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Interview with Vincent Bergeron

img  Tobias

Hi! How are you? Where are you?
Great! I just ended the last song for my new album. Sort of a synthesis for a movie script I wrote. This song was written for a vocalist other than me, Viveka Eriksson. In fact, she really knows how to sing, unlike me who can't feel vocal dynamics enough (for my tastes anyway).

What’s on your schedule at the moment?

Ending my new project before September. Then, I am ending studies in one year. Career stuff will take my time for a while after...My next project is something too big for me at the moment. Time will be needed...

When we spoke about your last album, you mentioned being disappointed in the music scene’s ability to come up with something truly creative. Have things improved in this regard over the past two years in your opinion?
I think it's not true. I was just listening too closely. Sometimes, when you focus too much on something, you don't see anything. Now, I am more inspired by cinema and literature because I know less of these worlds. I find new things where other people are rather less optimistic than I am (getting closer to human nature, unusual techniques, narrative ideas...). All eras have a certain number of great things.

This said, it is true that computer based music is entering a transitional phfase where conventional studio techniques are mixed with experiments of the early 2000's. New things seem less obvious during this transitional phase. Sound technicians try to become songwriters lately. Recent example: Nico Muhly – Mothertongue, I think you could enjoy it. Once completed though, it will lead toward something so exciting, we will be awe-inspired!!

You started studying cinema and literature at Université de Montréal in 2006. How are you enjoying it? Has this changed your view on composing in any meaningful way?
It is the studies program I wanted to be in since many years already! I had my load of bad choices before.
Computer programming was not for me. I do compose with a computer, but can't quite program anything that is mathematically based or following a logic I can't adapt to my personality. I needed more emotion in my life.

After that, journalism was something I lost interest for.

Now, I am composing with lighter touches and patterns. I think it is because I am getting older, but also because I find myself mostly interested by introspective literature. I am not too much into the busy writing. I do love smart busy cinema with a load of montage and editing (Michel Gondry, I understand best). Still, most great films are slow and take time to develop a relationship with what often seem not so interesting on first approach. I do enjoy this tendency a lot more through cinema than while listening to music. I don't know why.

One of your projects is closely connected to the movies: Aux Limites, a script for a film. How are things progressing?

This time, it feels like a real movie, something that could be done with a budget and realistic expectations.

Same themes were already explored on Philosophie Fantasmagorique, but this time I focus on daily events leading toward a magical realism. Something almost possible in real life. The music reminds everybody that is not quiet the reality.

I am working with a director from Quebec for a short movie. We protected the rights and are looking for financial possibilities right now. The most accessible part of  Philosophie Fantasmagorique's movie script was selected by him for this movie. I rewrote it to make it a good script alone. I think working on this project and watching many movies where simple things were made interesting led me to write something less conceptual and closer to me as a daily human being.

I am not one to think that form is the only aspect that matters.

You’ve named your personal style “Impossible Music !” You’ve provided an extensive description of it already, but how would you sum up its parameters in a few words?
Music not heard yet. I will not bother to compose a couple of new things surrounded by clichés. Every part needs to be really special.

On paper, “Impossible Music !” seems to border “Hyperrealism” at times and you’ve included a quote by Noah Creshevsky on your site. Yet, it seems important to you to separate the two. Where do you draw a line?
Oh, I felt more confident ever since I know that there is somebody using a similar composition method. Now, maybe I am not insane after all :) Still, I do not share Noah's interest for virtuosos. Other than that, he is listening mostly to music for orchestra and does not include electronic sounds much these days. I prefer popular singing to classically trained voices.

I am mostly rooted in pop and rock of the most unusual kind, the one I spent years researching when I was a teen and a young adult. I do not come back often to Stravinsky (composition through montage) and other ones I could be compared to on some levels (Varèse, Wagner).

In our mail contact, you mentioned the importance of lyrics. How do you see the relationship between the narrative and your music?
These last months, I am trying to get away from expected narrative. It can be heavy on the mind, making the music less fun. There is a writer in me that wants a story in each of my pieces and this story needs to be sung, not just imagined. Now, I am thinking more about suggesting simple lines associated freely. This way, a different story can be imagined by the listener, not just the one I wrote.

I remember enjoying myself making personal interpretations in the past. In literature, the point of view of the author can be an obstacle to this sort of liberty. I would not want people to feel like they have to respect my vision. I hope they interpret anything the way they want. Nothing is more boring for me to read comments about my music respecting my own words perfectly. Maybe this is problematic in an academic way, but what do I care.

