Futura 06 – oui au weekend des 35 heures

Futura 06 South of Lyon, in the Rhônes Alpes region, the pretty little medieval town of Crest sits picturesquely on a hill overlooking the Drôme. (Those of you who own cameras will know that I mean that adverb literally.) For tourists, Crest is the home of the tallest castle tower in France and of the longest wooden bridge. For music lovers, however, much as they like castles and bridges, Crest is better known as the home of the Futura Festival. Since 1993, composer Denis Dufour has presented some of the finest music by some of the finest composers in the world. (Those of you who own cd players can find out for yourselves that there’s not a trace of hyperbole in that last remark.)

I had never heard of the festival, to my shame, until March of 2006, in an interview with Michèle Bokanowski for Asymmetry Music Magazine. Since her latest concert piece, Chant d’ombre, would be given its world premiere performance there, I could hardly be expected to miss it. And so I didn’t. That was my first visit to Crest, my first experience of Futura. Unfortunately, the fairly leisurely pace of former festivals (six hours a day or so) was missing from this one, which took place over only one weekend. Took over one weekend, I should say, as it went from nine o’clock Friday evening, August 18, to 8 o’clock the following Sunday morning—35 hours straight. (There was also one concert on the 27th of August, but I was already in Köln by then, listening to musikFabrik play two pieces by Luc Ferrari I had never heard before, Presque Rien avec Instruments. Exploitation des concepts no. 5 from 2001 and Après Presque Rien from 2004. Both pieces, for ensemble and samplers, sounded to me as if Luc Ferrari were headed into the future by revisiting the past. His past. An interesting idea—cut short alas before it could be fully exploited.)

Fortunately there was plenty of Ferrari in 2006. Futura 06 opened with Ferrari’s Les Anecdotiques. Exploitation des concepts no. 6. (You can get a copy of this piece on Sub Rosa SR 207.) The festival presented three other pieces by Ferrari over the weekend, Saliceburry Cocktail (Sub Rosa SR 252—on the Son Mémorisé album), Impro-Micro-Acoustique (Sub Rosa BC 12), and Les Arythmiques. Other highlights, for me, were a piece by Pierre Henry (Comme une symphonie, envoi a Jules Verne) that uses snippets of Bruckner’s ninth, the two hour concert version of Michel Chion’s Messe de Terre, which includes two pieces that previously appeared on Cinéma pour l’oreilleCredo Mambo and Gloria (see reviews), and concert of three favorites of mine, Ferreyra, Kaufman, and Bokanowski: Beatriz Ferreyra’s Dans un point infini, also played at the 2006 Bourges festival, Dieter Kaufmann’s Berceuse pour Piccoletto, and Michèle Bokanowski’s Pour un pianiste, also played in 2006 at Cal Arts.

There was plenty of other fine music, although I’ve decided not to pretend that I lasted for thirty-five hours straight. You can see the program at http://perso.orange.fr/futura/ for all the bits (including the concert on the 27th). But I did certainly attend the premiere of Michèle Bokanowski’s Chant d’ombre, which is what I had come to hear, after all. The piece is lovely, no doubt about that, and it was terrific to hear it live, as it were. Unfortunately the performer chose to dramatize the long, dark, lovely descent into silence that occupies the last eighteen minutes of the piece by potting up one channel then another. It sounded okay; that is, if you’d never heard it before, you would have enjoyed this performance . I had heard it before, however, in a private recording, so I knew what Michèle had written. So there you have it, even elecroacoustic composers are at the mercy of interpreters.

That’s pretty much it for my attendance. I’ll only mention that I was quite taken with the newish (2003) piece by Roxanne Turcotte, Mères et monde, a much darker piece of hers than any I’d heard before. (But not since, of course. Rêveries absolues is close, or Poussi ère d’ étoiles, from the year before M ères et mond. )

Otherwise, I spent a lot of time wandering around Crest before and after the festival taking pictures, some of which you can see here. And I spent some time during the festival talking with Michèle Bokanowski and with Olivier, a representative of Data, which is a cd store in Marseille that’s packed with good stuff. If you’re in Marseille, and you don’t mind spending a lot of money, I’d suggest that you wander on down to 44 Rue des Bons Enfants. Even Amoeba Music junkies like myself will be happy there. (I was happy with, and considerably impoverished by, the small but choice spread they had at the festival.)

And before I leave this report, I should mention that a new venture, elektramusic, was introduced at Futura 06. So far this consists of “electroacoustic music volume 01”—a cd with music of Martin Stig Andersen, Bérangère Maximin, Rodrigo Sigal, Diego Garro, Meri von KleinSmid, and Paul Clouvel—and a “radioshow for experimental music” on the first Thursday of each month.

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