I am a musician with a classical background in double bass, and am branching out into visual arts and computer programming.
I strive to make music that is inclusive and relatable to non-musicians, and I am constantly trying to bridge the gap between experiment, innovation, and accessibility.
I view computers as extensions of myself, both instrumentally and in my compositional process.
Inspired by the do-it-yourself ethic, my work is situated at the fascinating intersection between gravitas and absurdity.
I relish the perfect correspondence between sight and sound, especially when they are extremely synchronized.
I love chromesthesia and bright plain colors, bubbling counterpoint, rhythmic textures, lush soundscapes, and spasmodic canons.
I cherish Dada, kitsch, cats, and do not take myself too seriously.
"In a city crowded with composers eager to synthesize the pulsing, imitative, syncopated rhythmic languages of composers like David Lang and Steve Reich, Ghys out–New Yorked the New Yorkers, making a name for himself with ingenious collages combining found video, layers of solo bass, and a razor wit."
- Daniel Stephen Johnson Q2
For An Open Cage, composer and bassist Florent Ghys was drawn to a recording of John Cage reading an excerpt from his own Diary: How to Improve the World (You Will Only Make Matters Worse).
A solo bass mimics the rhythm of Cage's silky speech patterns, lending a jaunty bounce to his deadpan delivery. My favorite line, proving Cage's humor, is: "I'm gradually learning how to take care of myself. It has taken a long time. It seems to me that when I die, I'll be in perfect condition." As instrumental forces grow, they gradually overtake Cage. A small chorus of voices appears, superseding the instruments, then recedes to give Cage the last word.
Don't let the high concept fool you — Ghys' song sports a funky beat. Edison, if he could hear it, would probably tap his toes.
+ "An Open Cage" selected Favorite Songs of 2015 by NPR
I listen to the weather forecast pretty much every morning—but I have never heard it like this before. French composer and bassist Florent Ghys’s eclectic new album “Télévision” begins with a piece composed for double bass, voice, guitars, percussion, and, oh yeah, five weather forecasts. Yes, five weather forecasts.
But it’s not all just sunshiny, warm weatherman banter—the piece actually serves as an introduction to Ghys’s idiosyncratic compositional style. As the title of the album suggests, his music is like a mashup of video and sound clips, sampled speech, multi-tracking, found sound, and more—and it’s all tied together with perfectly groovy pizzicato basslines and subtle yet witty social commentary. The colorful and unapologetically contemporary works live somewhere in the realm between chamber music, minimalism, sound art, and seriously catchy pop tunes.
So the next time you’re looking for something new, turn off your TV and tune into Florent Ghys’s musique concrète masterpiece, “Télévision.”
A la première écoute, on pense à un quatuor à cordes. En prise directe avec les voix d'un bulletin météo polyglotte dont l'échange se nourrit. Mais Florent Ghys est seul maître à bord de l'interaction stimulante de ce Télévision, enregistré dans sa chambre, à Brooklyn.
Le contrebassiste et compositeur français entrelace, dans une approche chambriste et contemporaine, sa matière acoustique démultipliée aux sons ambiants et à divers vocaux via un traitement ultrasoigné.
Que vous soyez allergique à la télé ou que vous adoriez rester scotché devant le « petit écran », écoutez ce disque ! Florent Ghys est un contrebassiste bordelais qui vit désormais dans le New Jersey. Jouer « du jazz » n’est pas sa préoccupation première car pour lui « composer c’est enregistrer et enregistrer c’est composer ». On imagine le magnétophone dans sa poche... C’est donc à partir de la matière de ses prises de sons savamment assemblées qu’il élabore sa musique, certes « contemporaine » mais qui doit beaucoup aux univers de la pop et des musiques répétitives... et ne manque pas d’humour comme le prouvent les 13 séquences vidéo qu’on peut visionner sur son site !
Remember that gut-busting viral video by pianist Henry Hey in which he over-layed McCain and Palin speeches, emulating their cadences during the 2008 debates? The opening track of Florent Ghys’s "Télévision" brings this ambitious ruse back in a flood, minus the acerbic bent.
Like the majority of the track list, Blazer et/ou cravate inhabits a delighted, puckish air, here with his double-bass pizzicato tracking weather reporters’ asymmetrical meters and natural vocal contours. The ease of Ghys’s duet-ing and the eventual introduction of his own multi-tracked falsetto, gently punctuating shifts in harmony, camouflage an impressive feat of virtuosity unmistakable on a third or fourth listen.
