8ème art · art & culture free magazine · n° 19 (may-june 2012) +
Ghost, double-barrelled title, and on a contemporary music piece of work this exegesis is
Ghost, light rolling, and on the taut skin of our eardrum. Such is the title of Benjamin Dupé’s latest work. Quite a programme. And a riddle… the composer helps us decypher.
“By dint of regularly realizing I was unable to tell others in simple terms what my music is, one day I thought it would be easier to create a show about it …”. Thus did Benjamin Dupé present in 2009 his “autobioscenic performance” As I hear it. A poetic and amused pondering on contemporary music and the prejudice it carries, based on the testimonials of ordinary people voicing their difficulties to understand a genre considered as abstruse, worthy of a “debate between astrophysicists”. The young composer thus proved through this show that he was able to consider his subject with detachment… So we are all the more surprised when discovering the title of his new creation: Ghost, light rolling, and on the taut skin of our eardrum. We’ve known more sober. And less nebulous. Aged 35, would Benjamin Dupé himself have become an “astrophysicist”?
“Nothing is more difficult than expressing an aesthetic emotion, especially when it relates to music”, he answers. It’s even more difficult when the work you’re talking about remains to be written!” This “double-barrelled title”, Dupé explains he planned it as a travel warrant. It was about two years ago, when GMEM commissionned him a work for Les Musiques Festival.” I had just started thinking about the project. I had to draw the outline of my research, define a direction for my composing… Even if a guideline is made to be trespassed!” A few weeks before the opening night, while he was still polishing up the writing of this mysterious creation, the composer accepted to decypher the famous title with us, this riddle whose exegesis will enable us to point out a few evidence useful to understand Ghost, light rolling, and on the taut skin of our eardrum. Exegesis Benjamin Dupé chooses to start with the ending.
“The taut skin of our eardrum, means the listener becomes the music intrument. I’ve always considered music from the position of the listener. I have to take into account the living body as I start writing, as if the imagination, sensations, even boredom of the listener were parts of the acoustic characteristics of the instrument I work with (…) In this case, I imagine him tense and watchful, as a drumskin about to resound…”
Benjamin Dupé starts by “preparing” his instrument (the spectator) placing him in a “particular perceptive state”, ready to receive different stimuli. So he imagined an immersion setting, putting his audience at the heart of a sound experiment. Each listener will be settled in a kind of protective cocoon, propitious to relaxation. The lightest sound will tease the senses, awake a symphony of emotions, images, feelings…
“Light rolling, sums up my desire to work on the infinitesimal, the mellow, proximity … And to channel my writing. So I’ve imagined a soft scenography for the lights treatment, with small surfaces starting vibrating, like paper sheets…”
We left the listener in his cocoon, waiting and relaxing. All around him, loudspeakers diffuse an electroacoustic, hypnotic and all-enveloping web of sounds. A soft quietness crossed by “magic events” (footsteps, rains of grains…) made by “resonant objects” and “mechanical instruments” arranged by the composer. Those strange machines dance, vibrate, embody this sensorial music: ” Seeing a diaphragm move is seeing the sound… Hearing the noise made by an object near yourself is almost touching it”. The only visible elements in the work will appear then vanish, as ghosts.
“Ghost, because I wanted to speak about absence, disappearance … In the project, there will be no human presence: the spectator will face an obvious absence, since there are no musicians. Things start vibrating by themselves…”
If Dupé asserts he lets no place for random in his score (“from the first to the last note I know why there is that sound at that moment”), he also wishes – it’s a fundamental aspect of the project -, to give the listener freedom to invent what he thinks he sees or hears; the musician proposes tracks, our imagination will do the rest. In this view, another ghost will be evoked: a mythical figure, hardly suggested, who will echo into every memory. “Orpheus’s myth came to me rather late in the project. It is not a narrative framework, rather a field of poetic research. Thanks to the beauty of his song and music, Orpheus can make the concrete world (trees, stones…) vibrate. Faced with the ghost of his wife Eurydice, he manages to convince the god of Hades to bring her back from the kingdom of the dead, provided he does not look back on his way. But he lost her for not trusting the all power of sound, he wanted to check with his own eyes! Whether he knows or not the myth, the spectator will be active: for him to reassemble the puzzle according to what I’ll give him. A myth can be interpreted, as a score can be…”
We won’t say more about it. To avoid sabotaging the “dramaturgy of listening”, Dupé wants to keep some mystery around this Ghost, light rolling and on the taut skin of our eardrum. But the composer hasn’t forgotten the essential: “With all these concepts, it can sound grandiloquent, but one must relax: it’s still music!”
By Sandro Piscopo-Reguieg