Michael Galasso violin
Recorded October 1982, Tonstudio Bauer, Ludwigsburg
Engineer: Martin Wieland
Produced by Manfred Eicher
Born in Louisiana in 1949, Michael Galasso picked up his first violin at age 3. After debuting with the New Orleans Philharmonic at 11, he went on to forge a unique and fascinating career. As a longtime collaborator of Robert Wilson, he composed incidental music for a host of renowned productions, including an award-winning 1998 staging of Strindberg’s A Dreamplay, in addition to being involved in numerous sound installations in museums worldwide. Many will have encountered him as the film scorer for Wong Kar-wai’s In the Mood for Love, and most recently for Martin Provost’s Séraphine, but far too few have heard him on his own terms, divorced from the images he describes.
For his first solo album, Galasso gives us nine numbered “Scenes,” each the facet of an unfathomable jewel. It is an album to which I often played my violin by ear, trying to gain inner sight to its deeper complexities. And indeed, beyond its charming Philip Glassean veneer heaves a pair of expansive lungs that expel far more than they take in. The album has the feeling of a home recording, multi-tracked and with minimal processing applied. Despite being meticulously composed, it is also spontaneous in feel and refreshingly non-perfectionist. Some lines don’t quite sync up, as if what we hear were just a potent coincidence. From the hauntingly enigmatic (Scenes II and VI) to the whimsical (Scene III), we are privileged to stroll through this modest gallery of sound. Scene IV stands out with its boldly syncopated lead and subtle harmonizing. Others, like Scenes VII and VIII, tremble with incidental potential, seeming to spring forth from an as yet unrealized mise-en-scène. But it is the final Scene that remains closest to my heart, for its utter simplicity draws from a groundswell of bliss. Not unlike the solo work of Paul Giger, it has a magic all its own, an uncompromising sense of direction that can never be thwarted once it holds you.
Scenes is more than a soundtrack without images. Not unlike the shadow on the cover, its chapters are disembodied. We see only their negative selves, and hear only the sounds that animate them.
Sadly, Galasso passed away in his Paris home on 9 September 2009. His archive remains well guarded, but his spirit lives on through a modest discography that I can only hope will expand in the years to come.
Michael Galasso (photo by Catherine Caron)