The Archipel festival of Geneva welcomes its public during ten days of non-stop music, from noon to midnight, in a unique place, the Maison communale de Plainpalais, a space multiplied to offer as many listening experiences and moments of conviviality.
It is by federating their respective reflections and competences, the field of written music for Denis Schuler, the universe of installations, performance and electroacoustics for Marie Jeanson, that the two directors have concocted their second edition (with the public): " Rather than thinking from a thematic point of view, we function by associations and cross-referencing of ideas from which the lines of force of the program eventually emerge ", they explain to us. In this 2023 edition, fluidly mixing installations, performances, "acousmatic conversations" and instrumental concerts, a singular attention is paid to (small) objects(Living Objects) and their force of attraction. Conversely, there is a tendency to excess with the thirty snare drums of Mio Chareteau, but also the 80 musicians of the Basel Sinfonietta and the four hours of Corals, a service station, the installation and performance of Léo Collin and his Kollektiv International totem that opens the event.
As every year, the Archipel festival is linked to the composition students of the HEM of Geneva whose works can be heard in the Salon d'écoute where the acousmonium (loudspeaker orchestra) is installed. Archipel is also the place for children with a playroom and participative concerts inviting young musicians from the Conservatoire populaire de Genève, all led with great energy and charisma by Kaisa Pousset.
Four installations rotate continuously throughout the festival: that of the Japanese painter Tami Ichino strikes the eye from the entrance of the building. Superb drums of unbleached canvas of all sizes descend from the ceiling. Long sticks of different qualities are available to the public to put them in resonance. On the first floor, we are invited to lie down on the wooden platform, built for this purpose by the Zurich artist Dimitri de Perrot, who was commissioned by the festival: " lie down on the ground and take the time to listen to what is happening at the level of our feet, because the ground speaks ", says de Perrot... No cushions, which would alter the conditions of this immersive experience! The 3D sound images are stunning, actively soliciting perception and imagination. In the cursive giving access to the Great Hall, where Vincent de Roguin has his (particularly rich!) bookseller's stall, The Handphone Table (1978) by the American Laurie Anderson is an invitation to sit at the table, with both elbows placed at strategic points and hands over the ears to capture the vibrations of the sound that are transmitted through the bones. L'orchestre de papier (2022) is a 14-piece machine music by Frenchman Pierre Bastien, one of the latest inventions of this musician/builder of musical instruments as fragile as they are boisterous. Paper drums are set in vibration by a fan, joined by six paper organs and as many flutes that sound in turn before forming a chorus in the final tutti.
The performances, place of the acoustic experience
Fruit of the imagination of the designers and of a meticulous craft, the objects moved by various sources of energy come to life under the fingers, feet and gestures of the performers in this afternoon of Saturday, April 1, where five proposals invest as many appropriate spaces at a frantic pace.
That of the Geneva artist Mio Chareteau, in the Great Hall, brings together thirty snare drums (metal barrel and white skin) and as many students of the Conservatoire populaire, joined by the soloists ofEklekto (contemporary percussion collective) and volunteer amateurs.
For the children and adults, led by a relentless pulse, the idea is to make the skins sound with a large black felt-tip pen that leaves its mark on the instrument with each impact. A resonance then fills the whole space, a big sound in the medium-grave maintained during half an hour while as many drawings are created on the skin at the initiative of each one, bringing his personal contribution to the final collective work: the "canvas" is magnificent as much as ephemeral, which will remain nevertheless visible in the state until the end of the day.
Field drum by Mia Chareteau with the Eklekto ensemble and the students of the Conservatoire Populaire
For Dead Plants, the performance of Pierre Berthet and Rie Nakajima, the sound artists have the staircase of the Maison Communale as a support structure: "To listen to the sounds of things is to get closer to their soul," say these two dreamers of the unheard of who multiply the manipulations of objects to make them heard.
We are more seduced by Maria Komarova's poetic and delicate anthill, found objects moved by electricity whose trajectory she constantly modifies to diversify the sound landscape: rustling, crackling, soft squeaking... Engineering fascinates the eye as much as the ear. If the minimal frequencies of Failed Experiments 06 by Ryoko Akama and Anne-F Jacques, putting in interaction light and heat, leave us a little perplexed, the duet of shock Lotus Eddé Khouri and Jean-Luc Guionnet (dancer and saxophonist) impresses us by the economy of the means deployed and the osmosis between the instrumental action and that of the dancer who evolves on the spot, via the plasticity and the expressiveness of the movements of her body.
The intermittences of sound
Corals, a service station of the Kollektiv International totem, created in Zürich in 2022, is the event of this first Geneva weekend. Imagined and written by the French composer Léo Collin, the show for instruments, electronics, actors, video and smartphone is at the same time installation, performance, theater and concert, including the participative dimension of the public. Thus, for those who wish, an application can be downloaded on their smartphone at the entrance of the Great Hall, by virtue of which they will receive invitations to come on stage and precise indications on the action to be carried out there: to take a coffee from the vending machine which emits strange sounds, to buy a pack of cigarettes from the saleswoman (who has surrounded herself with a certain number of sonorous objects, whistle, bell, recorders etc.In the fictitious (entirely cardboard) and colorful setting of this gas station, there are four characters: the security guard, the technician (in charge of the electronics), the waitress and the maintenance worker. They evolve in their daily activity zone, with gestures and automatic acts of stereotypy: like this sound and nervous labeling of the boxes that arrive in continuous flow, assumed by the waitress in a systematic way.
