Musique Action: a laboratory of the experimental

Spotlights 06.06.2022

After two years of autumnal postponements, Musique Action was able to return to spring: the 38th edition of the historic festival of the CCAM André Malraux, in Vandoeuvre-lès-Nancy, dedicated to sound creation, was held from 23 to 28 May.
The festival is back in full swing, with a dense six-day programme exploring the uncharted territory of experimental music: installations, new scenography, improvisation, minimalism, traditional instruments, new instruments and electronics...
The Hémisphère son team, a partner of the festival, which took part in the entire event, devotes a dossier to this edition, which is rich in proposals, and to an event in full renewal.

A number of proposals with unusual scenography challenged the traditional frontal approach: David Merlo's PHASE installation, in which the electric bass is enthroned in the centre of the room and continuously generates feedback, which is reworked behind the scenes by an autonomous computer device, possibly accompanied by the artist's live performance; the very successful Imaginarium show byHélène Breschand and Wilfried Wendling, an immersion in the heart of a device of screens and loudspeakers, where the arts mix happily and where spectators and musicians share the same space, filled with illusions and surprises, like a trance device; the sung portraits by Isabelle Duthoit, where the singer improvises in the intimacy of a dressing room for a single spectator whose face Troubs draws;Oxke Fixu's MA, which begins in total darkness and plunges the audience into a forest of percussion instruments resonating through the action of transducers picking up the vibrations generated by the instrumentalists, in counterpoint to a play of lights on clay sculptures; the very poetic installation/performance Slow times low freqs by Elsa Biston, which we follow installed on cushions, with the impression of being invited to lie down in the artist's living room for a sound journey of great suavity; several concerts which we attend in a circular configuration with the possibility of lying down on deckchairs Ursatz by eRikm and Jean-Philippe Gross, Imbroglio by Zarganizokar...

The work on different forms of writing rubbed shoulders with the most improvised forms.
Thus Hidden ArtikulationHidden Artikulation, conceived and composed by Hervé Birolini, looks at the graphic score of György Ligeti's electronic work Artikulation (1958) and offers a phantasmagorical and radically new rereading of it performed by the Archipel nocturne, a colourful multimedia show. As usual, the composer skilfully and poetically poses questions about musical heritage, links to the history of music, contemporary creation, technology, simplicity and complexity, and public perception. There was also a question of rereading with Transformed of double bass player Sarah Murcia and director and performer Fanny de Chaillé, around Lou Reed's album Transformer , an appropriation that is at once loving, sarcastic and irreverent of a recording medium that has become a timeless work of the repertoire. Fata morgana byeRikm with theDedalus ensemble also proposes a rereading, between acoustic and electroacoustic writing, of animal songs and cries normally inaudible to the human ear. For the improvisation part, the festival has invited some reliable names: Guigou Chenevier and Gilles Laval for The Jaw and the Knife or Isabelle Duthoit with Steve Heather and Andy Moor for a performance of extraordinary intensity.

Since his arrival, Olivier Perry, director of the Centre Culturel André Malraux (CCAM), has given the festival's programming, and that of the Vandœuvre-lès-Nancy national stage in general, a strong focus on minimalist music.
This is reflected in the architecture of the programme: from the first evening with the atmospheric sound materials of the group Nuits and the conclusion of the concert by the quartet of ringers led by Erwan Keravec on a transcription of Music in Similar Motion by Philip Glass, beginning with a perfume of traditional music to end in a bewitching and irresistible trance; on the evening of the fourth day with the performance of Femenine by Julius Eastman by theEnsemble 0 and Aum Grand Ensemble; during the morning meetings at the MJC Lillebonne in Nancy with the interpretation of Stefano Scodanibbio's Voyage that never ends by the double bass player Dario Calderone or the carte blanche to the pianist Melaine Dalibert, two moments of grace in which the virtuosity and extreme concentration of the musicians allows time to be completely suspended and the audience to be immersed in an ecstatic listening experience; or with the creation ofOccam XIX (2) for viola da gamba and the revival of Éliane Radigue 's Occam River XXVIII by Louis-Michel Marion and Carol Robinson on the byrbine on the closing night, two totally committed performers.

Other exceptional musicians were also present: multi-instrumentalist Pierre Bastien and his fantastic sound machines; drummer Will Guthrie for a breathtaking performance, unfortunately without Mark Fell; Yannis Kyriakides in a duo with Andy Moor for Pavilion; and Anthony Laguerre with Jérôme Noetinger who close the festival with a more traditional but no less poetic electroacoustic performance on an empty stage, inhabited only by the sounds of Montage, noises and ghostly voices of the technicians, a vibrant tribute to the invisible part of a festival and of musical life.

"Symbol of renewal", we said in our introduction. Is this really true?
This festival, so rich and intense in its programming, nevertheless raises many questions about its attendance. This year, it leaves the terrible impression of an "entre-soi", and yet this is what Olivier Perry and Anne-Gaëlle Samson, deputy director of the CCAM, have been trying to combat with their team for the past four years through their artistic proposals and mediation actions. At present, cinemas and theatres are empty, cultural life is struggling to get going again under the shock of the health crisis, followed by that of purchasing power. It seems obvious that a niche and research sector, a "sound creation festival", could suffer even more from this general disaffection. However, this year, the festival did not go beyond the walls of the CCAM to take over other spaces, such as the park, the media library of Vandœuvre-lès-Nancy or the Salle Poirel in Nancy. It has not presented any mixed shows combining dance and music or theatre and music. Perhaps the radical nature of the programming can also be questioned. All projects have their place in such a festival, especially the most daring. But an event like this must also encourage exchanges between worlds, display the many nuances of experimental music and introduce audiences to it.
It is essential that this festival be able to renew itself more profoundly in order to continue to exist and present such projects, so that audiences can still debate, enrich themselves, and be nourished by the artists' proposals, in their successes as well as in their failures. This is the mission of such an event and of a national stage, and these questions can only be a stimulus to continue to move forward in this direction: to open up, to invite the most varied of audiences to push open the door to these concerts, to encourage encounters. This is the course to follow...

Guillaume Kosmicki

Festival photos © Christophe Urbain


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