Retour au texte original en français : Entretien avec Giacomo Spica Capobianco
Encounter with Giacomo Spica Capobianco
Jean-Charles François and Nicolas Sidoroff
I. The Orchestre National Urbain
II. Actions carried out at La Duchère (Lyon neighborhood) 2015-2019
a. The Projet
b. The Origin of the Projet
c. Instrument Building: The Spicaphone
d. The Residencies
e. The Writing Workshops
f. The Organization of the First Residency
IV. Political Politics and Citizen Politics
List of institutions mentioned in this text (with links)
Giacomo Spica Capobianco has been working for more than thirty years to break down walls, fill in ditches, open windows in the walls to see what’s behind, build bridges so that antagonisms can meet, discover each other, confront each other peacefully. In 1989, he created the Cra.p, “Centre d’art – musiques urbaines/musiques électroniques”. The objective of this center is:
to exchange knowledge and know-how in the field of urban electro music, to cross aesthetics and practices, to provoke encounters, to invent new forms, to create artistic clashes, to give the means to express oneself. [Cra.p Home Page]
It is through real acts of development of artistic practices that his action has taken shape in a variety of contexts difficult to define with hastily predetermined labels, but with a special concern for people who often “have no access to anything”. The breaking down of boundaries, in the reality of his action, never corresponds to forcing one aesthetic on another or to the detriment of another. On the contrary, his action is based on the creation of situations designed to help individuals develop their own artistic production, collectively, in the company of others, whatever their differences.
I. The Orchestre National Urbain
Can you give us some details about the Orchestre National Urbain [National Urban Orchestra]. What is it and how does it work?
The Orchestre National Urbain was created following an idea I had a long, long time ago. In 2006, at the Forum on popular music in Nancy, I answered someone who asked me what I was doing, “Yeah, I am setting up the ONU” [United Nation] with a giggle. So, he said, “What’s it all about?” I told him, “It’s the Orchestre National Urbain.” OK, that was in 2006. In 2012 it started titillating me and in 2013 I decided to really create the Orchestre National Urbain.
The Orchestre National Urbain, is not the ONU [UN], let’s not be mistaken, it’s just a thumb of the nose. The cast of this orchestra is made up of both men and women musicians, there is parity between men and women. There are people who come from classical music, jazz, hip hop, electro, from all directions, it’s not about making a melting pot of everyone because it looks good, or everyone is great, it’s absolutely not that. It’s about working together to produce music, everybody also having a fairly strong pedagogical intent. It’s about working with a lot of people in the deprived neighborhoods, but also not just these people.
I asked around who would be interested in joining an orchestra with me. Lucien16S (Sébastien) was the first to express some interest. Also, Thècle who does beat-box here, electro, a very interesting girl who took part in our training program. asked her if she wanted to be part of the ONU and she said yes. Afterwards, another person came to join, and so on. The number of people has changed since then, because some people have left. It has been a little while since it has stabilized to eight people. The goal of the game is to have a written repertoire, everything is written. You can still improvise, you can improvise, but it’s really a very structured music to start with, which I composed. The texts are shared, which means that I’m not the only one who writes the texts, I write very few of them, it’s more the others who create them. And the name of the game was to compose everything by recording directly with a spicaphone (my one-stringed stick) and the use of my looper, and then to work in an oral way with people. This approach avoids having scores and all that it implies. Except for the brass players, because sometimes they would say, “Scores!” Then, we had to find people who wanted to be part of this dynamic. The idea was also that they could come and share their knowledge with any public and on top of that have some patience as well. I recently met a girl on drum set who was a candidate. We discussed it, she told me: “Anyway, no pedagogy, no improvisation.” I told her: “No ONU! Ciao!” I thought we couldn’t get along if pedagogy and improvisation were against her nature. We had to create a team that wanted to do this kind of thing. It was a very long process, because we had to set up a repertoire that lasted a little over an hour. Immediately the question arose as to the raison d’être of the Orchestre National Urbain, what does it represent politically, and what does it mean? It’s not only an artistic project, but it’s also to come back to the most remote neighborhoods and put a dent in things to get them going again. From there, I wrote a project that I presented to the local authorities (City of Lyon, Préfecture, DRAC and Lyon Métropolei). Everyone accepted. So, they started to help us a little with small grants to get started. We were able to launch the projects we had announced. I’m not saying that we now have thousands and hundreds of euros, but we now receive more support than what we had at the beginning.
With the Orchestre National Urbain, the idea is to settle in a city and ask to have access to a concert hall. We stay for a week, it doesn’t cost them anything because we are financed so that all the people involved are paid, and for a week we work with all the kids in the area.
Today, the reflection is not limited with the Orchestre National Urbain to sharing our practices with people from the most remote neighborhoods, but also to do so with people working in higher education. In other words, to show them our way of working. I want to see how we can take young musicians to work first on the artistic side and then on ways of looking at pedagogy. That is the main idea. A base has been established with the Orchestre National Urbain. But it is a base that moves, that is not fixed. In other words, there is a base and then there are around punctual and satellite projects. I just came back from Morocco, I discovered that in Morocco they are very interested in this project. I worked with Berbers, Berber tribes, mostly women, it was very interesting. If all goes well, we will be invited to go and play in Morocco in September (2019), and I don’t just want to go and play in Morocco to pretend to be the star. We will go there to meet the Berbers and work with them both artistically and pedagogically. That’s why I went there: I played and developed pedagogical situations. And I want to develop this more and more. My wish is that the Orchestre National Urbain will multiply in other regions, in other countries, and that this reflection can be part of a network, because we think it works well. Today we have a result, that is to say that we are quite happy with what is happening and especially with the relationship we are able to establish with the people we meet.
For me, it’s a bit like the results of thirty years of Cra.p where I’ve done a lot of projects, a lot of music, and where I’ve had the chance to meet a lot of different people and work with them. There was a moment when I thought that I needed to create something very, very tightly framed, but geared towards meeting people, and to see how you can develop things and reflections from this project. And with a huge cock a snook: for the Orchestre National Urbain, to call itself the ONU [UN] means a lot to me – and it is a political and cultural act. As far as Cra.p is concerned, I’m super happy. We have been around for thirty years, with people that we have been able to bring today to get a State Diploma and who now work here, others will follow the same path, it’s all working well. And I would like it to be a model for other cities and towns, in other regions, but it’s very fragile because we are perhaps the only ones to have developed this idea.
So, inside the ONU, the way I understand things, it is at the same time a musical ensemble, and also a sort of commando somehow, a group of reflection and a pedagogical team. So, it’s a multi-entry structure. And at the same time, within it there is diversity. Could you talk about this diversity? And also, how do those who come from this diversity meet each other?
Diversity is achieved through the choice of the members of the orchestra. I didn’t want to have only people for example connected to amplified popular music (in addition they are in a network of which I myself am a part). Moreover, diversity was not achieved by a calculation, but by affinity. This means that I had the chance to meet people from different worlds, I don’t have blinders on. I’m often invited to go towards others who are not supposedly part of my musical field, but I don’t see what that means: going towards others doesn’t necessarily imply abandoning one’s own way of seeing things. But when a classical singer comes to see us, I find it very interesting to wonder how we’re going to work together. She has learned things on her own, we have built things of our own, how can this be connected? Is the public going to be able to get involved in this process as well? Because inevitably, when you have eight people who all come from completely different places, and who present themselves in front of an audience that is also different, you wonder how they will consider this work, how they will react. That’s what interests me. It means that we have to ask ourselves how we’re going to be able to shake up the blinders of those who are separated by the barriers they’ve built, we’re at the heart of the subject of your edition, “Breaking down the walls”. For more than twenty years we have been saying with great ambition (and utopia) that we were going to be able to change things to make the departments of jazz, rock, traditional music, or other “something” departments work together. I don’t think things have changed that much.
Casting people from very different backgrounds in this way brings back this ambition to the forefront, and we demonstrate that it can be successful. And right now, I’ve just invited a cellist, Selim Penarañda, because we had a saxophonist who could hardly ever be there. I knew Selim and I called him. He has an extremely interesting background, it’s very rare. He is of Andalusian Arab origin, from an Algerian mother and a Spanish father. He was born in La Croix-Rousse [a Lyon neighborhood]. He was not at all destined to be a classical cellist. Selim ended up doing classical music, because he had a great teacher when he was in school: for the last half hour every day, she would play classical music for them. When he was 12 years old, he said, “What’s that?” She said, “It’s cello.” So, he said, “I want to play the cello”. His parents struggled to get him a cello and he managed to get lessons, and everything followed on. Now he is a cellist and he is a teacher. He is a teacher and a musician. He comes from classical music, and all of a sudden you amplify his cello, and everything starts happening, and he’s delighted. He says, “Finally, I find a project where I feel good.” And furthermore, he plays chamber music. And that’s the kind of situation I’m interested in.
How did you meet him, for example?
He came to enroll here, and he told us: “I play cello and chamber music; I want to work on the new technology”. We talked and he did a three-month internship with us. But he was playing so much that he couldn’t go on. He didn’t have time to continue the training he wanted to do here, so he disappeared. We then had Caroline Silvestre on trombone, we tried to work with her for a while and it didn’t work because there were two residencies where she couldn’t come. So Sébastien told me that he had contacts with Sélim and that we could try to work with him. I accepted right away, that’s how it happened. And Selim is delighted, he has direct tools for dealing with encounters, he does things that work directly, he lends his cello, and so on.
Then there’s the trombonist Joël Castaingts who joined the ONU about a year ago, because Caroline Sylvestre couldn’t continue. He’s a very interesting person, what really appealed to me about this guy is that he wasn’t the kind of person who refused to lend his trombone to those who participated in the workshops. For example, he would play something and then he would pass his trombone to one of the kids and say, “Go ahead and play”. That’s a sign for me, because you still have to be careful when you do that, because you can get bacteria, you don’t know what the kids are doing. It’s a sign of trust, for me it means a lot of things.