But each one has his own secret garden, this part of himself that escapes the existential monotony and allows him to access a fantasized sphere that also passes through the images of the video. Thus these privileged moments of the waitress(Kay Zhang) when she can chat with her community on the Internet. She seems to float on a little cloud with this delightful voice obtained by the Auto-Tune software: a hum that marks out the course like a refrain. The surface agent (embodied by the composer) seeks, as for him, and by all means, to transgress the real. His vacuum cleaner and his cleaning utensils are all pretexts to trigger interesting sound situations; he even has contact microphones on his joints, allowing him to play with his steps and his gestures as he plays with his remote-controlled cars and his little helicopter, bringing back the poetry of childhood and wonder. We witness real accelerations in the dramaturgy generating jets of smoke coming out of the exhaust pipe of the cardboard car, between humor and derision, poetry and second degree. The musical instruments are also invited with the appearance of a horn, a flute, the saxophone of the waitress and the piano installed outside the room. It appears on the multi-channel screen that dominates the decor via a live video capture. These are pieces (compilations) by Léo Collin written well before the show, whose musical time offers welcome breaks in the general articulation. Very funny are these two moments of theater visible on the screen, two video conference sessions between four lambda participants and an expert (actor) whose speech, adopting the tics of the German language (hm? ja genau, etc.) cancels any possibility of answer from the listeners. The scene is inspired to the composer (who writes the text) by the creation of the Amazon unions. It is a question here of founding gas station unions to learn to say no! The appearance of the Neue Vocalsolisten of Stuttgart equipped with VR headsets (which allow them to read the score in real time) on the face of six small boxes is the highlight of the show. They are the ones who end the show, interpreting twice the songs of Léo Collin to whom we owe this crazy adventure, as risky as it is well articulated, a metaphor of a possible utopia in a place with no future.
Staging the music
The festival team includes two scenographers, Yvonne Harder and Lukas Stucki, who have contributed to improving the often very reverberant acoustics of the Maison communale by distributing floor-to-ceiling pieces of mouse-gray felt in the most vulnerable spaces. They are also concerned with optimizing the listening conditions. We are lying down, in the listening room, to share, at noon and with Jérémy Chevalier, some of his favorite sounds. The Geneva-based artist, visual artist, performer and inventor of all kinds, is in residence during the festival.
Essential also, for the two scenographers, is to diversify the places according to the acoustic requirements and to prepare them visually: more reverberant (the Great Hall) for the instruments, drier (the games room) for the amplified music, very close to the bookshop for the performances with text, etc. Thus, the day of the duets on Sunday afternoon is distributed in all the spaces of the Maison Communale, modifying the device and the listening angle for each of the formations.
The twelve duets (the one with the two harpists will unfortunately be cancelled) cover geographically a large part of the cantons of Switzerland and musically a good number of musical genres (written, improvised, electroacoustic, live electronic, mixed, etc.) and as many dual formations. The first three duets we heard are a proof of this.
In the listening room, in the heart of the acousmonium, the duet voice (Aurélie Emery also at the controls) and double bass (Dragos Tara), including an important electroacoustic part, is a commission of the festival. It is based on a subtle work of cross-fading between the field recording (recorded natural sounds) and the game of the two protagonists. The double bass and then the sung voice are treated live before a new shift from the instrumental to the sounds of nature.
The performance of Martina Berther on the electric bass and Simone Lappert, actress, is of great finesse. Heard on German poems, the voice is beautiful, clearly articulated, in a rhythm that spares long inhabited silences. The electric bass adds its grain, its accelerations and its colors, always discreet nevertheless, sensitive to the words and the flow of our singer.
Slovenian accordionist Nejc Grm completed his training in Basel and Fribourg. He is in duet with Bettina Berger from Basel in a low-voltage piece, evolving from dall'niente al niente: music of fragility and instability where the two instrumentalists complement each other and exchange their roles, from the high frequencies of their instrument (aeolian sound of the bass flute) to the dark grain of their low register: the sound and the quality of the listening are optimal
Crossing genres and aesthetics, generations and practices, welcoming the bizarre, the strange and the sideways without cutting back on the quality and the strength of the proposals... this is the DNA of the Archipel festival in Geneva and it's on until April 9th, from noon to midnight.
Report by Michèle Tosi
Festival Archipel, Geneva, Maison communale de Plainpalais from 31 to 2-04 :
31-03: Léo Collin (born in 1990) : Corals, a service station ; Kollektiv International totem.
1-04 : Sharing of listening with Jérémie Chevalier ; Performances by Mio Chareteau, Maria Komarova, Pierre Berthet and Rie Nakajima ; Ryoko Akama and Anne-F Jacques, Lotus Eddé Khouri and Jean-Luc Guionnet.
2-04 Three duos : Aurélie Emery and Dragos Tara, voice, double bass and electroacoustic ; Martina Berther and Simone Lappert, electric bass and voice ; Bettina Berger and Nejc Grm, bass flute and accordion.
Photos © Arthur Miserez
Photos © Elena Petit Pierre
Photos © Amadeus Kapp