An aspect which has not yet been touched upon anywhere is the question of language. I was wondering whether there was a conceptual or lyrical reason for writing in French or rather practical aspects.
It's my first language! The most poetic and lyrical language of all!!

Obviously, English is the ultimate practical language. Since singer  Viveka Eriksson does not understand French (difficult to learn this tongue), I tend more and more toward English for my project Aux Limites. The song I just composed has a title in French (a words game that does not work in English), but all the lyrics are in English :)

I enjoy playing between these two languages. French in France and in Quebec is more and more transformed by street talking. Words from these two languages are confused heavily. To invent new possibilities in that direction is to predict what will probably happen in the future. It is the death of exclusive national roots.

Speaking more concretely: Where did the stories to “Philosophie Fantasmagorique” come from?

A movie script. Something I wrote in French. Impossible movie of sort. It is available as a doc file on the data portion of the album (or as a file if you have a downloadable version).

In how far are you changing the instrumental contributions sent to you by collaborators? How important is it to you that a particular musician performs a part?
Often, every chord is not played in the the same order. I do keep very little of the original synchronization; I change the chords' composition, I recompose unlike sampling in hip-hop where loops are recognizable. I do look strongly for sound recordings I love. Not much is modified by filters after the selection is made.

Some musicians are more busy than others. Many collaborations never happen. I turned down people, too, so it is O.K. Sometimes, you find musicians you love and they also take the time, Marco Oppedisano, Marco Rosano, Viveka Eriksson made the strongest impact on my music yet. What is most important is that I feel that they understand my music well and would not want to change this important aspect or this other one to “make it better”. Obviously, details are not in question here.

Vocal collaborations are a lot of work too. For Aux Limites, Viveka Eriksson recorded with me (July 2008). She sang melodies before actual patterns for songs were composed by me. Creating independent vocal melodies was one of the main goals for my new album.

Earlier in 2008, it worked well by accident for Aux Limites song. She sent me a vocal letter after listening to my music for the first time. Weeks later, I tried it on this music I was working on and magic started happening right away :)

At times, the music on “Philosophie Fantasmagorique” shares surprising tangents with genres like experimental HipHop, Pop or Progressive Rock. Knowing about your eclectic musical taste, I was wondering whether these are conscious allusions or rather unintentional results of your composing process.
I never have genre intentions. I do not enjoy listening to music targeted to a specific crowd.

You recently performed at the Casa Del Popolo in Montreal. How did the performance go?
Great! It was about the worst schedule for a performance, but perhaps it made the performance more special for the few people there :) People there were impressed by the precise synchronization of the vocal input with the music. I think I look entertaining too, this was my main goal.

On $ question, I also had an amazing % compare to so many marketing giants and labels :)

Filmed with a digital camera for photos (video option) : 

Wherever people are willing to listen, “Philosophie Fantasmagorique” is received with open arms, yet it remains blatantly ignored for most parts. Is this medial disinterest turning into a source of inspiration or rather of annoyance for you?
The lack of proper promotion may be part of the problem. I do not have a lot of money for that and years of sending CD-r tell me that it is a lot spent for very little in return. Labels are afraid too and I don't feel like taking greater financial risks right now. Later, after my studies, maybe...

I keep the promotion simple and highly selective. Even in these conditions, by lack of options, you send something to a site like Touching Extremes which I strongly dislike for the kind of writing we can read there. They prefer listener excuses and expected free jazz. For so many people in the small experimental music world, if it is not drone music or free jazz, it is not good. Apparently, albums also need a steady instrumentation, the same for all songs if you are more unusual than the norm. And do not indulge on ideas, this is the worst plan.

One idea per album is what you need... Don't you know? Experimental music should be listened while reading a book or it is not good.

Mostly though, I am getting good reviews and I would say the best comments come from both songwriters and electroacoustic students. I am glad it is well understood by persons from a large variety of backgrounds. I don't want to make music for the elite only.

Bonus Question by Vincent Bergeron: What is best, electroacoustic with heavy compression or without?
Because of compression, listeners are losing sensitivity for dynamics. Even the best compression is killing the richness of dynamics. I don't use any compression except for some problematic vocal lines. I love to feel like I am taking place in a space, not in a squeezed tiny box. I do not have the money to equal the sound of the best studios, but I do at least avoid some of their "industry standards" which are actually not always a good thing.

By Tobias Fischer


Casse-tête de l'Existence (2004)
Philosophie Fantasmagorique (2005)
Le savant devait arriver avant songeur (2008)

Vincent Bergeron at Freakywaves
Vincent Bergeron at MySpace

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