Name: The Young Gods
Members: Franz Treichler (vocals, sampler, computer, guitar), Cesare Pizzi (sampler, computer), Bernard Trontin (drums, electronics)
Occupation: Composers, performers
Current release: The Young Gods' recording of Terry Riley's "In C" is out via Two Gentlemen.
[Read our Fifteen Questions Interview with Franz Treichler of The Young Gods and /A\]
If you enjoyed this interview with The Young Gods and would like to know more about the band, visit their official website. They are also on Instagram, and Facebook.
“In C” is one of the few pieces from the canon of minimalism that is actually still performed quite regularly. Prior to playing it yourself, what was your earliest exposure to it – and what was your reaction?
I knew the original version and did not really get it. It is only when I started looking at the score and at Terry Riley's directives that I understood it’s beauty.
It is a milestone in the history of written music. To my knowledge, it is the first time that every musician is their own conductor. There is no one to tell you when and how to play. It is a horizontal: no performer is more important that another.
While preparing for our rendition, I did listen to quite a few interpretations. I love the “In C Mali” by African Express.
The press release mentions the challenges, questions, and musical ‘maybes’ that “In C” presents and which 'set the conditions for music to exist.’ What, more precisely, were these challenges, questions and musical maybes for you?
It is a challenge into making “In C” interesting. It can turn out good or bad according to how you play it and how you interact with the others. That’s the beauty of it.
The questions can come to you anytime and they offer the musical maybes :
is it the right time to move to the next pattern ?
how will it sound if I wait longer on that loop ?
should I play an octave down or higher ?
… all sorts of questions
All the choices you are about to make will influence the other players and the flow of the music.
“In C” is all about playing with each other and the constant play between variation and repetition. What did it feel like to perform this piece for the first time and how does this feeling change over repeat performances?
The first time I played it, it was with the Young Gods and a brass band of 75 people and 10 percussion players. It was a massive experience and my role was to hold it together with electronic percussion sounds tight on the beat in order to avoid an inertia in the playing.
I was totally concentrated. It was a wonderful experience to do it with so many musicians as I could really feel part of a flow and many musical surprises where coming out of the moment. Now that we play it as a power trio, the feeling is different. We have more space to create surprises ourselves.
I've always wanted to play “In C” myself because I'm extremely curious how the decision taking process works in practise. Does it still feel like you're taking decisions as individuals? Or do you totally dissolve into the group?
The amazing thing is that you can give importance to what you are doing live or not bother about it. If you think that you made a wrong move, you can slowly fade your sound out or stop it abruptly. In the end it does not really matter, the music goes on with our without you anyway …
It makes you feel that you are just a participant and not a central focus of attention. The score helps you to re-situate yourself when you are lost.
Can you briefly talk about the different versions you recorded with various instrumental partners? What did you learn about the piece through these performances and what were possible surprises in their take on the material?
As described earlier, we played it with "Landwehr" (the 85 people brass band) and with "Ensemble Batida" a contemporary 5 piece ensemble, that uses pianos and percussions.
I always come to the performance with a big palette of sounds and take my guitar with me. According to what I hear, I use different sounds, play more or less guitar, or play different patterns / riffs. The more people you have in the project, the more freedom of choices.
With "Ensemble Batida" I was very impressed how good and tight they where playing on the piano, sometime both hands playing a different pattern, with a different time signature. I can't do that, I'm not that good.
The version contained on album is definitely unique and excitingly different from almost every single other performance. Tell me about how it came together, please.
It is our choice of sounds that is different.
When we played with the brass band I made a lot of patterns using sound modeling. I modeled mallet instruments that would blend with the real percussion players (vibraphones, marimbas, glockenspiels …). I gave these instruments an unreal touch of perfection by going too far into their physical abilities (for example unrealistic timbres, resonances). All this in order to make the listener confused about who is playing what, and after a while, making him not bothering anymore about analyzing what is happening.
The idea is to have people dive into the music and forget the notion of time and space.
You've performed “In C” so often now that you must either be fed up with it now or perpetually fascinated. How do you see your future plans with the piece?
We are willing to keep on playing it when the conditions are good.
The more I play it the more I want to take risks and surprise my fellow musicians. “In C” should not become a routine job.
“In C” has been performed by the most diverse ensembles from many different countries and cultures. This suggests that it has something universal about it. What, would you say, is this universality that makes this piece appealing to players and audiences all over the world?
“In C” goes back to the essence: you "play" music, it is like a game that you play.
I wrote the text below for our bio and it might answer your question:
“In C” is like a game of life: everyone has to listen carefully to each other to make things work. One could say that this is true of all music, but “In C” is more than just playing together at the same time: this piece invites you into another dimension where past and future events are so intertwined that you are constantly in the field of all possibilities.