Nicolas Sidoroff – English


Return to the French original text: « Vous avez dit… lisière ? » (Nicolas Sidoroff – Français)



You said… Edges?

Nicolas Sidoroff (January 2021).


Several Activities (from where I am speaking)
With Multiple Half-times
In Terms of Musical Adventures

Concerning Edges, Fringes, Margins
Emmanuel Hocquard…
…and a Spot/Task [ta/âche]
…White or Blank.
Therefore, Vigilance!

Inhabit one of the Edges?
To be a Musician and to be a Dancer
Situated Creation, example of sound of roulèr
This sound of roulèr in interaction
Musical Practices from Réunion Island




Several Activities (from where I am speaking)

I am a musician>militant<researcher… My two main activities, making music and research, are connected. They relate and contribute to practices of social transformation that I would hope to achieve, that one would hope to be emancipatory. I am compelled to move to a “we” that brings together several groups and collectives working in three co-extensive dimensions: a critique of systems of domination, a conception of alternatives, and a critique of these same alternatives… Musical practices are the field in which I have the most knowledge of dominations and alternatives, and in which I take great pleasure in getting involved; and research practices joyfully equip me to develop both critiques and alternatives.

With Multiple Half-times

I often introduce myself by adding several “half-times” (not only because this expression also means the break and informal moments between two parts of a game!). Thus, I manage to have more than two half-times… It means that 1) “it’s overflowing!”, that 2) no half-time takes up all my time exclusively, and that 3) elements can be found in one and any others at the same time. Being in one of these half-times doesn’t mean that the others are put aside or dormant. The game is not a zero-sum game where each person would have so many points of energy to be distributed equally here and there (as if a “here” could not be “there” too). It’s actually very different: many activities participate fully in such and such a half time and also at such and such other ones.
Thus, having three half-times seems to me to better describe what I experience than having one and a half full-time, even if mathematically it seems the same. The third half is often a way of describing the informal times that are so important after a more explicit and identified, often more formal and settled time. And if there is a third half, where is the fourth half, the one for tidying up, going home, assessing the situation, etc.? The number “3” evokes multiplicity, interactions, and openness. I see and feel more joy in it than in the formulation “full-time and a half”. Although this one evokes an interesting globality (definitively each time it concerns me), it seems to me to put the emphasis more directly on a closed uniqueness, the heavy fatigue and the painful overflow. That is to say that this expression « half-time » that I use is symbolic. It says nothing about the real time spent in, the workload demanded by, the regularity and forms of intensity, the associated statutes and work contracts. For example, in Decree n°84-431 of June 6, 1984 “establishing the common statutory provisions applicable to teacher-researchers”, it is written “Teacher-researchers have a dual mission of teaching and research.” [art. 2]; and the description of working hours is explained as follows:

The reference working time, corresponding to the working time established in the civil service, is constituted for teacher-researchers:
1° Half of the time is spent on teaching (…)
2° Half of the time is spent on research (…) [art. 7].

In the same job, there is thus mention of two “halves” of time.

One of these part-time jobs corresponds to my work as a teacher-researcher at Cefedem[1] Auvergne Rhône-Alpes (a half-time job contracted as such, but the actual activity amounts to much more). I principally work in the Continuing Education on-the-job training program. We offer training through research towards the obtention of a Music teacher State Diploma [Diplôme d’État] at the Licence level, in the specialized sectors of music teaching, that exist in all forms of music schools, including conservatories.

And in a few other half-times, I am conducting research (for example with the PaaLabRes collective). In these same temporalities, I am a doctoral student at the University of Paris VIII, Vincennes in Saint-Denis, in Educational Sciences, in the Experice laboratory (Centre de Recherche Interuniversitaire Expérience Ressources Culturelles Éducationunder the direction of Pascal Nicolas-Le Strat. I work on musical practices and on the way several people make music together, especially around questions of cooperation and division of labor. In this university, among students, we formed the Collectif-en-devenir [collective in becoming], to work together, to be collective in our research and to try to shape the university according to our experiences and ideas [see for example 2016]. And linked to this entry into the world of the university, I have been participating in the network of the Fabriques de sociologie: “a space for social science research that associates actors from different fields (social sciences, political militancy, architecture, social intervention, literature, activism, education, health…).”

This exposition of multiple half-time jobs is a way of describing my rather continuous and joyful crossing of “walls” between categories that a certain number of people would keep separate. For example, in small configurations on a concert stage, I have often and for many years now been making the sound check of the group at the same time as playing trumpet in the brass section. So, I have the impression that I live on the “edges” on a regular basis. This is why this notion has resonated and reasoned strongly in me. I have thus constructed the expression “edge nucleus” which allows

first of all, to radically evacuate representations in rigid boxes with borders, or in limiting and excluding boxes. (…) To view musical practices as the interaction and articulation of six “edge nucleus”, each corresponding to a family of activities: creation, performance, mediation-education, research, administration, techniques-instrument making. [Sidoroff, 2018b, p. 265]

