This is the second and concluding part of an interview with Jayne Amara Ross and Frédéric D. Oberland of the Parisian band FareWell Poetry. Read the first part here.
Jayne, are there any moments in the album where the shape the music has taken added something to your sense of the poetry you had written?
Yes definitely, we try to create pieces where each individual element (the poetry, the music, the films) stand alone but work as a whole also. When we have done a good, thorough job every element should enrich the other. It is only when all the mediums align behind the same very precise objective that you get that feeling of something whole, and enveloping. I wouldn’t, however, rely on the music to give meaning to the poetry or the films. Music is able to sublimate and carry meaning but not to impose it. At its best, it can be the wondrous, intoxicating glue that holds everything together. In all my films, including those that I have made outside FareWell Poetry, music is a really important part and I have always shared a privileged dialogue with the musicians that I have worked with. You can also go really wrong when you add music to film, you can easily trip yourself up by making the wrong choices. Having a close relationship with the composer, and learning to communicate in their ‘language’ can help prevent this.
Frédéric, are there ways in which the poetry and film drew the musicians in directions they might not have taken otherwise?
Certainly, there is an evident and necessary connection between the three media used in FareWell Poetry – poetry, film, music. This interaction is especially clear when we are working on the music for our films/performances like ‘As True As Troilus’ (on our first album) or ‘The Golden House: For Him I Sought the Woods’ and ‘Persephone, A Soft Corpse Comfort’ (on the next). In those cases, Jayne gives us the film’s scenario to read, written by her before the filming even begins, a scenario that often resembles a poetic text more than a classic film outline, already provided with quite strong mental images, a description of of what is happening in the image, director’s notes, the “voice-off”/narration, etc. We also have an idea of the film format, the duration, whether the film will be in B&W or in color, etc. This first text serves as a guide for the music, a kind of visual and spiritual score, and then among the musicians we improvise, experiment, search for themes and tones, uncover a structure adequate to fit the ideas of the scenario and the different parts and atmospheres of the film. This is the confrontation phase, always passionate; on the one hand the already-written story (often long-cherished by Jayne) and on the other the unleashing of a musical instinct that can veer off in all respects. When we get the first rushes we make selections together from these first musical attempts, we compare everything precisely with the mounted sequences and the spoken poetry, we fix and write down what seems to fit. And we refine the whole as we go along and over the course of rehearsals and performances.
When there is not a film in play, the interaction between poetry and music is not so defined, or at least not as consciously. Of course, the poetry necessarily feeds the music. In Jayne’s poetry there are often strong metaphors and images that give us broad overall ideas for a piece, or quite specific ones – the wish for a certain sound, timbre, or rhythm to underline a particular word or poetic image. But I think that belongs to every good song… Conversely, I think that certain aspects of our music, the colors, the moods, the mental images that it conveys, are also a source of inspiration for Jayne’s work.
It sounds as if fans of Hoping for the Invisible to Ignite can expect a similar constellation of poetry, film, and music with the next album. Is that right? Are there new directions in the themes or music?
Jayne: The next ‘big’ film (akin to ‘As True As Troilus’ on Hoping For the Invisible to Ignite) will be ‘The Golden House: For Him I Sought the Woods’ which I shot last Spring and we began performing the soundtrack live last Summer. When it comes to the films and poetry, the direction or themes are imposed by the content of each piece and then I will try to find a literary coherence that will hold everything together. We would like to make a double album, because we have the material (at least an hour and a half of music and two films) and because we would like to be able to take the time to produce a more intricate offering. ‘Hoping for the Invisible to Ignite’ has a sort of simplicity in that everything is expressed in quite a bold, straightforward dichotomy. The next album will be more varied. We would also like to include my film ‘Persephone, A Soft Corpse Comfort’ on the album and other spoken word/instrumental pieces that we regularly play onstage and that have a more experimental or modern classical feel to them. The ‘post-rock’ appellation only really fits the first album and we will be really happy to get rid of this label!
Frédéric: We wanted our first album to have the flavor of a “manifesto”, we wanted it to be compact, immediate, flamboyant, to reflect our work and our wishes, without ever thinking about the reception that it might have, about the affiliations or currents to which people might attach us. Even in the studio, we tend to work with our heart more than our intellect. The same constitutive elements will be found in the next album – music, film, and poetry – but no doubt interweaving in a different way, perhaps more varied in terms of colors, atmospheres, durations, instruments. There is still a great deal of work and experimenting to be done, even if the majority of the new pieces are in place and certain of them are being tested regularly on stage. We are proceeding a step at a time in terms of the practicalities involved for us in realizing an album – we usually record the basis of our pieces in quasi-live conditions, but we like to stand back then afterwards to choose the takes, set the arrangements, and mix. The studio is a crucial and delicate phase for us, it’s not always easy to find the ideal balance between the rigor of the recording process and the spontaneous and fragile side of the alchemy that we are seeking among us and among the various elements that make up our pieces… The magic, when it’s there, is never at our beck and call. We will no doubt record in several sessions starting in late spring or early summer; there will be others invited in, friends, and we hope to be surprised and pleased by the result. One must still have chaos within oneself to give birth to a dancing star…
David Smith currently lives in the Midwestern United States, where he teaches, writes, and enjoys a very wide range of music, with regard to which he claims no expertise whatsoever beyond that of a dedicated and appreciative listener.
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