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Bernard Szajner

Born into obscurity, Bernard Szajner remained a secret for a long time. If his existence began like a metaphor for Plato’s cave (the artist was hidden at birth in a cellar during the Nazi occupation), Bernard Szajner, born with the nickname Wolf, says it is very much light which lead him towards the world.

This artificial light, coming from an electric bulb, was to haunt his entire work, from Visions of Dune (1979) to Brute Reason (1983) to his current efforts. It is clear that this miniscule light which dazzled Szajner during the Occupation came to acquire a capital importance for this bright spark who was to become a formidable self-taught creator. This instantaneous passage from darkness into illumination is the key to his worldview.

Szajner, a pioneer in transforming sound to image

From the 1970s, Bernard made artistic creations that associated sound and light. Creator of light shows for Gong, Magma, Pierre Henri, Olivier Messiaen and The Who, he imagined a new Relationship between sound and vision. These were his first experiment with linking, synchronizing, harmonizing visions and music, with a perfection never there-to-fore obtained. The experiments, unheard-of for the time, were acclaimed by critics and public alike.

In 1980, Jean-Michel Jarre was so interested in Szajner’s devices that he is too often credited, even today, with having created the now world-famous laser harp. A tree that conceals a forest, this luminous harp is an emblematic creation of Bernard Szajner’s because it creates true interdependence between sound and light: “sound is created by brushing the light, by caressing the intangible.”  Although a significant part of his explorations, it remains nonetheless one single example of his total artistic process.  In the end is remains the big sister of a large family of instruments he has created (the Snark, the Oestre, the EMC3, etc...). 

A Labyrinthine and Multidisciplinary Way Forward 

A hyperactive artist, and a pioneer in the use of technology, Bernard embraces creation, making tools that allow him to give life to his imagination and deconstruct the disciplines of sound and image. With his commitment to musical and visual technology, he managed to slip from the avant-garde and Free-Rock scenes of the 1970’s (Magma, Gong) to the New Wave of the 1980’s. His collaborations with Karel Beer in The (Hypothetical) Prophets and those with Howard Devoto of Magazine in Brute Reason are proof of this.

Along with his musical adventures, Bernard Szajner continues to cultivate as an amateur his visual and technological research. Following a visit to EPCOT Center in the USA in 1982, he decided to create his own android (automaton with human appearance), Einstein. Once again, in order to realize the dreams that keep him up at night, he embarked on an incredible human and technological adventure: To create artificial life through the power of machines. Einstein made him happy.  In 1989, he created and staged the show "L'esprit de la révolution" (‘The Spirit of the Revolution’) for the Mission Bicentenaire (Bicentennial Mission) where the actors are all androids. It was an immense success. Following this, he became a designer and art director for EuroDisney until 1992. The American giant had recognized his talent.

At once an Underground figure and an artist recognized by the highest institutional orders (he was named Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters by Jack Lang, then Minister of Culture), Bernard Szajner follows no social convention, fits in no slot, is an artist, creator, designer, composer, set designer, choreographer, writer, performer unto himself… It is impossible to pin a label on him.

(Re)Discovering an Outsider

Technique, be it archaic-- as is the case in the universe of the Dune Trilogy by Frank Herbert, the cult novel that inspired his first album ‘Visions of Dune’— or High-Tech, such as the instruments and technology the artist uses today (lasers, computers, immaterial screens), is experienced as liberation. Even if it brings light, however, it still knows how to keep its dark side.

This is obvious when one listens to this album recorded between 1978 and 1979 and considered by many to be a major, if still underground, work. Adored by Carl Craig, who counseled the label Infine to contact Bernard and propose that he return to the stage.

After having turned his back on the music industry for nearly twenty years, Bernard Szajner finally let himself be talked into it. Today, reissuing of Visions of Dune seems obvious. If its creator has received deserved recognition, the musician has remained in the shadows even though he is considered to be a master by the stars of contemporary music.  The label’s goal is to repair this omission by allowing the work of this pioneer (who is still too avant-garde to be entirely appreciated) to be rediscovered.

Visions of Dune, an Ignored Masterpiece

Visions of Dune is a powerful, mystical, nearly cinematic disc. In a genre that might be superficially compared to Ambient Music, it ultimately offers far more grain to hold onto than the original canons of the ambient school defined by Brian Eno, for example, require. 

Droning, electro-acoustic psychedelicism, at times close to certain compositions of atonal music, Visions of Dune is akin to the Industrial music of « the Age of Crystal » with its biomechanical popping, it’s electrical stridence, undulations and profound vibrations. The disc is an electronic meditation and a springboard for the imagination.

All this is in Visions of Dune, and much more. Its different movements, a dozen in all, evoke an imaginary world, buried beneath a thick layer of digital silica which suddenly bursts into full sunlight. 

A devastated planet. Unknown creatures. An enigmatic language. A people who are, in the end, mysterious, as are their myths and rituals. This is the strength of which we speak of in Bernard Szajner’s Visions of Dune, that of images created by the mind. For in music, even more than in other artistic disciplines, what is important depends on the power to reveal or to subjugate. The rest is simply talk.

Note that two lost pieces have been found and have been added to the original album as bonus tracks. « Spice » and « The Duke » were created at the same time as the album, but were left off because Pathé Marconi EMI considered them to be « too futuristic. » After years spent in relative obscurity, it is time for the best-kept secret of the French underground to leave its protective shadow and finally appear in the full light of day.

Fanny Courty & Maxence Grugier





visions of dune





rethinking z



visions of dune



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