Swingle Singers' composer dies at 90

The death has just been announced on Radio France of André Hodeir, a French jazz composer who had his greatest hit with Bitter Ending, a setting of the finale of James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake, recorded by the Swingles.

Hodeir founded the Jazz Groupe de Paris in 1954 and wrote scores for many films, among them Autour d’un récif (Jean-Yves Cousteau, 1949), Saint-Tropez. Devoirs de vacances (Paul Paviot, 1953), Une Parisienne (Michel Boisrond, 1957) and Les Tripes au Soleil (Claude Bernard-Aubert, 1958).

He was also a close associate of Pierre Boulez and the serialist avant-garde.  Here‘s the Radio France obit.

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  • RIP André Hodeir. What a long and extraordinary life – and thank you for reporting it. As well as all his work on jazz, he was a tremendous enthusiast for all sorts of new music. Hodeir and Boulez were both Messiaen pupils and Hodeir wrote a charming introduction to the first of Boulez’s Domaine musical concerts back in 1954. Just to give a glimpse of Hodeir’s open-minded passion for new music here’s a little quote from the Domaine musical article that I used in a book on Messiaen’s Oiseaux exotiques:

    “The concert this evening is the first of a series of which the realistically ambitious conception could bring about a welcome overturning of [Parisian] musical habits that have reverted to those of the time of Berlioz. Perhaps it will mark the start of a period of great first performances, analogous to that in Paris at the beginning of the century, when it was the centre of the artistic world.”

    Then there’s Hodeir’s wonderfully contentious but always absorbing book “La Musique depuis Debussy” (published in English as “Since Debussy”) in which – among other things – he made an eloquent case for Jean Barraqué’s Piano Sonata to be the best work of its kind since Beethoven.

    Altogether a remarkable man, and one who was never afraid to speak his mind.

  • Norman – A friend of mine Helen Pedersen-Devos is singing on this album and says it’s impossible to find. Do any of your readers know where we could get it? Fascinating character Hodeir and unknown to me so I’ll try find his books. Thanks for this. Keith.

    • It’s never been on CD as far as I know, or even as a download. Perhaps Hodeir’s death will encourage the record company to do something about that. Apparently it’s for the Swingles with a jazz quintet, but I’ve never managed to hear it.

      Some of Hodeir’s instrumental jazz has been issued on budget CDs in France in the series “Jazz in Paris” – among others:”Jazz et Jazz” (which is currently on amazon.fr for just over 3 euros), “Jazz et cinéma Vol. 5” (with quite a few Hodeir pieces on it) and “Kenny Clarke’s Sextet plays André Hodeir”. All of these are available at the moment at amazon.fr.

      Let’s hope we do get a re-release of “Bitter Ending” before too long.

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