Saturday, 11 June 2011

Cupboard love


Away overnight to a place called Dieulefit (pron. approx. 'Jerlfee') where the Hoboken Trio - photo above - was playing. Jerlfee is in north-west Provence, not far from Montélimar, where the nougat comes from. We've known Saskia (violin), Jérôme (piano) and Eric (cello) on and off for some years now, because although they're based in Paris they give concerts in our part of the world fairly frequently. They're usually put up locally, and last year Eric, who is also principal cello with the Orchestre de Paris, stayed with us.

Last night they were playing an all-French programme of music composed within the last 100 years. This included an extended piece of music simply called 'Trio' by someone called Lucien Durosoir. If you've never heard of him you've nothing to reproach yourself about: although he died in 1955, he has only just been discovered.

His son Jean-Luc was there last night, now a retired microbiologist of about 75. After the concert there was a get-together of musicians and friends, and Jean-Luc Durosoir told J. and me his father's story. A violinist, he had been called up in 1914 and had been assigned to an infantry regiment. By 1918 he was the only survivor of the 800 men in his draft. In 1917, having survived the holocaust of Verdun, he was transferred out of the fighting line and made a stretcher-bearer. After the war he took himself and his mother as far away as possible, without leaving France, from the 'civilisation' that had engineered this terrible war. He set up home in the pinewoods on France's remote Biscay coast, an area called Les Landes. Here Lucien Durosoir poured out music, composing feverishly, it was said, to rid himself of the ghosts and the agonies of the trenches. In the early 1920s his mother, not apparently an easy character, broke her pelvis and both femurs in a fall, and remained wheelchair-bound until her death in 1934. In 1935 Lucien married, and in 1936 Jean-Luc was born.

None of this music was ever played, none of it was ever published. All those sheets of music paper, carrying their musical images of anguish and tragedy, were piled up in a big cupboard and forgotten about.

Many years later, after the death of his mother, Jean-Luc opened the cupboard and discovered the extent of his father's musical legacy, all of it composed before he was born. Through various contacts the Trio was offered to the Hobokens, who specialise in the performance of new music, although their bread-and-butter is the music of Haydn.

So last night we heard it. It wasn't the first performance, and in any case the Hobokens recorded it in January. I wish I could say I enjoyed it. While the playing was excellent, I didn't enjoy the music at all. It was brutal, over-stated, unrelieved anger, angst, agony and anguish. I'm afraid I allowed my attention to wander - and to wonder if it wasn't so much the conflict in the trenches that troubled the composer so much as the daily conflict with his mother. But if Jean-Luc had wanted us to know this he would have told us.

Just now I'm composing a piece for the Hobokens, quite a long work in what I call strip cartoon form, that's to say lots of little episodes going to make up a complete narrative. It ought to be ready by Christmas.

Yes, we too have cupboards. But there's no room for angst in them.

23 comments:

Tim said...

What a story! I would love to hear that music, because I suspect it contains all the elements of that fraught life. Only guessing, but that's probably one part of why you found it so disturbing.
Is any of your music available online?

Dave said...

I am not qualified, by physical disability (tone deaf) to discuss music.

Z said...

Jean-Luc's discovery reminds me of Anthony Penrose, who knew nothing of his mother's war photography until after her death, when he found all her archives in tea-chests in the attic. He had had a very difficult relationship with her (Lee Miller, that is) and, learning about all she had been through made him re-evaluate his opinion of her; he now devotes his life to publicising her work.

Christopher said...

Tim: Absolutely, but there's more to this story (see reply to Z. below) than the skeleton I outlined. Curiously, the programme also included a 1912 Berceuse, from which you wouldn't have guessed that the composer had a care in the world other than risk of drowning in depths of affection.

If only I knew how to put my music on line! Rosie once suggested that you might be the person who would know how to do it.

Dave: That's no excuse. The music I mentioned would have just as much appeal to the tone-deaf.

Z: Yes, exactly. And indeed the famous cupboard also contained all the letters from Lucien Durosoir's mother to his wife. This vast collection is being analysed and edited preparatory to publication by J-L Durosoir's wife. Nothing like a family business, is there?

Tim said...

I use http://www.ACIDplanet.com/ .
Register as an artist, and you can then upload your music as an MP3. Hint: you need to have recorded it first.
You can find some of mine (including collaborations with our mutual friend) under artist=timbobig.

Rog said...

One in 800 sounds more than traumatic.

Spadoman said...

My dear friend... Thanks for the story. After reading your description, I can only conclude that the music was as tragic as having experienced war. I would know this and I concur.
I would love to listen to this trio, especially with understanding and teachings from you. I would shy away from this genre, probably because I just don't understand it. I would love to have it explained as you do so well. But I have listened to many concerts that were "bad" musically, but engineered by fabulous musicians.
I recently took a short road trip and to pass the time, I write music. Mostly, I sing the blues, or maybe some funk style of rock-and-roll. I never write down the notes, but I can sing the songs to you. Maybe I'll look at Garage Band as it is loaded onto my iMac computer. By the way, lyrics for one of the songs will be in the next post (probably Monday), at my place. Come over, and stick around, there are a lot of beautiful women that come there regularly. (and a man occasionally)

Peace

Christopher said...

