Henri Chopin

La Peur & Co., 1958-1979

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The works of sound poet Henri Chopin can hardly be called spoken word, but are rather sound collages created with vocal noises, often without the use of words or even the sounds of syllables. The 37-minute title track, "La Peur" (The Fear), recorded in 1958 and 1969, is one of Chopin's more intense and formidable pieces, a dark sonic sculpture of rumbles; shrieks; deep, repetitive mutterings of "la peur" and "le trieste"; and, at one point, what sounds like the roar of an atomic bomb going off, but created entirely by Chopin's throat. The other tracks are slightly less frightening and generally more abstract. "Dynamisme Integral" from 1966 is longer than the 1973 version on the Audiopoems CD, and has high-pitched noises and drones, whereas "Dentales Souffles" is one of Chopin's breath pieces, where the passage of air against the teeth and mouth with varying vocal utterances are used to create a harsh noise-scape, combined with some strange clucking noises. "Presence du Soleil," from 1979, is far less abstract, as it starts off with the spoken-word repetition of "presence du soleil" that soon becomes distorted through tape-trickery and vocal chicanery, whispered, sped up, and slowed down. Like all Chopin's work, these pieces are pure avant-garde experiments that will drive most people away. Chopin tests the limits to what the human voice is capable of, and his sound-art, particularly on a powerful piece like "La Peur," can be quite rewarding to those looking for something more extreme and uncompromising than, say, Throbbing Gristle or Whitehouse.