In Terms of Musical Adventures

Concerning musical practices, I mainly play in two collectives which have been two adventures for the last twenty years or so.
The first one (because it is the oldest, even if it is difficult to date its beginning) can be called “post-improvisation”: music not necessarily improvised but made possible because we love and practice improvisation in different contexts. The type of music is close to the downtown style. Let’s say for short: experimental and open music (see for example the adventures of Miss Goulash[2] and Spirojki, or the project “Bateau Ivre” by gsubi). The expression has its origin in New York City, but many people play this downtown music without living in New York City. And this is the second generation, which is called Downtown II. I gradually appropriated these terms, starting with the (amazed) listening to the galaxies around John Zorn and Fred Frith (to take only the most famous figures), then the discovery of the resources of the Downtown Music Gallery in New York[3] and so on. More recently, I discovered the two articles by George Lewis (“Improvised Music After 1950” [1996] and its “Postface” [2004], translated in the first edition of PaaLabRes as « Postface à « La musique improvisée après 1950 », Le pareil qui change »[4]), and then the article by Kyle Gann [2012] which present these terms conceptually and historically.
In my personal way of approaching this Downtown II music, a first generation of elders and friends has emerged from which I started to play music and to carry my research. They are intimately connected to the emergence of free-jazz and all its musical and political antecedents and developments. See for example the AACM in Chicago, Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians as told by the same George Lewis [2008; Pierrepont, 2015]. For me, the next generation, which corresponds more to my age and background, is strongly connected to the libertarian practices of post-punk hardcore.

My other great collective adventure comes from Réunion Island. I will talk about it at greater length below, after having made a detour through the notion of the edge (or fringe or margin).


Concerning Edges, Fringes, Margins

Emmanuel Hocquard…

My doctoral research project is entitled: “Exploring the edges of activity, towards a microsociology of (musical) practices” [Sidoroff, 2018b]. This term “edge” appeared extremely interesting to me in an article by Emmanuel Hocquard on translation. He is a creator of poetry, in the multiple sense of writer, editor, translator, public reader, organizer, teacher, etc. In this article, he distinguishes three conceptions of translation with regard to the limit (the “reactionary conception” where translation can only betray), the border (the “classical conception” where translation passes from one language and culture to another) and the edge (conception that “makes translation […] a hedge between the fields of literature”). [2001, pp. 525-526].

I shared this last notion in this article after a meeting session of encounter-improvisation on April 24, 2019, with Yves Favier and György Kurtag, and also Jean-Charles François and Gilles Laval from PaaLabRes (they were already acquainted with my research based on the term “edge” understood this way). As it was a first meeting, we played and discussed our particular backgrounds. Then we shared a meal (thank you Jean-Charles) and the washing up, etc.; these agencies are as essential as checking for the presence of loud-speakers and toilet paper, etc.
And after this day, they all find themselves in this edition, see in particular the text-collage « Lisières »

Below are a few passages that have already been published, with some additions on one aspect.

… and a Spot/Task [ta/âche]…

I work on the notions of “border” and “edge” between different activities. (…) A border is crossed in the thick and consistent sense of the term, one part of the body then the other, more or less gradually. This body has a thickness, we are on one side and on the other of a line or a surface which constitutes a border at a given moment. This can create a swing, such as back and forth movements in body weight above that line or on either side of it. How do you cross a border between several activities: what happens when I change “caps,” for example, between a space-time where I am a composer and another where I am a sound engineer? [Sidoroff, 2018a, p. 50]

Emmanuel describes the edge as: “white stain” or “blank spot” [tache blanche]. For a long time, I understood and made him say “white task” [tâche blanche]. The circumflex accent made a lot of sense, evoking both the work to be done (by the task) and a space to be explored characterized by its situation (by the slightly nominalized adjective “white” or “blank”). Behind this, I understood and still understand, an invitation to come and inhabit, explore and practice such spaces. The “blank spot” is very present in the work of Emmanuel Hocquard: it evokes the unexplored places of geographical maps <1997, §2-§3>, where one could not yet know what to write nor in what colors. The “blank spot translation” for him, a “blank spot activity” for me, is to create “unexplored areas (…), it’s gaining ground” <1997, §4 et 6bis>. In my vocabulary habits, I would also say: to create the possible. [Sidoroff, 2018b, pp. 263-264]

…white or blank.

After these first elements on the words “spot/stain” and “task”, it is necessary to linger on the word “white” (or “blank”) [blanc]. The adjective as well as the noun “white” is at the heart of a beautiful ambivalence between the full and the empty, the addition and the lack, and they force us to a decolonial thought; in the double meaning of to compel us and to bind us by contract.
The color “white” qualifies as: “resembling a surface reflecting sunlight without absorbing any of the visible rays; of the color of milk or fresh snow”. [Consise Oxford Dictionary of Current English, Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 1399]. We see these colors decompose with a prism, or with drops of water giving a rainbow, or by looking at the surface of a soap bubble. The hexadecimal RGB color code for white is #ffffff, that is all red, green and blue sliders at maximum. It is the same in the realm of sound: a “white” noise is composed equally of all frequencies of the audible, of the entire audible sound spectrum with the same energy for each frequency. But a “blank voice” [voix blanche] refers to a voice without timbre that lacks something… A “blank check” [chèque en blanc] is both empty because it needs to be filled, and full of possible promises because precisely it can be filled!
The Dictionnaire historique de la langue française (DHLF) explains: “Early on, the adjective takes on the symbolic value of ‘untarnished, pure’ (cf. Concise Oxford Dictionary: ‘innocent, untainted’). A blank has in many cases a negative value of ‘lack’, like a blank in memory. In a speech, a “blank” [blanc] refers to a silence, like a void that can make participants think. It is also the free space, the line spacing that organizes a text in a page that we call blank when it does not yet bear any traces. The expression “nuit blanche” [sleepless night] refers to the absence of sleep or the overload of activities. It is also the center of a shooting target and by extension the target itself, as in the expression “shooting at point-blank”, but “shooting blanks” is for fake, whereas “cutting blanks” and “saigner à blanc” (bleed dry) rather qualify the fact of going all the way and leaving nothing behind. The word “blanc” [white or blank] is thus rich in a context of invitation to explore…

