Sebastien Amadieu -
Journée des répertoires
Jim Nastik : I hate Baroque music, try and convince me in a few words..
Sebastien Amadieu :
Baroque music is based on a notion of suppleness and energy completely out of this world: such character like Haendel, very dear to me, is able to quite consciously provoke the most extreme emotions. In an opera or oratorio theme, he’ll get you in tears or bring out the tones of a character in a fit of mad anger. The room left for ornamentation makes each representation unique, as the interpreter can vary the tune he’s singing to depending on the moment, on his exchange with the public and on the atmosphere in the audience. It is for me the ultimate form of music as it enhances its fleeting nature. To discover Baroque, you have to learn to let yourself go…
JM : As centuries went by, the term Baroque was often a catch-all word to define not quite conventional works. What is 2010 Baroque for you? (Its framework, its barriers)
SA : There is no uniform Baroque music. When a name had to be found likely to designate 17th and 18th century music kinds – in their national and stylistic diversity –, this is the one that was adopted, and it’s very questionable. In his “Dictionnaire de Musique” (music dictionary) published in PARIS in 1768, Rousseau gives us the following definition of “Baroque”: “Baroque music is a music harmonically confused, heavy with Modulations & Dissonances, the Signing is hard & not very natural, the Intonation is Difficult & the Movement strained.” Paradoxically, the complete opposite happens when you interpret this music. Nothing is restraint, everything breathes naturally. In fact, there are much more common aspects one could imagine between a song by Jacques Brel and the music of a Marc-Antoine Charpentier for Corneille’s Stances du Cid. That’s why today’s Baroque is above all a way to live art: it’s both ice and fire, intimate and grandiose. In that sense, you could say that Pierre Soulage’s work has something of Baroque. His grand lines overwhelm us, free from all 19th-century lyricism. There is something essential in this approach.
JM : How do you choose the works you’re going to interpret or work on?
SA : I came to music through singing, hence the voice repertoire means a lot to me. I am completely insensitive to this habit of “integrals” of a composer’s work; in this context it does not take me more than 20 minutes to fall asleep in the middle of a concert, whatever the interpreter’s quality. The “virtuosity”, aiming at privileging the technical feat rather than emotions, gives me violent fits of hitching. I am even surprised the status of circus musician has not been invented yet. On the other hand, the setting up of a real music programme means a lot to me, i.e. a story – simply poetic or abstract sometimes – that grabs the listener by the hand, and puts him through various emotions. By the way, that’s the reason why I work regularly, and with great pleasure, with Laura Naudeix, the director: she knows how to pass on the message rather than overloading it with superfluous signs. Our last collaboration to date, Hændel da Camera, was a big success. The public still remembers it…What counts as well is to allow a not connoisseur public to share my experience (completely overwhelming) of discovering, as a 10-year-old, Georg Friedrich Haendel’s Messiah. I then understood that a piece of music composed 300 year ago could move me, could tell me about life as if it had been written yesterday. This powerful encounter very early convinced me to gather musicians to serve a fantastic music.
JM : Can you tell us about “PRÉCIPITATIONS” as a group?
SA : “PRÉCIPITATIONS” is a new way of approaching Baroque. It’s not a troupe/a band as such, but the gathering of instrumentalists and singers whom I chose to serve a vision of the music at the heart of which the concept of sharing can be found. I may interrupt a rehearsal to remind everybody that we are here to provide this music to a public and that the musician’s generosity must expressed itself from the start. Technical or musical matters may lead the interpreter to cut himself from the public. Never mind how brilliant the artist is, the musician still risks, by losing this contact, to put off the audience, especially when the latter is not used to a repertoire. I have seen this happening too often and I do not want to have to face this kind of situation. PRÉCIPITATIONS is more than just an instrumental and vocal Baroque group because it has a vocation for expressing itself in many domains, in an unbiased but thoroughly involved way. At a concert, the musician onstage does a lot as it is, but he only plays music. I want our presence to go on spreading, by means of fruitful collaborations, in the world of contemporary art, of fashion, and also take the shape of a strong involvement in favour of culture as a vector towards social cohesion. The musician is an artist. He must be able to live on the fringe of society, as a more or less aware observer, but within society all the same. The image of the narcissistic and obsequious artist – especially in the world of so-called “classical” music – infuriates me…
JM : Is the success of a musical genre or style only a matter of diffusion?
