Circuit #1 et Frites Sonores

june 11, 2009.

Montreuil is a French commune on the east-side of Paris, just outside the ringway. It is a suburb that over the past years has attracted many artists and their activities, often driven away from the city by the rising rents, evictions and lack of suitable and affordable spaces in general. Partly due to this 'artistic invasion', as such things go, Montreuil did already some time ago begin to show signs of a quickly advancing gentrification. This of course is a 'natural' process, and unavoidable given our political system and the corresponding socioeconomic structures and forces. It might just be though that current economic misère is going to stop it for a while. Or at least slow it down considerably.

Meanwhile art in Montreuil may continue to bloom.

boutique jaune

A wig maker's workshop, a garden, a van and a yellow store, all in lower Montreuil (in the area around its place de la République) provided the four somewhat unusual scenes for the presentations and performances of Circuit #1, a one-evening festivallette dedicated to sonic and musical experimentations on the evening of saturday june 6th, organized by the association "Douche Froide". (That means: "Cold Shower" ... )

The organizers came up with an interesting and pretty dense program, of performances and installations in parallel, to which they managed to attract a quite large and divers audience that seemed indeed to enjoy the moving around from place to place.

Inside the yellow store ('La Boutique Jaune'), formerly a confectioner's shop, I set up a modest Found Tapes installation, on a small corner-table. It suited the size and atmosphere of the place. Over the years I picked up quite a number of cast-away magnetic tape in the streets of Montreuil, and many in the area where Circuit #1 took place.

tape map

The map shows where in Montreuil the event was happening. On it there are 4 thumbs (house, van, wig, garden) that indicate the 4 spots where performances and installations took place. The colored 'Google tears' show the places where (between july 2004 and november 2008) I picked up tapes that now are part of the Found Tapes Exhibition. When a Google tear is colored blue the found tape contains - or mainly contains - music; if it is colored red there is something other than music on the tape. Which in general will mean that there is spoken word, of some sort or other, on it.

I used tapes that I picked up at the spots that are circled in the map: from the rue Cuvier I took one of the african (Malian) ritual tapes that I found there in a pile of rubbish on the pavement in march 2006; from the rue Diderot there was a tape from a telephone answering machine, found in september 2006; and from the same day, found just a little further around the corner in the rue François Arago, I took a self-improvement tape entitled "Méthode Active de Développement Personnel". Each got its own dictaphone, and these first three were played back through the dictaphone's built-in loudspeaker. A fourth dictaphone was connected to the candy-green colored and battery powered HoneyTone mini-amplifier. Through this one I played - with large intervals - the two pretty cheesy french songs, one on each side of a short demo-tape found at the same spot.

The set up is shown in the pictures below (click for a larger version of the image.)

yellow store tapes yellow store tapes

For some thirty, forty minutest it was this un-loud polyphonic "Trouvé à Bas-Montreuil" mix that welcomed the visitors of the Boutique Jaune, the starting point of the Circuit #1.

There had been some last minute changes to the program. The loud-n-noisy performances of Arnaud Rivière and of the duo Ero Babaa, originally also planned for the Boutique Jaune, were transferred to the Garden. But I could get a taste of Ero Babaa, as the duo set up and did an extensive noise-check before moving. This immediately brought back memories of La Miroiterie, where Ero Babaa performed on the same last summer's evening that Rinus and me did a duo-dicta-feedback shuffle there ...

I would have liked to hear Arnaud play, who I did not see in concert for quite a while. But that'll have to wait for yet some other time, as I ended up spending all of saturday evening in the cozy homeliness of the Boutique Jaune, where the remaining of the program nicely fitted the shop's intimacy.

Here - for no special reason except that I took them - there's two pictures detailing some of the store space's worn woodwork ...

boutique jaune boutique jaune

The evening at the Boutique Jaune continued with freely improvised electro-acoustic chamber music as performed by the Parisian duo Ppou.
Ppou In Ppou there was Lucie Laricq playing the violin, the sounds of which were led into Yann Joussein laptop, for some wee electronidig-i-fictionalization ... All of this done in good taste. And though maybe it did not add up to the most adventurous and surprising in contemporary EAI, their's was a varied set that was a pleasure to the ears.
As a performing musician Yann, by the way, is not always sitting dead-sort.of-still behind a MacBook. At other times and in other places he is a skilled and agile drummer who together with Julien Desprez on guitar and Benjamin Dousteyssier forms the trio DDJ, roaming the realms where energetic electrified jazz overlaps post-punk overlaps thrashy metal overlaps ... DDJ cdYann gave me a copy of the trio's CD, which was released in december 2008 on the french-swedish Umlaut Records.
I enjoyed the energy of the DDJ album, and its va-et-vient between modest introversion and explosive but controlled (hence pseudo-), chaos. It reminded me of all sorts of musics that are near to my heart but that I hear and see performed too little these days. I will try to catch the trio at one of their upcoming Parisian dates.
They might be even better on stage ...