All the more so because “White” could mean to belong to the white race fabricated by racism. For example, the Littré dictionary defines the adjective “white” also by the color of snow and milk. It does not specify the combination of colors of the solar spectrum, which is understandable in the historical context of a dictionary of the late nineteenth century. This historical context should also be taken into account when it is written for the noun: “a white man, a white woman, a man, a woman belonging to the white race. A white man and a negro; a white woman and a negress”.
When Emmanuel Hocquard exemplifies what he has just named the “blank spot” in relation to Lewis Carroll’s “perfect and absolute blank” “Ocean Map” in Hunting for the Snark of 1876 [Hocquard, 1997; 2001, p. 402], this is left to the imagination and all possibilities. But a blank spot in an unexplored area of a geographical map also evokes the context of European colonial conquests. Declaring a zone as unexplored ignores the rest of the sentence: unexplored for whom, for what? It is often more precisely: an area not yet explored by us who say that it would be good to do so, whenever there are things of interest for our own business!
In a process of exploration, with which walls do we go about building other walls?

Therefore, Vigilance!

At the beginning of my thesis work, I had identified vigilance [2018b, p. 269] as a way to constantly keep a critical eye on my work: to draw on political popular education [Morvan, 2011] and on the construction of strategic social knowledges [Carton, 2005].
I will now specify three complementary aspects, to make it more explicit (already to myself):

  1. As their designation indicates, these strategic social knowledges are knowledges, they are thus constructed and to be constructed. The research of Léa Laval [2016; 2019] is extremely valuable for taking into account the processes, methods and ways of establishing them (elaborating and sharing them), and with Myriam Cheklab [2019], for considering research in times of struggle and the struggle against domination while researching.
  2. Strategic social knowledge has a “class struggle”, feminist, non-binary, decolonial dimension, which is fundamentally intersecting. Never forget this when I am working today in 2021 on musical practices, one of whose essential rhizomes is Afro-American free jazz linked to civil rights struggles, on musical practices that claim to manufacture Réunionese Creole roots reggae from metropolitan France, in an environment in an almost men excluvive majority environment, etc.
  3. These strategic social knowledges are located and aware of their situation. I am white, male, cis-gender, straight, almost 50 years old… this is already starting to do a lot in terms of advantages and “privileges” (see the entry “privilèges” in the Dictionnaire des dominations [Manouchian, 2012, pp. 285-288]). And I should add doctoral student and teacher (teaching future music teachers)! This almost triples the epistemological intimidation exerted from the position of an instituted (supposedly) knowledgeable, scholarly person, i.e., one who is perceived as full of recognized and valued, valuable knowledge (knowledge with a hegemonic tendency that creates domination). Saying that doing research is in fact intensely doubting and asking questions by sharing a way of thinking (and everyone thinks!); saying that being a “teacher” is in fact setting up and maintaining procedures so that people who experience them learn (and everyone learns) … is not enough. It is in acts and over time that these aspects can begin to be grasped and experienced. The French classroom imaginary has deeply rooted representations.


Inhabit one of the edges?

To be a musician and to be a dancer

The expression “edge nucleus” thus makes it possible, first of all, to radically evacuate representations in rigid boxes with borders or in limiting and excluding compartments. (…)
Let’s take an artistic example: music and dance. Considering them as practices strongly marked by the historical setting of discipline, they are clearly separated. You are a musician, or you are a dancer; you teach (you go to) a music or dance class. There are compartments, boxes or pipelines on both sides. Crossbreeding is possible, but it’s rare and difficult, and when it does take place, it’s in an exclusive way: you’re here or there, on one side or the other, each time you have to cross a border.
Considering music and dance as daily human practices, they are extremely intertwined: to make music is to have a body in movement; to dance is to produce sounds. Since 2016, an action-research was conducted between PaaLabRes and Ramdam, an art center. It involved people who are rather musicians (us, members of PaaLabRes), other rather dancers (members of the Maguy Marin company), a visual artist (Christian Lhopital), and regular guests in connection with the above networks. We’ve been experimenting with improvisation protocols on shared materials. In the realizations, each everyone makes sounds and movements in relation to the sounds and movements of others, each is both a musician and a dancer. For me, the status of the body (the gestures including those for making music, the care, the sensations, and the fatigue) is very different from the one I have in a rehearsal or a concert of a music group. It is even richer and more intense. With the vocabulary used in the previous paragraphs, in these realizations I am in a form of “tâ/ache blanche” (white/blank task/spot) dance-music edge or fringe. A first assessment that we are in the process of drawing up shows that going beyond our disciplinary boxes (exploding the border, making the edge exist) is difficult. [Sidoroff, 2018b, p. 265]

