Indisciplinary and humanistic

Interviews 20.03.2021

Since 2019, David Christoffel has been offering a weekly radio show where each musical theme is debated in the company of a variety of specialist speakers: writers, musicians, musicologists, etc. Métaclassique is inventing a new broadcasting model, both on the web and on nearly 100 radio stations, but also a new way of talking about music.

Meeting with a passionate and committed producer.

How did the Metaclassic program come about?

After many happy radio experiences but too soon interrupted in several large radio and/or music institutions, I felt too often cut off for the wrong reasons. Metaclassique was therefore born out of the indelible desire to establish a radio space independent of the vagaries of the austerity policies that fall upon public radio stations and broadcasters and systematically result in editorial choices that confuse pedagogy with triviality. In the thirty years that I have been working in radio, I have gradually tried to find a way of talking about research music that is both articulate and nuanced, enlightened and more in-depth than the dominant condescending vulgarization that seems to dictate the contemporary implicit approach to the democratization of classical music. The ambition was therefore to go against the grain of this implicit view by creating a space of freedom that could be both transgender radiophonically (ranging from interviews to radio creations, including the restitution of pedagogical workshops), transaesthetically musically (from the Middle Ages to the contemporary) and editorially undisciplined

What is its ambition?

The ambition is to build a humanist radio space that opens up the word on music by allowing cross-fertilizations to take place, by making articulations possible, without always trying to frame them or justify them in advance. I feel that the discussion of music is limited when it is confined to professional musicians. If I also invite researchers from all disciplines, choreographers, listeners, amateurs..., it is to open up ways of discussing music and with music, more open, less normative ways of making music heard. But I am careful that the eclecticism of the statutes does not become an end in itself. It's not just a matter of crossing points of view as static expertise, but also of inventing forms so that these meetings don't get caught up in self-promotional urgencies. Hence the importance of varying the interview devices and the editing configurations of the different issues.

How do you choose your program titles (I find the idea very good, all these verbs in the infinitive, very meaningful, simple and effective), does it happen afterwards, after the recording?

I have taken up the principle of titling by verb that I employed in Ouvrez la tête (my thesis on Satie) (MF éditions, 2018) to bypass the pomp of proper names and what it imposes of the cult of personality, the privatization of musical functions, the overexposure of the front of the stage.

How do you choose your speakers and topics? 

The choice of guests depends on the subjects and the axis in which I build around the verb. Even if it happens that the title is decided with the guests, whose meeting I make a kind of intuitive bet. But above all, I try not to systematize the process in order to have quite varied protocols. The fact of titling with a verb is more or less the only intangible element of form. And I try not to let others settle in to try to renew even the strategies of approaching the guests. The recent show "Revenir" is a good example. And to go even further in the plasticity of the temporality of construction: in 2021, I am going to interview the same composer twenty-four times every two weeks at a different time of day, without predetermining the form that the programme will take at the end.

How did you find these 90 broadcasters?

Where community radio stations clearly provided the most favourable environment for this project is that, in addition to being run by enthusiasts who are convinced of the social utility of popular education through radio, they are - with a few exceptions - generalists. They therefore suffer much less from the tendency towards the cadastralization of repertoires that one finds in thematic radio stations (a programme by period or by formation or instrument, when it is not a programme about a single composer). I can therefore work on the lines of flight which, starting from the classical, weave ramifications on themes that I voluntarily choose to be tangential in order to embrace not only musical, but also socio-political, poetic, existential or philosophical questions. If I have now reached 99 broadcasters to the point of making Metaclassique the most shared program by free radio stations, it is because I already had a long-standing knowledge of the radio associative fabric (having worked for a long time at Sophia, the Radio France program bank). 

Radio Ritournelles, La tectonique des phrases, with the singer Valérie Philippin

How do you organize these face-to-face encounters that are dear to you in this period of spatial distancing?

The remote recordings seem to me to be radiophonically defeatist. I have the impression that the interviewee under house arrest, is also under an assignment of competence, leaded in his saying, withdrawn on what he already knows. So-called "remote" communications are so useful that they threaten to make the exchanges merely utilitarian. Video tools are so convenient for meetings that I sometimes have the impression that a meeting spirit ends up hovering over remote conversations. It is as if the regression in sound quality goes hand in hand with a regression in the requirement for dialogue. I don't think you can dissociate the quality of radio content from the quality of its technical production. Squeezing a video meeting into a day of confinement places the radio interview in the thread of the day's utilitarian exchanges. If I never tire of radio, it's because it allows spaces for dialogue that get away from rationalized exchanges, predetermined efficiencies... That's why, from the first confinement, I equipped myself with a plexiglass plate to allow me to continue face-to-face interviews and to continue imagining original recording protocols, as in "Doubler", for example. But I suffer from not being able to go abroad so easily where I have several projects. 

Interview by Guillaume Kosmicki

Read Guillaume Kosmicki's review, The Annals of MetaclassicDavid Christoffel's review on Resmuscia

And the book by Etienne Kippelen, Chansons françaises & musique contemporaine, published by Presses Universitaires