Testimonial 31.05.2023

Music - and the way in which it is shared - is a much more complex whole than we might imagine. If we want to put an end once and for all to the far-fetched and widespread idea that the public doesn't like creative music, it seems to me that this is where we need to look. Listening to music, immobile on a chair in a concert hall, is in itself already a precious thing, but experiencing listening with others, in a non-standardized context, associating movement, the discovery of new spaces, time for deep listening, the manipulation of sounds... is an even greater social and sensory adventure.

Did you say "music"? What about performances, listening sessions, siestas and sound walks, breakfast discussions, participatory workshops?
Like many people who are passionate about music, improvisation and encounters, I like to offer my ears the chance to wander far from traditional concert halls, far from the city, and far from a conventional approach to concerts.
When I think of the pleasures of listening, the images that first come to mind are those that accompanied my strolls through a few rural festivals.
In my mind, these images, as much visual as sonic, flash by, a little like the images that the magic lantern projects on the wall of the child's bedroom, in La Recherche du Temps perdu, and that he observes dreamily and feverishly. 

My very own magic lantern goes back in time...

Image 1: Forêt d'Orient, September 2022
Here I am, between lake and forest, at the invitation ofEnsemble Itinéraire and the Mondes Sonores festival in Forêt d'Orient #1 in Aube (September 2022), an edition dedicated to the memory of composer Raymond Murray Schafer "musician of the sound life of the world,
pioneer of sound ecology and fine pedagogue... He thought of the world as one great music without beginning or end." (festival editorial)
L'Itinéraire presented the French premiere of his piece Music for Wilderness Lakeimagined to be performed on the shores of a lake. Imagine twelve trombonists spread out on the shores of Lake Orient, delicately blending in with the sounds of the landscape, while following the signals given by a conductor from the beach(Léo Margue). The work's two movements, "Dusk" and "Dawn", are performed at dusk and dawn, when the soundscape shifts between day and night. I chose to attend the premiere of "Dusk" in the early hours of the morning. It's bitterly cold, and the musicians are fighting numbness in their fingers. We watch them drift away along the shores of the lake until they disappear from our field of vision. The audience faces the lake, faces the sky; in front of us, at the edge of the lake, Léo Margue leads the musicians with coloured flags. Like all those who have fallen out of bed to attend the premiere of "Dusk", I lie down in the sand... The rest of the scene can be summed up in one image: confusion between the line of the lake and the sky, which gradually turns pink and orange, while Murray Schafer's music converses with the wind and the elements. It's an undoubtedly mistaken - but intoxicating - sense of witnessing the birth of the world!

Image 2: Neuvy-Le-Roy, July 2022
TheEnsemble Ptyx also has its own festival, the, again in the middle of the countryside: two days (and one night!) of unheard-of contemporary music (I discovered, for example, the astonishing universe of Swiss composer Charles Uzor). The ensemble's musicians aim to catch and surprise us as we stroll through the countryside, thanks to their musical impromptus. Composer Lucie Prod'homme has concocted two musical siestas - one acousmatic - with obligatory deckchairs, at the Moulin de Gruteau and in the park of the presbytery in Neuvy-le-Roi. So far, happiness, of course, but a happiness already experienced under other skies (we're getting fussy with time!). The image that remains with me from this year's festival is that of the night - In-Nuit - that brought the festival to a close: 9 hours of music offered to the sleepers - or willing insomniacs - installed in deckchairs in the village gymnasium.

On the menu for this sonorous night are creations designed specifically for the occasion: works by Alexandre Amat, Marie-Hélène Bernard, Raphaèle Biston, Aurélio Edler-Copes, Guillaume Hazebrouck, Pierrick Jacquemmoz, Evgenii Lebedev, Maxime Mantovani, Matteo Plassard, Audrey Podrini, Nicolas Robez-Masson, complemented by pieces by Eve Beglarian, Luc Ferrari, Terry Riley. A challenge both for the audience and the musicians! I salute the incredible energy and commitment of the ensemble's musicians, grouped in a circle in the middle of the gymnasium and the sleepers. Two temporalities and two worlds in dialogue; a floating world, and a world of living, breathing people!