Situated Creation, example of sound of roulèr

One of the expressions that synthesizes a common thread of my practices is that of “situated collective creation”. The creation in question is as much about sound production as it is about knowledge. Such a creation is on the scale of the group in question, and it can be a small, very localized discovery. It will not necessarily be a novelty for the whole world, but already a simple thing not yet known (unheard of) for/in/by the collective in presence. Let’s assume, for example, that we try to have a roulèr sound (large diameter bass drum typical of Réunion Island) on a recording, in material conditions where you can’t have a roulèr and the recording equipment in the same place? To try, to search, to experiment, should allow us to find something. Alain Péters, for example, has successfully recorded the equivalent of a kayamb (also typical of the Réuion Island, a wooden frame which encloses stems of reed which enfold seeds) by rubbing plastic bags! [Poulot, 2016, 31’45-32’02] The anecdote is well-known in the world of Réunionese music sound recordings. And as for us, we realized that we were getting the equivalent of a roulèr sound for the groove we were looking for, with a soft gong beater hitting the very slightly relaxed skin of a medium conga, picking up the sound quite close to the place of impact… (See the intro of the song “Traka” in Mawaar [2020]). We’re really not sure if we were the first in the world to do it, but we invented on the spot a solution we didn’t have before, with the material available around us to get to something we were satisfied with, just as we were starting to think we were going to give up the idea (and therefore have to musically invent something else).
This first story might suffice for the small point I was trying to illustrate: a “creation” for us, without any pretension of historical primacy, invented by and for us (there were two of us working on looking for the roulèr sound for a group of eight). This is the account of which I have a trace in my notes of that day: “trouvaille: son roulèr, conga med. bag. blanche *”. The whole process leading to this “trouvaille” is hidden behind this word written too quickly. The “*” is a sign to say: come back to it quickly enough to describe this in detail. Because such a narrative is not adequate, it leads one to believe in a creation of a technical order (using this instrument in this way) without further interaction. The formula “something we were satisfied with, just as we were starting to think we were going to give up the idea” is too quick a shortcut. We need to be more precise, otherwise important elements remain implicit. And these can limit understanding and lead to the belief that these are simple recipes that can be copied and pasted as they are, whereas they are extremely situated and interact with many other aspects. Saying “a roulèr sound” without specifying the context does not make much sense. Adding “for the groove we were looking for” is a good start but still doesn’t say much. You have to take the minimum precaution to localize the action and not to generalize it too quickly.

This sound of roulèr in interaction

So, let’s take the time for a more detailed account. Since the day I wrote this note with an asterisk showing that I wanted to return to it, four layers of writing have been added, leading to the one presented here. These four layers come one after another. The first one is given above, then shortly after came the second one that is shown below. Because this second account was still passing too fast in one place, we needed a third one. Several rewritings were necessary. And finally a fourth narrative corresponds to this version in this article. It benefited from both the broadening of the audience and from several sharings and discussions in closed circles (thanks!).
Let’s go back to that moment of recording the roulèr sound. And so let’s start by saying more exactly: we ended up finding the sound of roulèr that suited us (and this was not immediately achieved) in one particular use (among many others possible) of this sound at this place, namely the intro of a song (and not at another musical moment). The roulèr can also be the basis of dance music in a percussion ensemble, and is often struck with open hands, with strong impacts to support the global dynamic. This is not the sound we found. But it’s the one we were looking for, at the beginning. The initial idea was to reinforce the already recorded bass drum. We then tried on a bass drum different skin tensions of both the striking drumhead and the resonant one. We put different fabrics inside this bass drum, more or less leaning on one or both skins, tapping with different parts of the hand at different places of the skin, with different sticks or beaters, etc. In fact, it went quite fast: on the one hand we had already discussed it several times before and made tests in the rehearsal room when we were working on the Réunionese music, looking for a sound equivalent to the bass drum while the full group was playing; and on the other hand I had tried things alone with a view to recording such a part by phonically isolating this instrument from the rest. We tried a few more times all together, but we didn’t get close to what suited us. We switched to a low tomtom, without more success. Because the first lead, transforming the use of a drum element, turned out to be not very fruitful, looking around, we then began to tap-listen a little everywhere. We were two people in a music room with several instruments. I remember having also tried different strikes on the two tables present, more or less close to the edge, by putting the ear in different places to seek a sound quality and its resonance. It was a time of wandering, and, in retrospect, we can highlight two moments among many others. On the one hand, the moment when we made the skin of the medium conga to resonate, but we didn’t stop there directly and said: “This is it”. And on the other hand, the moment when we told ourselves that we could change our musical idea, by looking not for a reinforcement but for a complement to the sound. This one-word change implied both a slight modification of the arrangement we had begun with (the roulèr equivalent would have to start earlier), and also to find the minimum reinforcement necessary for the existing bass drum, by a particular mix on the passage in question: a mix of the bass with the midrange of one of the guitars, and with the roulèr equivalent (that we hadn’t have yet found). And we had also to pay attention to the placement of the triangle at the top of the sound spectrum in order to achieve this: the sound of one instrument is a function of – almost – all the others. We were sufficiently advanced in the mixes to know this was possible, otherwise we would have probably tried a little to verify this possibility.
But here again, it is interesting to press “pause” and take the time to unfold all that is crushed in the shortcut I just used. To tell it like this is to summarize-condense a posteriori… Let’s go back to the beginning of this wandering time. There were no verbal exchange of the type: “We wanted a reinforcement, let’s go to a complement!” that led to everything that followed. In these moments of tinkering, there is little talk of precise (and meaningfully relevant at the first attempt) concepts, although many are present and implicit, which no two persons bring to awareness or verbalize in the same way. Unfortunately, I don’t have an exact record of what we said to each other at that moment. But I have been in many such situations in my musical life. The dialogue must have sounded like this:

