WE NEED TO TALK
DUEL OR DUET?
// Two cellos
// Franco-British music collaboration
// Premiered on 26th october 2019 at the SoundFestival in Aberdeen
Laura Bowler (EN), Two cellos
Frédéric Pattar (FR), Around Agôn
Noémi Boutin & Matthew Sharp, cellos
Laura Bowler, composer
Frédéric Pattar, composer
Simon Gane, lights design
// Producted by the Cie Frotter | Frapper - Noémi Boutin
// Coproduction SoundFestival (Aberdeen, Scotland), Centre international de musiques nomades - Festival Détours de Babel (Grenoble, France)
// With the support of DRAC Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, Région Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, The French Institute within its agreement with the City of Lyon, Diaphonique, a Franco-British fund for musical creation, and the SACEM.
Diaphonique, a Franco-British fund for contemporary music in partnership with the French Institute of United Kingdom, the Sacem, the British Council, the Ministry of Culture, the Bureau Export, the Fondation Salabert, the French Institute and the French Institute from United Kingdom.
Variations around otherness
Duet or duel? Two cellists - one English, one French - meet, seek each other out and confront each other in a form of jousting... musical, both poetic and theatrical.
The two pieces that make up We need to talk, written respectively by Frédéric Pattar and Laura Bowler from texts by Simone de Beauvoir, William Shakespeare, William Blake, Arthur Rimbaud, or Gertrude Stein, explore languages, history and the the relationship between men and women, but also the relationship that each with his own instrument and his own voice.
IN 30 SECONDS
Two Cellos investigates the two performer's relationship with their instruments, each other and their culture. Using iconic texts from Shakespeare and Simone De Beauvoir, the work highlights the contemporary societal politics of Europe (including the UK). The work also draws on the explorations that Matthew, Noémi and I undertook in preparation for the project, and as a result is a work not simply composed for two vocalising cellists but quite specifically for Matthew and Noémi.
Around Agôn represents the idea of a joust in four distinct movements. It's an imaginary dual not only between two musicians but also between two languages and two poets (Blake and Rimbaud), and an internal dual between the instrumentalist and his / her relationship with their own voice. In some ways, it's about rediscoering that which seem extremely familiar, like the American novelist Gertrude Stein when living in France re-invented her own language as if it were a foreign language.
Around Agôn attempts to explore ontology and tragedy through playfulness, humour and a certain lightness.
"Both pieces in Saturday’s programme, world premières, were far more than just musical performances with a small ‘p’ where the players just come on, play the music and then go off again (...) On Saturday evening, however, what we got were full scale PERFORMANCES.
The first piece was by the French composer Frédéric Pattar. It was entitled Around Agôn. The word 'Agôn' is an ancient Greek term for a conflict, struggle or contest. It can be any sort of contest: athletics, music or literature. Obviously music was involved here—a contest between the two cellists—but there was also the duel between two languages and the words of two poets: Rimbaud representing France, and William Blake representing England. The composer wrote that his intention was 'to explore ontology (a philosophical term about the nature of being or existence) and tragedy through playfulness, humour and a certain lightness'.
In much of the opening section the two cellists played perfectly together in unison with very straightforward music. Soon however, differences began to creep in. After a while Matthew Sharp deserted his cello and moved to the rear of the stage where waiting for him was a ‘prepared’ cello. He began firing off pizzicato notes on this instrument. Soon, things began to diversify and in a sense to heat up. At one point the performers worked on the prepared cello with two bows at the same time. In another section of the piece, the cellists stood at each side of the stage, away from any of the cellos but each holding two bows which they began whipping through the air producing whiffling sounds (...) Towards the end of the piece Noémi Boutin began to play extended passages of high harmonics. This is very difficult to sustain perfectly but Noémi certainly triumphed. She also had passages in the score where she sang, sometimes in English, and fragments of both French and English words were part of the performance.
If Frédéric Pattar’s piece was rich in many different kinds of performance, cello playing, speaking, singing and movement using the whole platform, Two Cellos by Laura Bowler went far farther. There was singing, particularly fine singing from Matthew Sharp, spoken words, pre-recorded words and sounds, mist floating over the stage, shadows of the performers projected on to the rear cyclorama. There were two bows on one cello, the performers stroking one another’s cellos as if they were human bodies (...) Towards the end of the work, a recorded voice referred to the difference between the French spirit and the English. If France takes over the world we will be ruled by all 26 letters in the alphabet. If England takes over, the world will be ruled by the numbers one to ten. I think I get the point that a certain British party are only interested in money. I thought that was the Americans but possibly after Brexit we may be turned over to an American governor as an insignificant part of their empire. There was so much in Laura Bowler’s piece to digest. Drama, comedy and politics too"
Alan Cooper, SoundFestival review, 27 octobre 2019
"Politics and classical music make for controversial bedfellows – some say they should never be seen in each other’s company, while others insist they’re inseparable. It’s a relationship that Aberdeen’s Sound Festival of contemporary music placed centre-stage in its opening weekend, in a seemingly innocuous concert of two world premieres for cellists Matthew Sharp and Noémi Boutin (****).
The result, named We Need to Talk/Il faut qu’on parle, was the culmination of a months-long project instigated by festival director Fiona Robertson, and it was as provocative as it was rewarding. (...) Both pieces were witty and timely, and epitomised the outward-looking spirit of partnership that has driven Sound for many years."
David Kettle, The Scotsman, 28 octobre 2019
© Colin Black - Courtesy of SoundFestival
Crédits photo : Pascale Cholette / MC2 : Grenoble