Image 3: Festival Pépète Lumière, Clunisois #10, 2019
Back to images... This edition takes place in Blanot, a magnificent village in the Monts du Mâconnais, surrounded by forests and overlooked by Mont Saint-Romain. Blanot also has its caves. Pépète Lumière has taken over all these places, offering festival-goers a sound and poetic walk every day. What a simple and ingenious idea, that of the walk, declined as one pleases: Marche pétrifiée, Marche étourdissante, Marche contemplative and Marche sur la tête!
Of the Marche pétrifiée on the site of the caves of Blanot, I keep a striking image, that of the double bass player David Chiesa and the actress Flore Audebeau, who from the depths of the abyss brought forth their version of a powerful poem by Christophe Tarkos.
From the Marche étourdissante (a loop around the village of Blanot, punctuated by a host of sonic and visual surprises), I remember the 1001 tricks played by the trombone trio Bomonstre (Olivier Bost, Patrick Charbonnier and Fabrice Charles), in particular the moment when the musicians, hidden in the Church of Blanot, door apparently closed, began to play, creating a surprise. The tones of the three invisible trombonists seemed to spring from the stones as walkers passed by!
Also in my memory, the intense poetry of the early morning, and my own sleepy steps during the Contemplative Walk proposed at 5am by an audio-naturalist and the bird-musician, saxophonist Lionel Garcin. A gentle progression that began in the fields and continued through the forest surrounding Mont Saint Romain. Ears wide open to birdsong, animal sounds, the roar of the wind...: a different kind of music to that found in concert halls, but one that reminds us that the world of sound is limitless! Among the walkers, I seem to notice a local farmer who listens to the sounds of nature with great attention. When I handed him my microphone at the end of the walk, he choked back tears, telling me that he had had the feeling of having finally "encountered" the reality that surrounds him, a landscape that he knows from the first to the last grass...

My magic lantern could now scroll through the many, many images left by successive editions of three singular festivals: Jazz à Luz in the Hautes Pyrénées, Le Bruit de la Musique inthe Creuse and Densités in the Meuse. The first two have already inspired some recent reflections (see Hémisphère Son reviews). Here, I'll just wink at the lantern!

Image 4: Festival DensitésFresnes en Woëvre (Meuse)
From this festival dedicated to creative music and improvisation, here are a few highlights.
images intra muros First of all: the Salle des fêtes in Fresnes en Woëvre, with its modular seats that seem to "walk by themselves", as nimble hands move them between each concert to give the illusion of a space in permanent evolution. The wooded floor of this village hall has been trodden by many fabulous dancers, including the English dancer Julyen Hamilton in 2010, with incredible inventiveness and poetry: the music of his steps and movements is forever engraved in my memory!
A poignant memory, too, of sound poet Bernard Heidsieck saying Vaduz in 2006, unrolling his accordion-book as he read, carrying us along in his maelstrom of words! A wealth of music resonated within these walls: wild, experimental, acoustic and electronic; alternating short formats and highly contrasting proposals bringing together music, text and dance...

Densités also includes extra muros images, such as Marie's garden : "an extraordinary garden (festival director Emmanuelle Pellegrini), populated by old trees, various plants and flowers. For many years, she has invested it with a delicate, elegant poetry." In 2014, for the 21st edition of the festival, Marie's garden hosted an installation by Pierre Berthet : "Percussionist Pierre Berthet loves fragility, the wind blowing through trees, dripping water, twitching branches and vibrating springs. He creates fragile, discreet sound installations that play with the boundaries between the event and the non-event. They are always in perfect communion with the sites he invests with his heterogeneous materials...". Between two concerts, it was possible to come and recharge one's batteries in Marie's garden and listen/watch Pierre Berthet's world vibrate! I didn't miss a moment of it...
Le dehors, in Fresnes en Woëvre, is also a river, streets and gardens all around the Salle des Fêtes, which percussionist Alfred Spirli, trombonist Thierry Madiot, drummer Michel Deltruc and dancer Karim Sebbar took over with a gentle madness in 2021 with a performance called Sports et divertissements, in a nod to Erik Satie. As regulars of street theater, these three are no strangers to fireworks: improvised sounds and movements generate grotesque, perilous and poetic situations.
How can you remain unmoved by their spontaneous imagination?

Image 5: Festival Jazz à LuzLuz Saint Sauveur
Arriving in the Pyrenees, my magic lantern goes wild! So many highlights in the Luz valley, in its gardens, meadows, courtyards, marquee - and its covered spaces - the Maison de la Vallée, the Thermes de Luzea with their highly reverberant acoustics, its village churches...
A few images come to mind: first of all, a musical encounter between accordionist Pauline Oliveros and double bassist Barre Phillips in 2010, under the marquee. With the benefit of distance, I realize that there was an obvious Deeplistening aspect to this encounter, for although the term "deep listening " was invented by Pauline Oliveros, Barre Phillips shares it, as he commits himself "totally" to every sound he plays.
Superimposed on this memory is the image of these same two musicians, this time conversing at my microphone on Colline Solferino, a hill that Barre Phillips had a little trouble climbing: an evocation of the crossed paths of two inventive and peaceful Americans with intense lives, who met late in life ... in Luz! 

Another image, at dusk, at the foot of Château Sainte-Marie in 2017: the Ametsa duo , formed by Basque singer Benat Achiary and horn player Erwan Keravec: an epiphany of sound, made up of eagle flights and wild breaths.

