Philippe Petit’s “A Divine Comedy” reviewed by Vital Weekly

Cover of the album "A Divine Comedy"

I didn’t realise: Philippe Petit started DJing on the radio and editing fanzines in 1983, and now, forty years later, he is still active. In between, he ran a record label, Bip Hop, but in recent years, he has only been active as a composer. For his new release, he takes his inspiration from Dante Alighieri’s poem ‘A Divine Comedy’, as decorated by Gustave Doré. A book I haven’t read, just as so many other classics, such as ‘Paradise Lost’ or ‘The Marriage of Heaven and Hell’, and other timeless classics. Life is too brief, and there is so much to read. Petit looks at this as a symphony and not be too illustrative with the music; it all has to do with the way the listener wishes to perceive this, and you can think of this in terms of magic, he says. In the booklet, Petit outlines per track what he uses and where we are in the story (‘Inferno’, ‘Purgatorio’ and ‘Paradisio’), and he uses the inside of the piano a lot, along with a Buchla System 200 Analog synth and voices. Minor roles for the EMS synthi A, cymbalon, cymbal, Nepalese singing bowl and turntablism, among other things. Petit created a work using many musique concrète techniques and sometimes illustrates the story well. In ‘The Descent’, he uses the sound of screaming, which reminds me of Henri Chopin, and it’s easy to know where this descent goes. ‘Purgatorio’ and ‘Paradisio’ make up the second disc, proving that hell is a more exciting place with interesting people. Not perhaps in Dante’s view. It would be interesting to look for sonic differences between these places, and maybe I am making this up. Still, it seems that ‘Purgatorio’ and ‘Paradisio’ are a bit more on the minimalist side, and in ‘Inferno’ there is more sonic action. It’s all in my head, I guess. I do not prefer one or the other here, as I enjoy Petit’s variation, even when one disc seems to have considerably more action. You can even listen to this in terms of music, without any story, without heaven or hell, and even this on a more abstract level, thinking of whatever story you feel fits the music best. Petit is an excellent form here, and 40 years of hard work shows in fine craftsmanship. (FdW)

via Vital Weekly