Vive Les Fantômes is a radio play created for German station SWR in 2018, it is my first step into radioart. The work is based on snippets of interviews, rehearsals and performances by people whose work had an influence on my artistic path: Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Billie Holiday, Jacques Derrida, Chris Marker and many more. The process involved searching, discovering and creating connections among the material and resulted in a network of sound-objects that appear repeatedly changing their shape throughout the piece. Communication is constructed across different rooms and times, beyond the borders of language and music. Vive Les Fantômes is not only a piece of music, it's rather acoustic cinema with a non-linear narrative layer organized by scenes.
Samples pulled from live jazz performances played a central role. At various points it’s not clear if the musicians are still checking their instruments, or if it is already considered as part of the coming piece: an enormous feedback, then drums begin to play, and there seems to be a moment of hesitation before the ensemble starts off full on. There are sounds of people in the audience talking in the distance, their applause, and singular clapping. All these represent moments or aspects of what a moment can be: A complex situation of interactions that happened just here in this one particular moment, that will never be repeated. But we can play the recording of it. We can repeat aspects of this moment and play with them, which is what Vive Les Fantômes does.
I went back to when the music was created. Time traveling, I enjoyed looking into these moments over and over again, discovering their secrets and hidden sounds and interacting with them.
French philosopher Jacques Derrida answers the phone repeating the same words in various scenes. Before picking up, he mentions that a ghost is calling (le fantôme). Sometimes we hear the philosopher simply listening. We imagine him listening. We - the audience - are listening as well and we listen very closely to get a hint of who is on the other side of the line. Sometimes there is just silence or static noise. Another time Thelonious Monk or Miles Davis are talking to Derrida and the philosopher’s words themselves start to be cutup and distorted to different meanings throughout the piece. Spoken word transforms to sound, the borders between language and music become blurred.
Protagonists talk to each other from and to different rooms because the recordings have been done at different times and places, with different recording equipment. They are connected but separated as well. The other side of the line is the unknown. The unknown again is up to our imagination. There are many blank spaces in Vive Les Fantômes: Silence, the absence of images (due to the format of the piece) , the incomplete and the cutup. It is all just a framework, a playground, an invitation for us to complete, connect, to create and construct our very own piece.
I enjoyed playing with the term Fantômes/Ghosts. Vive Les Fantômes is influenced by Derrida´s book Spectres of Marx and countless discussions with my brother Peter Brandlmayr, who was writing a book at this time touching similar themes. A ghost is something unknown, something that we can´t really determine exactly, vague. A ghost can be an idea, a musical piece, a recording, a sentence that was said on tv or radio, that is interacting with us because it is resonating with us. Ghosts do something with us. They influence us. But the reverse is true as well: We do also interact with ghosts. So in the end it is about communication.
Original and found sounds, the core and backbone of the piece, are representatives of their time in general but also of the very moment when they have been created, with all its complexity, richness to be discovered. To me Vive Les Fantômes is a celebration of the musical moment, pointing to the past and to the future. Repetition is never repetition - it is always creation.
- Martin Brandlmayr