“- We are not getting there” {Share the dead ends, check and agree that we are both facing them}.
“– What can we do?” {Asking this question may seem useful, it is implied in the “yeah” of the head or the look exchanged after the first observation. But it gives a little time to think, and in case the friend facing you has something to answer, maybe with words, because the person asking the question doesn’t know yet what to do…}
“– Find other things!” {Easy solution! But the word “things” comes in very handy in these cases. Here, it can evoke both sounds, ways of going about it and/or reconsidering the question, etc. It is sufficiently imprecise to open up potentially different avenues for each of us, but not too much because we remain clinging to the shared problem at the outset, in the situation that is a little more knowledgeable because of the noted dead-end. Thus, behind such “other things” [in French “autre chose”, singular, sounds the same as the plural “autres choses”], are mixed together a) other sounds that continue to evoke the roulèr, b) other uses of this musical idea in connection with other choices of arrangement, c) other possibilities of recording and/or mixing, etc. We didn’t spell it all out, the three words above were just a signal that all these things and more were entering into the process. They take longer to describe than it took us to find our particular solution}

Once the dead-end was shared and this search for other things was underway, our ears opened to other types of sounds (like an ecology of the imaginary?). We listen again to (almost) all the sounds we had tried since the beginning of our research. The medium conga had been put aside because of (what we thought was) the too small size of its skin, but it reappeared. We realized that we found then a satisfying beginning of a lead (finally!), in particular using this big beater of classical music percussion used for example on the gongs (which we had recorded in the previous session). It only remained to refine this promising lead to the best possible result. And refining that, also meant refining everything else in an all-inclusive movement, especially in terms of arrangement and mixing preparation. The sound volume promised to be considerably lower than fully hitting the roulèr, but we knew we could work it into the mix. So, we looked for a more precise hit and microphone placement to get the best complement sound. Again, I use the term “complement”, but it was not present at the time of the experimental actions and gestures. The formalization of the transition from reinforcement to complement, with this choice of words, came later. I don’t remember exactly when this verbalization became settled, but it wasn’t while the sound recording was being refined. At this point, we started by striking the conga, while listening, and commenting only about the place of the microphone or of the hit, without making sentences, with help of a few words and mostly gestures. But it could be verbalized afterwards, in times of re-listening to the takes. During these moments, the time is calmer: we move into a different place, there is a displacement between the position of play and listening to the take, which takes a little time. And there, it was easier to use more complete sentences to comment what we heard and to project ourselves in what to do next. And it is quite possible that the two words “reinforcement” and “complement” were not the first ones that came to us to qualify what happened; in any case, they are the ones that remain afterwards. They are a construction that took its time, like the use of this medium conga.

The small situated creation that I have just described is therefore not only a technical trouvaille, as the first shortened account could let believe it.[5] But it is a rich interaction around the sound quality: between its musical use in a complex of other sonorities (place, role and arrangement), the instrument producing it to be heard, its playing, its recording and its mixing. We did not act or think in boxes or walls separating too strictly « sound engineer » or « instrumentalist ». It was the fact of crossing such walls that allowed us to build that day a sound that we were missing. In our experimentations and trials, we obviously took into account the playing (the gestures to obtain the sound) and the recording-mixing. But in an inextricable way, came to be intertwined considerations of arrangement, production of the record (time and places available to be able to record this track, then to mix this piece, the album), of instrumental tinkering, etc. Have we inhabited an edge, even if only very locally? Or rather: have we crossed many borders, happily and several times in all directions? A few years ago, I would have answered « edges, of course » without hesitation, and insisting on the plural. Today I don’t find the answer so easy. I would need to qualify more and better such edges: work in progress!

In what I condense with the formula “situated collective creation”, the word “situated” describes both the context of a moment or circumstance as described above, but also that of a particular story, in a larger temporality. I met Réunionese music with people who play it and know a lot about it, and I quickly enjoyed playing and discussing it. So, I spent some time with them, especially by playing this music. (I have been doing the same thing for several years with roots reggae.) I could have met people and groups doing rap or electro or other things, then I would have probably spent time on such music and practices.

Musical Practices from the Réunion Island

The second kind of music I practice comes from Réunion Island. In these small islands called Mascarene Islands in this part of the Indian Ocean, there is specific music called maloya and séga. And I’ve been playing this music with people from the Réunion Island for about twenty years, principally as trumpet player in a brass section.

