Hey there. This is a tune I learned in 1998 (I think … it was so long ago!) from Steve Gruverman and Marie Wendt shortly after I moved to Maine. The dance is a slow, peaceful line … although I play it with a bit of drama, here.
This Monday I bring you a video from Duo Expire, featuring Cédric Martin and Flavien Di-Cinto. I met Cédric about twelve years ago, when I was in Alsace. I don’t expect him to remember me, but I’ve always remembered the fluidity and personality he brought to his playing that night.
If you would like to draw my attention to something out there that should be posted, or want to submit one of yourself playing some French tune (including Breton) on accordion, email me here.
Georges Haibach, Catherine Piron-Paira, Sylvain Piron
A joyful package arrived on my doorstep a few days ago. Two new CDs from Sylvain Piron!
The first is a trio recording, Par un beau soir: Chansons Traditionelle, featuring Sylvain along with Catherine Piron-Paira and Georges Haibach. The three of them wield a truly impressive array of instruments, including accordion, basse aux pieds, nyckelharpa, dulcimer, epinette, psaltry, various whistle-type instruments, and objets sonores (sound objects). On top of it all are their three voices weaving genuinely delicate melodies and harmonies. All but one of the songs are traditional or ancient, and the one remaining song is Sylvain’s own minor-key mazurka, Le chemin.
The second CD is On est que des cailloux, a set of Sylvain’s original songs, played solo by the man himself, recorded over a few years. Sylvain’s singing, solo with only the accordion accompaniment, is a sort of pure, earthy thing — strong and reminiscent of the harp singer tradition. His songs are light but filled with feeling, both pathos and humor.
Both CDs are available directly from Sylvain himself. You can contact him at his email.
UPDATE: I’ve gotten some push back on this post from folks (great stuff in the comment section), essentially saying that some of these videos are not exemplars of their regional styles, but are just examples of dances done at the Big Bal. I think that’s fair, but still think it’s interesting to see these as documentations of what’s going on at the Big Bal, especially for those of us who would have a hard time ever making it there. Following up from the post of French Dance Field Recordings, here is the second half of Chris Ryall’s amazing collection of videos, or dance as he found it in the wild. Chris writes, “Breton dance is often done in lines, traditionally snaking around the floor intertwining and ‘meeting people.'” Here is the repository: Breton Rond St. Vincent – a very simple village dance that has become a standard An Dro (An Dro = “the turn”) Another An Dro – Wild at the end! Tricot (mixed An Dro and Hanter Dro) Plinn (Simple, very peasant, gets wild improv from musicians) Another Plinn Suite Plinn (Same rhythm. Couples dance with fast and slow parts) “Standard” Gavotte” (Danced as a suite with varying speeds) Gavotte de l’Aven (small valley in the Cornouaille with it’s own “dreamy sway” style – this is just part of a “suite gavotte”
The twice yearly accordion gathering, Pique Diatonique, took place on September 14. I think of it as an Alsatian event, but really it takes place all around that region. Friend Mary Line took and posted an album of pics, including the following photos. I’ve written about Pique Diatonique before (and here). One day I’ll go back!
Here’s a tune I learned from storyteller Catherine Piron-Paira and her husband Sylvain Piron, both of Saverne, Alsace. Catherine played it on psaltery, thus I tend to call it “Catherine’s Psaltery.” I feature this tune on my new CD, but with added clarinets and recorders, and with vastly improved sound quality. I recorded this to include in the melodeon.net Theme of the Month for July 2013, French Tunes.
I’m not sure why my pants figure so heavily in this video. I apologize.
Continuing my fascination with asymmetric tunes — and my fascination with the Alsatian duo Au Gré des Vents — I present one of their most infectious tunes. “L’intermittent” is the opening track of their album Fraxinelles. It’s a scottisch-marche-valse composed by Danyèle Besserer. Here’s their recording of the tune.
