Without a ship Columbus could not have traversed the Atlantic, without a telescope Galileo could not have charted the solar system, and what the MOOG SYNTHESISER opens up for the future of music is beyond dreams. This euphoric proclamation was originally published on the back cover of Moog Indigo by Jean Jacques Perrey (released on Vanguard in 1970).
Our story begins however in Bochum, Germany in 1923 - with the birth of a young musical prodigy Gershon Kingsley. After promising early musical experiments, Gershon was forced to flee Germany as a refugee from Nazi persecution. Emigrating first to Israel and then, following World War II, to America where he studied music at the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music. After graduation Kingsley moved to New York in the mid-50s, where he conducted pit orchestras for Broadway shows. This drew the attention of legendary producer David Merrick who engaged Kingsley's services as musical director for his 1958 show, The Entertainer, (which starred Laurence Olivier).
While working in musical theatre Kingsley performed concerts with avant-garde composer John Cage and was among the earliest musicians to investigate the Moog synthesiser. Accepting a position as staff arranger at Vanguard Records, (working on albums of Greek and Israeli folk music), he first encountered a French keyboard prodigy names Jean Jacques Perrey in 1964...
Born to music loving parents in northern France in 1929, Jean Jacques Perrey had played accordion since the age of four, an interest that he would later describe as [becoming] possessed by a 'little demon of music.' Perrey aspired to become a physician, but abandoned his initial career path in order to pursue musical opportunities. Critical to this decision was his encounter with Georges Jenny in 1952 while Perrey was still studying medicine. Jenny was the inventor of a rudimentary form of synthesiser known as the Ondioline, a vacuum tube instrument that he first developed in 1938. It was controlled by an eight-octave keyboard much like that of an organ or piano, and was capable of simulating conventional instrument sounds (such as violin or flute) which could be further nuanced with vibrato by horizontal movement of the player's fingers on the keyboard. In 1958 the Ondioline was played atop the Atomium building during the Brussels World Fair.
Jean Jacques Perrey quickly made the Ondioline his instrument of choice. He perfected a two-handed performance style where the young Frenchman would block the chords of a piece with his left hand on the piano while sketching an ethereal melody with the Ondioline (or Pianoline as it was known) with his right hand.
Perrey's devotion to Georges Jenny's brainchild didn't escape the Inventor's notice-.-Jenny hired Perrey as a salesman and Ondionline demonstrator. Perrey's good-humoured electronic recitals also caught the ear of other notables in the French entertainment world including Charles Trenet, Jean Cocteau and Edith Piaf - who financed and produced a number of early Perrey recordings and introduced him to Carroll Bratman, a New York music entrepreneur who sponsored Perrey's first trip to America and financed a well-equipped sound studio for Perrey's use in Manhattan.
The novelty of Perrey's unusual sound, combined with his congenial Gallic persona, led to numerous appearances on American television and radio - and guest spots with everyone from Arthur Godfrey to Captain Kangaroo!
Soon enough, word of Perrey's eccentric musical act reached the ear of Gershon Kingsley at Vanguard. When the two first met, Perrey was logging long hours recording in his Manhattan studio, engaged in an effort to utilise the musique concrete tape-splicing techniques developed by the French avant-garde composer Pierre Schaeffer in a more popular context. Perrey's laboriously constructed tape loops - each one a crazy quilt of filtered and pitch-manipulated machine noises and animal cries - became the basis for the twelve compositions which would compromise Perrey & Kingsley's first 1966 Vanguard release, The In Sound From Way Out!
Kingsley would contribute electronic sounds as well, and it is his arrangements that allow the conventional instrument ensembles to interact with Perrey's studio concoctions. On his later solo recordings, the conventional instruments would form the core of Perrey's works, with the electronics added as overdubs-.-this would establish the paradigm for the manner in which electronic sounds were used thereafter by most pop musicians.
The following year saw the release of the duo's second album, 1967's kaleidoscopic Vibrations: Spotlight On The Moog. Retooling pop hits with a Moog Synthesiser recently added to Perrey's Ondioline and other electric keyboards, the duo gave a cybernetic spin to Moon River, Winchester Cathedral and The Third Man Theme among others.
After this second effort, the pair separated, both opting to pursue long-running solo careers. In the years to come, Kingsley would score films including the soft-core porn feature, Sugar Cookies and make an Indelible mark on pop culture as the composer of the early '70s hit, Popcorn (which he has described as having taken about two minutes to write).
Jean Jacques Perrey went on to make two additional solo albums for Vanguard: The Amazing New Electronic Pop Sound Of Jean Jacques Perrey (1968) and Moog Indigo (1970). Again as with his earlier collaborations with Kingsley, the Frenchman - who now considered himself an Earth Citizen - drew from blues, bossa nova, country rock and even polka (!) for his inspiration. Perrey maintained his scientific interests, utilising his music during the last decade for experimental communication with dolphins, among other projects.
Perrey & Kinglsey's influence persists in a myriad of ways. Norman Cook provides two examples of overt homage to the Perrey & Kingsley legacy which grace the third disc in this set, while the Beastie Boys appropriated both the title and cover art from The In Sound From Way Out for an album of early 90s instrumentals.
If, as Jean Jacques Perrey insists the future is not what it was, causing humankind to suffer from mal de vivre, surely the best cure would be The OUT Sound From Way IN!
By Richard Henderson