Edgard Varese Releases Reviewed

Source: burning ambulance.

Edgard Varèse is a crucial figure in the history of 20th century music. His major works—Arcana, Intégrales, Density 21.5, Ionisation, Déserts, Octandre, Offrandes, and Poème Électronique—with their emphasis on timbre and rhythm, and their embrace of then-new technologies (he loved electronic music and instruments like the theremin and ondes Martenot), have been massively influential. Frank Zappa was an obsessive Varèse fan who had hoped to collaborate with the man, and John Zorn dedicated all seven CDs by his Moonchild ensemble to Varèse and Antonin Artaud.

The UK label Cherry Red has compiled three 1950s LPs of Varèse’s music into a three-CD box set. (Get it from Amazon.) The first disc includes Complete Works of Edgard Varèse, Vol. 1, a four-track EP totaling 28 minutes of music, originally released on the EMS label in 1951. This has been combined, as it was on a 1977 album on Turkish composer Ilhan Mimaroglu‘s Finnadar label, with the three-part Interpolations (from Déserts), tape pieces created in 1954 in the studios of the Groupe de Musique Concrète in Paris.