Baroque desire and poetry of the turntables by the Rassegna Company

The Factory 16.09.2022

Qui-Vive! Two words, one exclamation mark: a whole program hidden in the title of the new opus of the Rassegna Company. Its artistic director, the guitarist Bruno Allary, takes four musicians, between voices, lute and turntables, in a crazy odyssey at the crossroads of the 17th century baroque and contemporary music.

2002-2022: twenty years! When he founded the Compagnie Rassegna, guitarist Bruno Allary was navigating between jazz, flamenco, and traditional music. "At that time, it was only a question of gathering around me a sort of brotherhood of singers and musicians from the Mediterranean that I accompanied individually. Corsican singers, Arab-Andalusian musicians, Neapolitan interpreters, flamenco artists... Artists who came from music that is rightly or wrongly described as "popular".

The musical in-between: a true aesthetic

The young company, a real laboratory, wants to cross the popular musics of the Mediterranean: to make interpret a song of the Balkans to a singer specialist of the Corsican polyphony and conversely, that would give what? Interesting rubbings. "I wanted to provoke the mixture, the crossbreeding and the contrast to arouse, in the public, an intimate and vibrant relationship to these repertoires. That's what I did for the next fifteen years!" Bruno Allary thus digs his furrow in what he calls an "aesthetic of the in-between". " In these repertoires, particularly in oriental music, we are constantly on the edge of the tonal and modal, in a tension between two languages, two conceptions of music...".

Travel, travel

The in-between, the edge, the exchange and the friction. The Rassegna Company asserts itself as a space of encounters, a little like this Mediterranean basin of which it defends the thousand-year-old musical heritage... In 2014, its work takes a new turn, at the origin of the triptych of which "Qui-Vive!" will be the last link. As is often the case - and perhaps even more so when one is interested in musical crossbreeding - it is a matter of meetings. Bruno Allary thus invites Mireille Collignon and her viola da gamba to join the Company. This time, the 16th century renaissance repertoire interests the musicians. So they imagine, experiment, try..." Why not combine instruments with an early music connotation with... the electric guitar?"

Renaissance and electric guitar

A fruitful companionship that led to the creation of "Il Sole non si muove". The goal, once again: to decompartmentalize. "This first part of the triptych mixes popular and learned repertoires and traces the intense circulation of 16th century musicians from the Mediterranean to England. Here again, the challenge is great: "How to make music that comes from orality, in perpetual movement, cohabit with written music?" summarizes Bruno Allary. There have been difficulties. "From a purely artistic point of view, the question of tonal and modal is delicate. Putting together instruments or singers from the Latin part of the Mediterranean, westernized, and musicians who come from the East, confronts us permanently with the use of modes, micro-intervals. If the quarter tone is a little more like this, it's more Iranian, if it's more like that, it's more Anatolian... Everything is very subtle and the cohabitation is exciting.

Circulation of music

Bruno Allary then notes how prevalent the "scholarly" and "popular" divide is in France. "I was recently giving a virtual conference with musicology students in Brazil, and I understood after five minutes that for them there was no separation between the popular and the learned. There is no such thing!" In 2014, Rassegna's project didn't fit into any box. No matter: four years later, the second part is being developed: after the Renaissance, make way for the music of the Middle Ages. The show "Contretemps", presented at La Crié in Marseille, explores medieval poetry in a new sound machine. On the program: kaval flutes, baroque and electric guitars (always) and texts by philosopher and historian Patrick Boucheron.

Through the ages

Medieval, Renaissance and, of course, Baroque music. The musical triptych closes this year with the release, on record(Buda Music), of "Qui-Vive! A third opus born of a commission by the Durance theater, a conventioned stage in Château-Arnoux-Saint-Auban (Alpes-de-Haute-Provence). "Two of the musicians I called for the project come from ancient music, the recorder player Clémence Niclas, member of the young ensemble Apotropaïk, who sings very well, and the viola da gamba player Nolwenn Le Guern. At the first rehearsal, I brought a lot of instruments, as I always do, because I didn't know yet how this project would sound. I asked if anyone wanted to play the electric bass, "me me me!" replied Nolwenn. She had always dreamed of playing bass in a rock band... "

Purcell, drums, scratch

The fado singer Carina Salvado also joined the project, "she is able to sing Purcell while playing the drums", Bruno Allary says with amusement. The guitarist also contacted a DJ, French champion and vice-champion of the world of scratching: Isa L. Atipik. Working on 17th century repertoires is very intimidating," says Allary. I come from a music that is played in the street, in bars. How do you tackle Purcell, Monteverdi? When I come to this so-called learned music, I ask myself if I am legitimate. If I wanted to be a little polemical, I would say that the reciprocal is not always true. When musicians of learned music take over popular music, they ask themselves fewer questions. What can I bring to these repertoires that are played, most of the time, in a masterly way? Yes, I must respect, work, document myself, but I must find a place, dare to step aside! I can bring them a little bit of what I think these musics have lost, a little bit of grain, of cracks..."

Set of sound mirrors

When he discovers the obstinate bass, the baroque ostinato, melodic and rhythmic sequences that turn, Bruno Allary draws a parallel with trance music where the interest lies in recurrence. "And what is it that turns and rubs, that cracks? The vinyl turntable! We have here an emblematic object of urban and contemporary music, which finds its place, in a roundabout way, in the baroque repertoire. The turntables are therefore not mobilized in the project to "get sloppy", but symbolize the whole approach of "Qui-vive!" Isa L. Atipik recorded loops of flute, viola, voice, guitar, bass, to create a small library of samples.

Frescobaldi, Boesset, Zanetti, Bailly, Purcell, Barbara Strozzi: rarities, a few hits, of which Bruno Allary and the musicians propose chiseled, astonishing, rustling covers, sprinkled with electro. These daringly arranged baroque pages take on a completely new dimension: electrified recorders, violas da gamba in tension, continuous bass scratched on vinyl turntables or loops augmented from electric guitars. To complete the experience, the purpose of "Qui-Vive!" is built around a theatrical narrative: a prologue, three acts (theater of love, madness, death) and a poetic epilogue where the musicians embroider on this verse of Théophile de Viau, with the appearance of a manifesto in 2022: "Here, my desire is my law".

Suzanne Gervais

See Qui vive! and the Rassegna Company in concert on September 22 at 8:30 pm at Studio de l'Ermitage, Paris.

Photos © Drichos
Article photo © Muriel Despiau