After my dictaph.table-still.life for multiple taped voices, and Ppou's EA chamber music, the evening at La Boutique Jaune ended with a series of short 2 player games, proposed by Betty Meissonnier. Simple, fun and effective. Technically, there was a motor-less record player. On its turntable was posed a vinyl record, on the mid of which a metal axis had been mounted. The axis was topped with two horizontal arms, at the ends of which there were sort of parabolic cups, or ears.
It looked like the half of an oversized cup anemometer ...

yellow store tapes yellow store tapes

And this is how the "Relationcheaps" went: the modified record player, connected to an amplifier, was placed on a small table. There were two chairs, one on either side of it. If you felt inclined to do so, you invited a friend, or just some one else from the audience, to sit down at the table with you. Then together you played the record, and improvised, by 'blow-scratching' ... To use Lauren Bacall's unsurpassable introduction into the art of whistling ( * ): "You just put your lips together - and blow ..." The record Betty uses is a French promotional 45", from sometime in the 1960s. For ScotchBrite sponges.
"Relationcheaps" is a fun sonic 'game', and not un-interesting as a tool for improvisation. I did give it a try, and actually found that it was not at all that simple to move the record by 'blowing it', just like that, from scratch ;-) ... But it can be done, as was amply demonstrated by Betty herself and some of the other players at the Boutique Jaune.

In the end all of us blow-scratchers were given a small plastic bag with a piece of candy, as a souvenir, to remind us of the 'sonic dialogue' that we had engaged in ...

So no one lost.

[ Thank you Clémentine and Annabelle for organizing, and taking care of all, your's has been a wonderful job.]

I am glad I was there.

Even though I still wish I were two.

For I would also have liked to join Ana-R's Rébus, FlexRex and Cosmo, who that same weekend hit the road and drove up to Winnezeele, a small village in the far north-west of France, where they were part of the Festival International de Lutherie d'Art et Déjantée.
A very different event up there, and - in a way - far *curioser*, as one may gather from its fascinating old-school web site. And from the following pictures that I got from Rébus.

vlaamse leeuw

The festival took place in what is a small village in the heart of French Flanders, a region not unlike the one that more than twenty years ago we imagined being home to the post-punkers of Agonie Ajournée and their nouvelle depri-vague... The weekend-long gathering was organized by an association called "c Dans nos cordes", which, literally, translates to: "it's In our strings". Less literally it means something like: "Yes we can". The festival was dedicated to the building of instruments, in the widest possible sense. From the eldest traditions to the newest and wildest speculations on the future of music and its tools. In the photograph below you see one of the organizers, Pierre Verraes, as pictured by Rébus together with his '6 string lion' ... (The lion is the symbol of Flanders, as in the proud flag held by Cosmo and Flex in the picture above.)

vlaamse leeuw

What made it fascinating to be there was the fact that, as Rébus told me afterwards, the event attracted a very mixed and varied public, in an atmosphere that at times was agreeably close to that of a village fair; with mirth, music, beer and fries, and with local heavy metal and football fans smoothly mingling with regional trumpeters, pan flute rollers, organ grinders, folk singers, junk machine constructors, metropolitan circuit benders and many more.

yellow store tapes yellow store tapes

Cosmo brought his intriguing metal-, springs- and bells-boxes to Winnezeele, one of which I photographed some time ago in his kitchen. (Click the images to see things larger ...)

And try to imagine how the sounds resulting from bowing the metal 'antenna' cut through your skull when you are wearing the contraption signed Rébus' in the picture below. I call it the 'Red Hatter'. In the background against the brick wall, you cannot miss the 'Snack du Grand Large' ... Now don't get me wrong. It is not that I was disappointed with the catering at Circuit #1 or something ... On the contrary. Clémentine brought a tray well-filled with salad sandwiches, fruits and taboulé, healthy and tasty. Nevertheless I do regret not having had the opportunity to taste the fries that all during the festival were served at the 'Snack du Grand Large' ...

The other Ana-R's did, I am pretty sure of it.
Rébus even performed with the kind ladies that were serving the fries.
Really. No kidding.
He told me so himself.

red hatter

Added june 15th: Below there's the first of three excellent uTube that Rébus composed from the footage he shot in Winnezeele ... The other two highlight the Red Hatter, and Pierre Gordeef's amazing machines ...

notes __ ::
(*) Lauren Bacall playing Marie 'Slim' Browning, and talking to Harry 'Steve' Morgan (Humphrey Bogart) in Howard Hawks' "To Have and Have Not" (1954). [ ^ ]

tags: Montreuil, sound art, found tapes, Winnezeele, instruments

# .313.

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