There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
Haha, this reminds me of a period when I tried to understand why sometimes you go on stage and everything seems so easy, whatever you play it is at the right place, and some other times you have to fight for each sound you try to play (and this is where your home practicing pays off). I guess it's like a photographer can spend days seeking for a motive he has in mind and not get it and another just puts the camera above his head and takes a picture without thinking about it only to find out he shot the picture he has dreamt about for years …
So I started some kind of an Excel file (I don’t think Excel actually existed at that time), writing down many cursors like «did I have a good meal?» «did I drink alcohol?» «Am I happy in love?» «How much did I sleep last night?» «How is the weather?» etc … (there was even a case about orgasms, since I read this is a serious consideration in high level sport …) There were no rules that could be pointed to put myself in the state to be in one of those «non fighting» moments …
There were periods where I needed to change clothes before going on stage. Like a super hero needs his costume to make his work. Nowadays I prefer to go on stage in a very casual outfit.
Actually, as I said earlier, I try to have a simple, professional approach of my job, not putting too much sacrality into it when I prepare myself. It is only when I play that sometimes, by itself, it feels like touching something sacred, related to trance, or «in the right tune». This is were I stand now. In the past I have had many techniques to get into the right state.
Music and sounds can heal, but they can also hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of these? Where do you personally see the biggest need and potential for music as a tool for healing?
This is another question quite difficult to answer. It deserves a whole book and study to be properly answered!
I was very impressed to read that in Amazonia, some tribe is using psychoactive plants to get some images in their trip, but it isn’t the visions themselves that heal. Those who experience those visions gets back from his trip and then draw it in the form of patterns. Then those patterns are used by another guy as scores to be sung. And it is this singing that cures the disease …
I also always keep somewhere in my mind that the very first sound of a string for humanity must have been the sound of a bow, that was shooting an arrow to kill some animal. So this sound was announcing death, in the sacred way of the first hunters of our species. Same for the first sound of a flute, that was made of the bone of this animal, to get in contact with its spirit and show mercy for it’s sacrifice …
So yes, there is something magical about music. And from all forms of trance music to the most sophisticate academic Western music there is something about rearranging the invisible, in my opinion. I also have read a lot about «protéody», the science that studies the effects of assembled sounds (music) on proteins. This is actually being used on plants, and there are scientific observations about the effect music has on proteins. This works on us too.
But I would also speak about the violence of music. Have you ever experienced watching a scene of a movie with one music and then another one? Like let’s say a robbery in bank with some blues first, and then a requiem? The scene changes completely. And the thing is that people mostly have no conscience of what they hear, at least way less than of what they see. And you can close your eyes to something you don’t want to see, it is a lot more difficult to close your ears … So we have built some mental protection that help us not to focus on every sound that enters our brain. But those sounds penetrate your mind anyway, and can be huge influences.
I think there is a lot of manipulation through sound in this world, and not much conscience about this. Music is a great power and can be dangerous or beneficial. The Nazis where using it, parents are using it to help their child to fall asleep, lovers are using it … I could speak for hours about this.
Recently I saw this amazing documentary named «Alive Inside» by Dave Cohen about his «music and memory» project. With - of course - Oliver Sacks and also Bobby Mc Ferrin. It shows people with Alzheimer, who haven’t reacted to anything for years getting back to conscience, to communication, after hearing music from their past. This is one of the most beautiful things I have seen this year.
There is a fine line between cultural exchange and appropriation. What are your thoughts on the limits of copying, using cultural signs and symbols and the cultural/social/gender specificity of art?
Oh this is another very complex question. Actually it feels like the main subject of our times. Dominated identities need to regain their part in society, and I belong to the group of dominants (I am white, male, heterosexual, middle class etc …). Lots of people, from all minorities are fighting hard to make room for themselves where we clearly take too much space and that feels right to me.
What I personally enjoy in this world is places where people don’t look like each other, and individualities. I don’t feel very comfortable with strong definitions of identities, needing to belong to a community, but I know this is because I have never suffered as a consequence of being part of this very large community.
I think it is important to keep feeling concern for others. I feel it still is important that some friends of mine who I admire a lot keep traveling and show us how people live in other parts of the world. If they first ask themselves «Where am I raising my voice from? What is me when I watch the other, when I take part of a debate that maybe doesn’t directly concerns me» I feel they have the right to exchange with the other, even if the other is weaker, because society made him weaker. I believe nowadays it is necessary not to accept anymore that the powerful part of the people keeps taking over all debates, even with the best intentions, without stating first from where they talk.
I love hybrids. I love collisions. I think things are in perpetual movement because they dance together, also because they fight together. I don’t like the idea of fusion, I love the idea of collision, that when two planets get in contact it creates a third world, without absorbing any of the two first planets, maybe changing them a bit, but in order to keep them vivid, and strong, and able to move with the world.
Now it is time to fight for identities, and it feels right to me. I just hope at some point we will be able to get to a new way of exchanges and sharing and curiosity and capacities to accept thoughts that are contradictory to our own thoughts.
Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work?
I mostly close my eyes when I play. And I don’t I create images in that moment, neither colours nor shapes. Just some kind of emptiness. Maybe because vision is a too direct and powerful sense that shadows the other senses.
Of course I play a cello and my fingers are working hard. They know precisely the shape of the strings and the body of the instrument. And between my fingers, the vibrations of the instrument that I can feel in the middle of the three contact points - body, instrument and my hearing - there is actually a wonderful circulation.
I have never thought about smell or taste though … So I close my eyes, and it is all about touching and hearing!
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
I would like to be more directly involved politically, fight for some causes. As artists nowadays we are often asked to communicate about the ecological situation. I don’t feel very conformable with this since my vision of nature often doesn’t fit with the mainstream approach of the concept of «nature» these days. I read a lot, I try to know about the geopolitical situations in this world, the only thing I can observe is how complex it is, and I don’t feel legitimized to express myself about it.
So what I can do is to follow my own ethics and live my life like this, cross other people, communicate with them, being a little bit of a «public character» and make things visible. It is more about the capacity of listening, about the will to exchange with others, about the importance of not forgetting poetry, tenderness, humor. To be honest and sincere with myself, not to follow the strange injections of «kindness» or «goodness» that sometimes scare me when I feel it looks like some ideology. Just being, holding my life in my hands - which is not an easy job - feels sometimes like a little political engagement.
I don’t sing lyrics. I play music. I offer a break in the avalanche of information and debates and fights that are constantly heating our behaving. Maybe this is political. I don’t know.
What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?
Haha … This is something I use to say about my collaboration with my father (he is a musician and we have a duo and we have recorded two albums and tour together a lot): when we play together we find a way to say to each other «I love you» which is not an easy thing to say to one’s father. So yes, music can express things that are not easy to say with words.
I also believe that sometimes I touch a «place beyond» when I play. It is a strange place, maybe close to the one that people who do meditation experience. It feels like a place beyond anything I know about this life, this world.
It's impossible to describe, but in a way, the music is already there and I just need to help myself. Maybe it has something to do with death and life.