c'est" ("How It Is"), a
song cycle for chamber orchestra (the MAX
BRAND Ensemble) and voice (Himiko
premiered with two concerts at Porgy & Bess in Vienna during September
2016. A studio recording of the work will be released by ECM Records during
About "Comment c'est"
( Français Deutsch )
"Comment c'est" is a song cycle for female voice and chamber
orchestra. Wanting to use French, a language that so beautifully lends
itself to be sung, I had been thinking, already years ago, of using a
certain type of voice from French popular music in a totally different
and serious context. That included, at the time, even attempting (and
failing) to interest Patricia Kaas, but when the project finally came
to be realized I luckily found a very interesting and wonderful French
electro-pop/jazz singer, Himiko Paganotti.
Although not being the "typical" French pop voice I had originally
envisaged, she turned out to be the perfect choice, having a tremendous
range, both musically and emotionally. Introduced to me by John Greaves,
an old cohort of mine, she had worked with him and in many different contexts,
including, among others, the French cult rock-jazz band Magma. Our first
occasion to work together was at a concert in Paris during 2014 with the
short-lived Chaos Orchestra of composers Daniel Yvinec (Orchestre National
de Jazz) and Arnaud Petit, resulting in a lengthy work entitled "Oiseaux
de Guerre" ("Birds of War"), which dealt with atrocities
of the Iraq war. Continuing from there, wanting to explore the voice and
the general theme further, I worked on creating "Comment c'est."
Throughout my career I have always wanted to keep my musical life as abstract
as possible, never directly related to "programmatic" influences
or themes, such as world politics, news items or personal life events.
In hindsight, that was, in fact, only partially successful. After all,
I participated in the early Liberation Music Orchestra projects with Charlie
Haden, even though for me it was indeed more the musical experience that
counted, rather than the expression of political views through that platform
(nevertheless, at the time one of course marched on Washington, demonstrated
against Vietnam and, in general, behaved anti-government, anti-business
Certain critical political-sociological world-views eventually began to
appear from time to time in my work, such as in "Cerco Un Paese Innocente"
("I search for an innocent land" - another song cycle, this
one in Italian), and especially in the extended sort-of-an-opera "The
School of Understanding," with some of its songs in fact resurfacing,
extensively revised, in this current project. No longer able to ignore
the overwhelming and outrageous recent world events, it had simply become
impossible to continue blissfully creating music abstractly without reacting
to the all-pervading environment of hatred, greed and corruption. "Comment
c'est" therefore indeed refers specifically and reacts strongly to
recent events and concerns itself with a range of deadly serious subjects,
such as war, terrorism, hostages, migration, poverty, fear and the exceedingly
sorry state of the world in general. My music has often been considered
("accused" even) of being melancholy, depressing and difficult.
Perhaps it has always been an unconscious reaction to life as we know
it, yet to me, this supposedly sad quality of the music had never been
the specific intention, my raison d'être has always been to simply
create music that is beautiful and perhaps express something that might
be deep within us all. Yet, with this latest project, should one finally
really post "enter at your own risk" signs?
Himiko Paganotti is being supported by the MAX BRAND Ensemble, conducted
by Christoph Cech (who recently had also conducted the recording and performances
of my "Jazz Composer's Orchestra Update" project). The ensemble
consists of flute, oboe, clarinet, bass clarinet, French horn, tuba, string
quintet, vibraphone/marimba, plus the pianist David
Helbock and myself on trumpet as additional soloists.
-- Michael Mantler
the process of digitizing various old scores, Michael Mantler re-acquainted
himself with some of his earliest compositions, in particular the material
from his classic, ground-breaking 1968 double-album The
Jazz Composer's Orchestra which had featured such icons as Cecil Taylor,
Don Cherry, Roswell Rudd, Pharoah Sanders, Larry Coryell and Gato Barbieri
as "free jazz" soloists within the context of a large jazz orchestra.
Only some of these compositions
were performed live, in 1969 at the Electric
Circus in New York.
became intrigued anew by this music to envisage performing it again, and
the ensuing JAZZ COMPOSER'S ORCHESTRA UPDATE project was presented
and recorded at Porgy & Bess in Vienna during 2013. The program included
a complete re-working of all the pieces from the album, as well as of
even older material, some of it never before performed or recorded.