Maurice Béjart / Pierre Henry / Alain Cuny - Orphée (1960), 7/10

Surprisingly modern in its ambitions, Orphée (Orpheus) boasts an impressive range of sounds and sonic manipulations. Many of its movements may sound bizarre considering its accompaniment of ballet, but this gives it even more charm as a supremely individual recording. The music is fittingly transcendent as a piece to accompany a work exploring the supernatural. At times beratingly intense, in others delicate, but persistently philosophical and full of eerie suspense. Its supremely surreal, hypnotic approach to story helps transform the recording into its own narrative and take on its own individual identity. Not to mention the sheer scope of sounds on this recording, it sounds like an almost endless, nonstop experiment in progressive, otherworldly, thought-provoking sound. Of course, understanding the spoken word sections is helpful to the narrative of the ballet, but not essential for enjoying the album’s multidimensional sound, or even the vocal expressions. There is an impressionist leaning to the compositions outside of their adventurousness, an arrangement and engineering of atmosphere that is very individual to Orphée even among musique concrète, perhaps because of its requirement to balance its sensibilities as a ballet with such dark and existential themes against its experimental, sometimes atonal and harsh use of noise. Even simply as a piece of spoken word and noise, as a collection of music independent of its narrative, it is a wonderfully theatrical piece and profoundly expressive through both voice and unique instrumentation.