Name: Trio SR9
Members: Paul Changarnier, Nicolas Cousin, Alexandre Esperet
Occupation: Percussionists / mallet instrumentalists, composers, improvisers, interpreters
Recent release: The new album by the Trio SR9, Déjà Vu, is out via Nø Førmat!
Recommendations: Einstein on the beach - Philip Glass; To pimp a butterfly - Kendrick Lamar
If you enjoyed this interview with Trio SR9 and would like to find out more about the band, visit them on Instagram, Facebook, and twitter.
When did you start writing/producing/playing music and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
All 3 of us started music relatively young, with the piano or the drums, then all the percussion instruments.
We followed a classical education at the conservatory but we quickly felt that with percussions we could easily cross the borders between different type of music, and we could go in multiple directions.
When I listen to music, I see shapes, objects and colours. What happens in your body when you're listening and how does it influence your approach to creativity?
With percussion, we obviously go through rhythmic sensations but also thanks to the richness of sounds, we are very sensitive to sound textures and how they are made.
Also probably because we play a lot of different objets that are not musical instruments at first, we have the tendency to hear music whenever we hear an interesting sound.
How would you describe your development as an artist in terms of interests and challenges, searching for a personal voice, as well as breakthroughs?
We have our own challenge with percussion: There are so many different instruments we can play on, that most of them are unknown by a majority of people.
So we try to promote our instruments and the concept of being a percussionist: how we work on finding nice sounds and textures out of different materials (wood, metal, skins) and how can we create a good mix with this all to make music. This also offers us the ability to play in a very diverse type of projects.
Tell me a bit about your sense of identity and how it influences both your preferences as a listener and your creativity as an artist, please.
As listeners, this richness of playing make us very open minded to a lot of different types of music, as long as the sound is carefully produced, be it acoustic or electronic.
As artists, in this project we mix this attention to sound and groovy rhythmic work with a fun and easy listening repertoire, to bring that research to a larger audience than the one we usually have in the classical world.
What, would you say, are the key ideas behind your approach to music and art?
Music is a universal language, creating emotions unexpectedly sometimes. That’s the beauty of art, you have to let go, surrender and accept everything that comes to you.
Sharing this sensation with a whole audience, which is also always different.
How would you describe your views on topics like originality and innovation versus perfection and timelessness in music? Are you interested in a “music of the future” or “continuing a tradition”?
If we look at the global musical landscape in France and in Europe, our work is singular.
However we’re trying to make it visible by going for the greatest common denominator, and not keeping the elitist aspect that classical music has.
We can say that we are situated in between continuing the tradition of our musical heritage, but with nowadays eyes and the distance we can get with it.
Over the course of your development, what have been your most important instruments and tools - and what are the most promising strategies for working with them?
As percussionists, we learned to play a lot of instruments. But when we started working with the trio, we quickly focused on working with 3 marimbas.
The marimba is the richest percussion instrument harmonically and melodically, so it gave us great possibilities. It allowed us to work on a material, the wood, and how to find different colors with three of them.
Today, we’re enlarging our instrumentarium, with different materials and we create new instruments according to the projects. This gives us many perspectives for the future.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please.
Today we are lucky enough to have our own workspace in Lyon. During our sessions, a day always starts with coffee time with our production manager, used as a meeting to overview what has to be done for the group. There are many questions concerning the management and artistic directions, it is important to share all of this together. Then, we start to play together, depending on the project it requires more or less time to set up.
For the lunch break, while our dedicated and world renowned chef is active in the kitchen (that would be Nicolas), Paul and Alex send mails or take care of phone calls. After the break, a small briefing again before resuming the rehearsal until the end of the day.
Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece, live performance or album that's particularly dear to you, please?
It always goes through a long brainstorming, where everyone can give their desires, their ideas.
It usually takes a long time to choose a project. Once we agree on an idea, we can set up the artistic part but also the team that will work with us (arranger, artists, technicians ...), then also the global strategy for the project.
Setting up a project can takes from 1 to 3 years, it is quite significant for a group.
Listening can be both a solitary and a communal activity. Likewise, creating music can be private or collaborative. Can you talk about your preferences in this regard and how these constellations influence creative results?
With the trio, it is a collective adventure above all. We share the maximum together. Each one will be able to bring his identity, his feeling to the creation. It is important that we keep a permanent discussion.
How do your work and your creativity relate to the world and what is the role of music in society?
Our instruments come from different countries, cultures and traditions and we have the chance to bring them together. This sums up our relationship with the world and music in general. There are no borders.
Art can be a way of dealing with the big topics in life: Life, loss, death, love, pain, and many more. In which way and on which occasions has music – both your own or that of others - contributed to your understanding of these questions?
We wouldn’t say that music helps to understand or explain any of those big questions, but act more as a catharsis when you struggle on one of those topics.
When we play, it allows us to convey these emotions. Meanwhile listening also creates sensations, memories. But it also depends on the person (listener or player), its sensitivity and the moment he’s going through, to be able to feel a particular emotion.
How do you see the connection between music and science and what can these two fields reveal about each other?
This is something we have not yet taken the time to imagine.
It might be more an interesting question for composers, but as players we are more on the organic side, how to transform the technical aspect of playing an instrument to the poetical aspect of creating emotion for the listeners and for us.
Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you feel as though writing or performing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn't or wouldn't in more 'mundane' tasks?
Instrumental music in particular allows to say and to give emotions that words cannot give. We’ve been playing for quite a while now, and it feels sometimes easier to express something through our playing than with words. But if you’re an amazing coffee maker, you might be also able to express a lot while doing it?!
There is also the fact that you're removing the language barrier to arrive at an almost universal language. It is a kind of super power!
Music is vibration in the air, captured by our ear drums. From your perspective as a creator and listener, do you have an explanation how it able to transmit such diverse and potentially deep messages?
Music is a physical language, it deeply moves us without us being able to know how. It is a force.
It also has the power to set us in motion, to make us dance. It is something unique.