The Early Years
In 1984, Serge Leroy and Christian Wittman met for the first time at the
Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, thanks to common friends, and decided to
work together for founding Crystal Lake, a French independent and
non-profit organization devoted to the promotion of new and electronic
musics. Heavily involved in the discovery of new artists and musical
trends, they edited a magazine and started a mail-order service in order to
import tapes and records of electronic music from all around the world into
Serge joined together theory and practice, and was already experimenting
sound and music with an impressive Roland Modular System 700 synthesizer.
Despite his interest in electronic music, Christian never played
synthesizers until then. He had the opportunity to buy a second-hand ARP
2600 synthesizer at a rather cheap price, and this was the starting point
of a long and on-going story.
For months, Serge and Christian experimented with their machines,
exploring the infinite possibilities of analog modular synthesis. Some
tapes were recorded on a TEAC Portastudio (4 tracks and more, with the
overdub options). Slowly the idea of playing together came to their mind.
In 1985, Crystal Lake organized an electronic music festival near Paris,
featuring several French musicians and bands. Serge and Christian decided
to play a set in the Festival. The name "Lightwave" was bestowed during a
dinner at a Chinese restaurant near Christian's place.
Laurent Bozec, a young guy who had a VCS 3 synthesizer, joined Lightwave
for this first concert, at Châtenay Malabry. They had intensive
rehearsals, and prepared a sophisticated backing tape with climates and
sequences that were impossible to play live. Lightwave was by then strongly
influenced by German electronic music, and the audience was obviously
looking for some similarities between the French trio and a mythical trio
Lightwave's music was very experimental, bizarre, beyond any categories,
and the synthesizers were used in an extreme and free way. Much was left to
chance and improvisation.
In 1985, Christoph Harbonnier joined Lightwave. He was already playing in
an electronic duo, and his sound and music were already impressive.
However, he was looking for more experimentation and risks. One could say
that he was not disappointed with Lightwave. At that time, Lightwave had a
rather impressive set of analog synthesizers, ranging from the Korg PS 3300,
the RSF Polykobol, Polymoog, ARP and Roland modular systems.
(LW synth museum gallery)
As a trio, the band gave several concerts, using the analog equipment on
stage and programming most of the sequences live. The music combined German
cosmic influences with a touch of French classical and avant-garde
tradition. The concerts were real technical and artistic challenges, since
most of the time the musicians were dealing with unpredictable machines,
unstable balances, and mere technical accidents that had to be turned in
In 1987, the first produced Lightwave recording titled "Modular Experiment"
was released, containing some live and studio pieces. Lightwave was used to
playing live in studio sessions, with direct recording on a Revox tape machine.
Hours and hours of recorded and still unreleased music are still on the shelves
of the studio.