On connait tous, de près ou de loin, Jean-Luc Guionnet en tant que saxophoniste (dans The Ames Room, Return of the New Thing et je passe toutes ses collaborations avec Seijiro Murayama et autres), en tant qu'organiste aussi (la plupart du temps en solo), mais déjà beaucoup moins en tant que compositeur. Pourtant, que ce soit en solo ou en collaboration avec Eric La Casa, Thomas Tilly, ou Marc Baron, l'écriture et les processus de composition font régulièrement partie des enregistrements et des installations de Guionnet.
Avec Distances Ouïes Dites, une composition réalisée par l'ensemble Dedalus, la première chose qui surprend est de ne pas trouver Guionnet dans la liste des interprètes. Pour la création de cette pièce qui a eu lieu à Dijon, les sept instrumentistes (Cyprien Busolini, Deborah Walker, Vincent Bouchot, Eric Chalan, Christian Pruvost, Thierry Madiot et Didier Aschour) de l'ensemble étaient répartis dans différentes pièces plus ou moins éloignées de celle où se trouve le public. La création de cette pièce est une chose, une chose que ce disque transcrit, et il n'y a rien d'étonnant à ce que Guionnet n'ait pas participé à la réalisation de sa composition. Ceci dit, l'enregistrement et le mixage de cette performance pour en faire un disque est un autre processus au sein duquel Guionnet se retrouve à la place centrale (en tant que preneur de son notamment), et au final, il participe tout aussi activement à cette œuvre (en tant que disque) que les musiciens, même s'il n'est pas crédité en tant que tel.
Quant à Distances Ouïes Dites, de quoi s'agit-il en fin de compte ? D'une performance inouïe, comme on peut rarement y assister, d'une richesse et d'une complexité rares. La richesse et la complexité ne sont pas le fait de ce qui est joué, mais de comment est pensée et structurée la performance, et de ce qui est en jeu dans cette performance. Ce qui est joué par les musiciens, ce sont des magnifiques mélodies assez courtes, puis une phase de bruits soudains, des imitations fantomatiques, des échos, etc. Mais c'est le comment qui est complexe et riche surtout car Guionnet fait jouer les musiciens sur une multitude de niveaux et pose de nombreuses questions. Comment un musicien en entend-il un autre s'ils n'ont pas de relations visuelles entre eux, comment se perçoivent-ils lorsque des murs modifient les sons originaux, comment le public perçoit-il ce tout également, avec une perception encore différente de ce que chaque musicien entend ?
Et nous, en tant qu'auditeurs "rétrospectifs" de cette performance, avec un autre point de vue encore plus éloigné géographiquement, encore plus filtré par l'enregistrement et nos haut-parleurs, qu'entendons-nous de cette performance ? On entend une composition qui n'est plus horizontale ou verticale, mais toute en profondeur et en perspective. Même si ce n'est pas systématique, la plupart des instruments graves sont les plus éloignés, et derrière des voix aigues, nous parvient souvent en écho, dans le fond, une résonance grave et caverneuse. De plus, l'écho n'est pas seulement instrumental, il y a aussi celui des murs qui a toute sa place ici et qui est exploité comme une autre voix, comme une des composantes essentielles de la composition. Ce qui est joué et par qui est-ce joué est profondément déterminé par les dimensions de la pièce ainsi que par les matériaux de cette dernière. Ainsi, on peut percevoir les différentes répercussions du son en fonction de leur hauteur et de leur superficie surtout. Et ces répercussions font partie intégrante de comment la musique de Guionnet se construit.
Une musique unique qui construit la représentation et la perception, mais qui est également une méthode géniale de reproduction sonore d'un espace. Car à travers ce disque, on n'assiste pas uniquement à la création de Distance Ouïes Dites, il ne s'agit pas seulement d'une performance sur disque, mais aussi et surtout à la représentation sonore d'un espace, d'une architecture qui résonne et parle à travers la performance. A ce titre, on comprend pourquoi le nom de l'espace, Le Consortium, occupe la place centrale sur la pochette, car c'est bien cet espace qu'il s'agit de faire vivre, de faire parler et de mettre en musique.