SA : Denying that today diffusion plays an unprecedented part… would mean to want and persist in living in the 18th century! To the risk of disappointed some people who never recovered from Marie-Antoinette’s death, I am a 21st century man, with a passion for our current society, its evolution, its art, its means of communication also – basically: the ability to share the experience with others. But why communicate when you have nothing to say? PRÉCIPITATIONS was born from this need to transcend the traditional barriers between different art forms or musical styles, often marked by a hardcore public specifically devoted to each of them. When Winterreise was created, I was glad to see contemporary art addicts discover Schubert’s power through Flavio Cury’s video masterpiece, and classical music fans show an interest in contemporary art whereas they’d been showing a potential aversion to it so far…
JM : Don’t tastes and the era come into it a lot too?
SA : Yes of course. There is a Baroque trend that dates back to the early 80’s and that has not stopped spreading to a wider public. Is it enough to resuscitate a piece by Lully which has not been staged for 300 years to be a great artist? The response to this essential question – concerns as much the substance as the form – is obvious, implacable, although it does not seem to disturb some instrumentalist and vocal groups, very fond of artistic “copy-and-paste” methods.
JM : Is it difficult to raise bridges between ancient and contemporary arts?
SA : Although this is not quite my usual style, my answer will be non-committal: yes, it difficult to do because the organisation and involved budgets are multiplied compared to a normal concert. It would also be an illusion to think that a public’s prejudice might not constitute an obstacle to the realisation of such kind of projects. There is however an answer to all these questions and that’s the aspect I favour. We are constantly head-hunting for partners to complement our approach and realise more and more complex projects, daring but with a real content, and therefore ever so exciting. Besides, I believe that the artist’s generosity lays in his capacity to listen patiently and to answer people’s questions about his art. The space dedicated to pedagogy – just to use the generic term – must be large. Deprived of that, the artist will have all reasons to feel misunderstood, indeed, but – and I personally find this more serious – he runs a risk to drop all those wishing to discover, to learn, but without any keys to open the doors to understanding… In this particular case, the artist is fully responsible. He should sometimes learn to wrap his ego in a hanky: people are not coming only for him, but for his work… What’s more creativity is essential to art: how can you go on creating without falling, as time goes by, into a systematic, anecdotal, provocative or consensual approach, while little by little building up a style, a true identity? I can’t answer much else than mentioning my constant efforts towards this aim and my trying to maintain some hindsight concerning my work, as much as possible…
JM : Does your passion leave you enough space to listen to other musical genres?
SA : The time I dedicate to musical work and to develop the group’s activities leaves me little freedom. I allow space for silence in my life – which helps me think about my ongoing or future projects – but I try to keep up with current musical trends. I do not have any particular favourite. However, I have a very critical approach towards what I listen to: very rarely do I miss neither rhythmic nor harmonic qualities, nor again the creativity regarding the lyrics of a song. Besides, I would very much like to initiate some collaboration between PRÉCIPITATIONS and a pop or electronic music artist.
JM : What fascinates you?
SA : The complexity of people and things triggers in me a fascination without limits. I have always learnt a lot form my numerous and various encounters. I love to exchange, to understand, and there are so many things still out of my grip. In Dido & Aeneas, a drama masterpiece by Henry Purcell, Belinda talks to Didon, who just boasted Aeneas’s beauty and courage, and says: “A tale so strong and full of woe might melt the rocks as well as you”. Baroque music has the power and beauty to touch the most inflexible hearts. Dido & Aeneas, now here’s a piece I wish to approach in a near future…
This agreeable young man hides under a very sensible appearance along and precocious path dedicated to one passion: baroque music.
Sébastien Amadieu decided to share it with us, music lovers with over assailed ears. To achieve that, he created “Precipitations”, a musical ensemble with variable elements, whose aim is to interpret and spread hidden treasures from the 16th to 18th centuries, and contemporary works written for ancient music instruments. The ensemble works in association with contemporary art protagonists so “Precipitations” – closer to the art performance than the classic concert - renews our ways to listen to those works, as it gives priority to emotion. Has a new musical genre, “Baroque/emo” begun to emerge?
Nowadays “Baroque” is THE term used to label the elusive… In other musical genres, terms like “XP” or “Open Mind” would be used instead. Hamm… Could some musical genres be baroque without us knowing it?
Sébastien Amadieu’s musical exploration is full of fruitful promises and won’t leave you unmoved. So on your toes, go gently through the flow without…Précipitations
Jim Nastik translator RGilles
Espace Pierre Cardin, Paris
Show Off, salon international d’art contemporain
Winterreise(Voyage d’Hiver) Franz Schubert
Hervé Lamy Ténor
Anne Le Bozec Piano
12 rue Angélique Vérien