“L’intermittent” excerpt by Au Gre des Vents
And here’s a recording of my band, Le Bon Truc, performing same. As Gilles pointed out to me, we take the tune much more freely in this context. He calls it “Wagnerian,” which is fair. For dancers, of course, regularity is everything (all of the “ones” are an equal distance apart).
And for those who want to try such a thing for themselves, here are the dots for the tune, as transcribed by the inestimable Steve Gruverman.
A branle is a medieval dance, still done in many areas of France and Germany. It’s pronounced “brawl,” and is the etymological foremother of the modern word for a chaotic outbreak of fisticuffs — which should tell you something about the dance. This branle is found on the album Du Piment Dans Le Kugelhopf – Musiques d’Alsace À Danser by the fabulous Alsatian duo, Au Gre des Vents. This is my second attempt at recording it. At first I played it as a 5/4 waltz, but Gilles, of Au Gre Des Vent, emailed me and pointed out that there’s one bar in there that is in 6/4. Tricksy tune! Hopefully, I got it right this time! This was recorded for the Theme of the Month over on Mel.net.
Special thanks to Flora, the Boston Terrier, and her invaluable support.
Sylvain Piron continues our conversation, discussing the current state of the tradFrench scene in Alsace.
Catherine and Sylvain
The trad scene in Alsace is currently quite busy. I remember the 80s and 90s were much more quiet. There was a bal from time to time. Nowadays every week-end offers at least one opportunity to dance. Public has changed as well and more and more young people are interesting in dancing. The facility offered by Internet has helped the organisers to disseminate information with no cost. In the same way, music groups have increased in number and quality, in the 80s there were only a few groups in Alsace. Now, Accrofolk has listed around 30 groups. This has been the same in all Fance.
Until end of 90s people interested were mainly those coming from the May 68 movement. A big difference since the 2000s is the involvement of young people in this music. Festivals have always been a big France, but they have increased a lot for the same reasons of growing interest.
There has been a movement towards multi-accordéon groups (see Pignol/Milleret, or Accordéon Samurai). Recently Piron joined with Raymond Frank, Flavien DiCinto, and Cédric Martin to form such a quartet. In fact, we formed a 4-accordion group is just an idea we had with Cedric-Flavien, the 2 youngs, and Raymond-Sylvain, the two olds. The idea raised one day we were joking and playing together. In fact we noticed that young people have a tendency to play fast and punchy while older ones tend to calm and balance the tempi. We thought we could form a group where we play and joke about these differences. Here is a video of the group in action:
Of course, I know Piron best as a teacher, and others have talked about the guidance he’s given. He’s not entirely comfortable with that. I do not feel like an accordion teacher. I just give advice to beginners and take action to encourage them, but I miss two major qualities for a teacher: pedagogy and technicality. My accordion technique is not to be imitated because I have a lot of bad habits. Again it is the sound which interests me, not the way you produce it. Nevertheless, I like to gather people for playing together and share that music. What did Piron think when this American aficionado — that’s me — e-mailed him back in 1998? I am very proud when you say I was your teacher, but I feel a bit usurping because you where actually your own teacher, I just gave my opinion on what I heard and felt from from your recordings. When you showed up in 1998, I was very happy that my small music home page was something interesting for at lest one American! Thanks to you, I discovered later that a lot of American people where involved in these European traditional musics and that through that practice I had a lot of potential friends in the States. We very often think here that Americans are only fascinated by themselves and their own existence and way of life. The fact that a young guy, lost somewhere in Maine, was attracted by my music was really a great pleasure and surprise in the same time, a sort of miracle thanks to the web! I am a bit joking but not far from reality of my feelings at that time.
What does Piron think of the future of tradFrench music? About future of trad French music, I would like it to remain a practice linked to dance more than to market! That means to keep the spirit of it away from commercial purposes. On one hand it is fair that professional musicians can live decently from their art but on the other I do not wish that this music become fashionable and loses its roots and fundamental role: to make people experience the great value of sharing dances, songs and musics.