Maloya reappeared on the forefront in the 1970s thanks to the communists and the independentists. It was also during this period that reggae made its international breakthrough, after rock and amplified music developed on the island, and not just to be listened to. They were played, appropriated and tinkered with locally, becoming “electric maloya” [Compilations 2016a, 2016b, 2017]. Then, what is called malogué or maloggae (a mixture of maloya and reggae) develop. It has become a very modern mixture, nourished by traditional music, popular music and music of the moment. I play with a family that came to France thirty years ago. This malogué, sega and seggae music was played in the group Margoz then Koodakood, with notably the father who sang, played bass and directed the ensemble, and his son who sang and played drums. He was not yet 18 years old when I met him. And he was about ten years old when the malogué was created, he couldn’t reach the bass drum pedal! Today, the band has reconfigured itself on a roots reggae base, it’s called Mawaar. It means “I’ll see” in Réunionese language, a good part of it is sung in Creole. And we are still working on this Réunionese music, even if we don’t play on stage anymore. The father I was talking about is on the bass, and it’s the son who is very active. He plays guitar and drums, he sings, he is one of those who bring a lot of music.

Reggae, maloya, malogué come musically “from below”, in the way Louis Staritzky speaks of urban experimentation [2018]. To put it in terms of the idea of walls: these kinds of music and musical practices come from outside the massive and solidified walls of already established structures. It would be interesting to look at the appearance of this maloya-reggae music (this creolization), with the epistemologies of the South, starting with the work of Boaventura de Sousa Santos[6], for example “The sociology of absences and emergences” [2011, pp. 34-58, §43-60; 2016, chap. VI, pp. 241-273]. Sociology of absences: “an investigation whose aim is to explain that what does not exist is in fact actively produced as non-existent, that is, as a non-credible alternative to what does exist” [2016, p. 251]. Sociology of emergences: “an investigation into the alternatives contained in the horizon of concrete possibilities” [2016, p. 269]. This will have to be left for a future occasion,[7] perhaps in connection with Youcef Chekkar who conducts his research with such approaches on the “usages of cinema in the post-civil war Algerian context” [2018].

I would like to approach this creation by digging a little deeper into the notion of edge. Emmanuel Hocquard gave consistency to this notion as something made possible by the action of translating, with this double affirmation about American poetry translated into French:

– “A French poet would never have written that.”
– Perhaps we could express the same thing in this way: “An American would never have written that.” [1997, §5 et 5bis; 2001, pp. 403-404]

The malogué or seggae are typically in this kind of situation: reggae groups would never have played like that, neither would maloya or séga groups. There is a filiation, a relationship, but with the fabrication of a distance and a ground that Emmanuel Hocquard seeks [1997, §3; 2001, p. 403]. These styles of music are at the same time very similar and very different. I propose to you three compilations sweeping the 1980s and 1990s: one of roots reggae, another one of maloya, and a third one of malogué, in order to go from one to the others..

Reggae Roots :
Maloya :
Malogué[8] :

Even if a single compilation can’t show the immense variety of each of these stylistic labels, each one provides a few names as so many different leads to go further. Even if the encounters are more between individuals and groups, singularities and subjectivities at a precise moment, rather than between stylistic groupings constructed after the fact, there is, between these three “genres”, an intensity of both dissimilarities and similarities. They are fundamentally different but in very close complicity and kinship.

NAÉSSAYÉ, second verse and refrain in the song “Na Éssayé” by Philippe Lapotaire [1991]:
Ti pren un maloya, pou mélange avec reggae, Yé, yé, yé
Tout’ danse dan mon vie, maloya ou bien reggae, Yé, yé, yé
La misik lé pareil, mé le style li la change un pé, Yé, yé, yé
Pou zèn Réyonés, nou vé pa trompe nout bann vié, Yé, yé, yé
Sak mi di zordi :
Na essayé ouh, na mélanzé, Na essayé, na essayé, na mélangé,
Na essayé ouh un malogué, Na essayé, na essayé, un malogué.

[Take a maloya, to mix it with a reggae, Yé, yé, yé
Dance in my life, maloya or reggae, Yé, yé, yé
The music is the same, but the style has changed a bit, Yé, yé, yé
For the youth of Réunion Island, we are not going to deceive our elders, Yé, yé, yé
I say today:
We tried it, we mixed it up (bis)
We tried a malogué (bis)].

My exploration on edges of activities at the edges looks for those moments and places based on “this, never a person focused primarily on creation (or on performance or research or whatever) would have done it”, and all the reciprocal statements to it. One of the phenomena of Edouard Glissant’s creolization is also found in such a statement as “never that but in fact yes”. The « never » is easy in the formula but is often a bit too abrupt. Let’s continue the explorations!


In certain contexts, approaching the notion of a dividing wall (notably between the categories of activities) as an edge of possibilities seems to me to be interesting. An edge is a space and a time that can be occupied in different ways, in it one is able to develop activities. These types of space-time can be inhabited by bringing elements coming from many other times and spaces together, with the possibility of experimenting new things.



All Web URLs were accessed on February 28th, 2021.

CARTON, Luc. (2005). « Forum sur l’éducation permanente ». Dans Santé conjuguée, n°32, avril 2005, pp. 6-10. (Intervention à Namur le 19 février 2005, retranscrite par Christian Legrève) <pdf on line>.

CHEKKAR, Youcef. (2018). « Du cinéma en Algérie ? Mais bien sûr ! », dans Agencements, Recherches et pratiques sociales en expérimentation, n°2. Rennes: éd. du commun, pp. 124-150 <revue, pdf on line>.

CHEKLAB, Myriam & LAVAL, Léa. (2019). « Recherche en lutte et lutte en recherche », dans Agencements, n°3. Rennes: éd. du commun, pp. 60-175 <revue, pdf on line>.

CNRTL. Portail lexical du Centre national de ressources textuelles et lexicales.