Julien Héraud l Improv Sphere l Décembre 2016
In his 1966 paper “Space as an Essential Element in Musical Composition,” composer Henry Brant asserted that the spatial element in concert music was an important variable to be taken into consideration when shaping a composition. Since 1950 he had been composing works calling for performers to be grouped and distributed throughout the performance space in order to exploit the effects of spatial dispersion on pitch, timbre, and instrumental interaction. Composer / instrumentalist / field recordist Jean-Luc Guionnet’s composition Distances Ouïes Dites, recorded live in March, 2013, continues in this tradition, focusing in particular on the effects of linear distribution on the sound of a small chamber group.
For this performance, a seven-piece mixed ensemble consisting of viola (Cyprien Busolini); cello (Deborah Walker); voice (Vincent Bouchot); double bass (Eric Chalan); trumpet (Christian Pruvost); trombone (Thierry Madiot); and electric guitar (Didier Aschour) was arranged in four rooms reaching from front to back on the ground floor of the Le Consortium art center in Dijon. Except for the viola, which was placed in the front room with the audience, the instruments were arranged two to a room, with cello and voice in the room closest to the viola, double bass and trumpet next, and trombone and electric guitar in the room farthest back. The titles of the composition’s fifteen parts convey something of the conceptual territory Guionnet explores—a territory encompassing combination and mixture, relationships of signal to noise, the propagation of stationary sounds from near to far, imitation, and so forth.
Much of the music’s interest lies in the interactions of the seven voices’ timbral properties as well as in the sound differentials arising from the variations in their distances from each other. The instruments’ spatial dispersal as well as the effects of architectural features on their sound quality impact their relative volume and capacity to blend with each other. This is most dramatically demonstrated when the composition calls for long, overlapping tones—often involving a dissonant collision of half- or quarter-tones—which aggregate the individual instruments into sometimes uncanny hybrid voices. The title of the work can be translated as Distances: Hearsay, which neatly conveys the rumor-like nature of the sounds it generates—half heard and half overheard as they travel back and forth echoing and diminishing, ultimately leaving behind a sonic image of continuity and loss.
Daniel Barbiero l Avant Music News l December 2016
Sound travels so fast that we often perceive its arrival at our ears from its source to be instantaneous. This is not in fact the case, and playing with the distances between a sounding object and its hearers, as well as with the kinds of environment sounds pass through on their way to ears, can have transformative effects on both the acoustic properties of the sounds and their implied meanings. Jean-Luc Guionnet’s ‘Distances Ouïes Dites’, as performed by the Dedalus Ensemble at Le Consortium in Dijon and recorded for this release on Potlatch, involved placing the seven performers in different rooms throughout an arts centre, with the audience gathered in a room at the far end of building. With the exception of the viola, which was in the same room as the audience, all the instruments were heard at a distance through at least one, and sometimes several open doors. As sounds passed through the large, box-like spaces formed of hard, flat surfaces, a reverberation resulted which increased in intensity the further away the instrument was situated.
Listening to a recording of this performance is obviously a very different experience from being there in person, but I was pleased to discover that, with the help of decent speakers, a good impression of the intended effect is conveyed. The work starts with an awkward, dissonant shuffling through different tones, which tend to smear and merge due to the natural reverb; but it’s the following percussive taps, cracks, and claps scattered all over the stereo field that give the sharpest image of voluminous 3D space. Melodic refrains echo and waltz, their long reverb tails making them seem languid; the double bass growls beneath bluesy drawls from the trumpet. Following nervous twittering from the viola, a low hum steadily builds in weight and volume into a shimmering, surging tidal wave that suddenly vanishes with a loud crack. Long, driving chords form a palpable impression of depth, with the viola very close by and the trombone and double bass far in the background.
Sounds that are heard at such distances as those separating the trombone and electric guitar from the microphones recording ‘Distances Ouïes Dites’ are also perceived as coming from further away in time. This makes sense, because as previously noted sound waves do take time to cover a given distance, with the time taken increasing proportionally with distance travelled. Yet the imagination takes hold of these delays of a second or less and turns them into days, years, or decades, such that hearing a sound from a long way away feels like peering back in time; the positioning of the musicians in space transforms the arts centre into a house of memory.