It’s very positive, but this choice is also made because, when you go in a residency, you are in front of an audience with whom you have to share these different ways of making music. You have to take into account how they see a lyrical singer, how they see a classical cellist, how they see a crazy person with instruments made from simple materials, how they see someone who makes rap music. And they realize that in fact these people can actually work together. How they see a dancer who’s not hip hop, nor in contemporary or classical dance, but who’s moving and all of a sudden, she’s making sense of her body, and how they can make sense of their bodies too. I have practiced this axis so much and for so long that it has become almost an unconscious act on my part and it could not be done otherwise. This is more or less the story of diversity and encounter. Indeed, this meeting of diversities is difficult and takes time. It’s not as simple as that, since the current team is not the same one as two or three years ago. Because there are some people who couldn’t hold out, faced with reasoning which was so disruptive to them. Recently, I’ve seen people leave the orchestra saying, “No, my idea is not to make music like that.” Then all of a sudden, it was people who were not ready to do that, who were trying to put some kind of very personal thing inside the project and that made it a project within the project. And I also find that this type of encounters is interesting at the research level, that’s what we would like to see a little bit more in educational training programs, where unfortunately, I say, it’s getting worse and worse. That’s why I’m talking about the lower regression in relation to higher education. I think there is an even more worrying backtrack than the one we experienced in the 1960s and 1970s: that period was perhaps more interesting than the one we’re experiencing today. You can go to any place where you practice music, there are very few of them with interesting things going on between the different musical castes present. There’s a kind of partitioning that drives me crazy.
This is how the Orchestre National Urbain was conceived. But it goes further than that: we are in the process of building up a repertoire. My ambition is also to meet other groups. I talked about it some time ago with Camel Zekri who told me: “With traditional music, we really need to put something together”. With Karine Hahn, not long ago, I talked about Gaël Rassaert with his Camerata du Rhône, a string ensemble, why not organize a meeting with them? What could we do together? I have a network of rappers, so we’re going to invite rappers on stage so that practices can be confronted. What interests me is to organize a platform with an orchestra where it moves. How can you envision that it’s not all and everything? What coherence can we find with traditional music from any ethnic group, from any place? How can we meet with contemporary music, with classical music musicians, with whomever? It’s not just about meeting each other, it’s also about knowing how we think together about the problems that it raises, how we really work together in common. That’s more or less the idea of this project.
II. Actions carried out at La Duchère ( Lyon neighborhood) 2015-2019
a. The Projet
Could you describe a particular action in detail? A project you have done recently or less recently. Something where you would have all the elements at hand.
A very recent action is the work carried out at La Duchère, a neighborhood in Lyon (in the 9th district). So, la Duchère project has been in existence for three or four years, working to create a group of young people: four years ago they were 12/13 years old, now they are 16/17. This work, for me, has given the most interesting result today, certainly in the research on the behavior of this group and its entourage. We did three residencies there, the last one took place in April 2019, always with the same young people, which allowed us to see how they had evolved. From the point of view of the young people, it was something that worked very well. It set in motion a lot of possible openings. Then, it’s more difficult when we have people who participate in the project and who are hired by a Social Center, a MJC [Maisons des Jeunes et de la Culture, Cultural and Youth Centersi], a Music School, or a Conservatory, and who, because their directors suddenly throw in the towel, can no longer work with us. This means that we can no longer work with people who are in constant contact with the kids. Precisely at the Duchère there were some unforeseen changes: the project took place in the library/media library of the Duchère and the Conservatoire de Lyon [CRRi] was a partner. All of a sudden, this place burned down due to a criminal act. All the equipment used to make music burned down. That’s how the MJC de la Duchère opened its doors to welcome these kids.
The aim of the Orchestre National Urbain is to identify young people, above all to bring them to a diploma course. We’re seeing a drift that I described in 2005 in Enseigner la musique, and we’re going to have to work hard on this: animators working in one place, who initially do a bit of music, but don’t have that function, are trying, despite the fact that they already have a job, to take the place of the Orchestre National Urbain’s players, while requesting to be trained. So the problem is that these people act as a screen in front of the young people without being aware of it or being too well aware of it. The worst thing here is to mislead kids, telling them they’re going to be stars, they’re going to play everywhere and they’re going to make big bucks. That’s what Cra.p has been fighting against for thirty years, that’s why we’re here, I think. We receive a lot of requests to train MJC’s activity leaders and during the meetings I fight very strongly against this attitude which consists in pushing the kids into an illusion that will in any case bust if they continue this way. I don’t have anything against the MJC activity leaders, it’s not a minor job. And since they absolutely want to be trained to help young people, we don’t say no. We can welcome these activity leaders in training on one condition: there has to be a charter that stipulates that the goal of the training is to bring them up to a Conservatory degree and then to a teaching State Diploma in music. This is where we are, in concrete terms, right now.
I would like to go one step back: at the Duchère, you said that it had worked well, but what worked well?
What has worked well is that over the four years you have a stable public, a group of twelve children who have grown up, who have continued to be involved in the project and who continue to make music. At the beginning they were kids who had never touched an instrument or written texts. That’s it, the machine is up and running. They are also starting, themselves, to get the younger ones to work. That’s where it works. This project consists in saying:
- We’re going to take kids from neighborhoods that have no future anyway, because even if they go to school, there won’t be a job when they finish.
- For those who are interested, they will be given the necessary tools to go all the way.
To make music, in the Duchère context, what does it mean in terms of, for example, oral learning, use of instruments and technologies, styles of music?
This is the reflection that motivated me a lot: how was I going to set up a pedagogical project precisely so as not to fall into the flaws of a single particular aesthetic? When you arrive in a neighborhood, we tend to talk only about rap, R’n’B, a lot of trap currents, a lot of things that are happening now. That’s not what interests me. Of course, it’s not that I’m not interested in making them do rap or anything else, but that’s not what really concerns me. More, it’s about creating a group that produces a collective creation, and we don’t have to dictate to them what aesthetics they should choose. There are also writing workshops, and we’re not going to tell them what subject matter they need to address. They just have to avoid talking about sex, politics, and religion, because, being overseen by the Ministry of the Interior, we’re not allowed to do that with minors. Working in a collegial or collective writing workshop, they choose their own subject matter.
Then, we always work with musical orality, quickly, with loopers, with electronic instruments, with drums and with a lot of other things. Because in the Orchestre National Urbain, there are not only electronic musicians, but there is also a trombonist, there is a cellist, there is a drum set player. The trick is to give them a little bit of basic skills and let them build their own projects and their own aesthetics. And we can’t say that, tomorrow for example, the group de la Duchère is going to do songs [chanson], rap or something else: who cares? They create something and after a while they will do with it what they want to do with it. That’s the goal. But it’s certainly out of the question to arrive and say: we’re going to do a workshop of this or that music. We don’t know, since we also put young people in contact with people from the classical music world, types of musicians they are not used to meeting. At the moment, I am preparing a video for the festival where we see the cellist, Selim Peñaranda getting people working, he has an electric cello – in the Orchestre National Urbain it’s more appropriate to play with an electric cello than with an acoustic one. When he gets kids to work with a cello, all of a sudden, a contact is created. His approach is very interesting, but that doesn’t mean that he’s suddenly going to turn them into classical musicians or rock musicians. It’s more a question of saying: “You make music.” The idea is to simply make music. But that’s not my only concern. It’s also about taking into account all the different professions in the performing arts. It means that for a while, you may have someone working in sound engineering explaining to them what a mixing desk is and all that it implies. Because there are some, in the mass, who are not going to be musicians, but who may be interested in other aspects of the performing arts. For example, one of them is going to be interested in lights, or another one is going to be interested in décors (we don’t do décors). By showing that there is also work in the world of the performing arts, we open up a field of possibilities for everyone. There are far too few minority people working in this sector. And then these people are not even aware of what’s going on, they don’t even know that there are vocational training centers for that.
The example for the moment, the lab if you want, the most interesting is that of the Duchère. It’s not simple at all, because I’m in the process of wrestling with several people, because they don’t understand that they simply have to provide the interface. You have to tell them all the time, that this is not for them. But they know it as well as I do: when you bring something interesting, you have to provide the interface, without wanting to take over the main role, as in a slightly mafia-like system (i.e. the animator who would like to take the place of the young people in training for the State Diploma in Popular Music [Diplôme d’État de Musiques Actuelles Amplifiées]i).
b. The Origin of the Project
What interests us is how do you start? What was the beginning, the starting impulse?
In the background of the Duchère, one dimension must be emphasized: to be able to attract young people, to get them into this process, it was not done in a snap of the fingers, and they would not have come without a teaser. At the Duchère media library where the project began, we were asked: “What can you offer to attract kids?” I suggested something very simple: a “round of loopers.” It means:
a) There are several people.
b) We turn on loopers.
c) Each one takes a microphone.
d) One produces onomatopoeias in the microphone such as clack, plack, pluck, plick, click, etc.
e) One puts them in loop with the loopers and it turns.
f) And then, you may freely play with it.
We created three stations in the library in the middle of the afternoon, without requiring people to register. We started to make sound and the kids arrived. And then we teased them: “Do you want to go on? Yes? Well! Paf! Poof!” It started. At one point, they left: “Where are you going?” – “I’m coming back.” They came back with 15 of their friends, it went fast. Because, for them, it would be absolute bliss to have a machine like that in their possession. So, we did the loopers’ round and the objective was to work with Lucas Villon, who is a musician working for the Lyon Regional Conservatory. He was in training at Cra.p while taking care of the kids there. He was the relay, and we said to all these kids, “Here you have the possibility to come every Tuesday evening from 6 to 7:30 or 8 p.m., with Lucas.” We went to see them from time to time, we went there three times a year. And a year later, we organized the first residency, and there we saw them all again. So, the residency also developed from the work that Lucas had done, that’s what created this group. For three years, every year we did a residency with this group, and now we’ve just done one. That’s how these kids became faithful to us. But, in the beginning, they were not regular users of the MJC [Youth Cultural Center] de la Duchère, nor of the library. Maybe they went there to look for a book, but there was no cultural activity organized for them. Afterwards, since the library burned down, we saw with the MJC if it was possible to open something and they took over. That’s how it happened.
I am more and more convinced that people are experimenting with things and are gradually building an experiment by trying things without really knowing what they are building. Ten years later, this produces something more or less interesting and yet it works, and it has answered the questions that were asked at the beginning. And after ten years of experimentation, they will always be talking from where they have ended up. And what’s often missing is the narrative that finally gets you to understand the insight of experimentation, so you can allow others to start doing something similar.
What’s interesting for me is the whole process that took place to invent this particular system, in this particular place, which could be quite different elsewhere. At La Duchère, you just talked about the loopers’ round at the library. What is it that at a given moment, given the circumstances, the encounters and the situations, this round of loopers is made possible? Why did you find it interesting to go and do this project there?
