Christian Clozier

ClozierImmediately after my interview with Françoise Barrière at the 2006 Synthèse Festival, Christian Clozier, the cofounder of IMEB, took over an hour out of his schedule to show me around the studios, including his workroom where he designed and built the Cybersongosse, a teaching synthesizer for kids, and the Cybernéphone, a machine for diffusion familiar to attendees of the festivals.

With Christian’s little English, and my less French, that tour inevitably involved a good deal of pantomime, which we rectified next day with the addition of the expert translating skills of Elsa Delaplace (mille mercis, Elsa). Even with the translator, there was still a fair amount of pantomime, partly because Clozier is a natural actor. Next time, I’ll use a camcorder. One interesting observation came out of that, however. Christian remarked that in the early days, when the machines were all equipped with knobs, one could only control two parameters at once. When slider controls came in, suddenly one could control several parameters simultaneously. And then, with computers, the physical effort necessary in the old studios was no longer a factor.

Asymmetry: I talked with your cofounder yesterday about the festival and IMEB, so maybe we can start there.

Clozier: First there is the competition, for which we receive pieces from all over the world. The festival takes place every year after the competition. The main work of IMEB is to be international, to promote internationalism. In Berlin before the wall came down, it was very difficult to get access to the music. But it is the work of the festival to produce music from all over the world, no matter how difficult the access. And we have helped electroacoustic music to start in many countries.

There is a huge amount of work, but this music is very good, so the work is worthwhile! It is what I believe in most, in solidarity: people helping each other, sharing knowledge with each other. To further that, IMEB integrates creation and research by providing for both the tools to create and the creating itself all together under one roof.

Asymmetry: What about your own work? What are you working on now?

Clozier: It is finished.

Asymmetry: Oh! Is that what’s being played tonight?

Clozier: Yes. It’s a short piece, only eight minutes. Generally, I make pieces that are around twenty minutes long, but I didn’t have time to make this one that long. So it’s quick—boom, boom, boom, done!

Asymmetry: The concert certainly looks like it will be interesting. [Berenguer, Plasma Waves—Clozier, Sous l’hêtre de l’étang, grenouilles rient—Polonio, Matière Espace Temps—Normandeau, Palindrome.] Not that any of them have been anything else.

Clozier: It’s true. One of the particularities of electroacoustic music is that there is so much of it that is really good. There are so many good musics and so many good composers, so there is no one person who is a leader, and there is no one school, but there are many schools. So in a festival like this one, compared to a festival of instrumental music, you have more musics that are interesting.

But electroacoustic music is more tiring, more exhausting, for audiences, that is true, because you have to really listen. You have only listening to do, whereas with instrumental music, you have something to watch, too, something that’s diverting you. Generally speaking, when there is a concert of just electroacoustic music, there is not a lot of audience, but if the same music is in a show, is part of a show, then you will have a lot more audience.

Asymmetry: What do you think, then, of pieces that mix instruments and electronics?

Clozier: That is difficult for me to answer. For one thing, there is a lot of mixed music made at IMEB. For another, there is a lot of good music with electronics and instruments. But speaking personally, I don’t like music with instruments and electronics. It’s contradictory; combining ancient tools and new tools introduces again the writing.

[The translator was puzzled by this remark, so I offered my take on it: You either work directly with sounds, you start with sound, or you write before there are any sounds, and the sounds come after the writing.]

Clozier: You produce sounds with the machine, which is not writing but controlling the ear. Mixing is an ideological compromise. But if you want to get commissions for music, you have to be doing music with instruments. Radio stations, society, audiences are all turned towards instrumental music, music that’s written down, and against electroacoustic music.

To like electroacoustic music, it is necessary to have large ears!

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