Thank you, Tim. I may well go down this path, ably assisted by Mrs 'Genius' Patroclus when she and her brood come to stay later this week. Maybe she will tell me what an MP3 is. You maybe begin to see what the problems are. I spent an agreeable 30 minutes listening to your recordings, solo and in collaboration. Interesting!

Rog: I don't think he discovered this, as the original draft was continually dispersed to other units, until after the war. The psychological effect must have been incalculable.

Spadoman: Looking forward to reading your lyrics. And to those beautiful women. Do the two go together?

What a nest of creatives this is.

letouttoplay said...

What a fascinating story. The sequence of death, marriage and birth hints at a story in itself. Oh, especially if you add the date of the berceuse.

I would so like to hear your music!

Christopher said...

Mig: I'm on the cusp of finding out how to put my music on line...

patroclus said...

*starts hastily researching audioblogging services*

english inukshuk said...

oh! it's been so long since I went to a great conert - must rectify this situation. . .

. . .

*makes mental note to book ticket*

english inukshuk said...

oh! it's been so long since I went to a great conert - must rectify this situation. . .

. . .

*makes mental note to book ticket*

english inukshuk said...

hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. . .

. . .so I'm obviously going to concerts then!

Christopher said...

Patroclus: I think you should make this a priority.

EI: I think you should make this a priority.

Rosie: I think you should make this a priority.

Rosie said...

We are all waiting to hear your music. Mine's already posted.

Christopher said...

Rosie, this is so kind. If you can wait till the end of the week, I hope you will feel the wait was worthwhile. If your music is that on Tim's Acid planet site, then I'm full of admiration for deft, confident fingerwork and sense of shape you give to your phrasing.

Rosie said...

No, no, that's timbobig. I'm on youtube. Really famous.

Christopher said...

Come on, you'll have to give me more help than that - where do I start looking?

Rosie said...

Tim is the guitarist on everything on his acidplanet site but he's very modest.. I'm here
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=On81TVx8zdc

or if that doesn't work I'm under the name "oscilis" on youtube.

Christopher said...

OK, thank you, Rosie. That's taken care of this afternoon. Very pleasantly. But that's what the guitar is for, ruminating expansively and privately in the seclusion and security of one's own chord sequences - occasional darts into harmonics, like commas, now and again some tentative barré-ings, or vibrati, or tremolos, or accelerandi and ritardandi as the fancy takes you. And when you're in semi-improvisatory mood you've got such freedom, you can do just what you want, and if you particularly enjoy a passage you can play it again and altogether you can dictate your own risks without straying outside your perceived limits. Thank you for sharing this!

(But why 'oscilis'? Do you oscillate?)

Luc said...

To read ; to listen ; to judge

1 : to read : Deux musiciens dans la Grande Guerre. Lucien Durosoir. Maurice Maréchal. Paris, Tallandier, 2005
2 : to listen : Lucien Durosoir - Music for violin & piano - Alpha: ALPHA105
Lucien Durosoir: String Quartets Nos. 1-3 Quatuor Diotima ALPHA125
Lucien Durosoir: Jouvence & other music chamber - Alpha: ALPHA164 with Ensemble Calliopée
Lucien Durosoir: Le Balcon - Alpha: ALPHA175 with Sequenza 9.3, Quatuor Diotima, Trio Hoboken & Quintette Aquilon

3 : to judge : (Stephen Ritter)
[…] everything he writes has meaning, and one comes away from these works feeling that you get your money’s worth from an hour’s worth of listening, with nothing superfluous thrown in to waste your time. I am not saying that these pieces inspired that same kind of immediate gratification ; but given time and enough repeated hearings, there are lots of things to seduce your emotions and cause you to return to these pieces again and again, always finding something new each time. […]

Christopher said...

A warm welcome to Lydian Airs, Luc (are you THE Luc, I wonder?), and thank you so much for this information. During the performance of the Trio I was reminded very strongly of other creative artists who drew their often tortured inspiration from WW1, and naturally my thoughts gravitated to the British artists best known to me, like Nash and Nevinson, who also sought to express the horror and nihilism of that war in the stark and uncompromising images they used. While not for a moment doubting the integrity and total sincerity of these and many other artists - including Durosoir - this is art to be appreciated, not necessarily to be enjoyed, despite what Stephen Ritter has to say. I sometimes think of it as moral art, and as one approaches one's threescore years and ten one has less need for moral art and more for something to lighten the gathering gloom.

Thank you again for coming here. I really appreciate the time and trouble you have taken. Merci !