In fact, this project was made possible initially by the concern of the elected officials of a city, its social and cultural actors. It is this concern on their part that gave meaning to the loopers’ round. Otherwise you come, you do a round of loopers and it’s direct consumption by the individuals who pass by: they’ve consumed something and then we don’t talk about it anymore. If there isn’t a sufficiently global awareness among the citizens who are there, surrounded by all these people who decide for them, or who think for them, if there isn’t a common reflection, we can’t work. The relevance of the loopers’ round is that, when it happens, it corresponds to how you can bring people to an artistic act very quickly, and how you can hang them up right away so that, after that, they can work in the long term and that suddenly it will make sense in the city. In this case, this project took place on the site of the Duchère where culture had been put aside completely for religious, political, social and financial reasons. The problem was: how to succeed in putting a breeding pond back in place. I think the loopers’ round is a possible solution among any other. We could have just as easily worked with the instruments I’m building there [at Cra.p], putting them in the library and then having them hit the cans. It would have been the same for me. The important thing is to think about the best way to involve people in a long-term process, so that we can create a team of people who are going to raise awareness among these youngsters as they grow up.
Before arriving at the round, how do you raise awareness of the team of people around them and who decide for them, how do you get in touch with them? What makes that, at some point, they are the ones who come looking for you saying: “Giacomo (or the Cra.p) we need you”? What relationships do you build, because there is a long-term story there too?
Most of the time we do a bit of advertising, well, not much advertising, the town councils have been called upon a little. So, there is no accident, there are moments like that when we were sought at the moment when things were being set up. A few years ago, within the framework of the Orchestre National Urbain, I met a musician – Lucas Villon (see above) – whom I met at the CFMIi a few years before and who told me: “I would like to work with you.” It’s the only one in twenty years of CFMI – I’ve been working there for twenty years, four days a year – it’s the only one who came to see me and said, “I want to set up a workshop with the kids in a neighborhood, to do hip-hop, if that’s what they want.” At that time, I was working very hard on the Orchestre National Urbaini and on these issues. I asked him to join the Cra.p. training program. The Lyon Regional Conservatory paid him for two years of training here, because he was not up to date on practices within the neighborhoods and on writing workshops. So, he came to see me because he had a project to set up a hip hop workshop at La Duchère and he said, “I’m coming to see you because I need you, can you help me?” So that’s how it was done, and there are a lot of places, you know, where we’ve been called to try to solve big problems. As for example, some time ago at Morel College [Junior high school], Place Morel in La Croix-Rousse [Lyon neighborhood]. The documentalist had called us, in order to find solutions because there was a rather delicate social split in this college: you had the Whites on one side, and the Arabs and the Blacks on the other, and they were fighting each other from morning to night. She had the intelligence to tell herself that she was going to find people to set up a hip hop workshop in rap music and in dance too, and so we worked there for more than a year. It’s requests like that that allow us to reflect afterwards, to say, well, we’ve been through this, what does it achieve, even on a sociological level, how does it evolve? Most of the time, on all the actions that we have carried out, we have been called, we have not been the ones who solicited the institutions.
At the Duchère, it is Lucas who comes to see you, but do you also have an analysis with the people around him, in order to decide that it is worth doing something there?
In fact, we received a call from the Lyon town hall, and they told us that there were big problems at the MJC Vergoin of the 9th arrondissement in Saint-Rambert [Lyon neighborhood]. It’s the politicians who are calling us today, who tell us that they need us to put out the fire there, who are asking us to put things in place. In this case, for the story of the Duchère, it was Lucas who made the first step. We met one of the people in charge of the 9th arrondissement media-library, who is also very involved in this and there was a round-table discussion with other people in charge of the town, before starting the project. For me, when there is a round table discussion, if there are not strong enough political reflections behind the project, I don’t go along. That means that I absolutely don’t want to do what we were made to do more than 25 years ago when things were burning everywhere, one-off actions to calm things down, to prevent people from burning cars. That is over. When we met the people at the Duchère, we demanded that we work on the long term: not for one year, but for 3, 6, 9, 12, 15 years. Even if we are not the ones who are going to carry out the project, we needed to be able to create a team capable of grasping what we had put in place and so that it could continue. These are decisions that are made even before arriving on the loopers’ round, it’s well before, it’s really the preparation, with the elected officials and with everyone. Actually, I was a little hesitant to contact these people, but it’s easy to do, you call them and then you demand that everyone be around the table. And they get moving nevertheless, and afterwards it’s good, because there are some who adhere, there are some who don’t, but at least you can talk with them. That’s how the preparation before the beginning of the project went. There is always a reflection that has to be done before starting something in relation to the problem that is posed. It’s not like in the case of a master class where you come, you do something great and you leave straight away, without any reflection before or after, it’s direct consumerism, for me that’s not interesting. The thinking that we carry out before any project concerns the question of what we could set up with a specific public, which most of the time has been hindered. Rarely have we arrived in a place where everything was completely comfortable. If the local people did not understand what we were bringing, no connection could be established with them. I also believe that what gives us more and more work today is that there is less comfort everywhere. You have to find a balance in order precisely to federate when you get to the loopers’ round, it’s actually very simple: you’ve already arrived.
And the time between the moment when Lucas says, “I want to do that” and the moment of the loopers’ round how long is it, a year, a year and a half?
No, it’s faster than that, it’s very fast, we’re still talking about rapid emergence here, we have to be quick.
You have to be quick, but you have to get in touch with the librarian who is interested, and make sure that you get the around the table you talked about?
It’s 3 or 4 months. There is this first meeting with 2 or 3 people, and then after they understand, they can interface with the others. Because it’s all about interfaces, you don’t call an elected representative directly and say that we have to see each other, it doesn’t work like that. In fact, you need the interfaces that advise people to say that they have to meet us, because there is an interesting project that we want to set up with them. You can see that’s how it works. Today we’re a little bit beyond that stage, because we’re accredited by Grand Lyon agglomerationi, which means that we have a recognition label that took 30 years to establish. The relevance of a project doesn’t simply depend on the fact that I come to play and then do one or two master classes, but it’s: what continuities, what processes are put in place so that people seize control on the project. The project at La Duchère is the most interesting example for us, you can see it by the way these young people take control of it and above all the space we leave for them. Because the biggest battle when you are on a site like that is to make those who work there and who are in regular positions understand that they have to leave space for the young people who come to do things there.
Can you develop this idea of collective, democratic creation. How does it really happen? What are the procedures?
It’s very simple: there are eight of us, sometimes ten, each with a very specific discipline, with a project. So, we have to work together to ensure that it’s not just a simple consumption, with each person doing his or her own thing in his or her own corner, we have to establish links between all the disciplines.
c. Instrument Building: The Spicaphone.
When you arrive at the sites, you realize that buying an instrument is impossible. Many refuse to make music because they think they can’t do it for financial reasons. In my workshop, I can have a quarter of an hour with kids working with the instruments present: we are in a phase of awakening, of meeting people; we are not really in a music learning situation, it’s not about delivering music courses, it’s only the possibility to be with an instrument, with a microphone, with a looper, to insert a loop and with all that to do one’s own thing. I let them see what can be developed with several instruments I built myself. If I have five participants in front of me in a space-time, each one will be able to create something. I tell them: “This is the instrument I built like this, it works like this, it has this function, you can use it like this.” I make them play these instruments and from there we create something.
For example, I built a spicaphone, it’s a very simple single-stringed instrument. I love playing with this kind of thing, because I don’t consider myself a guitarist anyway. It’s a posture to be a guitarist, you are part of a family, and if you don’t jerk off at 150 000 km per hour on the neck, you’re not a guitarist. I don’t like the “hero” side of the guitar. So, I told myself that I was going to put only one string, so I wouldn’t be like the others and with a piece of wood even less. And this piece of wood, a polenta spoon, is even worse. People wonder what that thing is, I show them that in fact it works. And when they tell me that they can’t buy a guitar, I tell them no, you can take any piece of wood and make your own. I’m going back to Morocco to build a lot of this kind of instruments. I intend to build six-string orchestras, for example E, A, D, G, B, E, like the ones on the guitar, with six people, each playing a single string.
When you take a drum set, you take it apart and six people can play. This allows you to get back to more interesting things related to collective creation and ensemble playing. It’s mostly about thinking that if I put a kid with something like this in his hands, he’ll play right away. If I put a six-string guitar in his hands, he doesn’t play, I have to fiddle with it, I have to put it in his lap and he has to take sticks to hit it, because that’s the only way he feels comfortable, because otherwise there are too many strings. With the spicaphone there is only one string: “Look, you can do toum toum toum just that, or Tooum Tooum Tooum Tooum simply on the beats.” And that’s it, it starts. This instrument costs only seven euros. These types of instruments, we say among ourselves that they are “crap”, reversing the meaning of the word!
I play with this instrument by fiddling with a lot of tricks; for example, I play with a cello bow. I also let them see that with an instrument like this with one string, you can also create sound materials. You can go as far as creating things with electronic means that are different from sound synthesis. They are very attracted by that; they wonder where the sounds come from when they see me playing. That’s what they’re interested in because suddenly they think it’s possible to do it. And as soon as it’s possible, they adhere, and they come. It’s a pedagogy that doesn’t consist in doing your scales for hours before being able to conceive of an artistic project. It’s a different attitude: approaching music right away, without going through this absolute obligation to learn your scales. However, I don’t talk about scales but about finger dexterity: to be at ease, I make them work on the speed of execution, to feel the fingers on the notes. But I don’t talk to them about notes or scales or things like that. In fact, they are building themselves on their own from that situation. And afterwards, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t the presence of a very sharp theoretical ground, since they are brought up to the point of writing texts, because everybody writes, on very precise rhythmic frames, it’s ultimately rhythmic solfège. You lead them into that, but in order to do that you have to go through a lot of practice beforehand. That is to say, we come back to how we ourselves learned to make music: it was very punk, you would take an instrument that you couldn’t play, you would lock yourself in some stuff, you would play, and then, afterwards, you would go into theory. The opposite works less well for me.
