My name is Florent Ghys (pronounced “Flaw-ren Gees”). I am an artist from Bordeaux, France and I make music with double basses, computers, images, weather reports, and other artefacts that I am drawn to.
After receiving formal training in Western classical music composition, music theory, and double bass performance, I evolved as an artist within the DIY framework. As a result, I am self-taught in programming, video editing, recording, mixing, and visual effects.
I create works that aim to be both experimental and accessible. I hope my music is unique, surprising, and personal while remaining inclusive and relatable to non-musicians. I believe the borders of popular music can be pushed to uncharted territories while avoiding esoteric music and elitism.
My music is often situated at the intersection between humor and seriousness. I enjoy crafting elaborated textures around mundane material such as TV excerpts and other recordings that were not intended to be included in an art piece. I find the discord between gravitas and absurdity inspirational, and I also find merit in revealing the inherent beauty of banality. “There’s a lot of beauty in ordinary things. Isn’t that kind of the point?” - Pam Beesly (The Office)
My audiovisual pieces explore the relationships between sight and sound. I am especially interested in the exact correspondence and perfect synchronization between the two media. The literal visualization of musical processes, the mappings of pitches to colors (chromesthesia), and the translation of speech inflections into musical notes (“speech melody”) often result in an exhilarating sensory experience. I like to believe that I am combining the concept of “videomusic” by Gabriel Shalom with Pierre Schaeffer’s ideas into an audiovisual musique concrête.
I hope you will enjoy what’s on this site as much as I enjoyed creating it.
The New Yorker, May 2020
“Music lovers of all stripes can embrace the work of the composer-bassist Florent Ghys, who has attained viral fame with videos attributed to the Cats & Friends Choir. Ghys’s pandemic ritual is to scour YouTube for vocalizing cats, sheep, and cows; organize their utterances by pitch; and edit them into approximations of familiar pieces, including Satie’s Gymnopédies, Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater, and Bach’s First Cello Suite. As with Coronadämmerung, silliness veers toward the sublime. Satie, for one, might have approved of being translated into meows and moos.”
— Alex Ross
Daniel Stephen Johnson
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.
The New Yorker
Music lovers of all stripes can embrace the work of the composer-bassist Florent Ghys, who has attained viral fame with videos attributed to the Cats & Friends Choir. Ghys’s pandemic ritual is to scour YouTube for vocalizing cats, sheep, and cows; organize their utterances by pitch; and edit them into approximations of familiar pieces, including Satie’s “Gymnopédies,” Pergolesi’s “Stabat Mater,” and Bach’s First Cello Suite. As with “Coronadämmerung,” silliness veers toward the sublime. Satie, for one, might have approved of being translated into meows and moos.
San Diego Story
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.
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.”
NBC San Diego
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 [...]
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.
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 !
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.”
San Diego City Beats
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.
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.
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.
Jazz News Magazine
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.
Film Journal International
Lisa Jo Sagolla
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.