COLLECTIF-EN-DEVENIR. (2016). Fanzine Lapalissade #1« Évaluation ». Autoprod. <on line>.

COMPILATION. (2016a). Soul Sok Séga, séga sounds from Mauritius, 1973-1979 [CD]. !K7 Records, Strut Records, STRUT139CD. (Compiled by Natty Hô and Konsöle / La Basse Tropicale), <on bandcamp>.

COMPILATION. (2016b). Soul Séga sa! indian ocean segas from the 70’s (1975-1978 Île Maurice, Réunion, Seychelles) [CD]. Folkwelt, Bongo Joe, BJR003. (Selection by Cheb Chalet), <on bandcamp>.

COMPILATION. (2017). Oté Maloya 1975-1986, La naissance du maloya électrique à la Réunion [CD]. !K7 label, Strut Records, STRUT151CD. (Compiled by La Basse Tropicale: DJ KonsöLe aka Antoine Tichon, and DJ Natty Ho aka Dinh Nguyen), <on bandcamp>.

Décret n°84-431 du 6 juin 1984 fixant les dispositions statutaires communes applicables aux enseignants-chercheurs (Decree n°84-431 of June 6, 1984 establishing the common statutory provisions applicable to teacher-researchers),et portant statut particulier du corps des professeurs des universités et du corps des maîtres de conférences, <legifrance>.

DHLF, for Dictionnaire historique de la langue française. REY, Alain (dir.). (1998). Paris: Dictionnaire Le Robert.

GANN, Kyle. (2012). Breaking the Chain Letter: An Essay on Downtown Music. (first version in 1998). <on line>.

HOCQUARD, Emmanuel. (1997). « Taches blanches », in Le « Gam », n°2, Format Américain, Un bureau sur l’Atlantique. This text is reproduced in Ma haie [2001], pp. 401-413 et <on line>.

HOCQUARD, Emmanuel. (2000). « Faire quelque chose avec ça ». In Esteban, Claude, Hourcade, Rémy, & Hocquard, Emmanuel (dir.). À Royaumont: traduction collective 1983-2000, une anthologie de poésie contemporaine. Grâne: éd. Creaphis, pp. 399-407). This text is reproduced in Ma haie [2001], pp. 517-526.

HOCQUARD, Emmanuel. (2001). Ma haie: Un privé à Tanger II. Paris: P.O.L.

LAVAL, Léa. (2016). « Poser l’éducation populaire entre savoirs et émancipation: des pratiques en recherche », dans Recherches & éducations, n°16, « Émancipation et formation de soi, T2 » pp. 102-113 <>.

LAVAL, Léa. (2019). Travailler les savoirs pour une université autrement populaire. Dialogues entre critiques en acte de l’université et pratiques en recherche de l’éducation populaire. Thèse de doctorat en sciences de l’éducation, Université de Paris VIII Vincennes-Saint-Denis, sous la direction de Jean-Louis Le Grand.

LEWIS, George E. (1996). « Improvised Music after 1950: Afrological and Eurological Perspectives », dans Black Music Research Journal (BMRJ), vol. 16, n°1. Champaign (IL): Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois <pdf version>.

LEWIS, George E. (2004). “Afterwords to "Improvised Music after 1950": The Changing Same”, dans Fischlin D. & Heble A. (eds). The Other Side of Nowhere, Jazz Improvisation, and Communities in Dialogue. Middeltown (CO): Wesleyan University Press, pp. 163-172.

LEWIS, George E. (2008). A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

LITTRÉ, Émile. (1874). Dictionnaire de la langue française. Paris: Hachette. Electronic version created by François Gannaz <>.

MANOUCHIAN, Collectif. (2012). Dictionnaire des dominations, de sexe, de race de classe. Paris: éd. Syllepse. (Saïd Bouamam (dir.), Jessy Cormont, Yvon Fotia). The foreword is reproduced on line in <blog de Médiapart>.

MAWAAR. (2020). “Traka”, in Lé Valab’ [CD]. Pass’Message, RR 97-4.69, <on bandcamp>.

MORVAN, Alexia. (2011). Pour une éducation populaire politique: À partir d’une recherche-action en Bretagne. Thèse de doctorat en sciences de l’éducation, Université de Paris VIII Vincennes-Saint-Denis, sous la direction de Jean-Louis Le Grand. <pdf on line>.

NAÉSSAYÉ. (1991). “Na Essayé”, in Oté la sere [CD]. Discorama, PSB 747, 9101 CD.

PIERREPONT, Alexandre. (2015). La Nuée, l’AACM: un jeu de société musicale. Paris: éd. Parenthèses, coll. eupalinos, série Jazz et musiques improvisées.

POULOT, Alix. (2016). Alain Peters (Hommage à) Il était une fois… 1991 à 2016 . (Editing of different documents related to Alain Peters), <on youtube>.

RAS NATY BABY. (2009). “Mo la muzik”, in Live [CD]. Digital Island, Discorama, 2009.04.

seggaeman974R (compil). (2012). « Le maloya des années 80/90 » [Vidéo] (on line 30 november, 30th 2012) <on youtube>.

seggaeman974R (compil). (2014). « kiltir malogué (maloggae) » [Vidéo (statique)] (on line january 17th 2014) <on youtube>.

