Jean LAPOUGE / NOËTRA interview by Aymeric Leroy (excerpt).
Big Bang. Monthly. 2010
"Long-Métrage" (‘Feature film’ ) is the live recording’s ‘pièce de résistance’. As the title implies, it is a work of unusual length for you, clocking in at more than 20 minutes. Should it be read as a mark of ambition (much like a young film director would move up to a full-length picture after having cut his teeth on shorts )? Or is it simply referring to the ‘cinematic’ nature of the piece, and did you compose it as if following a storyboard (scene/shot transitions are clearly perceptible), or is that left to the listener’s imagination?
Long Métrage, Casablanca and Jour de Fête were all written in 1982 – dark times for me, I was feeling completely helpless.
Although one could think otherwise, Long Métrage is the only one of those which refers to movies… Casablanca stems from my reading of André Gide, his Diary in particular. Jour de Fête is the title of a painting by Andrew Wyeth, an American painter, in which a young black girl in her Sunday’s best sits on a chair with such a sad look in her eyes…
|Day Of The Fair, Andrew Wyeth, City Art Museum of St Louis (USA)|
Concerning Long Métrage specifically, it grew in length as we rehearsed. We were rehearsing less than we used to, but missing out on our Friday sessions was out of the question! We had put in a lot of work on the track’s structure and all the instruments’ working together in the leading up to that emotional high, peaking in Christian’s solo, in the last third of the piece... That solo overwhelms me every time I listen to it.
I never intended to compose a twenty minute piece, but when I wrote out the score for the SACEM, it turned out to be 27 pages long…
The juxtaposition of images, hard cuts from one to the other, were a common occurrence in my style of composition, before I got lured into the “Real Book” format…
An almost constant nostalgia pervades the music of Noëtra, perhaps even melancholy, personified in the oboe and violin, and the evocative power of the guitar’s arpeggios. Is that revealing of a nostalgic or melancholy disposition, or would you suggest otherwise? Or perhaps an extreme form of romanticism…
"The evocative power of the guitar’s arpeggios”: that just about sums up why I play guitar. In 1970 / 71, when it became apparent music would be the focusing point of my life, I would naturally come up with arpeggios that would be the starting point of many of my compositions. Already, some were quite hypnotic and melancholy. I would play them to my brother François, their sole audience at the time. I remember the first time I brought a musician home, a saxophonist/clarinetist. I asked him to play a melody over a looping arpeggio, my brother was around. The esteem he held me in rose substantially!…
I don’t actively seek out nostalgia or melancholy. But they do show up on their own.
I can be in high spirits and have an idea come up from beyond the grave; I’ll follow it all the way – my kind of mood! I like for an initial idea to move me, to jostle me. That may be more likely to happen with the darker scales…
Following two "studio" recordings, this one captures Noëtra "live". We know you didn’t play many concerts, and hardly toured outside your region. Nonetheless, would you say, as this excellent recording seems to attest, that Noëtra took on another dimension when facing its audience on stage, in circumstances that would lead the members to outdo themselves?
Noëtra’s final lineup (the quintet, 1982-84) was the only one to have really toured. We even played the Dunois in Paris ! We had solved most all our difficulties. We were an awesome band according to those who saw us at the time. Our repertoire was well arranged and rehearsed, including the aforementioned Long Métrage. Christian and Pierre were at the top of their game and complemented each other. And the rhythm section certainly knew what they were doing! On receiving a copy of the 19cm/s (actually, the record, as the master tape had been destroyed!) I found the whole thing to be unusable. I even decided to rerecord it all three months later, with more time and a better mix. It didn’t work out as I had hoped – a disaster, really! Today, time has done its work…
Compared to "Hauts Plateaux" from 1993 (closer to the “standards” of jazz), “Atlas”, the duo recording with Christian Paboeuf, is much more of a direct continuation of Noëtra… Was it consciously so, or did you see it as a fresh start?
|Duo Contrejour, Poitiers 1986|
Atlas is a good rendition of our live sound from 1986/88. That sound also reflects our respective research on our instruments. Christian was radically working on his improvisational abilities and his natural inclination to play multiple instruments. Playing his bass recorder through an octaver was a rather spectacular effect, and greatly assisted me in my solos.
Later (1988), Christian started on metallophones with a small glockenspiel, and soon graduated to a vibraphone. He is now an accomplished vibraphonist. As for me, in 1983 I decided to completely rethink my guitar playing, in a move to break out of my ‘notorious’ arpeggio system. Incidentally, my new-found status as a guitar instructor called for some ‘serious’ work on the instrument… I spent 6 months, 8 hours a day, learning to read for the guitar. No more fingerstyle, plectrum all the way (the Berklee method, scales, triads, pentatonics etc…)
Ever since that time, Christian and I have had a completely telepathic connection to music. We can be playing over a given tempo, harmony, loop, a hint even – one of us changes without notice: the other is already there! (example: the improvisation on Gothique). We played over fifty gigs as a duet, to receptive audiences, yet we approached record labels to no avail, once again. Artistically, it wasn’t a fresh start, but rather a pragmatic solution to circumstantial difficulties.
Speaking of Christian, your common ventures are ongoing… What are you current musical projects, and which of those will in the near future yield a CD?
Christian and I had a nine year "break". Then, in 2005, I asked him to join my new trio, with Christiane Bopp on trombone. We recorded new material at Christian’s place which will be released as a CD titled Temporäre on the Muséa label in February 2011.
|Jean, Christiane, Christian, during a rehearsal in Angoulême, 2005|
I will also release Plaything, an album of recordings from 1994-2002 with Kent Carter and Jeff Boudreaux – those who know me only through Noëtra will be in for a surprise!
|Jeff, Kent and me in concert, Périgueux 1997. Photo Jacques Dufour|