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15 Questions to Eric la Casa

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Hi! How are you? Where are you?
My only certainty is that I live in Paris. As I feel that everything is always changing, I do not think that my existential situation in a determined space and time is the best definition of what I am. Thus I don't speak about myself.

What is on your schedule right now?
I work on several projects at the same time. Please visit my website to follow up on my activities. For example, I am currently working on the project La Creuse, in collaboration with Cédric Peyronnet (a french sound artist The project began this summer of 2006. We made sound recordings in a specific territorial zone in the center of France (La Creuse) where two rivers carved the landscape. We tried to find the special sound of this area and we composed sound / musical variations from these recordings. We will propose a final version in 2007 for a CD and probably a radiophonic version.

What or who was your biggest influence as an artist? Do you see yourself as part of a certain tradition or as part of a movement?
In France, perhaps more than elsewhere, the artist works with a critical conscience of history. But as Pierre Boulez says (in 1955) "history is not a well oiled toboggan". Any innovation is the consequence of many movements, many processes that progress into a society. I do not believe I am separate from that. On the other hand, my musical approach crosses several artistic territories, and I feel myself closer to non-musical artistic territories (visual arts, cinema…) than many musical ones. I also must say that for example "spectral music" (created by the french composers Gerard Grisey, Tristan Murail… ) has impressed me. To conclude this question, I believe that music lives more and more in an interrelationship with other arts (and other disciplines) because today artists no longer belong to one specific artistic school. The standardization of the techniques of production is also a cause of this process of transversality. 

What’s your view on the music scene at present? Is there a crisis?

I do not understand this concept of crisis. All life on this planet is in movement, thus it is natural that things change.

What does the term “new” mean to you in connection with music?
The new thing does not exist, or rather all that we make is new since we are the future. We write at the present on a blank slate, but we carry knowledge a little further from civilizations which preceded us.

How do you see the relationship between sound and composition?

From the moment I started sound recording, it seemed obvious to me that the microphone was equally a tool of measurement as well as a musical instrument. In the same way, the ears accept the entirety of the sound dimension. Composition takes place in the attention within this dimension, choosing to listen or to hear. I compose with the world which surrounds me by considering (making) sound as my musical material. So the concept of sound in new music is very important. From the beginning of electroacoustic music to the spectral analysis of a sound, the reality of this territory has opened new fields in contemporary music (spectral music, electronic music, field recordings…).

How strictly do you separate improvising and composing?

why do you separate these two approaches from the musical one?

What constitutes a good live performance in your opinion? What’s your approach to performing on stage?
First, there are no rules.

Personally, I don't consider a concert as a thing in oneself. Very often, the place defines the nature of it… The architecture, acoustics, and equipment of a concert hall all affect the musical act, until a typological specialization of the music is created. Then, for the musician (but also for organizers), a concert exists for only a very limited time, with a start and end. All these conditions produce the repetition of a model where the musician demonstrates his knowledge and is representing (continuing) this history of music on stage. The concert is like a show-room (and often a show-case).

I do not share this prospect. The stage should not be (only) a space devoted to the musical one. Music is everywhere. A concert must allow this moment of experimentation in real time by making available the spectacle of listening.
When I can carry it out, I prefer the Inscape project (with Jean-Luc Guionnet, musician and now Yvan Clédat, video artist) which is a project of sound recording, mixing and diffusion in real time, of a specific environment (the place/site of the concert). From many cables connecting dozens of microphones (of various qualities), and throughout several days, we build an instrument to listen to the site. Between a sound installation and a concert, the listener is invited to observe in real time the sound experiment and transformation of the surrounding environment into music.

When I have less means or available time, I look for a position in the space in which to develop my project. From there, I find the best adapted answer to the constraints compared to what I can offer. And if possible I play with other people who surround me because I think that the concert is a good opportunity to leave my studio and to develop projects with enriching human interactions.

A lot of people feel that some of the radical experiments of modern compositions can no longer be qualified as “music”. Would you draw a border – and if so, where?

No, I believe to the contrary, there should not be borders. Music must be made with all this diversity of experiments and listenings. The transformations of the practices make/compose a musical territory that the institutions (I think of the French example) try to make narrow, to simplify. The widening of this musical geography shows that the cultural institutions no longer represent the music of today. Moreover, if the musical language is still threatened today by a “regression of listening”, some composers freed themselves from a post-modern musical language several generations ago. Why would it be necessary again to make this musique d'ameublement which papers our modern interiors? Like any artistic form, music diverts (or branches out) and like Schoenberg says : “my music is not lovely”. Don't forget what Boulez said before : no oil on the toboggan.

Do you feel an artist has a certain duty towards anyone but himself? Or to put it differently : Should art have a political/social or any other aspect apart from a personal sensation?

The artist himself defines his specific relation to the world. From what he takes from himself or from the territories around him, he shows himself as an example of what is an individual, and of what makes a society in a specific time and space. This artistic measurement has always been used by societies to try to evaluate the world, and sometimes to legitimate their modernity ... These representations are still incarnations of a state of the world and takes part in the history of the culture.

The relations between art and society can't be treated in few short lines, but I do consider that music is a necessary part in the definition of a society.

True or false: People need to be educated about music before they can really appreciate it.
Yes, it is a language which it is necessary to assimilate by a regular practice. The complexity of the world only opens itself in the light of what one knows.

Imagine a situation in which there is no such thing as copyright and everybody were free to use musical material as a basis for their own compositions – would that be an improvement to the current situation?
The copyright only reminds us that there are authors of original works (I don't enter into the debate of the copyright). In France we have another system to defend the authors: droits d'auteur (mechanical rights of reproduction…). This only relates to one use of a work of an author in public space. But on your premise, nothing prevents you from doing what you want. So I do not understand the question…

You are given the position of artistic director of a festival. What would be on your program?
That depends on the festival. If it is exclusively musical, I would present it so that experimentation would be the center of the meetings between artists and listeners. I would also choose proposals where the process is as important as the result. The concert should not only be the place of the sublimation of the artist. On the contrary, the concert must be an opportunity for the artist to set up a nonspectacular meeting with a public. It is just as interesting to see an artist work in real time or see his process as to listen to musicians performing their show on stage. I find that sometimes this interaction with the public is missing. Events should be produced so that the public meets the artist. Usually the artist makes his concert into his assigned space (the stage) and then goes home. It is not a satisfactory situation and yet it persists.

december 28th 2006 (edited version by joe colley)

L’Empreinte de l’Ivresse  (Digital Narcis Ltd) 1999
The stones of the threshold (Groundfault) 1999
Les pierres du seuil part 4-7 (Edition…) 2000
Les oscillations part 1-2 (Fringes) 2005
AIR.ratio (SIRR ecords) 2006

Eric La Casa

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