Luc Ferrari


mode 228

Madame de Shanghai


mode 228 Luc FERRARI: Vol. 2 – Madame de Shanghai (Scottish Flute Trio); Visage 2; Après presque rien (Art Zoyd, Musiques Nouvelles, Jean-Paul Dessy, conductor)

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Madame de Shanghai
Includes program notes by Sabine Feisst and Luc Ferrari in English, French, and German linked to from resource. The 1st work for 2 trumpets, trombone, tuba, piano, and percussion (6 players); the 2nd work for flute, oboe, 2 clarinets, trumpet, saxophone, trombone, piano, percussion, 2 violins, viola, cello, double bass, and 2 samplers; the 3rd work for 3 flutes and digitially stored sounds. Li Ping Ting, voice (3rd work) ; Art Zoyd (2nd work) ; Scottish Flute Trio (3rd work) ; Musiques Nouvelles, Jean- Paul Dessy, conductor (1st-2nd works). Recorded in 1996.

  for brass, piano and percussion
Musiques Nouvelles
Jean-Paul Dessy, conductor
First recording

Après presque rien  (2004)  31:47
for fourteen instruments and two samplers
Art Zoyd, samplers
Musiques Nouvelles
Jean-Paul Dessy, conductor
First recording

Madame de Shanghai (1996)  15:22
for three flutes and digitally stored sounds
Li Ping Ting as “Madame Shanghai”
Scottish Flute Trio

Although not as well known as some of his composer colleagues in France, Luc Ferrari (1929-2005) was a remarkable French composer who distinguished himself with a wide variety of works from traditionally notated compositions for conventional instruments to indeterminate scores, improvisations, experimental tape works, radio pieces, films and multimedia installations. This CD, Mode Records’ second disc featuring music by Ferrari, vividly confirms this fact.

Après presque rien (after almost nothing) is an unusual, moody musical reaction to Ferrari’s series of six Presque rien works spanning more than three decades of his career (1967-2001), conceived for tape recorder and displaying Ferrari’s concept of “anecdotal” music and love of nature. Après presque rien is a vivid instrumental work interspersed with a broad range of taped environmental sounds. It was a special commission from the avant-garde band Art Zoyd, Musiques Nouvelles and CCMIX.

Visage 2 for two trumpets, trombone, tuba, piano and six percussionists (on this disc) is the second piece in a five-part series of works carrying the same title and spanning the period between 1955 and 1959. While most of the works in this series reflect Ferrari’s fascination with serialism, Visage 2 is a physical confrontation of two sexual bodies, telling gestures with notes, rhythms and instruments.

Madame de Shanghai blends flute sounds with field recordings from the Asian commercial center of Paris (Avenue d’Ivry), including Chinese and Vietnamese voices. At the end of this piece, Ferrari features the voice of Orson Welles, who directed the 1947 film noir The Lady of Shanghai and acted the lover of “The Lady of Shanghai” (Rita Hayworth). Ferrari says “… I can say that this “dramatic comedy” is a bit of a tribute to the film by Orson Welles.”

• Liner notes by Sabine Feisst and Luc Ferrari.

Language : German. Chinese, English, French, and Vietnamese speaking in the 3rd work.


Luc FERRARI: Visage 2 (1955-56)1; Après presque rien (2004)2; Madame de Shanghai (1996)3. Art Zoyd2, Musiques Nouvelles1, 2, Jean-Paul Dessy1, 2 (cond.), Li Ping Ting3 (voice), Scottish Flute Trio3. mode 228 (1 CD) (

Composed in a heady period when Luc was developing a personal voice that would rise above serialism’s thicket, Visage 2 was never actually performed near the time it was completed. Mode offers a first recording and perhaps premiere performance. We hear a voluble ten minutes for brass, piano and percussion which Luc insisted was about the “physical confrontation of two sexual bodies.” Well, perhaps. I imagine in the mid-fifties anything so blatantly emotional and physical might have been extreme indeed. Other Visages play with serialism, and so it’s best to consider this installment as a reaction or arch commentary.

Stretching to 31 minutes, Après presque rien requires 14 performers and two samplers triggering taped sounds. Luc’s involved program note relates how he didn’t want Presque rien “avec instruments” (also titled Exploitation des Concepts No. 5) to be the terminus of the Presque rien line and so brought out this item. Luc appropriates different guises in an effort to avoid habits, but of course he was always idiosyncratic. The pre-recorded bits appear after threadbare spots, thus the more surprising. Later the repeating tape effects annoy just a bit – typical Ferrari.

Madame de Shanghai is scored for three flutes and tape. The milieu is Paris’ Asian markets and the subtext is Li Ping Ting seeking out the eponymous Orson Welles movie until by some aural twist she falls into the celluloid. It’s surreal and situational, a sci-fi radio play. No offense to its members, but simply discovering that there’s an active ensemble named Scottish Flute Trio (Ruth Morley, Laura Bailie and Janet Larsson) brings on a smile. I imagine this item will delight hardcore fans. I still find it discomfiting to hear Luc’s voice on tape.

— Grant Chu Covell, la folia, March 2013


This is Luc Ferrari’s second disc for Mode and it features three pieces from different periods and for different ensembles, two of which are first recordings. “Visage 2” is for brass and percussion and was written in 1955-56. This is an early work for Ferrari and it is informed by his study of serialism at Darmstadt, yet is based on the confrontation between two sexual bodies (note the lovely nude woman on the cover with Ferrari as he looks over his composition on the page). The music itself is vibrant, intense and carefully balanced. “apres presque rien“ was composed in 2004 and commissioned by the legendary French progressive band Art Zoyd, whose keyboard player Patricia Dallio performs here along with the Musique Nouvelles Ensemble. The piece has evolved through a series of six different versions of “Presque Rien” and is performed here by two sampler players and fourteen musicians. The music has an intense, free-wheeling, spiralling spirit with sections of odd samples, like an orchestra tuning up and random noises not so easy to identify. It sounds as if two different worlds are colliding (the acoustic instruments & the samples) yet it remains connected underneath. As the piece evolves, the orchestra and samples become more integrated and complex. I get the feeling that the more I listen to this piece, the more will be revealed, the more it will make sense overall. “Madame de Shanghai” was composed in 1996 is performed by the Scottish Flute Trio with digital samples. The music is based on the idea of a mirror and the way an image is reflected and altered. There are samples of a young Chinese woman walking around Paris with snippets of parts from Orson Welles film, “The Lady from Shanghai”. Again, Ferrari does a wonderful job of weaving the samples with the flutes into a rich blend. What I find most fascinating about Luc Ferrari is that each of his compositions create a new world or place/space in our minds which always takes some time and consideration to explore fully. CD of the week? No doubt!
— Bruce Lee Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery


Luc FERRARI: Chansons pour le corps; Et si tout
entière maintenant
(mode 81)

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