Musicalize the space with Les Harmoniques du Néon

Interviews 31.05.2023

Anne-Laure Pigache is passionate about the voice and its multiple modes of transmission; Anne-Julie Rollet does nothing without her tape recorder, which is her preferred instrument and one of the main sound sources for the duo she forms with her partner under the name Harmoniques du Néon. Itinerant as much as original, their projects swing between installation and concert, radio creation and performance. With music always at the heart of their proposals, they enjoy encountering a context, bringing a situation to life, appropriating a space by exploring the transversality of artistic practices and the relationship with public space.

How long has the company been in existence?
Anne-Laure Pigache since 2010, when I founded the association Les Harmoniques du Néon to develop projects involving the voice, sound poetry, improvised music and radio creation, all of which are particularly close to my heart. My first show, Dyslexia, a has been written in 2011, with Pascal Thollet and Anne-Julie Rollet on sound processing. Anne-Julie returns with her tape recorder to work with us in 2015, where she leads workshops and we put on a new show, Parlophony, around the treatment of speech via live recording and transformation. We are renewing our collaboration with installation and show as part of the Biennale de Grame in Lyon, in 2018, and Anne-Julie becomes associate artist of the company at that time.

PARLOPHONIE from anne laure pigache on Vimeo.

What are your respective backgrounds?
: I studied for four years at the Grenoble School of Political Science before finding my calling in the arts. Rather than repeat my studies, I preferred to learn on the job through internships and, above all, through encounters that left their mark on me: a Russian director, Nika Kossenkova, personalities involved in sound poetry(Phil Minton, Vincent Barras, Japp Blonk) and musique concrète: the common thread was the voice, working with words and the question of listening.
Anne-Julie Rollet : As for me, I'm passionate about fixed sound, a passion passed on by my two grandfathers who made recordings, even if I tended to be kept away from a field that didn't fit in with my condition as a girl. I was all the more eager to do so, and ended up discovering musique concrète at a bruit de la bande concert at 102 in Grenoble, where Michèle Bokanowski's Tabou was being played on an acousmonium (an orchestra of loudspeakers), a revelation as to the path to follow. At the same time, I was studying sociology, which was to prove complementary in my approach to sound and in situ experiments.

The name "Les harmoniques du Néon" brings together sound and light. What exactly are your objectives?
ALP and AJR: For us, neon is more akin to the banal object we encounter in the places we visit; more than the light, it's the place we've chosen that creates the event. We always attach great importance to the place in which we operate and its history.

What are your strategies for staging music?
AJR: Each of our projects involves a new situation and a new context, in which music is always central. Perhaps the most telling example is our Vitrine project, which involves playing with the everyday life of a street. We use a store window as a cinema screen, reflecting the image of a street and its unique animation, pulsation and sonic vibration. Anne-Laure is in the street with a microphone, and the audience is inside, perceiving the sound events amplified or even transformed live by my specific actions: let's say we musicalize a situation.

Vitrine-Teaser from Les Harmoniques du Neon on Vimeo.

Is this the relationship with public space that you speak of in your work?
: We seek to appropriate places and spaces, to go and listen, to capture sounds, voices and situations, considering speech as a place of interaction between the intimate and the social, language as a sonic and musical event. For example, we recently placed our microphones in one of Grenoble's squares where young people deal, as a way of getting in touch with them in a more sensitive way, via the flow of sound and music.

Are scores written before or after the performance?
ALP and AJR: We have a set of guidelines, a musical intention that is noted down, and playing methods that serve as beacons and determine a time frame. In the case of Vitrine, already mentioned, we play with what happens, we let incidents happen; street events are our score; we have to be reactive to what's going on. Our scores, which are registered with SACEM or SACD, take the form of protocols or rules of play whose process can only unfoldin situ. We never rehearse exactly the same show from one evening to the next.

Anne-Julie, you've remained faithful to the tape recorder and lo-fi; how do you work?
: Above all, I'm attached to the particular, rich, warm sound of tape, which I prefer to the digital signal, although this doesn't prevent me from using digital tools. The friction between the two interests me. During performances, I install a loop of magnetic tape on my revox B77, which rotates and picks up the sound produced by a chosen source, and on which I intervene through various manipulations. These treatments are carried out live, playing with speed, using the principle of accumulating and inlaying sound elements. I then project the sound onto different loudspeakers, which for me are also instruments.

Écouter l'Ombre from Les Harmoniques du Neon on Vimeo.

Anne-Laure, do you use written texts in your performances with Anne-Julie?
: I began by writing my own texts, but I soon opted for oral expression, conversational speech that doesn't require prior writing. In particular, I've worked with Catherine Contour (choreographer), who explores hypnotic tools for creation. This state of consciousness allows you to let go, a kind of wandering speech that nevertheless unfolds a discourse. However, I'm not interested in communication, but rather in a kind of "extended voice" like that of the British Phil Minton, who mixes scat, borborygms and various throat noises: no more writing today, but perhaps more shouting!

Interview by Michèle Tosi

Les Harmoniques du Néon received the Phonurgia award "Archives de la Parole 2022" award for Espace Ici

Photos © Pierre Gondard
Photos © Pascal Chantier
Photos © Philippe Trippier


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