An indoor evocation this time, in Luzea's thermal baths : Guillaume de Machaut's Messe Notre-Dame arranged for saxophone quartet by the quartet of the same name (arrangement, Quentin Bardiau). The space of these thermal baths is unique: the main entrance forms a large square surrounded by columns, which seems to continue outside the walls thanks to an immense bay window opening onto the mountains. You're inside and outside at the same time. The place resonates like the churches and cathedrals where Machaut's music must once have sounded. The musicians of the Quatuor Machaut are dispersed throughout the space. They interweave the music of this magnificent mass with improvisations of their own: a subtle, finely realized weaving, and a moment of suspended time!  

And how can we forget trumpeter Joe McPhee 's morning improvisation for the Valley House audience in July 2008 (#18)? I remember him sitting at the front of the stage. The room is full. The first sound out of Joe McPhee's mouth isn't his trumpet. It's the sound of his voice, soft and deep, a storyteller's voice. And what he tells us that morning is a kind of preamble to his music. JoeMcPhee, an African-American musician, tells the audience in this small mountain hall, in English, what black victims of racism have suffered in America: black children burned alive in a church, in other words, a reality close to that sung by Billie Holiday in Strange Fruit in the late 1930s. A vibrant, moving image of this man alone on stage, a marvellous improviser, surrounded by so many ghosts! 

Image 6: Festival Le Bruit de la Musique Festival d'aventure sonores et artistiques - Domeyrot, Saint-Silvain-sous-Toulx, Toulx-Sainte-Croix, La Spouze (Creuse)
Ten candles already, for this festival nestled in a region said to be depopulated, the Creuse!
A challenge taken up with inventiveness and passion by a fine team, who have fallen in love with this region, and who could take up the idea of deep listening, the famous deeplistening of Pauline Oliveros, even if the "model" of percussionist Lê Quan Ninh, co-director of the festival with cellist Martine Altenburger, isCagian listening.
My magic lantern stops on three images of the festival, linked to the idea of audience participation. For while Le Bruit de la Musique is all about sound creation, contemporary music - both written and improvised, experimental cinema, electroacoustic music and performance, and while this festival asks a great deal of the public in terms of listening, it also invites them to act, to play with sounds, and thus to have their own listening experience.
In memory, three key moments: theFanfare de la Touffe Opera in 2017, Mauricio Kagel 's Eine Brise for 111 cyclists in 2018, and the Fluxus workshop in 2020. The principle of these workshops is simple: volunteers sign up at the start of the festival, rehearse each day with the other participants, and take part in the final performance. No musical knowledge is required, and there's no age limit. Participants, coached by a musician(Natacha Muslera, Michel Doneda, Fabrice Charles), create their own opera, Kagel performance or Fluxus action. Moments like these are unforgettable, I'm sure!

Eine Brise (Mauricio Kagel) - festival Le Bruit de la Musique 2018 from Ryoanji Asso on Vimeo.

In the same vein, I'm thinking of the participatory concert Audience orchestra proposed in 2018 by an Estonian ensemble,Ensemble U:, and which was introduced as follows: "listeners get an unusual power: they can control how the concert evolves, what music is played and immediately give their opinion. Unlike a normal orchestra based on strict rules and hierarchies, the listeners' orchestra operates on a democratic basis: everyone has a vote, and decisions are taken when a majority is in favor. The main issue of this singular experiment is to question and play around the idea of "democracy in music". What does the public want and expect? Are they happy if, in the end, it's the "voice of the audience" that controls the concert?"
The tool of this participatory concert: the smartphone.
A strange sight, this forest of lit-up smartphones in a Creuse church!

My magic lantern could conjure up many other images, memories of multiple experiences that have left deep traces. One thing's for sure: what we're all looking for in such events, as listeners eager for sonic adventures, is a form of utopia at work, nicely described by the Creuse festival:

"Sharing moments of listening
Bringing together music and artists that are rarer than others
Inviting us to cultivate a taste for being surprised
Rediscovering the first and forgotten sensations provided by the phenomenon of soundsound
Imagining strides between nature and culture
Lifting the veil of habit
Choosing to be astonished by the unknown rather than doubting it
Experiencing that which is not repeated over and over
Practising for oneself to see for oneselfyourself to realize what's goingon
Experiencing the action of sound from moment to moment
Listening with your ears rather than your memory
Accepting that you have nothing to understand and nothing to recognize
And above all :
Smile at the unpredictable..."
Festival credo Le Bruit de La Musique

Anne Montaron

Photos © Ensemble Itinéraire
Photos © Pierre Meyer
Photos © Mathieu Thomassin
Photos © Chloé Charbonnier


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