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Monday, May 1, 2023

Pascal Niggenkemper & Voix En Rhizome - vèrs revèrs (Subran Musiques Aventureuses, 2023)

By Martin Schray

vèrs - revèrs is a suite for eight voices and double bass, based on texts by Jaumes Privat, whose poetry Niggenkemper came across by chance when a friend gave him a volume of Privat’s poetry. The lyrics are in Occitan, which is a Roman language that developed in Gaul from Vulgar Latin - along with French,. The varieties (dialects) of Occitan, which unlike French doesn’t have a unified written language, are spoken mainly in the southern part of France and some smaller areas in the immediate vicinity. Niggenkemper, who lives in Rodez in the Occitanie region, is particularly interested in the sound of this language. As a child (his mother is from Rodez), he says, his relatives and the older people in the villages often spoke Patois (which is what they called Occitan).That’s why the imagery of the idioms represents closeness and distance at the same time for him.

Musically, the suite is an extension of Niggenkemper’s idea of playing the double bass. The voices function like extended tonal material for the instrument. They swing ambient-like into spherical heights (“far e tonar“), shoot like ricochets through the musical space (“amar e blos“), breathe menacingly (“per baticór“), remind one of a dairymaid’s chorus at a mountain pasture drive (“can’t vent“) or remain completely silent (“talhar camin“).

vèrs - revèrs begins as if you were at a spooky party on Witch Mountain. The voices buzz around the listener like ghosts, as if they wanted to draw you into their realm. The spinning top, which begins to turn in the head, is also present in Privat’s lyrics: “I turn / turn / it turns / the world / the tongues / tongues in / our mouths / and we turn / with our tongues / we spin, spin / on the skin of the world.“

vèrs - revèrs may seem unwieldy at first listen, with all its echoes of new classical music and unfamiliar language. However, music and language are very well matched and draw the listener into a peculiar spell with repeated listening. Exemplary for this appears “tot polsar“, the last piece on the album. “Every breath / breathed / the universe / the skins / heart and planet“, the text is tossed back and forth as in a conversation. The all-encompassing is mirrored by the repetitions of the music. vèrs - revèrs is a real venture.

The Rhizome Voices are Danièle Sales, Klaus Niggenkemper (Pascal’s father), Marie-Françoise Delzons, Jean-Jacques Triby, Marie-Cécile Triby, Alain Druilhe, Marie Quet and Alain Salabert. Pascal Niggenkemper is on bass and has composed all the pieces.