Listening: Yann Tiersen | French music and musicians

Breton composer Yann Tiersen has had a long and successful career since the triumph of his soundtrack Amélie in 2001 © Yann Tiersen / Facebook

Composer for Amélie and much more …

Raise your hand who loves the movie Amelie (known to the French and to purists as The fabulous destiny of Amelie Poulain)? Who likes the movie’s cutesy, waltz, accordion and piano soundtrack? The music for the popular film was made up of both new and already released material by Breton composer and musician Yann Tiersen, whose emotionally worked melodies are reminiscent of Chopin and Satie, but whose early musical roots are anything but softness and light.

Adolescent – after having given up the piano which he had started at four years old, the violin which he learned at six years old and the classical training in the musical academies which he received in Rennes, Nantes and Boulogne – the under -punk culture was his thing. He later only entered song in a roundabout way – he said he only listened to Jacques Brel after hearing Scott Walker’s version of Brel’s songs.

Tiersen now composes in a former nightclub in Ouessant (Ouessant), a small island off the Breton coast near Brest, where he was born in 1970. His last album, Kerber, is his eleventh and most dreamlike electronic, and bears the name of a chapel on the island. Yet the influences on his creativity are predictably more eclectic, including a bike ride through a California forest when he was chased by a puma …

If you like it, you might like …

THE STOOGES: Iggy Pop and his cronies floated Tiersen’s boat as a teenager. The Stooges Elektra / Asylum

THE ESSENTIAL PHILIP GLASS: Tiersen is often compared to the ambient / minimalist composer Glass. Sony Classic

TINDERSTICKS: Tindersticks’ Stuart Staples performed on Les Retrouvailles in 2005. Tinder sticks Universal music

Read more articles in the On Écoute series:

Yael Naim
Alain Souchon
Charles Aznavour
French Kiwi Juice
Erik Satie
The Undecided
Stuck in the sound
Oliva Ruiz

From France Today magazine

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William D. Babcock

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