration with another early electronic music pioneer, Gershon Kingsley. It is the theme song for Disney's Main Street Electrical Parade and the original Electrical Water Pageant theme song.

Well, let's see what you think.

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Thanks for sharing. Sad to say, I couldn't listen to it, though, for me, it's similar to what Rand wrote about "preferring a funeral dirge" to the 'Nelson Eddie/Jeanette McDonald' kind of music." Optimistic doesn't necessarily translate to appreciation. But I did want to share an example of "optimistic" electronic music that I do like (optimistic, at least in places): "Equinox" by Jean Michael Jarre. It seems more "sophisticated" in its optimism, not "cloyingly" so...

Shine on.

Edited by spaceplayer
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  • 2 years later...

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