TamTam Books News

Wednesday, September 15, 2004:

Boris Vian wrote the liner notes to André Popp’s "Delirium in Hi-Fi." The record itself was recorded in Paris 1957,and Popp is a well-known composer and had worked on recordings with Bardot, Gréco, and Jacques Brel. Popp also worked on Vian’s album "Chansons possibles et impossibles."

"Delirium in Hi-Fi" is similar to the music of Esquivel – it is Hi-Fi sounding but in mono! Brian Wilson would love it. Vian in his liner notes goes into the technical aspects of the recording – and it is nice to know like everything else he has done – Vian was also interested in experimental pop music. He co-wrote two songs on the album. The original title of this album in France was "Elsa Popping et sa Musique Sidérante."

It’s a great album and it has it’s traces of Esquivel as well as some of the weirder recordings by Joe Meek. Get it! Down below are the liner notes by Vian.


Listening to "Delirium in Hi-Fi" is, to be truthful, an unnerving experience. It is not unlike watching a 3-D movie without the spectacles, or carrying on a conversation under water. It may be that the listener will find himself swimming through a pool full of Jell-O as this amazing program unwinds, but the startling and rewarding presentation is well worth the effort.

The sounds were created by André Popp, a talented and madly inventive arranger-conductor long famous in France, and Pierre Fatosme, sound-effects wizard. Popp supplied the musical part, Fatosme the sound effects, and each of these short selections is the result of a cutting assembling and splicing of tapes the complexity of which might compare with the work involved in editing a Beethoven symphony.

André Popp did not write his arrangements until he had finished a very careful and conscientious study of all the sound-effect possibilities developed by Pierre Fatosme, who drew up a catalogue of all achievable sound effects that he felt he could create. Popp squeezed and crammed all this into his head and then, one by one, went drawing them out until he had used the full repertoire of twists, gags, jokes and shocks.

Besides the catalog of "special sound effects" Fatosme also drew up blueprints of sound. He divided his material into three parts: a close-up plan (somewhat without lustre), a medium-distance plan (with some reverberation), and a distant plan (with echo). Achieving this tree-dimensional music, he had three complementary sets of music with which he dealt in his own way, superimposing one on the other so as to obtain effects that you can hear in the record.

What is remarkable is that never for a moment had anything been sacrificed to obtain cheap or facile effects. Slapstick could have been achieved, for instance, with more that one ‘Atchoo’ IN "Jalousie". Alone, this sneeze sound has a certain weird dignity; but if repeated, might have ruined the purity of the style.

And since we must speak technically these days, the following is an explanation of what these acrobats of the mike and taper recorder have done.


In some of the tracks of this record, there are passages played on an instrument that sound sounds both elegant and delicate, that is at times lustreless and at others brilliant, an instrument that recalls to mind the tone of a cornet – but a cornet with the agility of a piccolo. It is not a cornet at all, but a trombone, a trombone that was recorded and then played back at double speed.

In order to do this, the musical passage was recorded without the solo instrument, then played back at half speed while the soloist listened to it through earphones. With this slowed-down speed, he played his solo passages, which were recorded together with the original passages – but he played his part also at half speed. Naturally an extremely accurate sense of rhythm was required for this type of trombone playing.

You will also hear passages played on some sort of airy piano, the magical harmonies of which are extremely acute. These sounds were achieved by a procedure similar to that used for the trombone ("Jalousie", "Java des bombes atomiques").

Conversely, certain super bass sounds were obtained by reducing the speed of the original tape and then re-recording them ("La Cumparsita").


The irresistible and surprising vocal parts of Stern’s "Java" are a striking example and are obtained as follows:
Two normal tapes are made and then both are played at the same time, but with a time lag of a few seconds between them, and recorded on a third tape. It would obviously be possible to write the music resulting, but the rehearsal time required to play it would be unfeasible, and the search for musicians able to play sixteenth of sixteenth would go on eternally.

In some cases, a little extra lag was introduced purposely in one of the tapes, so that one feels compelled to push the musicians on, to hurry them up, to help them overtake their quicker colleagues (especially in the "Beer Barrel Polka).


You can turn a glove inside out, why not a voice? This was the challenge to our artists – but it was easier to express than to do. It was not enough to record "ed-haust-ex" to hear "ex-haust-ed" on the playback. Fatosme would explain it in beautiful words that would leave one as much in the dark as ever, but the truth of the matter is that they did the following: Given a certain centence, it was recorded, then played back backwards. The singer then memorized the words backwards (you try it!) and then sang the words which were recorded; then finally, the tape was reversed, and the singing part spliced into the musical passage at the right place.

The effect is devastating and electrifying. Imagine a voice with no attack to it – one which sings the words on the intake of breath, a voice that seems to come from nowhere at all. It is a disembodied voice – the voice that surely a Martian must possess ("La Polka du roi").


The same procedure was used with instruments - one or more as the need demanded, except that in this case, the scores were already written backwards. As in the case of the voice, the effect is most peculiar – a strange aspiratory sound is made with the attack coming at the end of the note instead of at the beginning ("La Polka du colonel").


There are, of course, other effects – the "normal" sound effects achieved with tape recorders and microphones: echos, double voices, insertions, montages (such as the accelerated montage of one part of "Adios muchachos" where a fragment of the theme is inserted in the right place, but at double the speed of the rest).

There are also the usual but more intellectual effects: exchange of themes for others, thus creating unexpected links and unusual twists; the use of electronic noises ("Java Martienne") which remind one of science-fiction films and also the fade-out achieved by blowing fuses. These were blown by means of a sun lamp facing directly into the microphone.

We must also mention here the use of the spectacular voice of Fredo Minablos, one of the stars of French variety revues and theater. His contribution - all too short and brief – are heard in "Java", "La Polka du roi", and "La Polka du colonel".

Boris Vian
(Translated by T. Fagan)

Tosh // 1:57 PM

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