You’re not the only one who thinks that! [laughter]
Yes, I take the example of what we lost. Academic pedagogy bothers me today, it’s even found in rock music. I’m more than disappointed to see all these young people we’ve graduated – young and old – doing exactly what they criticized for years, I find it absurd. I remember meeting the inspectors who had recently come to Cefedemi for a sort of audit to find out what popular music was doing in a place like that. And the first thing they told me was that they were touring around France a bit because they couldn’t stand to see popular music behaving like classical music with scores in rock bands. I found that quite interesting. However, I’m not against scores…
I built a spicaphone for a young Kosovar girl, Aïsha, who had never studied music before. I don’t know what happened over there, but at first she didn’t speak, she was there, she was barely speaking to us. I told her: “You can do toum toum toum toum toum toum toum toum toum toum toum toum [he sings a melody], you can do whatever you want, or you can do toum toum toum toum toum toum [regular and on one pitch] and stay on the beats.” I explained to her: “We’ll turn some sounds (in a loop) and then you’ll play, and then you’ll see. Very shyly, she asked me how to do it: I told her to take the instrument, tap a rhythm, try to place one or two notes and see how it could work. It worked right away, there was direct contact. She started to play this way, she fell in love with the instrument, she wanted me to build one for her, and now she’s playing with it. We put an amplification system at her disposal, and she said that it didn’t sound the same anymore. But she started playing with it, with the idea of varying the sound. And later on, all of a sudden, they came to tell me that she had started to sing as well, even though she didn’t know how to do it, and that up to that point she didn’t even speak. In four years, we’ve seen her evolve and now she’s a leader! We didn’t know where she was going to position herself. She assumed a position.
I have tried with other instruments and it doesn’t work as well. That’s why I’m not the kind of guy who builds maracas out of Coca-Cola cans by putting rice in them.
What I find interesting is that the spicaphone is a real instrument.
Yes, it’s a real instrument, it’s not just a phony one.
d. The Residencies
Do the residencies take place during the school holidays?
Practically all the time. For the moment we have not made a residency outside school holidays. The first day, when we arrive, it takes a while to settle in. As there is a dance person, Sabrina Boukhenous, she is taking the whole group, while we install everything, so as not to lose time. At the end of the first day, there is the presentation of part of the dance: the group comes to present what they have done, and we introduce ourselves.
Once we’re settled in, on the second day we’re going to start getting the groups together, we’re going to focus during the second day on the writing workshop, because if there are fifteen, twenty people, we can do a writing workshop with fifteen, twenty people and make subgroups inside. We can do five groups of four, with four different topics. Once we have something solid in the writing workshop, we put them on stage right away, so that something emerges: even if they have only written twenty sentences, they have to get them out. As soon as the writing workshop is over, we keep 20 to 30 minutes, so that they can come and present what they have done. Things evolve very quickly, from one day to the next you realize that something has happened.
And then, on the third day, the music workshops on the instruments begin. The number of people is divided by period of time and they are rotated through the workshops. We make them discover all the instruments. They go around all the different instruments so that they can immediately touch them and play them, so that it puts them in a perspective of making sounds, because otherwise if we start playing the aliens ourselves with our instruments, they won’t get hooked, it’s not going to work.
Then they go to see the trombonist, Joël Castaing, he makes them try his instrument straight out. Then they go to Selim, the cellist, the same thing happens, they play and create something. In electro, we’re going to do the same thing using a computer to produce sounds. On drum set, she’s going to make them play, most of the time she makes them play freely at first, and then she tells them: “Well, you can also do that, you can add that, your bass drum can be there, and you can play together.” And then all of a sudden, as we have this single-stringed instrument, the spicaphone, with a bass sound, then we can make a link between the bass (the spicaphone) and the drums. There is also a vocal techniques workshop, with Thècle, a lyric singer, beat-boxer, who also does electro. Finally, Sébastien Leborgne (better known as Lucien 16S) takes them in a writing workshop. For a week, they get to see a little bit of everything that is possible to do. That’s how it goes. That’s the way it works when we work with them for the first time.
All the workshops meet together at the end of the period, we try each time to have between 3/4 of an hour and 1 hour on the final moment, at least, let’s say, over a week, at the end of the third day. We get them up on stage, in small groups, and we say, “Well, there you go! Play!” We let them play. At the beginning it’s pretty messy, but the mess is important, because all of a sudden it gets structured. Then, we tell them: “If, for example, we talk about a 4-beat, 5-beat, 7-beat meter; there are seven of you, we’re doing seven beats; you take one beat each.” They each have an instrument, it’s very simple, it creates a structure and then two people add texts, and that’s how it starts. Everything falls into place, and then suddenly they are told, “Paf! Improvisation moment!” They improvise freely and then we define a framework for their improvisation. That’s what I’ve been doing for years, very simple things. But these very simple things are the means of structuring the group; all of a sudden they play and find an interest in it. Every day we make them play and at the end of the week there is a concert. They play with a full house, at the Duchère, without pretension. For example, I remember there was a full house with the Préfecture’s delegate and other kids from very troubled neighborhoods. What we do with the Orchestre National Urbaini is not always easy for them, I thought they were going to burn us! Well, no, that went very well. The kids who get to perform, we don’t fill their heads with a bunch of rubbish, telling them “That’s it, you’re stars”, that’s absolutely not the case. Instead, we explain to them that it’s a job. We talk a lot with them, we accompany them, we get them into situations, we involve them, and that’s why we see them again afterwards. And so, at La Duchère, this is the fourth year that we have seen them. All this is done with very little material that we leave them to use between our interventions. We also make sure that the people in charge of the Youth Cultural Center (MJC)i manage to have equipment for the kids, so that all year long they can have a room and come to work there. And there are activity leaders who are starting to help them. So, it’s good that they help them, as long as they don’t help them too much and don’t divert them from their personal development. That’s why the activity leaders who ask for it can come here, to learn, or rather to dis-learn, so that they don’t format as usual kids who have things to say and who are the music of tomorrow.
e. The Writing Workshops
And there are text-writing workshops. Can you talk about their importance in the set-up?
Well, the importance is on many levels. First, it just means “writing”. In the many writing workshops that we organize, we realize more and more that people haven’t mastered the simple act of writing. The kids even less so. The texts don’t necessarily have to have rhythm, they do what they want. If they want to read aloud their text, they can. I’m not talking about rap, or slam, but of “spoken words” [in English in the text], period. Then, if it becomes rhythmic, it’s up to them. But for those who wish, we also teach them how to loop a text: if, for example, someone says: “My sentences I wish they sound like this”, then we determine the number of space-time, and if it is four (or five or other numbers) beats, how to work on four beats (or other basic numbers). The function of writing, for me, goes further than that. These are collective writing workshops, so there is a common thinking process through discussions on a topic chosen by the participants. And there are bound to be people who don’t necessarily agree among themselves, and that’s what’s interesting. It’s through discussion that the workshop begins: you start talking about something, you try to determine what the reasons might be for talking about it, it can get out of hand, then it calms down, there is an exchange of ideas, and then all of a sudden there is a common thinking process. But we don’t do anything in there. In other words that the thinking process must be carried out between them. We are simply there to be the time keepers: after enough debate, at some point they have to get down to writing. We provide them with writing techniques, we see how it goes in terms of syntax and the vocabulary search. It is clear that writing allows the person to develop a social structuring. We feel this especially in this type of writing, because we are not in a situation where writing is detached from social realities. For me, the beneficial effect of this activity is at 100%. And then there is the problem of how to deliver the text on stage – I’m more likely to call it sound poetry with text declamation. What do they do with it? Rhythm or no rhythm, it doesn’t matter. They simply need to be able to engage in a project, in a space-time. They are told: “There, you are now presenting something to us”. And it’s up to them to make their own montage, the relationship between what the text is saying, the content of the reflection, the choice of music and so on.
f. The Organization of the First Residency
Could you describe the first moment of the first workshop? It seems to me that there are almost three profiles of intervening people from outside, with the eight workshops. So, what is the possible path for one of these people? What makes him or her enter the place at a certain moment and what does s/he do when s/he arrives? And then there would be the same description for the move of one of your eight members of the Orchestre National Urbaini: what do you do before, during and after? Are the eight workshops at the same time or not? And then afterwards, could you describe what a person working in the host structure does, but who is not one of your eight, or what the audience who comes to participate does?
Do you remember what you just said to me there?
Yeah. [laughs] So, maybe the easiest thing: are all eight workshops taking place at the same time, for example? How does it work at the beginning? You’re there all eight of you, all the time?
One must always adapt to the context, i.e. one can never predict that, from this time to this time, everyone will intervene at the same time. We are always there as a group. We only take the children for two hours a day, but then we work full-time from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Within that time, we dedicate two full hours for the children, and then it’s up to their families. Because we have to take into account the fact that they may have another activity: if they have a soccer activity in the afternoon, we take them in the morning, or the other way around – I say soccer or something else. Everybody is there all the time, because what is important is that the trombonist is not just centered on his instrument and then he can’ t understand what is going on. There’s a constant relationship between the members of the staff, that means that everyone is rotating all the time. But there is a time when you have to fix things too. The kids have to really pass through all the situations, even if they’re not attracted to a particular one. You make them understand how important this particular instrument can be, for example, in a group like the Orchestre National Urbain and what role it plays. Whether you like it or not, you have to go through it. It’s for example the children who come and say: “But I only want to be behind a computer to make instrusi”. We say, “OK, but you have to understand how a text is set up, so you can compose music for people who make texts”, and all of a sudden it works. I have a recent example, at La Duchère, of a young boy who had difficulty performing his text on stage: we talked a lot, we made him feel confident, the second time it was already better. But then he found himself behind the machines on a pad sending sound, and there he was super comfortable; when he came back to the text, it completely freed him. They all have that polyvalence there. That is, we want them to rotate. Because in the relationship between the text and the other sounds, we talk about interaction, we never talk about accompaniment. Because we don’t accompany the text, we interact with it, it’s improvisation. So, with the one who is performing the text, there are four or five who interact. After letting one or two texts go by, he or she finds himself or herself doing the music. One is at the service of the other all the time, and I think that’s very important, not to start saying that we have separately a group of singers or of a group of musicians. No, all of them have to have a fairly strong polyvalence.
We will say that most of the time, they’re willing to go for it. Rarely have we had kids who didn’t want to do something. But there are also those who don’t know at the beginning what they want to do. For example, Aïcha, who I already mentioned, who didn’t talk at all at the beginning. And then some of them only want to do one thing and others on the contrary want to do everything.
During the workshops, do you work in different rooms, or are you always in the same place where the sound mixes? When working on electronics, and you with the spicaphone, are you in different rooms?