Fear not, children raised by Zeniths and Vizios,"Télévision" is not an indictment of the idiot box, but a one-person paean to the unintentional poetry it emits and, in this case, inspires. Take the track 2-pop, in which the blip one hears in a 5-4-3-2 countdown at the front of a film reel provides the perky metronome for a gratifying jam of layered, cascading multi-tempo vocal counting. Or how about the carbonated fizz of This is the album of the future, in which a 1980’s newscast astounds the viewer with the sci-fi-level technology of the Compact Disc? In it, Ghys weaves and multiplies double-bass 16th-note pairs over a similarly binary drum kit as his voice melts elegantly between pitches.
Fans of The Books will feel a hot-toddy-and-a-fireplace-like cozy familiarity within these numbers, given the multi-lingual and found-sound samples comprising the album’s “libretto.” It is Ghys’s unrestrained whimsy and exacting assembling of materials, though, that keep headphones firmly cupped to the listener’s ears. Whether it is bewitching col legno droplets framing Invitation to love (you’re welcome, Twin Peaks-enthusiasts) or the capricious videos the composer/performer shot to accompany these tunes, there’s no doubt "Télévision" is even more entertaining than John McCain crooning, “pretty nasty things about Western Pennsylvania.”
(...) But the film is also an aesthetic treat, juxtaposing abundant archival footage of such luminaries as Martha Graham, José Límon and Antony Tudor with striking video of contemporary dancers, working sometimes in the same historical spaces. As many of the archival clips are silent, Florent Ghys’ delicious, rhythmic score figures prominently throughout. In the absence of a narrator, the music serves as the thread tying together the events of Hill’s life, while mirroring the emotional tenor of the art form’s growing pains and joys. Though it was produced by the Martha Hill Dance Fund, and its coordinating producer, former dancer Vernon Scott, attended Juilliard during Hill’s tenure helming the dance program, the film lovingly spotlights, but by no means exaggerates, Hill’s pivotal achievements.
Télévision, the new album by Bang on a Can alumnus and bass player Florent Ghys, is a highly conceptual, yet highly accessible work of avant garde music. Each song is inspired by, and based around, clips of dialogue from television. The French-born, New Jersey-based composer uses the cadence and melody of people to create his compositions, the sound of the voices synchronizing and harmonizing with the music in a fluid whole. This is just one example of the innovation in Ghys’ work, and he’ll be bringing that forward-thinking approach to his performance on 7:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 28, at Bread & Salt.
An accomplished bassist, Ghys is more inventor than composer, as Arnold Schoenberg said of his student John Cage. In a couple of pieces, Ghys played the same piece with himself recorded and displayed on the video screen. One of these pieces was appropriately titled “Teamwork.”
His style relies on basic minimalist formulas that progress not by development, but by layering new digitally processed lines and increasing the work’s density and dynamic level. After several consecutive pieces, I felt this approached torture by ostinato.
I thought Ghys’ most clever offerings were accompaniment—reactions to videos. “Swing Out from Open Position” took several period dance demonstration films to which he added a jazzy, rhythmically asymmetrical track as clever counterpoint.
His “Blazer and Tie” took several clips of televised weather reports from around the world to which he doubled the rise and fall of the forecaster’s voice on the double bass. His title, of course, refers to the standard attire of such television functionaries.
Not surprisingly, Ghys’ new CD is titled Télévision.
- Ken Herman
"Composer and bassist Florent Ghys writes pieces that blend elements of minimalism, pop music and a dose of extravagant wit" - John Schaefer
+ Album Television was Staff Pick Year 2014 for the show New Sound
Ghys flashed images (often of himself, often playing the bass) for a stunning visual counterpoint to what he was doing live, which involved two laptop computers and an iPad mounted to his bass, triggering multitrack loops which layered against his bowed and plucked real-time contributions.
On “Teamwork,” the barefoot musician combined multiple rhythmic and melodic gestures that tended to reveal underlying structures -- kind of like opening a set of nested Russian dolls. Like the composer Steve Reich, Ghys finds much to explore in the pursuit of repetition. The interaction with the video was also quite fascinating, even when -- or maybe especially when -- it forced the listener to divide their focus.
Aside from all the technology, Ghys is a formidable bass player with great intonation and rhythm, and,on “Untitled,” he unleashed an intoxicating melange of arco, pizzicato and what sounded to me like pre-recorded voices, all swirling around the sound of his voice live in the room, producing a dizzying series of overtones that hovered in the air.
The onscreen Ghys stood in front of a meteorology map to deliver a piece, “Blazer and Tie,” that was based on the cadences of announcers reading weather copy in French and Spanish. He also used schematics from Voyager II to pulse along with the throbbing Aphex Twins-inspired electronica on “Melody From Mars,” a definite crowd favorite.
Throughout the evening, the bassist used technology in a very intuitive way to enhance the musical dimension of his approach to solo concertizing -- perhaps engaging more senses than is the norm -- and his performance kept the audience leaning forward and clamoring for more when it was over.
