Next To Nothing

This Friday evening, in a small room in an appropriately still industrial part of New York City, Ensemble Pamplemousse and David Grubbs will present some of the unique and important music of Luc Ferrari. The modest $10 ticket returns two New York City premieres and a screening of a film on the composer, made with him less than a month before his death in late summer 2005.

Ferrari was an early and important member of the group of composers who pioneered musique concrète, but his career encompassed so much more, including music for acoustic instrumental ensembles and engrossing audio works assembled out of sound recordings of locations. Those works specifically, and his entire body of work, are travelogues of the mind and the imagination and once the ear is used to their method, which as the title of his seminal Presque Rien (“next to nothing”) indicates is to use the most ordinary and humble methods, they have a mysterious and powerful emotional and spiritual effect. Made with microphones, recording and editing equipment, they are full of humanity.

The draw is in the work and the musicians, especially Pamplemousse who were so impressive in their performance at the MATA festival. There’s a welcome abundance of excellent new music ensembles around, like ACME, ICE, the Argento Ensemble and The Knights, and Pamplemousse stands out for their ability to play the most abstract works with excitement, clarity and meaning. I anticipate a truly memorable event.

If you want to hear more of Ferrari’s work, immediately take advantage of something that may be a mistake; a 10 CD collection, generally $100 or so for the box (that’s if you can actually find it), is currently available for download from Amazon for the amazing price of $19.98. You may not love all 10 hours of sound and music, but it’s both a deeply involving collection and an unbelievable bargain. While the price seems to fulfill the promise of the digital economy of music, something tells me this is going to be ‘corrected’ eventually, so be quick.


I'm a composer and musician, and I write about music—I do that here, for the New York Classical Review, at the Brooklyn Rail (I edit the music section there) and any place else that will have me, like New Music Box and Music & Literature. I also wrote the Miles Davis' Bitches Brew book in the 33 1/3 series.