Newborn : music of spells

Concerts 22.12.2022

The pianist, composer and improviser Roberto Negro offered to the Filature in Mulhouse, then to the Théâtre de Vanves an enchanting creation called Newborn, which is nothing else than the unprecedented meeting between the trio of improvisers that he forms with Michele Rabbia (electronics, percussions) and Nicolas Crosse (double bass) and a chamber ensemble composed of musicians from the Ensemble intercontemporain. 

It is on an ochre background of packing boxes, highlighted by the lights, that the bodies of a dozen musicians gathered around the pianist Roberto Negro at the Théâtre de Vanves on December 15, for this new performance of Newborn. Newborn is a short hour of music, set in light and space by Caty Olive (lighting design), with a certain poetic sense, which enchants from the first minutes. The light puts us on the way: it gently surrounds the musician who opens the composition, the horn player of the Ensemble intercontemporain, joined very quickly by Michele Rabbia on electronics. Throughout Newborn, the light draws the musicians' speeches, their conversations. The light "composes", accompanies the musical discourse, and becomes itself language and speech. 

But conversation is probably what best defines the music of this Newborn to my ears. Dialogue with two or more voices, but always in intimacy, because it is a universe of chamber music that the composer proposes to us, and that even if Newborn offers several superb moments in tutti.
Dialogue between a trio - the one formed since four years by the pianist Roberto Negro with the drummer, percussionist Michele Rabbia and the double bassist Nicolas Crosse (of the EIC) - and the Ensemble intercomporain, which gathers two trumpets, a horn, a flute, a clarinet, a cello, a chromatic harp, a vibraphone.
Dialogue between acoustics and electronics - the musicians of the trio are augmented by electronics. Last but not least, a dialogue between improvisation and composition.

Newborn is a piece of writing: the scores are there, but the musicians of the EIC play a text of a particular nature, which has little to do with the complex scores they are often confronted with. One can imagine the pleasure these musicians have in playing the music of Roberto Negro, which is above all lyrical, instinctive and sensual.
The play on complexity is not located in the usual place. If there is complexity, it is rather in the back and forth between writing (score) and improvisation (spontaneous expression). Because this game requires a lot of fluidity, precision, and mutual listening!
At this point, it is obvious that Roberto Negro listened to the musicians of the ensemble, and solicited improvisations from those for whom this practice is familiar, even if it remains marginal. The most experienced of the Ensemble Intercontemporain musicians (apart from Nicolas Crosse), is undoubtedly the cellist Eric-Maria Couturier who launched into a magnificent improvisation, rough and wild.
The trio is not to be outdone: the improvisations by Roberto Negro and Michele Rabbia are other highlights of this Newborn: freedom and poetic imagination are at work, true points of spurt that electrify the discourse, make it "reborn"(Newborn). We only regret that double bassist Nicolas Crosse does not speak more, he whose improvisations were once captured by the microphones ofA l'Improviste during the Intersessions of the Ensemble intercontemporain. His double bass knows how to sing and shout freely!

What is striking in Newborn's music is the relief, the taste for contrasts and ruptures: the beautiful melodies are often interrupted by saturated, crushed sounds, wild and rough electronics, the whole captured in the fluidity of the writing: a game of chiaroscuro, superbly highlighted by Caty Olive.
The other great quality of this singular Newborn is that it is a music that does not betray itself, does not try to "make contemporary". We find here, intact, the qualities of Roberto Negro's universe: his taste for lyricism - a melodic sweetness close to Ravel's - and its antidote: breaks, toy-piano sounds, music boxes, saturated and noisy sounds. A hybrid and organic music, that one would have a hard time to classify in jazz (jazz), and that's fine ! A music of spells (again Ravel... ), which plays the chameleon, and leaves us dreamers, in the good sense of the term. Because Newborn enchants!
One can only wish to the so promising music of this Newborn other developments, even more hybrid and free.

Anne Montaron

Photos © EIC


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