Resident archivist Jack Dangers plays a track by Beatriz Ferreyra, from one of the classic Prospective 21e Siècle records with their “Procédé Heliophore” aluminium foil sleeves
I’ve pulled out this compilation from my collection of Prospective 21e Siècle releases because of ‘Médisances’, a track by Beatriz Ferreyra. The album doesn’t have a title. Only the composers’ names and the track titles appear on the sleeve. There’s no date on this release, but I think it’s 1970 as the catalogue numbers place it between two others that came out then.
Beatriz Ferreyra was born in Argentina in 1937 and studied piano there in the 1950s. She then went to Paris to study with the legendary Nadia Boulanger, who taught generations of composers, including Philip Glass, Aaron Copland and Quincy Jones.
In 1963, Ferreyra joined the Groupe de Recherches Musicales (GRM) led by Pierre Schaeffer, where she learned musique concrète and electronic music techniques. In 1967, she worked with Schaeffer and Guy Reibel on their ‘Solfège De L’Objet Sonore’, a triple album which was a kind of educational resource about electroacoustic music.
‘Médisances’ was commissioned in 1968 by the GRM. The piece is great. It’s a four-channel composition, using manipulated sounds of orchestral instruments and voices. It’s really dramatic and sounds incredibly modern. It premiered in January 1969 as part of an experimental music concert on ORTF, (Office de Radiodiffusion-Télévision Française), the French national broadcaster at the time. Ferreyra left GRM in 1970.
Other than this Prospective 21e Siècle album and ‘Solfège De L’Objet Sonore’, there were very few releases featuring Ferreyra’s work until a lot later in her career. She’s a really important composer in the tape music world – she was right in the thick of it, yet was somehow overlooked.
Beatriz Ferreyra is in her 80s now and is still composing. There have been more releases of her work over the last two years than the rest of her composing years put together. The UK label Persistence Of Sound put out two albums, ‘Huellas Entreveradas’ in 2020 and an album with Natasha Barrett, ‘Souvenirs Cachés / Innermost’ last year, while the Australian label Room40 released ‘Echos +’ in 2020 and ‘Canto+’ in 2021. It’s good to see her work getting recognised at last.
‘Médisances’ is on YouTube, so you don’t have to fork out £100 to hear it. I bought my copy of this album in the 1990s, when they cost a lot less.