Bourges – Synthèse 2006

At the end of this month begins the 38th Festival of Electroacoustic music in Bourges, and at long last Asymmetry presents the reports and interviews from the past two festivals there, the only two so far that Asymmetry has attended. Click the link above or check the sidebar under Upcoming Events for details about this year’s festival.

theatre jacques coeurI first visited Bourges in 2005, thirty-five years after Françoise Barrière and Christian Clozier founded the Groupe de Musique Experimentale Bourges there, fresh from their studies at the GRM in Paris. I had been collecting their festival’s Cultures Electroniques CDs for a dozen or more years, those distinctive covers with various views of the globe making them easy to spot in stores, and the consistently high quality of the very varied repertoire making them easy to listen to at home.

I first attended the Synthèse festival in 2006, where I met Beatriz Ferreyra, whose interview has appeared in Asymmetry, and Iancu Dumitrescu and Ana-Maria Avram, who invited me to the first annual Spectrum XXI festival in Paris that November. And, of course, the festival organizers, Françoise and Christian, who both took time out of their busy schedules to talk to me about their music and the Institute and their busy schedules.

Asymmetry readers may recall that it was at the 2006 festival that I met Jon Christopher Nelson and Robert Normandeau, who have also very generously donated time and conversation to the magazine.

But enough about me. Bourges is a pretty town with an astounding cathedral sprawled along the summit of the hill Bourges is built on, with a medieval section full of more (authentic) half-timbering than you’ve ever seen in one place, I’ll warrant, and with a smallish large lake several kilometers to the south and a large area to the east of gardens and canals and the lazy hum of insects in the warm spring afternoons.

And every year, Bourges plays host to the Synthèse international festival of electroacoustic music, emphasis on international, for Barrière and Clozier have made sure that they get music from Russia and China and Romania and Argentina and Chile and New Zealand and so forth as well as from France and Germany and Sweden and the U.S. and U.K. Indeed, were I to mention every country that has been represented at the festival, I’d have mentioned most of the countries that there are.

The opening concert was a whimsical theater piece by Patrick Lenfant, Machine-Bols, which featured nine bowls on stands in front of a curtain that eventually opened on a stage full of bowls and of various machines for making them sound as well as a film with several men talking about bowls, that is, with one man in different costumes and with different varieties of facial hair and different hats.

Followed a showing of the 1919, Le Cabinet de Dr. Caligari, with music by Luigi Ceccarelli, Fabrio Cifariello, Alessandro Cipriani, and Mauro Cardi.

The next day, the festival settled in to a schedule of four concerts a day, mostly, with concerts devoted to various countries—Norway, Portugal, Poland, Sweden, New Zealand, Greece, Chile, Argentina, Russia, Spain, France, Cuba, USA, and Romania—and featuring several different studios—CIME, CEMI, GRAME, CIRM, GMEM, INA-GRM, AMBI-ICST, and of course the studios of IMEB.

A short walk from the Maison de la Culture, where some of the concerts were (the rest in the Théâtre Jacques Coeur), is Emmetrop, which hosted one of the festival concerts, an evening with Keith Rowe and Toshiharu Nakamura—a big thrill for me, having been a Rowe fan ever since I’d heard Dial: Log-Rhythm on a college radio station in Southern California back in 2000. Rowe and Nakamura played a very spare set, each sitting at their respective laptops making glorious noises with very small changes.

Noetinger at EmmetropEmmetrop also hosted a non-festival event that week—an event I had already decided to leave early in order to see a festival concert I didn’t want to miss. Anyone who has seen Jerôme Noetinger and Lionel Marchetti do an improvisation show will know what a terrible decision this was for me. I enjoyed the festival concert all right, but I’m still sorry I left the Emmetrop show, which featured Noetinger and Marchetti and a few others scattered about a large room littered with laptops and various noise-making devices and toys and film going continuously around the walls of the room. It was splendid. At least I heard a good hour’s worth of that show before I left.

Of the younger composers there, I was very much taken with the music of Isabel Pires—my first sampling of the music scene in Portugal—and of Matthias Ockert and Maxence Mercier, among others. And the concert of Stollery, Ferreyra, Dumitrescu, Avram, and Coffy was not surprisingly the most solid concert of the festival. [Pete Stollery: Vox magna, Beatriz Ferreyra: Dans un point infini, Dumitrescu: Etudes de sons granulaires, Avram: Focul viu (le feu vivant), Yves Coffy: Quantique.] There were many other pieces in many other concerts that were every bit as good as any of these, you understand, but no other concert so consistently good start to finish.

I had a good time there in 2006, enough to go back in 2007. Enough to be going again in a month.

Stay tuned.

Here are a few clips from the festival, from a few CDs I was able to cadge:

Isabel Pires, Sideral

Felipe Otando, Zapping Zappa

Matthias Ockert, Stretto

Maxence Mercier, Rebirth

Paul Rudy, Love Song

And here are a few pictures of the festival and Bourges and the Marais:

Saint-Etienne Saint-Etienne Cathedral

Saint Etienne from the MaraisSaint-Etienne from the Marais

Graffiti at EmmetropGraffiti at Emmetrop

Maison de la Culture-grand theatre Maison de la Culture-Grand Théâtre

maison de la culture-petite theatrePetite Théâtre

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