Yes, or when it’s not too loud, it’s possible to work in the same space. There are also workshops that can be joined together. For example, in the dance workshop it can be interesting to have the presence of the musicians participating in the rhythm workshop, there can be this relationship. It all depends on the space, because if you go to a place where you have enough space, you’re going to be able to organize things as you wish, and if you only have two rooms, you’re going to have to deal with that. That means that the workshops are set up according to the available space. Depending on the location, it is not always possible to have all eight instructors working at the same time.
And all of you, you are on stage with them to perform with them?
No, no, we don’t play, we don’t accompany them, that’s not the point, they are the ones who perform. Many people always say to me, “Ah, but it would be nice if you played with them.” I answer, “No, they’re the ones playing.” That’s the most important thing for them. It’s up to them to take the initiative. That’s it, we know how to do it, but it’s up to them to do it, it’s not up to us. I really care, and I always tell everyone, “You don’t perform for them, you leave it to them, the ball is in their court.” Then there is also a negotiation with the people I recruit in the Orchestre National Urbain it is to know if they are prepared to share their instrument But that’s another story.
Do you consider that out of the two hours in a day, there is one hour of workshop and one hour of work with the large group?
Yes, they are mainly prepared to perform. For me, I break it up: the first day, after the dance workshop, it’s a big group meeting, we let them see who we are and what we do; the second day they start to present us something from the writing workshop and the third day, well, they start to really play, that is, they’re all really in a real situation. From then on, when we have a lot of them, we’re not going to have an 8-10 band on stage, it’s useless at first, but we’re going to form groups, trios, quartets, and then mix them up. On Friday, we really prepare them to present something on stage, we talk to them about a sound check as well. It’s not just about playing, it’s not just about creating a piece, it’s also about how to do a sound check, how to work with a person who’s on sound amplification, how to work with a person who’s on lights. We don’t mean a stage coach like, “I’m going to go like this”. We are absolutely against that idea. They are very free in their postures. And it’s the same for dance: we don’t make them dance so that they dance, but so that they become aware of the reality of their bodies, because we make them understand that it’s the body that produces music, that when they play, you have to be aware of the body. But it’s not to make them into dancers, absolutely not. It’s not that. I mean, especially the body at that age, what do you do with it? To really release a lot of stress. And then it’s also about awareness of rhythm, because we’re on very rhythmic music.
So, you were describing two hours and all that, but I guess on Friday they’re not just there for two hours?
No, they come earlier. But they are always there, right! When we’re here, they’re in other rooms, they work everywhere. At La Duchère for example, they spend as much time in other rooms where they work. Because now the thing is on its way, and us, we only take them for two hours.
During residency, what did the kids do when they weren’t with you for two hours?
They were working in a lot of other rooms; they were rehearsing what they had started working with us. They’re not all there from 9:00 to 6:00, because you’ve got some who were doing sports or other things. But there was still a small core that was there all the time without any other commitments. They were free. For that, you have to come across directors of facilities who are open-minded, and to say that we are not going to compartmentalize our cultural activities by telling young people to come only from such and such an hour. The stays open and then if the rooms are not occupied – anyway there are such large spaces at La Duchère – they can work undisturbed. And then, in the end, there are not so many activities during the day. Because you have a theater space and things like that, where it’s for adults who only come in the evening.
And you were talking about the times when you chat a lot with them. How do these conversations disorganize and organize themselves?
We will sit with them. I remember a young boy who arrived who had a very virulent text that was not actually from him. He had a vision of what he wanted to do. A bit hardcore, but hardcore rap, but in everything he said, you could feel it wasn’t coming from him. So, I crashed into him. It was a pretty hard clash. The next day he came over and he thanked me, because he said, “Yeah, I finally understood…” Because I had said to him: “There you are not being yourself, you have to write down what you are yourself; there you are hiding behind a person, so we will never see you as who you are; if you want to be yourself, you have to be yourself.” That’s an interesting discussion, because when you arrive and they’re full of illusions about “what music is, what music mean…” There is the misconception that success is mandatory. This is not true. Once again we are faced with a gap between the realities of the professional world and the idea they have of the star system, the Star académie and so on, all that crap that does not do us any good. When we arrive, we tell them: “Well, no, it doesn’t work like that.” When I arrive with a piece of wood to play with, well, they burst out laughing, or tin cans, they’re laughing hard. Then, when I start to play, they laugh less. These discussions are there to give meaning to actions. And if the whole team is there, it’s to help them and to raise them into something a little more interesting than what the media make them believe. I mean, especially the ones they watch and listen to. Luckily, not all media are like that. These are discussions that are long and interesting, and it’s completely thought-provoking, without resorting to some kind of guru diktat and saying that things have to be absolutely like this or that. It’s more like saying, “If you want to be yourself, this is not the way things happen.” That’s part of the discussion. And also, there are discussions about attitudes, such as the relationship between boys and girls. There’s even talk about homosexuality. When we say that we don’t talk about sex, we can still say that homosexuality exists and that it is not a crime. There are little things like that that we need to talk about. We also talk about drugs. That means that we’re in a landscape where everywhere there are drugs and it’s not good drugs, it’s shit! Because now there’s starting to be crack in every street corner. And then, worse than that, there’s another crack shit coming and they’re the ones who are going to be the victims. So, we also do prevention. I’m working a lot on that. And these are discussions that seem to me as important as making music. And that’s the role we take on. But if you don’t take on that role, what are you going to get? We’re not going to make them into animals making music, and then you take away the score, and it’s: nothing works anymore. You have to go further. I don’t have a score, I don’t have it, there’s no score [laughter]. The discussion is not prepared, it is done as needed, like when, all of a sudden, you have a child who is going to arrive disturbed for X reasons. Or on the contrary, because they are not only disturbed, you have a kid who can arrive in a fantastic top form, he has achieved something, well we are going to discuss it, we are going to share it with everyone. And then you have one or the other who has a big problem, a big worry, so we are going to talk about it. In any case, we don’t say: “No, no, wait, we’re not social workers.” I don’t know what that means. So, you have to be a little bit ready to listen and to serve the people in front of you. I don’t think we’re in a situation where we’re giving a course. We’re not going to give a half-hour class and then go home, that’s not how we see things.
Let’s go back over the whole story. So, the round of loopers, the workshops on Tuesday afternoon with Lucas, the external musician paid by the Lyon Conservatory. Lucas, who is not part of the Orchestre National Urbain, what is his role?
He’s there during the residency because he’s looking after all these children. He acts as an intermediary and he ensures continuity – because if you have them once a year in a residency you won’t see them all the time – by developing things with them. Between the first and second residency, a one-year time span, they evolve, they continue. That is to say that we invited the children to come here, it was Lucas who brought them, to work with other groups of their age here, to program them in the Crapul festival at the Kraspek [a concert place in Lyon; Crapul for Carrefour des Rencontres Artistiques Pluriculturelles Urbaines de Lyon], it was the first time they were going to perform, they were coming down from La Duchère. So, what was fabulous was – I would have liked to have had all the politicians present – to have had veiled women, their parents who came to Kraspek, it’s not bad at all. And then they played. But they played a real project, it wasn’t: “Ah! Between the little Arabs of our neighborhood and then the violets, oranges, of people of all colors, we did something.” No, that’s not it. It’s: they worked their brains out to make a creation together, right, and then they found themselves on stage freaking out and saying: “Well, we’re in a place, we don’t really understand this sardine tin, what it is…” It was crowded up front, and all of a sudden, they played. And then it was frrrrt, the trick… And Lucas’s role was to think about how the interaction with the young people from here and his own is going, how we, on our side, make our people work, and how he, on his side, makes his own work so that it comes together. And so that’s how this research is conducted. For me, it was completely successful. And this year, during the Crapul festival at the Kraspek this week, those we worked with from La Duchère will perform on the last day. They’re going to play with headliners of former students, for example Balir, who is thirty-seven or thirty-eight years old, who came to Cra.p, when he was fifteen, and who has a career now, so I called him and he agreed to perform. The idea of bringing in a guy like that, who is known in this milieu at the youth level, is also not to give them illusions, but to show that in fact it is possible to do it. This link seems important to me, so that over time, it won’t be worn out. What interests me is to have Aïcha and all these young girls who have grown up come here next year, for example, so that we can offer them training (they don’t have the means to pay for it): 1st, 2nd, 3rd cycles, as we do with everyone, after getting them into the DEMi – if there is no more DEM, all the better, because that’s starting to tire me out – to see at what level they will arrive with a real group in which they will play and why not enter higher education program, present themselves for a diploma course and leave with a degree. This so that they, in turn, in their neighborhood, can redevelop things in connection with the conservatory. Thus, finally, we will be able to offer young people from a deprived community some work. In a neighborhood like La Duchère today – I remind you and you can keep the recording and say it very loudly – the amplified popular music [Musiques actuelles amplifiées] is a disaster area, because some people have put a monopoly on a certain place, and no one goes there and certainly no citizen of La Duchère. That’s the kind of struggle I’m waging… if I manage to do it before I get killed….
III. Cra.p, An Art Center
The Cra.p has now become an art center because the way of working there is completely different from what we used to do before. It’s no longer just a training center. There are workshops in which students, people and groups have a lot of autonomy. And then we signed agreements with the diffusion partners. So, everyone performs a lot, because that’s what I missed the most until now.
For you, getting people to perform is not part of their training program?
Maybe it’s information, or disinformation, I don’t know, but it’s not just about workshops anymore, even if they continue to be very powerful moments over one or two days. Then we provide spaces where everyone should be able to work independently. After three months, we can already feel a considerable change in commitment. It’s really better, and it also allows us to take on more people.
I think that all teaching ought to increasingly take this form.
I think it’s obvious now, we can see that the rest is not working well. Well, it works for a while, until a certain age, we’ll say, children until a certain age, and after that, it doesn’t work anymore, so people leave and disappear.
You say that the Cra.p is no longer a training center but an art center. So pedagogy, training, what is it for you?
In fact, for me there are two things:
- In the first place, if we put things back in perspective, I am not a teacher, I don’t have any teacher status, I haven’t had teacher training, education training or anything like that. Rather, there’s a recognition of the work of sharing that I’ve done. Pedagogy I don’t know if that’s what I do. I was told that I’ m doing pedagogy but I didn’t even know that. It’s more about making music, doing things and sharing them. In fact, I lost that a little bit for a few years, hiding behind some kind of label, it wasn’t even me who found it. But I was told I was a pedagogue dude and all that, and it was becoming a little too institutional and too formal for me. I think that for me and the team I work with, it lost meaning in the actions we were able to carry out.