Earlier this Fall, Cantaloupe (the record label created 10 years ago by the founders of Bang on a Can) released Florent Ghys’s first LP,Baroque Tardif, following a 2009 EP, Baroque Tardif: Soli. Born in France, Ghys is a composer, double bass player, and prolific videographer.
The title of the album (meaning late Baroque in French) is a tongue-in-cheek reference to a wacky guitar teacher that Ghys’s studied with as a teenager, and who was convinced that Baroque music would come back one day and rule other genres. The overall vibe, though, is DIY Post-Minimalism infused with a heavy dose of 21st century counterpoint.
The album opens with Phase Parisienne and Ghys starts by building counterpoint patterns on the bowed double bass in an additive fashion—layer by layer. They point, at first, towards Reich’s processes but soon haunting harmonics accompanied by hand clapping make the piece almost sound like some minimalist Gnawa music. Awesome. The following track Pull Blanc, Chemise Rouge (White Sweater, Red button-down shirt) introduces another element of Ghys’s very personal idiom: syllables as musical objects. Ghys sings dislocated modal melodies insolfège syllables (fixed do) with a thin voice and each note thus named loses its anonymity, and is treated as a found object. Or maybe is it a reference to the virtuosic practice on the Indian subcontinent to sing complex and improvised melodies on Swaras? Ghys has after all—and among many others—a degree in ethno-musicology…
Ghys pushes his experimentation on syllables further on Simplement (Simply) where he uses the audio recording of a conversation and turns it into musical material: first, the spoken rhythm is used as the basis for a melody performed on the guitar and laid over the original audio track. The effect is striking and one could almost forget that speech was here first. Later in the piece, Ghys adds another layer and sings the spoken text on the melody that was first given to the guitar, still on top of the speech track. A sense of overload—deliciously antithetical to the title—makes me wonder how a non-French speaking audience could receive the piece… Soli, built on a similar additive process, provides a welcomed relief but is a real tipping point in the album. Indeed, Polenta à Azadi displays some interesting second species counterpoint suggesting astringent harmonies that owe a lot to David Lang, but rely again, and not unlike Simplement, on solfège syllables. The same thing could be said of Clignotants, orQuatrieme.
Album art by Another Limited Rebellion
The second half of the album features a series of more atmospheric pieces like Bechamelle , Division Par Zero, Depassement De Cap, or Lemon Cake 3, but not as convincing as Coma Carus. With its shimmering quality, it is possibly the only uninterrupted musical gesture on the album.
Ghys’s output on Cantaloupe was initially thought as a 3-EP series starting with Baroque Tardif: Soli, but Cantaloupe decided to release Ghys’s material on a full-length album. Considering the stylistic redundancy on Baroque Tardif, one could wonder if two (better balanced) EPs might have changed the listening experience. Regardless, Baroque Tardif is a great introduction to Ghys’s unique, experimental, and intimate world where classical flirts with pop in a quirky way.
Il est l'homme-compositeur mêlant samples de voix, emprunts à la pop, au jazz, à la musique contemporaine ou à la musique minimaliste répétitive, mais pas que. Il est l'homme-orchestre, assurant les pupitres de la contrebasse alto, de la guitare, du sèche-cheveux ou du piano, et des technologies de studio, mais pas que. Il est l'homme-vidéaste, offrant des images à chacune de ses musiques, mais pas que. On a évoqué à son sujet de la musique de chambre post-minimaliste, une extrême maîtrise contrapuntique, et la croisée contemporaine entre l'ethnomusicologie et la musique orientale actuelle, mais pas que. Car tout ce qui précède passe sous le silence le lyrisme de Florent Ghys. Bordelais expatrié dans le New Jersey.
- Christian Larrède
Quand il ne met pas son talent au service d'autres artistes, opéras, orchestres ou musiques de films, le contrebassiste Florent Ghys, diplômé en ethno-musicologie et en composition musicale, sort des disques en solo. Après Baroque Tardif, paru en 2011, le musicien français installé aux États-Unis revient avec une mouture très personnelle qui dévoile toute l'étendue de sa technique de bassiste, mais aussi son goût pour les expérimentations vocales et les percussions. Dans sa musique d'apparence acoustique et minimaliste, mais également cérébrale, on croise des samples d'annonces météo sur le hip-hop Blazer et/ou Cravate. Ou encore des voix et des cordes de contrebasses qui se balancent et groovent en fonction de rythmes chaloupés (Swing out from open position) et parfois jazzy. Quelques instants aussi plus planants comme sur l'électronica de No Lemon, no melon ou Invitation to love. Un bon disque à écouter plusieurs fois pour en saisir toutes les subtilités.
- Emeline Marceau