I particularly do not have to explain for the five or so people in today's Hungary, who
know the name and lifework of the musician Yochk'o Seffer (originally József Seffer, born
in Miskolc, Hungary, presently residing in Paris, France), why do I introduce just now one
of his great record, produced in 1977. They also know, that any of the approximately two
dozen published works of Seffer would appear as a novelty and a discovery for the
Hungarian audiance, if there were any organization or radio station - which besides the
great patriotic flagwaiving would give room for the real representatives of the Hungarian
cultur and Hungarian music for everybodoy's benefit, i. e. get the public acquainted with
Seffer's works. These few people also know that the Hungarian public brainwashed by the
mass media would not care too much about works, which have cultural value, or declared for
such. We have to admit, part of the public rightly has its reservation. In their minds
still lives the memory of the previous regime's culturpolitics where mediocre works were
labeled as the greates and therefor they are very suspicious. The other part simply wants
to live, or in other words: to sell mass quantities of records, audio and video casettes.
These people are not looking for the original creators of our artistic life. It is in
nobody's best interest to sell releases other, than the cultur trash of the large werstern
companies. Perhaps after these sentences, it will become clear that my only intention is
to show the record titled "Ima" of Yock'o Seffer's Neffesh Music Orchestra
(Published by the french Moshé-Naim Publisher) and to introduce a work, which is
Hungarian, grandiose and original in its tone.
Seffer József left Hungary at the end of the sicties and soon joined the french music
life. His first records were produced by Mamga the golden group of the rock and jazzrock.
At that time his goal was to assimilate, i.e. to become a frenchman. After a few years he
found out: it is impossible, either artisticly or humanly. He then started to compose and
play Hungarian themes and with the Hungarian titles he expressed that he is different.
Being a brave man, such records like "Magyar Ló" (Hungarian Horse),
"Ima" (Prayer), "Cifra", "Lárma" (Nois),
"Ösgyökér", "Béla bácsi emlékére" (For the Memory of Uncle
Béla), "Bunkós" did not include french translations. During his second musical
period he made solo performances and a record, on which he was solo saxophone, piano and
kamuka player and he also sang. After that he founded the Neffesh Music Orchestra. He made
three large records and dozens of performances. Then with his artistic
chromophonicmentality he created three more records and more concerts. In this musical
period he eventually widened the limits of the jazz music and touched the efforts of the
contemporary music, and came close to Barton music world. He also utilized the elements of
Hungarian folkmusic. With his other orchestras he played less abstract and more familiar
internation tunes, he became one of France's most popular musicians. These orchestra are:
perception (3 big records), speed limit (2 records) and ZAO (3 LP's).
Of course, these records are as unknown as his more Hungarian creations.
The nucleus of Neffesh-Music Orchestra is the Margand Violin Quartet (Michele Margand -
first violin, Anne Mehat - second violin, Francoise Douchet - viola, Claudine Lasserre -
violincello) and Seffer (szaxophone, key instruments and singin voice). On some records we
alse hear bassguitar, percussion instruments and vocalist. To fint out what Neffeshmeans,
" (...) Neffes, that animal whose soul, gropes its way to the ground, to the street
did not yet reach the consciusness and becomes "Raush" to get to the sphere of
the surroundings, to the whole fantasy, to "Nesh Hama". This is something like
the Holy Trinity in the Christian faith. Neffesh Music means for me: to find my real
roots, i.e. make popular the spirit of Béla Bartók, the genuine Hungarian composer. And
to work in that sense, which is the restoration of the folkstradion. (...)"
This definiton sounds superstitious, but for us it is rational enough to understand
some of Seffer's artistry. There is another part in his conversation with Michel Paquié
which is worth hearing:
" (...) I was thinking for a long time, how it would be possible to unite together
the music of my country, the electroacoustic music and the feeling of jazz.Of course I am
a jazz musician but I studied Schönberg and the serial music too. I try to make a
synthesis out of the different trends (...). I was working for this over ten years with
French musicians of ZAO (3 LP's) and of Neffesh Music and in the meantime always wanted to
remanin true to the ways of Hungarian music (...)."
