ClassicsOnline Home » GODARD, Michel: Concert des Parfums (Le)
Perfumers and musicians use a similar language. They speak of chords, of notes, of harmony. When their are gone, nothing is left but a vanishing remembrance, which can reappear at certain moments. Michel Godard and Ursula S. Yeo present a dialogue between sound and fragrance. The perfumer creates her „chords“ according to the original compositions. Her perfumes are spread out during the concert. The compositions leave a lot of space for improvisation and give the musicians the possibility to respond to the perfumes within their performance.
Ancient music and contemporary music, instruments of the 17th century and modern ones, natural fragrances from past and present—dreams of timelessness.
Interview with Michel Godard (M.G.), Sébastien Marq (S.M.) and Ursula S. Yeo (U.Y.) at the Abbaye de Noirlac, during the recording sessions of “Le concert
How did the “concert des parfums’ project come to life? What is the idea behind it?
MG: I have had the idea of “Le concert des parfums’ for a long time. It was more difficult to find a perfume maker who would understand this desire of creating perfume and music together. By chance, and thanks to a mutual friend (a painter), I met Ursula Yeo and things went on very easily.
The project, here in Noirlac, is to create new musics, combined with ancient music and improvisations, together with the fragrances composed by Ursula on these musics. We play modern instruments (guitar, saxophone…) and ancient ones: (serpent, recorder…)
Why did you choose the Abbaye de Noirlac for the recording of this cd? What is so special about this place?
MG: I didn’t choose the abbaye, it is more like the abbaye chose us! I was looking for a good place to start the project, and thanks to Paul Fournier, its director, the abbaye was the ideal place.
S.M.: What is special about Noirlac? It is a conjunction of different feelings. I feel that this place is absolutely beautiful in proportions. Is it the golden number? Is it the fact that this abbey was built following the cisterciense rules?
My first feeling is proportions. My second is colors, because I love these stones, these roofs, the landscape with all the green…we have these stones, which are sort of yellow, beautiful warm orange-yellow, we have the sky which is changing a lot now, maybe it is the season…
What is it like for you, to play with the perfumes that Ursula created for the project?
M.G.: Ursula composed the fragrances on the prerecorded music, now we replay the music according to the perfumes. The compositions leave space to a lot of improvisation, and, as we are sensitive musicians (hope so…), our improvisations will move according to the perfumes.
S.M.: We had a talk with Ursula yesterday about putting words on feelings, not easy! That’s what I like about music: we can communicate without using words. with perfumes, it’s the same…
It has also to do with touching. When you play your instrument, you touch it. Smelling is not far away from this feeling of sculpting something, or touching.
U.Y: To create a composition of perfumes, this music is genial, really, I couldn’t think of a better medium. This music is slow and at the same time quick enough to give the feeling that the music is transporting the fragrances and the fragrances are transporting the music. There is always this exchange to bring up the energy and the vibrations.
What is, in your opinion, the connection between early music and jazz?
M.G: I feel that a jazz musician today is very close to a classical musician from the XVI° or XVII° century.
We switch from composed music to improvisation constantly. The composer is not on top of everything. We know each other so well, we don’t have to write everything, very often just a bass ligne and a melody . Each musician is also a composer, why shall we write all the notes to a somebody if his improvisation will be better?
S.M.: I could not exactly define the border between performance and improvisation. The more you go back into musical history, the less you have notated things, or it is notated, but you have to find something else… and the more you go into classical music, 19th, 20th century, the more the composers want you to do extremely precise things. Then it changed, probably in the middle of the 20th century, perhaps with the influence the theater…
How did you get the idea to ask Sébastien, a recorder player, for the project?
M.G: As much as for the musician as for the instrument that he plays. Sébastien is one of my favorite musicians in the field of ancient music. The first time we played together, it was a free music project, very abstract, he was fantastic! I know that he loves this kind of meeting, I can imagine Sébastien being a jazzman in a next life…
Sébastien, when did you start improvising early music styles?
S.M.: I cannot give a period when I started. I did it all the time, because it is in the spirit of early music.You even don’t realize that you are improvising, it is completely mixed together from the very beginning of studying early music. The simple fact is that what is written is incomplete and you have to find other things, more than simply this ink on paper, and that makes you invent another world around what is written.
Michel, how are your compositions influenced by early music?
M.G: I listen to a lot of early music, I feel so good in these sounds! I love Biber’s music among others, his bass lines are magnificent! You can take one and harmonize it in another way. Last but not least, ancient music phrasing does help me a lot in the composing process.
Here is another connection early music/jazz: when you write a theme, you are not looking for eternity, no obligation of the“master work’. If it’s good, fine, if not, just leave it and go on.
Ursula, what was your approach to creating the perfume?
U.Y: Not like a perfumer, totally different. I just feel the vibes of the music. I don’t want to express a personal feeling, but rather find something everybody can sense. It just comes…and when it is perfect to me, then I know it is finished. It’s the good, the real vibration.
I use only the best essences, people can feel it. They smell and feel it’s true and pure like the music.
What is, in your eyes, special about “Le concert des parfums”? Why should a listener have this experience, especially in concert?
M.G: We usually don’t open our nose during a concert. We even try to close it sometimes not to be disturbed by the perfumes of our neighbors.
During“Le concert des parfums’, you will have to listen and smell at the same time, nose wide open, one should experiment a different inside journey.
U.Y: If you listen to the music and smell the fragrances, you really get a bit out of your head, and people love it. Perhaps they will feel it just hours or a day later, maybe not immediately. This is how it works.
The “Abbaye de Noirlac“ is a center of culture and congress since 2008. It strives to connect the rich history of the former Cistercian monastery with outstanding artists of our time.
The encounter of the past and the present, of the ancient monument and the artist, of the public and the artistic work are at the very heart of this project. (www.abbayedenoirlac.fr)