An afternoon of French understanding: Concept of show

An afternoon of French understanding: Concept of show

Working with a concept for a show can sometimes be as easy as blinking, and other times it’s as excruciating as waiting for your next pay so that you can continue on with life.  Well, that’s what I have been feeling over the past year and a half. (There are other ways i can describe it but it’s best not to write what initially came to mind). To be honest, when one has other endeavors going on it makes it harder to concentrate on the idea.

When I have arrived back home to continue on with development, my creative energies are exhausted and it is soon realised that the time is not right to write, and all that can be written is ‘What?’or ‘Why can’t you come out?’. Or then there are the feelings that if you get into it, there isn’t enough time to follow through. And let’s not forget the moments of anxiety. Thinking that whatever comes out needs to be better than the last.

During my time away, I have attempted to ignore the listing above and maintain a routine of writing/reading/listening a little something everyday.

Over the past year and a half I accumulated a list of songs from various songwriters of the French 60s and 70s era. At first I was incredibly attracted to the pop music of that time including artists like Serge Gainsbourg, Charles Aznavour, and Francoise Hardy. Those three artists were introduced to me by three friends, and as I obsessively youtubed their hits and downloaded their music, I made it my challenge to include them in a show. I decided on a short list that also included Jacques Brel, Georges Brassens and thus organised a programme that ruled the explicit, pornographic and passionate world of song, protest and humanity. Which other Nation was perfect for this thing!

However yet again, I felt a tension. I had formed serious love sick attachments with many of the songs chosen and could definitely see them performed. I had no idea why nothing was coming forth. They were just ‘pop’ songs. Hardy and Gainsbourg for instance were heros of the 60s and 70s pop industry. Gainsbourg in particular contributed an exotic flavour to music, not only through the subject matter of his writing but with his adoption of worldly sounds such as African, Bossa Nova and Reggae. Gainsbourg had quite a ‘political’ upbringing but the majority of his works reflected his sexual appetite, sadistic nature, and impersonal view of ‘woman’.  A woman could take on his music but would definitely need to apply a feminine masculinity that ridicules Gainsbourg’s woman ‘loving’.

In workshop with Corinne Douarre last Thursday 22 December, I was finally introduced to little histories of the artists mentioned above.

In the early beginnings of French chanson singing and Kabarett/Cabaret there was Fréhel – Damia Fréhel, and Edith Piaf, the singers of the street , lovers and unfortunate whores of Paris. Charles Trenet followed with his Swing/Jazz repertoire including the favourite ‘La Mer’. This song was shelved for quite a long time as it didn’t fit to the time, and was released later – post WWII. The inner circle reveals the singers that were novel for their political nature, poetic language, and fulfillment of the ego. They are dubbed ‘Auteur. Compositeur. Interpreter’ – an all in one. We had Leo Ferré, Jacques Prévert, Jacques Brel, Georges Brassens, Boris Vian, Charles Trenet, Henri Salvador and Barbara, one of the only females at this time to own her music as chanteuse and writer of melody and verse. Following this bracket of artists, comes Gainsbourg, Hardy, Dutronc and Gall.

The writers of the first circle sing speak poetic moving pictures – alluding back to Frederick Hollander’s quote ‘each verse is a film’ – and thus inspiring free, imaginative and spontaneous feeling. The auteurs of the second bracket write with repetition and use direct words or phrases that tell you exactly how the singer is feeling and therefore what the listener should also be feeling.

A brief note on the few:

George Brassens – The Simple Man

An Anarchist that romanticises fairy tales and addresses the woman as a mythological creature high above on the pedestal.

Charles Aznavour – The Misogynist

What more can we say here about his songs.

Jacques Brel – The Melodramatic

He performs with great passion, and sings of desperation, losses of love and women. For him ‘Woman’ is ‘Woe’. They give him pain and grief, far more than they do happiness. His songs can be misleading, identifying Brel as the Romeo of French chanson – dying for the love of a woman yet I think from my readings he is quite the contrary.

Barbara – The Midnight Singer

She was a woman of strength, independence, liberty and loved life’s promiscuous treasures.

Leo Ferré – The Fire

Leo was a fellow Anarchist. He was extremely taken by Spain, and most of his work’s resonate the qualities of the sexy, hot, ambient tones of Spanish music.

Charles Trenet – The Singing Fool

Charles was described as a musician away with the fairies.

Serge Gainsbourg – The Womaniser

After these little introductions to the objects of my study, it has become clearer which works would work best in show. I have bid adieu to some and reshuffled a few to recreate a new program with one addition: Barbara.

I depart Berlin tomorrow at a very early 6.45am for Paris. This moment of the development has come at the right time. Berlin, it has been so easy to fall for you and I fear that when I move on to Paris that I will be somewhat unfaithful. Not because I want to, but because I have to. I didn’t quite get to see as much Kabarett as I intended however the experiences of meeting and hearing of stories was enough to fuel whatever has gone astray.

I venture to Paris with the repertoire chosen; ready to translate and interpret.

Barbara. Brel. Brassens.

A nice little threeway that has me singing a very happy tune.

Merci Beaucoup Corinne Douarre et Kim Eustice.

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