After this long introduction we should get acquainted with "Ima" the second
record of Neffesh-Music on which Manu plays percussion instruments Dominique Bertram plays
bassguitar and Mauricia Platon sings with Seffer and the Margrand Quartett. The firstside
contains the 20 minutes long Ima. It is an extraordinary and slow piece. In its first 14
minutes we hear a singing voice over the solo tone of the bass saxophone bridgeing beats
and periods and forcing its way from the side to the center. The lirical theme by layering
over itself several times, becomes a sixphonic canon. From time to time a basstone
appears, or an improvisation of a contraalto saxophone can be heard. With increasing
tension, the contraalto saxophone too starts to sing with sopranino and sopran saxophone
pass ages, followed by sweet melancolic rustic melody, accompanied with improvision of
vocal scores, and the elecrically modulated sounds of percussion instruments.
In the second part (only 2 minetes long) which is reinforced with part rithm play, the
foregoing slightly maniacal but still clearly intronaled music became out of tune and
dissonant. The third part keeps that dissonance without the rhythm but with the firs
part's horn blowing completing it with electronically wxcited and distorted tones and
basguitar and soprano saxophone improvisation.
What we hear belongs to a living electroacoustical chamber music genre, some jazz-like -
in the second part with some rock effects and with such a deep loneliness we feel in
Bartok's Prince Bluebeard's last sentence ("and there already will be always night...
night... night..."). While Bartók's hero stays alone all by himself, here the
"human" will be suffocated and swallowed up by the orgy of sounds.
"I set off my way from my beautiful country, dear little Hungary, I turned back
halfway and tears came to my eyes" - my soul resounds the Hungarian folksong togehter
with the piece titled Ofek's 2 slow passages, the unisonic sounds of altosaxophone and
singing voice. This indtroduction is followed by a faster, showing regular part rhythm
play, in which we can hear altosaxophone, or rather a violin quiartett improvision (!)
too. The sound of the xylophone beat instrument is sipirited despite the pleasant
orchestral inserts and sometimes sweeping tempo of this jazzrock style piece, this
composition does not represent a genuine piece, because of the second theme's undefines
I suggest listening to Bartók's fourth violin quartett's fifth, the singing movement for
those who do not know it, before listen to the third piece, i.e. the last 12 minutes of
the record "Ima". Its forcefully built accords, the barbaric passages, short
motives reflect so much similar emotion with Seffer's noce chimique (Chemical marriage)
composition, that after the violin quartett - like middle part one would consider it as
continuation of Bartók's piece as an integral part of it. I tried it myself by cutting
the two works on tape together. After this I still have to disappoint my readers, who
expect chamber music forthe last part of the record. What we hear issome kind of a
devilish jazzrock in which Seffer was able to integrate the unrivalled rhythmical rustic
main theme with the elements of rock, jazz and contemporary chamber music. The work itself
is a style and rhythm study in which from 1/8 and 8/8 measure. The signal-like theme built
from three tone level does not lose character during its development: first as ostinato in
7/8 measure moves thru the unisonic sound ofsong and key instrument presenting the side
theme and during the improvisation of piano and drum, it gives basis for the piano/violin
improvisation as the rhythm play becomes secondary.
When the violin quartet remains all by itself, the basic pulse dissolves completely in the
microelements of the broken down maintheme, or the appearence of the different measures of
the signal motivs.
Then comes the moment, when the composition cannot be continued according to conventional
logic. The turbulent, odd pulses will be replaced by even ones and on the spinning
jazz-rock base comes in the second brilliant Hungarian soprano saxophone theme, akin to
the side theme (conrapointed with singing accompaniment). After changes in rhythm and
recalling the original, oddly apportioned theme, comes in a bassimprovision, then it's
followed by a quote of a Hungarian dance double the composition concludes with the unison
bassguitar and a singing voice of the first theme utilizing 6/8 beats and slower tempo.
It would be an overstatement to say that I have never herad a better composition on the
other hand, one seldom can hear a more complex and concise 12 minutes in the jazz genre
composed with such a logical evolution of music - and in its complexity, still remains
It is exhasuting to sit throgh the last 12 minutes. It is that way because Seffer does not
let anyone sink into its acoustic waves. Seffer does not want to rock us to sleep, but he
beats our face with obstinace: "I am here! I am a human! I am a Hungarian!... and in
spite of it all, I am still alive and...! I believe!
Do we need to have more than that, here in 1992?
Holmi, 1993. szeptember