- All of a sudden, I consider myself more like an artist-musician, but without pretension. This means that it’s my job to share things, a passion and a job I do rather than to conduct a certified academic pedagogy. There is no certificate of what one does, and that’s what interests me, because certification makes me more and more afraid when I see what is going on in my pedagogical environment. Because, for years I was one of the people who worked in the excitement at the birth of amplified popular music until the opening of the diploma course and I saw shifts that worry me much more today than they reassure me. That’s why I don’t want to continue with this kind of reflection or this kind of work. And there, every time I go somewhere (I come back from Morocco for example) and I meet people, I play too, so I make people see something of what I do, and I get them to play a lot. The idea, in fact, is to bring them right away into an artistic project rather than a project where pedagogy is more important than art. The idea is to put people in situations even if they are not artists, so it changes the approach we have with people, we perceive them in a different way.
Two weeks ago, I experienced some pretty amazing things, I still put all the people I was working with on stage, some unexpected things happened, for me, but then even more for them. There were people with psychological problems who were unable to speak and putting them into an artistic project process unlocked a lot of things. I think it’s more interesting to do it that way. If I had talked to them about pedagogy, I would have locked them even more into their problem. Here’s the philosophical thinking, it tends to go more in that direction, it’s to say that it’s not a mutation, but a return to when I was much younger than that: we were more, as a group, sharing things, rather than as pseudo-teachers who tell people how to do things. Coming back to those sources, that’s something completely fascinating for me. This is why I say today that Cra.p is not an educational center – moreover this has never been the case, these are only headings that imposed themselves at a certain moment, but in fact this is not true, it was not the right thing to say – but it is an art center, a meeting place for multicultural artistic crossbreeding. It is a place open to many things that does not lock itself into a single specialization. I remember when, Jean-Charles, you said that Giacomo is a guy who makes people work in rap but who doesn’t do rap himself, and that’s a little bit like that, going back to the idea that we’re not in an absolute specialization of pedagogy, it’s open to a lot of things. In any case, we can see that there is a permanent recycling of the art, and so we must avoid closing ourselves up.
Just one point, in an ironic way…
Doesn’t everything you say have to do with pedagogy?
Maybe, yes, maybe that’s the word.
What you say is based on a long experience that has been passionately devoted to pedagogy to a very large extent. Moreover, I agree 100% with what you say.
Yes, but then maybe it’s the deviation of the jargon.
Well, the jargon, everyone has some! But it may also be a question of institutionalization, of the influence of those who control the institutions.
But right now, where are the obstacles? What is the attitude of the people you face when you tell them that we’re going to make them work on an educational project? And how are they going to react when you tell them on the contrary that we’re going to put them in a situation where they’re going to embark on an artistic project? How will they feel? You, you have a rather powerful experience in this, so you have the rhetoric and the quick understanding of the reactivity, I’m not sure that ordinary people, younger, who have less experience, and who are not completely in the field, have the same reaction, it’ s more those that I deal with.
It’s obvious. You’re not going to start by meeting people and telling them that we’re going to piss them off for six months with workshops.
Yes, but you can piss them off and tell them right away that they’re going to learn things first and only then will they be able to fulfill their artistic dreams.
Yes, there is some pedagogy. But I never said that I was a pedagogue, it was the others who said it for me. In the beginning I didn’t even know what it meant, to tell you that I was quite ignorant. The trick is to share things, but as I experienced it when I was a blue-collar worker: there were old people who taught me the trade, I was an apprentice; well, I didn’t have a book and they told me, “Here, we’re going to make this thing, we’ll show you and you’re going to put your hands in it.” It was very manual, and I understood a lot of things thanks to the old people because otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to make it my trade.
In conservatories we find the case of people who are suspicious of pedagogy and who put the emphasis on the long-term artistic project, but who tell their students that in the meantime they must practice scales. It is not enough to say that one is going to make an artistic project from the outset without there being mechanisms to achieve it.
I would rather say that we are here to help with the experience we have, because the idea of “training” also bothers me a lot. You have to help give birth to an artistic project to a person, and to what he or she is himself or herself. I don’t know how to do scales, because I haven’t learned to do that. I know there are people who do it very well, but we’ll never do it. We don’t do repeats, we don’t learn music by retaking over a piece, I don’t believe in it at all.
I didn’t say all this to imply that this is what you are doing, but to try to further reflect on what you are telling us and start a debate with you.
My approach is mainly based on the mirror of what people send back to me and what they ask me, and from there to take into consideration where they are at. This means that it is impossible to build oneself alone, I don’t believe in it at all, it doesn’t exist anyway. And if today I have tools, and I have a lot of work to do in this field, and I’m quite happy about it, satisfied with what’s happening – I can never be satisfied enough – it’s thanks to all the people I’ve met over the last 30 years, they’re the ones who influenced me, it’s not me who influenced them, that’s obvious. In fact, when you want to try to keep that, it’s less comfortable, because all of a sudden, when you make that choice, you get away from a lot of things: for example, you quit teaching at a national music school because you don’t agree with the current pedagogical behavior, you don’t work with just anyone, you get completely marginalized, you become an electron completely outside the cultural world. It can go a long way; it can even go as far as not being programmed in certain places because we are against it. That’s one way of looking at it. But where I’m quite satisfied, well, quite happy today, is that I see that in fact there is a much younger population that thinks more and more in this way, and that everything else is becoming quite “has been.” It’s a bit my way of thinking from the beginning that is being questioned: I got caught in the mousetrap, now I have to get out of it [laughter].
This is my fault.
No, it’s not the case. But you were not alone, I will provide some names: Gérard Authelain and Camille Roy.
You were a whole gang. What’s interesting, if I pick up on what you’re saying, is that you have a way of naming things that is hyper situated in the place and time you are, this in interaction with the people you’re talking to. And it’s precisely because you manage to have fairly precise descriptions of ways of organizing things, as you’ve just done at La Duchère, that you can develop a discourse in relation to acts. I would say that what you are doing is research, in relation to what I am working on. Then the people from teacher’s training centers will be able to say that it’s pedagogy because that’s their word, and others will say that it’s an artistic practice, each group of people can use their own key words.
Of course. I leave it up to the people to give the label. When Eddy Schepens tells me that I am not an artist, but a craftsman, I answer him: “If you want.” I don’t question his own way of looking at things.
And then do you take the proposals into account and try to see what it allows you to say and do?
Yes of course. I think that if I can reflect today, and see things from different aspects, it’s because I have experienced all these things through actions. Otherwise I would not be as comfortable – and I am not quite there yet – I can see that there is a transformation to be accomplished, one cannot separate oneself from the movement of the population, from what it is experiencing politically, from what it is experiencing socially. I don’t think you can separate culture from that, so it’s necessary to constantly renew thinking in connection with what’s going on. What bothers me about the pedagogical side of the word “pedagogical”, where it has its weight, is that it’s a method: there are some who adopt methods that are 150 years old, that’s fine, but 150 years ago we didn’t live as we do today. All these backward-looking people bore me deeply because that’s why it doesn’t work, and that’s why this word pedagogy has unfortunately changed a bit. The word pedagogy bothers me a lot today, and that’s why I’ve completely discarded it. It’s a rather easy solution to pretend to do pedagogy, in order to put oneself on a pedestal. Being a pedagogue should mean that it means managing others, and that’s not insignificant. It gives power over others, and that’s what worries me a bit about the use of this word today.
I have a passion for many things, whether it is music, painting or any other art. But it’s above all when it comes to the meeting of the arts that I see things that completely annoy me. I tell myself that we are going to hit a wall: there is nothing, or very few interesting things coming out. We can see that it is a recuperation by the artist’s vision full of glitter and flicker bling-bling. It’s too black and white for me all this, and then there’s nothing else around, it doesn’t relate to reality. If we take music as a case in point, it’s really a catastrophe today, so what should we do next? Recently, I was in Morocco and I filmed a band playing on the Medina square in Meknes, with rotten equipment. They were surrounded by people, it was full to bursting point, with veiled women, everyone was dancing, it was good playing, it was very roots [in English in the text]. So, I said to myself, this is the truth of artistic communication. It was of Islamophobia day, so I filmed it and I sent it to the whole world, to France from everywhere, and everyone responded that it was great. I thought, yes, it was great, except that when you see someone in a veil it pisses you off too. You just have to remember that we’re actually experiencing cultural shifts that are quite interesting. Today, I’m paying attention to labels that can lock us into a caste. When I am told “You are a teacher”, I answer “No”, I am not a teacher, because I don’t have the status of a teacher. The headings, the titles, the labels, that’s what hides the whole problem a little bit. It’s too easy to manipulate. The titles we give people, that worries me a lot.
IV. Political Politics and Citizen Politics
How do you see the context of Cra.p, today, in relation to the political context in general?
I could say that right now I have one position, and on Sunday I might have another [the Sunday in question was the day of the European elections] [laughter]. I’m doubly annoyed, because I could have escaped to Italy, but it’s worse there. So, I’m caught in a stranglehold.
