28Feb/20

Recent Developments In Contemporary Music In France

France is one of the few countries with a solid tradition of contemporary music, that is to say, music that fits into modernity as it ended in the 20th century and which is not only “contemporary” in the chronological sense. Certainly, modernity did not impose itself on it without fighting – let’s think only of the neoclassicism of the inter-war period (of which France was the herald) which established a “gap” between Debussy’s innovations and the generation ferocious moderns born in the 1920s. However, since around 1950, contemporary music, more than in any other country, has won many battles there, which perhaps explains why we have come to talk about it today ” of modernist academicism ”- the struggles of the ancestors have given rise to“ privileges ”, to use terminology that still speaks in France. Anyone who wants to understand the recent situation should, therefore, start by drawing up a list of these ancestors, a task which can only be schematized here in the extreme in the form of four trends which are themselves simplified.

The first, by far the most important, cover the entire century and includes several generations. It focuses on sound, sound presence and fullness: with it, the composition of sound gradually replaces composition with sounds. Inaugurated in a way by Claude Debussy (1862-1918), the French initiator of modernity, this trend was radicalized with Edgar Varèse (1883—1965) who, as we know, had to wait until the 1950s to obtain a beginning of recognition in France. It established itself durably from the 1950s with Iannis Xenakis (born in 1922) as well as the birth of concrete music around Pierre Schaeffer (1910-1995) and Pierre Henry (1927). It continues with composers like Luc Ferrari (1929), François Bayle (1932) or François-Bernard Mâche (1935). It took on a new impetus with the research on the synthesis of sound carried out by Jean-Claude Risset (1938), which is not unrelated to its most recent manifestation, which will be discussed later, so-called “spectral” music. Note that this tradition has benefited from the Far Eastern contributions of a Jean-Claude Eloy (1938) or a Yoshihisa Taïra (1938).

A second tendency is centred on the contrary on the decomposition of sound into “parameters” and on the search for “structures”, on absence, on the “Figure of the Negative”. These are serialism – introduced in France by René Leibowitz (1913-1972) – and post-serialism, embodied by Pierre Boulez (1925), Jean Barraqué (1928-73), Gilbert Amy (1936) and, more recently, Emmanuel Nunes (1941). We know that serialism was posed in the 1950s as a “universal language”; if we also think of the intense public activity of Boulez (activity to which we will return), we will understand why this trend, although a minority, has long been presented as the mainstream contemporary music in France.

A third current would include the libertarian overtures of the years 1960-1970, born from the problematic of “open work” and having or not evolved towards musical theatre and/or improvisation. The restoration that followed was ruthless, few names have survived. However, let us mention André Boucourechliev (1925-1997) or Vinko Globokar (1934).

Finally, the last trend is defined by a desire to reconcile modernity with tradition. It manifests itself in multiple ways through the works of Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992), Maurice Ohana (1914-1992), Henri Dutilleux (1916) or Claude Ballif (1924).

The Five Best French Songs Of 2019

We started this new music list in the last position. As you complete the top, the result will make more sense and enjoyment for you. Some names will be quite well known if you have followed the adventures of this blog or if you are a follower of the French chanson. If instead, it is the first time you are here, and you have no idea of ​​the artists we name, we strongly recommend that you open yourself to discover them. The French song is always in fashion.

  1. Comme Si, by Les Yeux D’La Tête

With a somewhat folkloric cover that doesn’t make much sense, Les Yeux D’La Tête enters fifth place on the list with Comme Si. It is true that Comme Si is purely French. It has the classic rhythm that we like so much and that the French repeat so much and that only they know how to promote. If you have heard or remember a song by Zaz, Tryo or Manu Chao, for example, you will know perfectly well what I am talking about.

  1. Une Sirène À Paris, by Dionysos

If you read our article about Jack and the mechanics of the heart, you will know that we are very fans of Dionysos and also of his composer, Mathias Malzieu, whom we met by name thanks to the book of The mechanics of the heart, without knowing until then that it was the author behind themes that we loved as Mister Chat’s Métamorphose and, of course, the entire album of La Mécanique du Cœur, whose concept gave way to the book that made him a successful author beyond his country, despite having done the same with the previous album, Monsters in Love (the year 2005).

  1. Dilemme, by Lous And The Yakuza

Another song has taken care of with a video at the height or even above the theme level. Dilemme is an urban theme, interpreted by a beautiful voice and with a sublime flow. The aesthetics of the video clip is magnificent, both for the colors chosen and for the choreography represented. In it, the woman protagonist stands out, who here demonstrates a great talent that places her in the centre of our attention, waiting to see her evolve.

  1. Mandela, de Saez

We already talk to you about this song when we collect the saddest songs of 2019. If you like Saez, you’ll love Mandela; If you know Saez, you’ll know what you’ll find here. If, on the other hand, you don’t like Saez’s personal style too much, your second position on our list will seem quite exaggerated. It is what you have to be a fan.

  1. In Nuit, from the Video club

Finally, the number one goes for a duo that may be in a few years Video club will be considered a guilty pleasure above anything else. His videos are naive to the French, the singers are in love with and out of their aesthetics of the 80s, and the music is so catchy that you can not do anything but enjoy it like a pack of gum.