Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives?
I remember my first collaborations with actors in France in 2004. We were performing but I was still not speaking the language, I didn’t understand them, but we were improvising. Something I cannot recall enough from memory to tell you now. But I remember that it worked so well, we just connected emotionally, and we seemed to ‘speak’ the same story, the same language. The music of the language can say so much.
While I am working with electronic music producer Chloé, we have to reinvent our language, to understand the codes and the different ways of approach for each of us. It can pass by, as you said, “file sharing” or “just some ideas”, it depends. For me, the easiest way is just to play and feel the other. Concepts are cool for the brain, but they do not always touch me directly. I believe the most important thing in music is the direct message of the provided emotion.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
It is always a bit difficult to get out of bed for me. I love playing at late night, so that takes its toll. A cup of coffee is a routine. After that, nothing is really fixed.
I am trying to practice every day as I believe that what we didn’t work on today cannot be filled tomorrow. Usually, I am playing during the afternoons and nights. Never practicing pure technical things, always in a musical context (since I feel like a kid, it is like that).
I love to work in my garden. I love also to cook at home, to paint walls and work on small things at home. I never separate music from everyday life when I am at home. That is why sometimes I prefer to be at artistic residences somewhere and to think only about the concrete project, only about the music. Sometimes I can decide in the morning that I am taking the plane the same day for another country, it happens often.
Can you talk about a breakthrough work, event or performance in your career? Why does it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?
Performing at Carnegie Hall in 2014 was a very special moment for me. Maybe the myth of this hall and the dreams I have had as a child made this performance different, I don’t know. I have written down in a notebook the whole experience as I didn’t want to forget any details.
And parallel to this is the project I made once in a detention house in France with the men over 18. I was working with them together with a friend of mine on a body percussion piece that we wrote together as well as a song (they wrote the text and we helped for the music). Their motivation and desire to work gave me a lot of hope in humanity.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
I would say that usually I create things spontaneously, inspired from the energy of a certain moment. For the entire project “Sequenza Live” together with Chloé, we have improvised and experimented together and we composed, fixed and organised the different tracks afterwards. So the compositions have been made in two steps - the spontaneous ideas first and the architectural process, later.
I am writing literary music very, very rarely. The times I have put pen to paper are with some pieces created in special moments, usually in connection with nature (after a long mountain hike for example), a very important moment in my life (the loss of someone I love) or a big musical project that means a lot to me (like recording a CD with Thomas).
Music and sounds can heal, but they can also hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of these? Where do you personally see the biggest need and potential for music as a tool for healing?
I deeply believe that music is one of the best tools for healing. Sometimes I also think that illness does not really exist and that we are provoking psychologically everything that happens to our body. In this way of thinking, while we are listening to a piece of music, we are travelling, our soul is travelling with the music - the harmonies, the melodies, the rhythms bring us through to a huge range of emotions. Some of them we can identify as a joy or sadness, but some of them we can’t even recognise specifically - we are just traversed by the sounds or the vibrations of the sound and this provokes something special.
I remember once we played with Thomas in a hospital for children who had deep physical or psychological problems. We started one Bulgarian folk song named "Dilmano, Dilbero”. Suddenly some of them started crying or singing loudly. We were confused and didn’t know if we should continue, it looked like this music evoked something special, but while playing we didn’t know if it was good or not for them. In the end, we spoke with the doctors and they said that the music touched them so deeply that they just expressed their emotions without any filter, without any control. And they said that it is very rare, and they were sure that kids were experiencing something unique at that time.
Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work? What happens to sound at its outermost borders?
Of course, synaesthesia is one of the most fascinating connections and interactions between our senses. I didn’t experience it personally unfortunately, but I can imagine it is completely crazy and it opens so many possibilities of creation.
Personally, hearing sounds in nature, in everyday life or in organised sounds within music has had a very strong connection with my imagination. If I start to meditate, sounds can guide me to the so-called “rêve éveillé libre” (“awakening dream”) or “active imagination” (Jung). This can be a huge journey through to the conscious and subconscious. I have experienced it several times and this has helped me to know better and improve myself. Sometimes it can be also just a way to escape an uncomfortable situation and bring your mind away.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
I was born in a family of musicians, music and art have always been there. I have never separated art from everyday life. It is just part of it, I cannot even really tell the exact moment that I decided I would like to be an artist. I am very attached to the idea that “playing” music is just like a game, we are “engaged in an activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose”.
It is also a personal need, a life discipline or just an escapism to daydream as a means to avoiding some practical aspects of life. Different projects express different ideas. Usually in my musical projects I don’t take a social or political role. But in some collaborations with actors or dancers, I have defended some important messages, for example our responsibility to nature and ecology.
What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?
Wow! What a question …!
Well, one of the most powerful aspects of music for me is the fact that it is not an art you can see and touch - we do not have an image (paintings or photographs), a physical form (sculptures or architecture), or words (acting or writing). A simple hearing brings us emotions, colours, and images. And we all are free to feel whatever we feel. Nobody else really knows.
This experience is so individual, strongly relative and incomparable. Life and death have something similar - all people on Earth have been born and have experienced this alone and are going to eventually die alone; we will all experience it somehow, in a strongly relative way. Music has something else which is very close to both life and death - it is passing in time, we cannot re-live the same thing, we never play the same way, we never listen the same way.
We can have recordings, something like the photos for the life stories and the memories of certain moments, of course. But the real experience is “within time”, it is always on the move. Like a circle, like the circle of life.