If I look back over the past thirty years, well, there have been some very chaotic moments politically, because what’s quite interesting sociologically on that period is that we’ve actually had a lot of changes: we’ve had several governments, several attitudes, people running local communities providing grants who have changed, it’s been a bit of a roller coaster ride, and now it’s starting to stabilize. But it’s stabilizing because, since I made the proposal with the Orchestre National Urbaini for undertaking such work, all of a sudden, things are really opening up, and I find that politicians are taking a serious look at the problems. But it is linked to a context, for me, much more worrying, in other words that there is a form of global radicalization of thought, and not just of religious thought. I’m talking about global thoughts, I’m not just talking about Islam or anything, or even Christians or Jews. I’m not talking about religion, I’m talking about a context of mindsets that are changing. In fact, it’s a mess all the same: the proposal I made with the Orchestre National Urbain called into question the ways of doing things, especially ours, in relation to the people we reach – people who very often have no access to anything. But all of a sudden, politicians take hold of this kind of proposal, even today, they are very fond of it. So, in what I call political politics, an exchange is happening, leaders are finally starting to think and understand things. Because during the thirty years we fought, they didn’t understand all the time. They are beginning to understand, but not all of them. I think it’s an interesting development, but it’s also because we have a lot of arguments to present today. It means that we started from a situation where we had nothing. The State authorities [the DRACi] didn’t know where to put us, so we had to create a new box which consists of saying that the aesthetics linked to urban music are of vital importance, and this box has finally been taken into account by politicians. But it has taken more than twenty-five years of struggle so that today – we’ll say since about five or six years ago – we are more peaceful and serene at work. For me, there is political politics, that is to say, politicians, and then there is what I am going to call citizen politics: it is this one that interests me, because it is those who are on the street who are doing politics, not those who say, “That’s the way to do it,” in any case, they don’t do anything. And there, I have a lot of doubts about citizen politics at the moment. I have a lot of doubts, because I have the good fortune to work with both people from higher education and people from the lower regression. When you go to a neighborhood where there’s nothing left, it’s a no-man’s land, there are only lawless zones, even the cops don’t go there. You’re going to try to install things culturally, but there’s a gap that has grown so wide, such a big divide, that makes some people wonder why we come, they don’t see the point, and that’s what worries me the most. In fact, they no longer understand the cultural interest that we bring to them and what kind of socialization development this will produce. But those who don’t understand are not the people in the neighborhood but those who are in charge around it. For example, some leaders among social workers have created a real divide. And then there’s another gap that worries me more and more: in fact, I try to do regular work with people from higher education, who are in the educational training centers, but there’s no way to make connections. In other words, we try to put things in place in connection with these neighborhood populations, but people don’t feel like it, they don’t want to do it. These are the aspects of citizen politics that worry me a lot, in fact, we’re going right into the wall. I’m afraid that in a short period of time it’s going to produce uninteresting results, because there’s such a strong split. In the teacher training centers, there is a lack of reflection around questions concerning cultural practices in the deprived neighborhoods, the links that we are trying to develop between the Cra.p and these institutions are not working well. There are forms of refusal that are expressed, where all of a sudden you feel that one is singling out a public by saying “Well, that’s good, but that’s not a culture I’m interested in,” and that’s felt physically.
And I think we had a hump in the 1990s: in 1989 exactly, when the Cra.p association was born, there was such a big gap between aesthetics! In 1992 or 1993, things were happening, and we were heading towards a rather interesting ground. For example, there was that famous meeting in 1998 between rappers and classical musicians from Cefedemi, we really had gone up a step. For me, now, we’re going in the other direction, it’s completely fallen off. Gangrene has already taken its place. It will take a long time to get out of this hole. And I think that if we don’t gather more forces to reflect on this, we are heading for difficult times; but I’ve been talking about this problem for thirty years. So, from the point of view of politics, all of a sudden, politicians are very fond of any proposal along these lines: we now have a lot of support for the project of the National Urban Orchestra. We even signed an agreement with Grand Lyon Agglomeration, a kind of labeling. The Prefecture is very supportive, as is the city of Lyoni.
If we consider Cra.p’s cultural policy from the beginning, it was to say: “We’re going to open our doors to people who are nowhere, and see how we can bring them through diverse and varied encounters to enter higher education.” At one point, we thought about how these kids, one day, could go to higher education institutions. I’m still fighting on this, but for me, it’s not yet won. With the Orchestre National Urbain, we have put it back on track, again we’ve created trouble, which has consisted of saying: “What do we do, do we go or don’t we go?” We’re starting to get interesting results, because the fact that we’re working in many neighborhoods and districts of the region and throughout the whole Agglomeration, has allowed us to invite young people who make music and animation to enter into training here at the Cra.p. Thus, several of them came to work with us this year in order to bring them to the State Diplomai, the famous diploma that would allow them to work and be considered on an equal footing with the others. It’s working well. But it goes further than that: it is also how these people meet each other. I’ll take an example of a young person we spotted a little over a year ago during a master class in the Lyon 8th arrondissement. As we were talking, we felt that he had things to say and that he was already experimenting things on his own. He told us: “How do you deal with all these people who have jobs in activity leadership with a minimum of qualifications, because, as they don’t make some sacred music, as their practice is considered as underclass music, you can’t give them a diploma.” It is this kind of state of affairs that revolts me. I told him to come and work with us, he’s been with us for a year now and it’s going really well. We’re going to take him to a diploma program, in the hope that he’ll get a diploma through a training program in relation to the work he does on Wednesdays with the kids from the 8th arrondissement neighborhood in Lyon. When I say that it goes further than that, I mean that he himself meets a lot of other people here, and not only those who are part of the culture he practices. What interests me is to see how he can work with people who come from classical music, contemporary music, jazz, etc. When I report this on the outcome indicators, it can only be beneficial at the moment vis-à-vis the political decision-makers who help us.
Coming back to the question of the history of current politics – citizen politics and political politics – what has reversed now is less concern about the decision-makers, because they have understood, but more concern about the public itself. Since we are in direct contact with the Prefecture, we are happy to be able to meet its delegate. So all of a sudden they are interested: there is a result.
It’s not that there is no expression from those who live in the deprived neighborhoods, it’s that there is nothing. If they do it they do it in their corner. We just did a week’s residency at the MJC [Youth Cultural Center] of Rilleux-la-Pape. Oddly enough, we didn’t have many children, and all those we tried to hook up, to come and rehearse what they wanted to do on their own, stayed outside the MJC, but didn’t want to go inside. But this was not because of our presence, it was something that already existed before. There is a gap between all the cultural places in the neighborhoods and the people who live there. And since when has this gap existed? Since the birth of SMACi – and I don’t spit on the birth of SMAC. I myself knew what there was before the SMACs, I was one of the people who did a lot of work in all the MCJsi in the region: I used to leave with a flyer, with a sampler, with a drum machine, etc., and with a colleague, we used to do workshops in all the MCJs, we had a fairly large network. In those days, kids would gladly come and take part. When all of a sudden, the labeling of the Scènes des Musiques Actuelles Amplifiées, the famous SMAC, was launched, there was a kind of call for air for a public coming from outside the neighborhood. Obviously, it’s much more interesting to go to a SMAC now, because when you’re doing rock or any kind of music, you’d better go there. Before this public didn’t go there, because it was the MJCs. There was then a much more popular aspect of culture in the MCJs and all of a sudden there was a kind of elitism, even in rock, which worries me a lot, and it pushes all the minorities aside. So, let’s take some very simple examples: there are a lot of guys who were doing hip hop dance workshops in the MCJs and got fired. That means that when you fire one person, the whole population goes with who gets fired. It’s a phenomenon that goes back to the 1960s and 1970s, when they put all the minorities back in their place, because they provided chicken coops for them, they put them back in, they get them stuck in there, they build great facilities in the community where they live and they don’t have access to them. It is a whole other population that comes from outside that uses the place. That’s where the gap is. That’s an empirical observation. It’s more than shameful when I see that! That’s why, when I come with the Orchestre National Urbain, I’m not always welcome! It’s war! When I arrive I say: “These kids, we have to take them, we have to bring them back, and then they have to have a job; because they are from there (it’s not only because they are from there), they have the right like the others, they are taxpayers.” And there, to make people understand that, well, it’s a crazy job! It’s a crazy job! And when I talk about this gap to young people who don’t have financial problems, who live normally and more comfortably for some, and when they are asked to make an effort to make things change, very few come forward. So that’s why I say we’re in a regression. Finally, it’s a loop, we have a real obsessive-compulsive disorder. I feel like I’m fourteen again when, in the Salle des Rancy MJC, I was told at the time: “Come and help us sand canoes and kayaks”. With all the friends, the local losers, we sanded canoes and kayaks. And when we had to leave in June for the Ardèche, all the little bourgeois of the area left and we stayed here. That’s the canoe-kayak effect. And so we are in the process of returning to this situation. That’s what worries me today. That’s why it’s malfunctioning all over the place. In fact it’s very simple, it’s not new, that’s why there are kids who fall under the grip of the fundamentalists of any religious or political community, or with drugs and extremes, leading them to say: “Well, here I have a task; over there I don’t have a task. There I don’t have a job.” Because there is no job either. Myself, I’m not far from quitting, I’ve been doing this for more than thirty years. It’s not that I want to do anything else, but when I retire what am I going to do? Am I going to drop everything? Am I going to run away? No. I want to do more things, but I also want more people to worry a little bit. There’s still a fracture, whether we like it or not. And that’s why everyone up there says, “But no, the kids from the neighborhoods have to go to higher education.” That’s the fashion these days. But it’s not just a fad, you have to think more about that.
Yes, because on the government side about higher education and the Grandes Ecoles we hear the opposite narrative: meritocracy must take precedence over this aspect you describe.
In what you have developed, there is the idea of a ditch, a gap. The pretext for our meeting was the idea of “Breaking down the walls.” In the ditch, there is a kind of depth and width, and you also use the term gap. Does that change things, a little bit, that formulation or not?
With the wall, you don’t see what’s on the other side. For me with the gap there is a hole, but you still see what’s happening on the other side. That’s how I see it. If I go back to our history, in May 1989 we created the Cra.p, and in November the Berlin Wall came down. All of a sudden it gave us a kick in the ass, and I think that strongly reinforced our motivations. We were being challenged as well. All our walls were graphitized and a symbolism was set in motion. And the story of the wall, the walls that there are now, the idea of bringing them down, yes, I’m for it, but at the same time, what’s behind them? The gap is rather visible and how do you build a bridge so that it will pass over this hole? What bridge? What passageway? And there isn’t one. Here [the interview took place at the Cra.p headquarters, in the Guillotière neighborhood in Lyon], we are in a neighborhood that is, I remind you, on the other side of the bridge [Guillotière is separated by a bridge on the Rhône to what is called in Lyon the “presqu’île” (peninsula)]. There is also a café called “L’autre côté du pont” [The other side of the bridge]. It is not for nothing that we are called “The other side of the bridge.” I was born there. What you have to know is that on the other side of the bridge, therefore, the “presqu’île”, there it was absolute comfort, in every sense of the word, and here it was absolute shit in every sense of the word. Because here it was one of the most rotten neighborhoods: there were slums everywhere. My father when he arrived was living in a room in a rotten shanty town that went all the way to La Part-Dieu. When I was a kid, there was still the military infantry barracks, even the cavalry barracks, in the place of La Part-Dieu, and all around you had small shacks with small factories, it was filthy as hell. At first there were only Italian emigrants, because one of them came, and he made everyone come. After 1962, the Algerians arrived, and so on. But we are on the other side of the bridge. Once again, it is the bridge that makes this connection. And we were always looking on that other side. And when you reached a certain age you could go to the other side of the bridge. But when you would go there, it was to smash other gangs’ faces in, and often on December 8 [in Lyon, this is a festive day: “La Fête des Lumières”]. Because it was a different world there. I’m more interested in these kinds of divides than in the idea of the wall, because the wall, for me, hides something. In fact, it’s good to be able to see if what is opposite is reachable so that you can consider doing something. There you go, I rather have these concepts of gap/divide and bridge in my vision.
