A very passionate and personal tribute to one of the legendary pioneers of electronica.
Image: Gotye Presents A Tribute to Jean-Jacques Perrey. Photo (c) Anna Webber.
A Tribute to Jean-Jacques Perrey is many things – a very personal memoir, the story of an unlikely friendship, a primer in the history of electronica, and, of course, a wonderful musical performance.
Musician Wally de Backer – better known simply as Gotye – is passionate about the work of the French composer Jean-Jacques Perrey and a rare instrument called the Ondioline.
Perrey was a masterful keyboard player and musical innovator in the 1950s and ‘60s who discovered the Ondioline, an early synthesiser invented by Frenchman Georges Jenny in 1941.
Each Ondioline was built by hand by Jenny who could only manufacture two a week. There were only a few hundred ever built and most have been lost. The one played by Gotye in this performance was salvaged in a desperate state of disrepair and lovingly restored.
The six-piece Ondioline Orchestra also features a Theremin, another strange and beautiful instrument rarely played in performance today. Between them, the Orchestra plays the Ondiolines, Moog synthesisers, keyboards, guitars, drums, percussion, a double-bass, and a clarinet.
The musical journey embraces the ethereal sounds of the Theramin, quirky samples and sound effects from ducks quacking to disembodied opera singers, and a few pieces of unmistakably French movie music. Danielle of Amsterdam and The Soul of the Poets were two of the musical highlights in an eclectic playlist.
Image: Gotye formed an unlikely friendship with French composer Jean-Jacques Perrey.
Jean-Jacques Perrey died in 2016, aged 87, just as this tribute show was about to premiere. Gotye had formed a deep friendship with the aging musician over the last few years of his life, visiting him often at his home in Switzerland. Perrey was ‘the endlessly giving bon vivant’ said Gotye affectionately. This show is clearly a labour of love for Gotye who beams with enthusiasm throughout the performance.
The ‘in the round’ staging at Carriageworks gave the performance a wonderful informality and intimacy, even more so when Gotye invited the enthusiastic audience to come and sit on the floor to be closer to the music. And clever lighting design by Jeff Sugg gave added warmth to the ambience.
This was a fascinating slice of musical history and a unique opportunity to share in someone’s musical passions.
Rating: 4 ½ stars out of 5
Gotye Presents a Tribute to Jean-Jacques Perrey
Played at Carriageworks as part of the Sydney Festival
January 16-17 2018
First published on