We're saddened to announce the passing of brilliant French sound poetBernard Heidsieck last Saturday, November 22, a mere eight days before his 86th birthday. Heidsieck, who worked as a deputy manager of a Parisian Bank in the Carrefour de la Chausse D'Antin, delighted in his world of contradictions. A world in which professionals and prostitutes bumped elbows in the busy streets and where, navigating through the chaos, he'd sit patiently making recordings with a tape machine of the various nooks and crannies of his pulsing environment. Heidsieck used these urban soundscapes as counterpoint to his own spoken word. As scant information can yet be found regarding his important contributions to the field, OM's Charles Amirkhanian reflects on Heidsieck's life.
"I met Bernard Heidsieck in Paris in 1972, traveling with my wife Carol Law and interviewing for KPFA as many of the European sound poets as I could. Bernard Heidsieck was one of the greatest of these.
His work had an emotional and sociological depth that distinguished it from that of his peers, but he still reveled in the use of experimental vocalizing and writing that meant his words were more to be heard than just viewed on the page.
Heidsieck was drawn to Americans more than other French artists. A scion of the family that owned the prestigious and successful Charles Heidsieck Champagne winery in Reims, he was 16 when the U.S. army liberated France. He often shared fond recollections of American soldiers marching past his family's headquarters while he handed out glasses of champagne to the passing parade. And in the Fifties he rented a car on the East Coast and drove through the U.S. on a Kerouac-inspired road trip that left an indelible impression on the young writer. This occurred about 100 years after the 1852 trip by Charles-Camille Heidsieck, the founder of the family business, became the first champagne merchant in the world to take his wares to the U.S.
Bernard and his visual artist wife, Françoise Janicot, were guests at the Djerassi Resident Artists Program when Carol and I served as co-directors in the Nineties, and Heidsieck produced a brilliant book of visual poems comprising various colored segments of reel-to-reel tape leader, arranged on rag paper in the shape of geometric forms, some reminiscent of Mondriaan.