So what you have is all these different traces and vibrations reaching you from different points in time and space — some near, some far — and coming together to form this time-space, this thought-moment. It’s like what happens when light sources spread out across thousands of light years come together to form a single canvas of stars. And these sounds are all inevitably changed by their journeys, their amplitudes and spectra reshaped by the metres of air and reflective surfaces they encounter on their way.
What is a listener, under this rubric? An arbitrary point at which all of these different journeys meet. This point could be somewhere else, and the coming-together, the composition, would be different. The night sky viewed from another planet has a different zodiac of constellations. And yet, as a listener I have the potential to recognise myself as the contingent nexus of these trajectories; I can also recognise in this experience a template or synecdoche for the whole of my thought, the whole of my conscious life. In an ideal situation, I would be able to wander freely from room to room, following my own inclinations or curiosity, or simply allowing myself to be led by the changing sounds around me, drawing my own unique set of constellations. As I walked, my footsteps would echo on the hard tiled floor, adding new sounds to the harmony of the composition. Isn’t this what it means to be alive?
Nathan Thomas l Fluid Radio l December 2016
Back in 2007, Marc Baron on alto, Bertrand Denzler on tenor and Jean-Luc Guionnet also on alto were three-quarters of the unnamed saxophone quartet that recorded the ground-breaking album Propagations (Potlatch, 2007), alongside Stéphane Rives on soprano. Together, the four reinvented the rule book for a saxophone quartet in the new millennium, ignoring the conventional vocabulary and introducing greater use of sustained notes and pad noise...
Disappointingly, despite the album's musical and critical success, the four have not recorded together again since, but have gone their separate ways. They have become stalwarts of the Potlatch label, with about half of the label's releases since Propagations featuring one or more of the four. In that time, their paths have diverged so much that it seems unlikely they will reconvene as a quartet, a point that was eloquently illustrated by these recordings including Baron, Denzler and Guionnet, coincidentally released within months of each other...
As well as being Denzler's saxophone partner in Hubbub since 1999, over two decades Jean-Luc Guionnet has built up an impressive discography involving numerous collaborations on a range of labels. In addition to playing alto saxophone, recorder, electronics and organ, he has also frequently been credited with photography or graphic design. His last Potlatch release was the boldly experimental four-disc set Home, with his frequent collaborator Eric La Casa, which was based on field-recorded interviews with four Glaswegians in their homes.
With Distances Ouïes Dites, Guionnet has pushed his frontiers further, producing a work that is just as experimental and enthralling. It records a March 2013 concert in which the seven-piece Dedalus Ensemble gave a performance of the scored Guionnet title composition at Le Consortium art centre in Dijon. But, being Guionnet, things were not as simple or straightforward as that makes them sound! In Le Consortium, the audience was in one room with viola player Cyprien Busolini while the other six musicians were located elsewhere, each in a separate room. (To those who have seen it, that set-up may sound similar to Icelander Ragnar Kjartansson's nine-screen video work The Visitors which has been touring world art galleries, in which nine musicians perform a sixty-four-minute piece together, located in different rooms of a run-down mansion in upstate New York. The big difference is that Kjartansson's musicians could hear each other via headphones while Guionnet's could not...)
So, the score and the musicians had to take account of such complex factors as the sonic characteristics of the different rooms, the distances between instruments and the audience and the time for sounds to travel between them. If all that conjures up visions of a nightmare for the musicians and audience to cope with, the recording bears no evidence of anyone struggling with the situation, and the music sounds as coherent and fluent as if the ensemble and audience were all together in one room. The septet's instrumentation of strings, electric guitar, voice and brass provides great scope for variety and contrasts which Guionnet exploited to the full. Across fifteen tracks, varying in length from thirty-seven seconds to seven minutes, the composition's twenty-one sections cover a broad spectrum of styles that are integrated together into a kaleidoscopic whole that flows easily without any disconcerting jump cuts or non-sequiturs.
Throughout, there is a feeling that the musicians are not just playing in the space but also playing with it, in both senses of that phrase; firstly, they are toying with it in order to discovery its acoustic properties and, secondly, the space acts as an eighth ensemble member, shaping the music in its own ways whether that music is a drone, melodic interlude, percussive passage, quiet reflective section or a tutti.
The album's fifty-two minutes guarantee a fulfilling and pleasurable experience, time after time, one that demands to be repeated frequently.
John Eyles l All About Jazz l November 2016