SIDOROFF, Nicolas. (2018a). « Faire quelque chose avec ça que je voudrais tant penser&nbps;», in Agencements, Recherches et pratiques sociales en expérimentation, n°1. Rennes: éd. du commun, pp. 41-72, <revue, pdf on line>.

SIDOROFF, Nicolas. (2018b). «&nbps;Explorer les lisières d’activité, vers une microsociologie des pratiques (musicales) », in Agencements, n°2. Rennes: éd. du commun, pp. 248-274, <revue, pdf on line>.

de SOUSA SANTOS, Boaventura. (2011). «&nbps;Épistémologie du Sud », in Études rurales, n°187, Le sens du rural aujourd’hui, pp. 21-50. (Trans.: Magali Watteaux), <on line>.

de SOUSA SANTOS, Boaventura. (2016). Épistémologie du Sud, Mouvements citoyens et polémiques sur la science. Paris: Desclée de Brouwer.

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[1]. Cefedem AuRA [Centre de formation des enseignants de la musique, Center for music teacher training ], Center of professional resources and artistic higher education.

[2]. A reduced combination called Petit Goulash, proposed two versions of “Schème Moteur” by Alain Savouret in the 2017 edition “Graphic Scores” of this site PaaLabRes.

[3]. This place is a very beautiful source of music, stories and knowledge about the so-called “downtown” scenes. See for example, the impressive emails sent every week presenting a great number of records, with in particular Emanuel ‘MannyLunch’ Maris and Bruce Lee Gallanter (nicknamed “Downtown Musicologist Emeritus”).

[4]. See notably the second part of “‘Au-delà des catégories‘ : alors quoi de nouveau ?”, and more precisely the note 2 concerning the distinction between uptown and downtown.

[5]. And this second account is not yet sufficient, we could still describe others that would detail or specify these interactions, and perhaps help to qualify areas of edges. For example, using a recording of the session and a self-confrontation discussion (but the microphones had to record the upcoming roll, the testimonial camera is not in our habits), or with accounts from other points of view, including that of the colleague with whom I was experimenting that day (I am planning to do this), etc.

[6]. Boaventura de Sousa Santos is Portuguese and is part of the World Social Forum adventure. He has worked in South America, studying subordinate and dominated communities, how they organize themselves and how they use and produce knowledge not recognized or not taken into consideration by colonizers and Westerners. And he has brought this expression to the forefront: “The Epistemologies of the South”. It is very interesting to observe how, now, more and more work at the university is asking these kinds of questions: the domination still remains that of the objectivity of whites, of the North, of the West… (we do not all have the same relationship to a blank spot or a white stain).

[7]. We (with all the colleagues with whom I played this music and still play music based on it) have not yet explored this question sufficiently. On the one hand, the 1970s and 1980s see very rich changes occurring in Réunion Island; and on the other hand, once released, especially after the record Oté La sere by NAÉSSAYÉ in 1991, the malogué came out of an absence of visibility and emerged! It would be interesting to better explain the passage from an experiment of what is possible under the instituted radars to a visibility leading to productions and support of public policies. In any case it would be better than the too big shortcuts that have just been used.

[8]. In a little less than 30min, these 19 representative pieces give a good idea of what the richness of the encounter between reggae and maloya can be. NB: the youtube channel seggaeman974R is very rich in titles and rarities on Réunionese music.
To have an idea of séga and seggae, see for example the intro of the first piece de l’album Live of Ras Natty Baby [2009] : the very beginning drums and percussions is séga, the entry of brass at 0’40 after the great “Rastafari…” passes to the seggae which can really be heard from 0’47… The youtube channel joliememzelle also has beautiful collections of historical albums of music from the Mascarene Islands.


Post Scriptum:

In a voluntary and militant way, I practice inclusive writing. And I do it in the following way: I use expressions such as “ille” [combination of he and she] or “celleux” [“those” at the same time feminine and masculine] or with a single middle point as in musicien·nes or chercheur·ses. This typography seems to me to be the best point of (dis)balance between signifying existence by making them visible to people other than cis-genre males, and keeping a fluidity of reading. The double-flexion consists in saying or writing: “he and she”, it still makes a binarity to exist. The expression “ille” seems to me to be both very readable and understandable. And it is a new word that is not yet very common, nor in dictionaries. That is to say, we have to construct a meaning for it… it is both a “il” [he] and a “elle” [she]? but not exclusively? But why not exclusively? So maybe something like… “yel” or some other pronoun that some people prefer to be used to talk about “iel” or “ile”, rather than using “il” or “elle”? Perhaps we are participating in the invention of a new grammatical genre? I allow myself a “we” because this type of reflection and practice is shared in several networks in which I participate. We often make these elements explicit in connection with this writing practice, for example at the beginning of a document or in a footnote.
It’s the same thing with a median point. Reading “chacun·e” is easy, we quickly get used to it, and it’s not only “chacun et chacune” [“each” masculine and femine], they are living beings, with all the imaginable diversities, and even with others that we still can’t properly imagine. And for me, a single point is enough for this small disturbance, it remains readable while pointing out these questionings.
Other questions remain open… Which passage to the oral out of the double-flexion to overcome the binarity? (a neutral genre to be developed with an oral declination seems to be an interesting track, see for example in french the thesis work of Alpheratz). Who works on these subjects and from what positions? On whose backs is this form of writing practiced? To be continued.