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3 Questions for Pierre Jodlowski

Internationally renowned artist Pierre Jodlowski, with his characteristic energy, represents and embodies the epitome of a composer capable of inspiring today’s emerging composers. Today, he joins IRCAM’s Education and Cultural Outreach department as the composer associated with the Cursus program. His contributions correspond to the new direction IRCAM fosters by incarnating the diversity of forms possible in mixed music, far beyond the composition of a work for a solo musician and real-time electronics.
Publish date
Nov. 20, 2020
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Pierre Jodlowski, tell us about your background.

Basically, in the beginning, I had a classical background, having been trained at a very young age in the conservatories, then at the University of Toulouse and at the CNSM of Lyon. Simply, I have always been interested in a vast musical practice (improvisation, jazz, rock) and very quickly, I felt a huge divide between what I imagined as a totally free creative space and the reality of contemporary music concerts (still heavily conditioned by the classical tradition in their modes of representation). I believe that it is on the basis of this gap that I built my career. Very early on, I became interested in images, in the question of gestures, of lights, of a theatrical approach to the phenomenon of sound... At the beginning, in a very experimental approach and with incipient technologies (doing real-time or video at the end of the 1990s was not really as accessible as it is today) and later, little by little, by constructing a language that integrates narrative principles, a societal commitment, a reflection on the question of new rituals... My catalog, which may seem very eclectic, actually converges towards a simple and very old idea: finding coherence between the mode of representation and the creative content. A music-sound "praxis" where gesture and the question of energy is at the center to direct the relations with the other scenic flows. I have always composed with mental images that precede the implementation of a project: today, technological tools allow us to give body to these images and to construct an intention where, through music, they are articulated into new artistic objects.

I also want to talk about my activity as artistic director, both of the Compagnie éole in Toulouse and of interdisciplinary festivals in Europe. This practice is inseparable from my artistic approach and allows me to confront myself very precisely with questions of production. Questions that are often absent from the teaching curriculum and can be a major obstacle to the development of an artistic career.

Today you have made to move towards teaching. What motivated you to make this choice?

Even though I have never taught in a regular, formal teaching position, I have always participated in master classes or led workshops, maintaining a strong connection with the idea of transmission. For me, transmission does not simply consist of an exchange of knowledge but also includes an experimental approach. Teaching can be a very powerful creative act. In this sense, I am particularly fond of the workshop model where one can, over a given period of time, set concrete objectives and search together.

Moreover, I have been developing my own projects on interdisciplinary issues for more than twenty years and I have acquired a certain mastery of the tools related to these practices but also, and this is a point that challenges me a lot, new methodological paradigms. The practice of composition is not at all the same when one considers the stage or the spaces of representation as a whole. This is a very exciting challenge for me given the new issues present in the curriculum. Finally, in a very individualized society, it seems very important to me to put the idea of the collective back into the practices of composers; after all, we produce collectives as soon as we write for an instrumental group, include actors or dance... and I find it necessary today to question the solitary figure of the composer and renew with sharing and mutual learning in the elaboration of projects.

How do you view young artists? How do you plan to share your experience with them?

Young artists today are much freer and uninhibited by the constraints imposed by musical institutions. They have emancipated themselves from many codes, integrate all types of materials and, of course, are immersed in technology and often handle them with great ease, even a kind of naturalness. I am lucky enough to work in the heart of Europe and I am witnessing, in Poland, Germany, and Scandinavian countries, the emergence of a new generation of artists who develop truly unbridled projects, use technologies in disconcerting ways, and no longer bother with the sort of self-righteous approach of what used to be called "academic arts". However, in this free, unbridled approach, fundamental questions related to musical practice—in particular the writing of time and space— are still very present. Many of these projects present themselves as "conceptual works" but may sometimes lack temporal depth, trajectories that dilate or compress the perceptual fields. This is probably where I will be able to bring my vision and knowledge to the program. To identify the element of a concept that can generate a development or create solid footing on stage, the emergence of a specific language, an assemblage of signs and sounds that weave a dramaturgical path. While music today takes possession of all these new codes, of all these new tools, it nevertheless remains inscribed in the ephemeral space of the stage where, in a given time, the blossoming of a form that can make sense in multiple ways.

Pierre Jodlowski's website

Pierre Jodlowski, new composer associated with the Cursus