Claudine Simon is a pianist, artist, improviser and performer. For several years now she has been engaged in multidisciplinary and experimental creative work with choreographers, composers and stage directors alike. She defines her practice as being about establishing links and relations between our sensibilities, our perceptions as well as between our manual and emotional skills.
Claudine was trained by Jean-Francois Heisser, Marie-Josèphe Jude and Pierre-Laurent Aimard at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse de Paris where she got to meet various people that have nourished her musical path.
Whether as a soloist or as a chamber musician, she regularly performs in many different venues in France: Opera de Lyon, La Roque d’Anthéron, l’Opéra Comique, Cité de la Musique, Hotel National des Invalides, festival de Tautavel d’Aix-en-Provence, Rencontres Artistiques de Bel Air, and also abroad (tours in India, China, Europe…).
Her personal relation to improvisation took shape during her studies at the Paris CNSMD and her training with Alain Savouret (generative improvisation course). Since then, her practice has been constantly enhanced by artistic exchanges with composers and improvisers with whom she frequently collaborates (Samuel Sighicelli, Elise Dabrowski, ensemble Op.cit, Jocelyn Mienniel…) and with fulfillment of projects of her own initiative.
She has created various performing pieces: Au Fil de Petroucka, written for two pianists and three dancers; Drôles de K for one pianist, two dancers and one video artist – awarded with the prix des innovateurs du CNSMD de Paris; Once Upon a Time, a piece of musical theatre for four speaking musicians; and Phase Music, an exploration of minimalist music for two pianists, one video artist and a plastic artiste/performer.
She took part in the creation of Chant d’Hiver by Samuel Sighicelli, musical, sound-designing, theatrical and visual performance based on texts by Tanguy Viel.
With the singer and double bass player Elise Dabrowski she has been forming an ongoing improvising duet aiming at creating acoustic and stylistic contrasts for the reading of poetic texts. She has been invited to perform for the “A l’improviste” radio show hosted by Anne Montaron on France Musique.
In 2017, she created and performed the music for SOLI.DES by the choregrapher Sébastien Laurent, a piece for a pianist and a dancer. In 2018, she took part as a musician and stage actress in the creation of Critical Phase by Samuel Sighicelli, based on the work of Pierre Kuentz. This same year she created and performed with Elise Dabrowski, the stage soundtrack for Comment s’en Sortir sans Sortir, a theatrical play directed by Frederique Aït-Touati, based on words by Ghérasim Luca.
She is currently working on the creation of Pianomachine, a show combining musical, visual and choreographical research.
© Sébastien Jourdan – 2020
I have always considered the piano like a body, an organism. I have always wanted to know what was happening inside, what was this machinery, this frightful power rumbling and rolling under its wooden chest. Remembering the words of my professors who taught me how to tame it (we pianists have been, for that matter, educated like machines to look for the most precise movement every time) I do sense a significant artistic stake.
For a long time, I have been wanting to create a show, which would hold at its core this machine, this mass, its intensity and its mechanisms. In the meantime, I would like to investigate this particular hand-to-hand relation it imposes on the human machinery in order to achieve sound purposes.
Pianomachine proceeds from an organological study that I have pursued with engineering students from the INSA in Lyon. This study resulted in the creation of a prototypical Piano in which automated units (percussive tools, resonators, bouncy masses) are added to the piano organism and act on its strings and structure. The instrument is conceived as an extension of the interpreter’s active power. The added machines provoke chain reactions, in or out of sync, by the piano player.
A hand-to-hand relation is by nature one of struggle as much as one of desire, sensuality and pleasure, the lovers’ union. This relation is first and foremost the one that has been bonding man to machine for centuries. It involves the body as much as the brain cells or rather what one could designate as the body/brain. It is in fact a matter of resonance between those two bodies: the human and the instrument, to evoke their inner parts and their outer parts, what is shown to the eye, what is given to hear and what is not. A dialogue is built up between the two “subjects” through a performative mode of sound, verbal and gestural exchanges, a kind of visual narrative.
This project intending to convey a poetic vision of this hand-to-hand relation situates itself between enlarged theater play, art performances, experimental music, sound treatments and dance choreography. The body is at the junction between speech and subconscious.
The musical aspect of the show follows a compositional work in direct interplay with automated and/or random management of the piano’s grafted units. This work is in line with an experimental approach. Sound treatments (microphonics, amplification) and the work on musical rewriting (toying with distorting mirror, sound splitting, orchestration, heterophony…) play with the acoustic spaces and are operated from the inside of the instrument’s body. The «software instrument» is the neuralgic center linking what receives, what excites, what releases and the performance of the two musicians.
The choreography focuses on the connection with the instrument, in order to evoke the long lasting, both disciplinary and archaic, relationship linking any musician to an instrument – its body, its mass, its mechanism– and expresses the way this instrument comes to inhabit the musician’s imagination. It is also about unraveling the sacralizing relation to the instrument, to the music, to the role of the performer restricted to a certain position, chained to the musical tool and generally not allowed to manipulate it, to open it up, to invest it or move it over the stage.
Pictures of the inside of the piano (hands, units and active mechanisms) are screened on an upper monitor made of mirrors. The reflected images will be juxtaposed on the screen with those captured by the video camera and thus a picture given by a camera shot can be multiplied. As a kind of secondary stage, this mirror effect doubles at certain moments what happens on the main stage. By highlighting the central themes of the performance (bodies interplay, automatism), it creates a mise en abyme of the visual narrative. A distancing is thus made possible between the spectator/listener and the narrative.
The dialogue uttered on stage is also considered in its verbal dimension: the performer will be in capacity to speak to the instrument like a master to his dog or a tamer to a wild animal. The piano will respond with its own sound abilities : mechanical shouts or musical onomatopoeia… unless it is the machine itself that takes on the verbal initiative and produces a both signifying and enigmatic speech, at once oracular and trivial, which would trigger in its turn percussive or yelling, linguistic or speechless facial responses from the performer.
The voice hangs together with the choreography and the pianist’s action; it is always placed and displaced in relation to the stage area transformed and modulated by the lighting effects. The voice will take, in both space and time, various status, such as those defined by the lexicon of filmmaking: voice in, voice-over, or “almighty” voice. It will have the value of an automaton as a “ma-chine” voice.
The presence of the “voice” is considered through its pivotal dimension between body and speech.
More than a meaning or a signification, it will reveal a state of being.
© Juliette Ouvry – 2020