Weaving words and music, Laëtitia Pitz

Portraits 16.08.2023

Through words and stories, Laëtitia Pitz comes to music. Speech without being song, speech revealed by music. Above all, this interval, this constant call and constant need for freedom. Laëtitia Pitz is an actress and director. The interview took place at her home in Metz on May 4, 2022. I preferred not to transcribe the questions exchanged. I didn't think they were necessary. I preferred to leave the dynamic flow of her words unimpeded. 

Laëtitia Pitz 's video portrait is the third to have been shot. The second to be edited. It is part of a series of 12 video portraits. Laëtitia Pitz is an actress and director. Between books and open notebooks, "from the spoken voice set to music ", the film guides us towards the question of consolation rather than consumption. 


So, here I am, reading you a little note...

It's Bram Van Velde, the painter, taking a walk with Charles Juliet, a poet and writer who has done a lot of interviews with artists. In particular, there's this wonderful book called Rencontre avec Bram Van Velde. He also did a magnificent one with Samuel Beckett. Let me read you a passage: "When you're working, you're so far away, in such concentration, that afterwards, it's inevitable that there'll be a fall, a void. Every time I've finished a painting, I've had to wait for my strength to recover before I could start another. If you take art seriously, it's not even serious at all. It's a laughing matter, but it makes you cry, or vice versa. Painting lives only by sliding into the unknown. It's not easy to see; it even takes a certain courage. You don't have it all the time... These silences, their density, the effervescence that fills them, the feeling of strangeness that comes from them, and what stimulates and impresses me is to feel in Bram Van Velde so intense the presence of the invisible, of this thing that inhabits him, and where, at any moment, he immerses himself, his gaze fixed, absent ". And, by a strange coincidence, this text was written and shared in May 1972. That's the month I was born. "This mechanical world suffocates us, painting is life. Something is trying to be born. I don't know what I know. I never start with knowledge. There is no possible knowledge. Truth is not knowledge.

So I really took it at random. And the notion of chance is an interesting one. I put this book down, with others around me, like totems... There's music too. For me, it's all the presences that help me to live, that nourish everything I'm going to be able to re-metamorph, re-deploy differently, re-stage. And I had this desire to share these presences... Yes, I think the word totem has a nice ring to it.

Everything I put together

For me, at the beginning, there's always the grace of a piece of writing. The question of language is predominant, fundamental. How I am, at a given moment, touched, how I approach a piece of writing. And in this story of relationships, because in the end it's always a story of links and weaving, I hope that the spectator will also always be in an active relationship. That seeing and listening are not passive. Rather, they should be able to act on what's on offer. And to achieve this state of creation for the spectator, I begin to weave around the writing an approach that will enable this encounter. I often work with immaterial aspects. The music is already present. In other words, how music will enable us to hear words differently, in a different, more unheard-of way. There's also the work of light, which reveals the words. So everything I'm looking for, everything I'm putting together in what I call weaving: the music, the light, the actor's breath, is to give back to the word its revealing capacity. Revealing in the sense that the spectator will himself set his imagination in motion, recomposing something from what is proposed to him.

And the star...

The word that comes up a lot today is "weave". And the second word is "star". So, in the question of weaving, there's the notion of relationship. Putting together different elements, different approaches, different ways of listening, different points of view, to re-fabricate something that can re-raise or re-petrify the enigma revealed by a piece of writing, a language, or its revelatory potential. And étoilement, because it's also a form of putting things into relation, re-orienting, re-injecting movement. Perhaps weaving is something that goes inwards, and then starring is something that bounces back outwards. It's the movement of the heart, diastole-systole, it's the movement of the breath. From the inside out. And vice versa.  

How I find this freedom

My first encounter with creation was a very strong, very embodied, very organic awareness of the extent to which creation is a space that offers freedom. And now I come to the relationship with the spectator. Of course, it's also the creation that you make, as an artist, but also as a listener and as a person who observes the creative gesture. How this space diverts you from all the habits imposed on you by society. How this creative space opens up new possibilities. New horizons. Fundamentally. And it allows me to get away from the question of representation, from the question of power, from the question of all the spaces that constrain you, in fact, in everyday life. I became aware of this at a very early age, at school - it was really school that led me to discover the artistic field - and I saw how it was a space for survival. Another space. And I'd like to thank my teachers from the bottom of my heart for allowing me to go into these artistic spaces.

Then I think there's always been the voluptuousness of stories. I've always loved being told stories. I think the transition from day to night has always been a complicated space for me. There's that little moment between day and night when you're told a story to help you move into the darkness and silence. There's something wonderful about being able to tell stories. In fact, there's a lovely book by Vinciane Despret and Isabelle Stenglers called Les faiseuses d'histoires. They evoke ancient, archaic times, when women, while waiting for their men to leave or search for a new territory to set up camp, would tell stories to soothe the fear of waiting. 

And stories bring me to the theater. 

I also come from this region, the Grand Est, and I was lucky enough to meet Dominique Repecaud, who was director of the Centre Culturel André Malraux in Vandoeuvre-Les-Nancy, and to discover all that he had brought together, assembled and invited. I discovered the Musique Action festival and improvised music, and it was a second great shock to see the fundamental freedom of these musicians. A real fork in the road in my work, which then led me to meet theatrical personalities who were moving towards the question of silence, the question of the music of language. I'm thinking of the work ofHenri Meschonnic, Claude Régy and Hans Michael Grüber. There's this pivotal moment when all of a sudden I put my ears to things that turn my brain upside down, because I don't understand how it's done, I don't know where it comes from, it's completely unheard of that it's not written. It's completely unheard of that it's not written down. In other words, that it's music that's being made in the moment, in the present moment, that's fundamentally being made with me, who's there listening. What has turned my way of working upside down is that I'm now obsessively trying to find out how, in my work with the actor, in my work of re-appropriating the foreign languages of the texts I'm working on, how I find this freedom. Vibrant. Pervasive.

It's not easy to talk about yourself. About what you do. How you do it...

Words are what bind us. It connects us. And I believe that what's troubling about words, and what great theatrical writing often reveals, through the medium of the stage, of staging, is the extent to which the spoken word carries within it a paradox, an antinomy, something that isn't said, something unsaid, a misunderstanding. Misunderstanding. Perhaps every relationship is based on a misunderstanding. Studying this is fascinating.
So how, with my tools, am I able to reveal this paradoxical place of speech, all the unconscious invisibility that speech carries. Hence, too, my attraction to music in its attachment to language. Insofar as music, in my opinion, allows speech to be deposited in a certain way in the ear. Music allows us to hear language differently. Perhaps the great magic, the great spirituality, the great chaos of music is that, when it rubs shoulders with language, it shifts perception and opens up a new path for the listener. A perception that puts the listener's imagination into action. And in so doing, we seek out those trouble spots, those unspoken areas. Unheard and unheard again. How the spoken voice set to music fundamentally shifts the lines of attention. Creating a gap.
It's not a question of mixing or amalgamating music and text. When I work with a composer, it's always two very separate spaces. But it's a separate one, together. In other words, there's the line of the text and there's the line of the music. And that's how, their coming together - I like this word côtoiement, revealed by Jean Christophe Bailly in a little book on the question of looking at animality, how the human and the wild animal, in those rare moments of coming together, at the bend in the road when the car's headlights land on a deer standing on the side of the road - how this encounter suddenly creates a vertigo. For me, that's what happens when music and spoken word really come together.

Interview by Céline Pierre May 4, 2022 in Metz.

Photos © Céline Pierre


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