The gap comes from what I said before: there was a time when we got to do things. We went uphill, and then wham! it cracked again. And why? I’m not a sociologist, but I think we should certainly look into how it is that all of a sudden, we find ourselves faced with a phenomenon of decline, and that it’s always a minority that ends up on the streets! As we have all the kids from the Painlevé School with us all year round [the Cra.p premises are in this elementary school] – we study this a little – we see some extremely interesting reactions: it’s a school where they welcome everyone, even the Gypsies, they don’t discriminate, even people from the CLIS (Class for School Inclusion), mentally handicapped people who are mixed with the other children. It’s the children’s behavior that interests us, and that’s where the problem starts: when you see for example a little Gypsy girl sitting down, she gets up, there’s never another one to sit in her place. Yet they are first, second and third generation children, people of color. They don’t sit where the Gypsy girl sat because she is plague-stricken. There are a lot of attitudes like that, so what do we do? What do we do with these kids? Because the problem we have in some neighborhoods, for example, is that there is homophobia and racism. If we reminded them of what their parents experienced in terms of racism, I don’t know if they would understand. There is a radicalization that is very, very, very disturbing, there is a fascism close to Nazism in the neighborhoods. Because we’ve created all that: if you leave people alone and you don’t give them anything anymore, what do they do? They go crazy! And I think that’s it, we’ve kind of given up on cultural exchange at all levels. Jacques Moreau (director of the Cefedem AuRAi), last year, came here, at Cra.p, with Colombian musicians: they were talking about the problems they had with the public in Colombia, which is obviously not on the same scale as here, we don’t live in the same country. But I told them: “You certainly have a problem, but it’s not the same as ours.” We have such a strong colonial past in France that today we have to deal with all the communities that are coming, and with those that are already here. So it’s both a richness and a hair-splitting headache that is not so easy to put in motion. But it has to be done, and if we don’t do it, we’re dead. And that’s what’s happening. We don’t do it. National Education has given up, completely, nothing happens at the schools anymore. I have kids who go to school, when I see what they bring me I think they are crazy. As I said before, in the circle of social centers, it’s dead. What do we do? We do education for only certain people in the social centers. And today you have thousands of music schools in the social centers. And on the other side we have the MJCs. We have a stratum, like this, boxes to put the population in. I say it’s not bad, but what’s the connection? Okay, we work like this because we can’t put everyone in the same place anyway. But is there a link between these institutions? Is there a dialogue between them? This is where the heart of the political question lies: today these links do not exist. I keep fighting and telling them this. We did a lot of work for two years at Pôle Neuf, in the ninth arrondissement of Lyon, we work a lot with the ninth, all over La Duchère, and Pôle Neuf is the MJC Saint-Rambert. Saint-Rambert is a quarter where it’s perhaps the most affluent area of Lyon, where all the great footballers have their houses, and all that… Next to it is the completely destitute workers’ cité of Vergoin. A study was carried out where for example – it was not me who did it, it was the people who reported it to us – it was shown that there were families with one or two children who declared 3000/4000€ per year in taxes. Per year! So you can imagine the problem: they have 3000 bucks to make the year, right? It’s not bad! And here we have carried out a work, precisely, to try to bring people together, so that they can meet, always on the artistic project, that is to say with the Orchestre National Urbain. We tried to create synergies between people and genres, all aesthetics and all populations combined, to create a great orchestra like the Orchestre National Urbain, to do things and to continue. We’re quite frustrated, because we haven’t managed to do it. Impossible. We have a long way to go! Because there is a gap that is so violent: neither the Social Center nor the MJC have had – by their authority – a high enough interesting commitment for something to exist. And from then on it was war between the Social Center and the MJC, and they are in the same building! Well, when I talk about links, I get angry. Recently at a meeting with politicians, elected officials, I said that we have in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes one of the most interesting cultural poles. There’s a Cefedem, there’s a CFMI, there’s a CNSMi, there are grandes écoles, there are lots of associations that do things… But what’s the link between everyone, there’s no link! I signed a convention with everyone, I’m a bit of a mercenary. So there is one who says to me: “Ah, you work with them? Ah, you shouldn’t work with that one. You have to work with that one.” But I don’t care. The answer I give is, “What is the pathway of a citizen who comes, a young citizen, or even a not-so-young citizen, who comes to register?” How do we do it? And then after some politicians told me this kind of bullshit: “Yes, but you can’t take people from such and such a place, because we finance that place.” Well, they keep telling us not to do communitarianism, but they just create one, a segmentation of space. Concerning the Cra.p, I’ve heard unacceptable things, that you need to have 100% of local people, otherwise you don’t get any support. There are gaps like that. For my part, I refuse to go and establish something in a neighborhood that is completely isolated from everything, to work only with people from this neighborhood. That would be a big mistake for me. I’d rather be here in this working-class neighborhood and have people come from all sides, because they move around, they meet each other, and it makes for much more interesting things.
Thank you Giacomo for all these very fruitful exchanges.
And thank you for going into so much detail about activities and reflections that remain mostly invisible. It is very interesting and useful to explain them.
1. Today, the Orchestre National Urbain is composed of : Giacomo Spica Capobianco (1 string Spicaphone, Voice, Spoken Word), Lucien 16 s (Machines, Spoken Word, Human Beat Box), Thècle (Singer, Voice, Computer Music, Spoken Word, Human Beat Box), Sabrina Boukhenous (Dance), Dilo (Drum set), Joël Castaingts (Trombone), Selim Peñaranda (Cello), Dindon (Sound, Spoken Word) et Philipp Elstermann (Lights).
2. About Giacomo Spica Capobianco’s experience and the Orchestre National Urbain, see also « L’O.N.U. (Orchestre National Urbain) à Lyon. Musique, quartiers et rencontre des cultures, une démocratie urbaine réinvestie [Music, District, Cultures meeting, an Urban Democracy Re-invested] » in Enseigner la Musique n°13&14, Lyon : Cefedem AuRA, 2019,p. 489-500.
In this journal, Giacomo Spica Capobianco details the workshops he organized in psychiatric hospital (p. 101-130).
3. Enseigner la musique is a publication of the Cefedem AuRA (Lyon). See Enseigner la musique N°8, 2005, p. 66-68 et p. 127.
4. A television show, in which young people perform before a jury of professionals.
A prefecture designates the departments of the prefectural administration headed by a prefect, as well as the building that houses them. It represents the State in the Departments or Regions.
The Drac, Direction régionale des affaires culturelles, is an institution representing the State in the Region, in charge of supervising cultural policies.
A prefecture designates the departments of the prefectural administration headed by a prefect, as well as the building that houses them. It represents the State in the Departments or Regions.
CFMI, Centre de Formation des Musiciens Intervenants à l’école [especially in elementary school], proposes different programs that allow musicians of diversified background to work in artistic and cultural education.
CNSM(D), Conservatoire national supérieur de musique (et de danse), high education institution for music and dance. There are two CNSMD in France, Paris and Lyon.
List of institutions mentioned in this text
Cefedem AuRA (Centre de Formation des Enseignants de la Musique Auvergne Rhône-Alpes): higher musical education institution accredited and funded by French ministry of Culture in 1990 to deliver a DE, Diplôme d’État [State Diploma], for music teachers. Cefedem AuRA is a professional ressources and higher education music center. It trains instrumental and vocal teachers, with an equal balance between artistic capacities and pedagogical competences and the perspectives on the musician for society, the community musician.
CFMI (Centre de Formation des Musiciens Intervenants à l’école): music teacher’s training program for musicians who are going to be in residence in primary schools. Attached to the University Lyon II, the Lyon CFMI is devoted to the training of accomplished musicians of diversified background. It proposes different programs that allow them to work in artistic and cultural education.
Cnsmd (Conservatoire national supérieur de musique et de danse): high education institution for music and dance. There are two Cnsmd in France, Paris and Lyon.
Cra.p (Centre d’art – musiques urbaines/musiques électroniques [Art Center – Urban Music/Electronic Music]): center in Lyon, founded in 1989 by Giacomo Spica Capobianco.
CRR (Conservatoire à Rayonnement Régional [Regional Conservatory]): see for example the one in Lyon.
Drac (Direction régionale des affaires culturelles): institution representing the State in the Region, in charge of supervising cultural policies.
ENM de Villeurbanne: founded in 1980 by the composer Antoine Duhamel, the National School of Music, Dance and Theatre of Villeurbanne is well-known for the diversity of its programs in music (classical, contemporary, Baroque, traditional, jazz, popular song, rock, and amplified music), in dance (African, Baroque, contemporary, hip-hop and Oriental), and in theatre. The ENM is a “Conservatoire à rayonnement départemental” (CRD), with an habilitation to deliver a DEM, Diplôme d’études musicales [Musical Studies Diploma].
Métropole de Lyon: political disctict also called Grand Lyon. “It is a directly elected metropolitan authority encompassing the city of Lyon and most of its suburbs. It has jurisdiction as both a department and a métropole, taking the territory out of the purview of the department of Rhône. It had a population of 1,385,927 in 2017” <en.wikipedia/Lyon_Metroplis>.
MJC (Maison des Jeunes et de la Culture): the Youth and Cultural Centers are non profit associations which link youth and culture within a popular education perspective. <fr.wikipedia/MJC>.
ONU (Orchestre National Urbain [Urban National Orchestra]): an ensemble founded in 2012 by Giacomo Spica Capobianco.
Préfecture: A prefecture designates the departments of the prefectural administration headed by a prefect, as well as the building that houses them. It represents the State in the Departments or Regions. For the Lyon area, see Préfecture du Rhône.
SMAC: the label Scène de Musiques ACtuelles [Popular Music on Stages], corresponds, since 1998, to the program of the French Ministry of Culture towards the promotion of today’s popular music.
Ville de Lyon: The City of Lyon, South-Est of France, had a population of more than 500,000 within less than 20 sq mi <en.wikipedia/Lyon>.