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Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Pascal Niggenkemper - levar lenga (Subran Musiques Aventureuses, 2023)

 By Martin Schray

Pascal Niggenkemper describes levar lenga as an “outdoor mini-opera“. It was commissioned for the Estivada de Rodez, the festival of Occitan cultures. levar lenga was performed in memory of René Duran, a passionate advocate of Occitan culture and the artistic “soul“ of the city of Rodez, who unexpectedly died in 2020. The mini-opera consists of two texts, “Crossroads“ by Jaumes Privat, whose texts also form the basis for vèrs - revèrs, and “The Parrots“ by Jean-Marie Pieyre, an Occitan writer, whose short but anger-filled novels, short stories and tales have told fates of uprooting and wandering. This gloom and anger come to the fore right from the opening piece. “per los gremos“ (through the tears) is based on Pieyre’s aforementioned story “Los Papagaios“: “there are the city streets / the smoky mornings of freezing / my father / likes them, the streets desolate / through the tears of an abandoned baby / alone in front of the church.“ Voices buzz above a ghostly drone that immediately seem to dissipate. Then Jaumes Privat joins in with a recitation that is both urgent and tender. The piece is quite short, serving only as an introduction to the larger work. The transition to “montanhas“ is then almost like a blow with an axe - choppy, monotonous, staccato-like. Dark beats on the timpani sound as if Armageddon has begun. Next, a jumble of bagpipes, bass clarinet and electronics leads into another miniature that nevertheless functions as a centerpiece: Jaumes Privat’s poem “paret et paret de parets“. Lore Douziech and Laurence Leyrolles move a wooden plate lying on the floor taken off with a piezo, a piezoelectric element/device that generates a voltage when force is applied (the so-called piezoelectric effect) or conversely deforms when voltage is applied (reverse piezoelectric effect). “In the middle / on one side / Silence / and on the other / Silence / and even more silence / wall and wall of walls / in between / silence“, Privat grumbles.

Even though the power of the voice and that of the language are strongly present and their emotions, musicality and gesture are an important part of the mini-opera, there are also grandiose instrumental pieces that run through the composition like a thread. “diferent“, with its repetitive structure and themes, or “causa salopas“, which sounds like a mixture of heavy metal and free jazz, are little gems. However, the highlight is “tornar“, the longest piece in levar lenga. Bagpipes, electronics, hurdy gurdy and bass clarinet intertwine, are unraveled again and then re-knotted with the addition of voices. The piece has an archaic and progressive character at the same time, as if past, present and future were being conceived in the here and now.

levar lenga is a courageous composition, the likes of which have probably never been heard before.

The band is:

François Bessac - electronics and objects
Igor Boyer - electronics and objects
Antoine Charpentier - bagpipes
Isabelle Cirla - bass clarinet
Lore Douziech - dance
René Duran - voice
Laurence Leyrolles - dance
Nicolas Marmin - electronics and objects
Pascal Niggenkemper - double bass
Papillion - percussion and sound sculpture
Jaumes Privat - text, voice and visuals
Guy Raynaud - electro-acoustics
Fabien Salabert - stage manager
Jean-Jacques Triby - hurdy-gurdy