Sourdure’s experiments upset French folk

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CHARACTERISTICS

Sourdure’s experiments upset French folk

By Phil E. Bloomfield March 31, 2021

Illustration by Camille Lavaud

Ernest Bergez does not know how he found the name Sourdure. “I found it written in one of my notebooks,” he said. “It’s probably a slip that I said or heard and wrote down.” In French welding denotes a weld, while leaven translates to “deaf”. It’s an apt name for someone who makes music that often feels like a beautifully complex contraption, welded together from mismatched parts.



His fourth album, De Mort Viva, contains his most fluid and coherent work to date, but it is still exceptionally choppy music. Basically, he takes the folk traditions of Auvergne – a region of the mountainous Massif Central in central France – and augments them, implanting electronic textures and foreign aesthetics. He wrote and produced the album himself, hiring collaborators to help provide raw materials, At Wassim Halal whore hand drum at Amélie Pialoux medieval wind instruments. “What I had in mind was to create physical sensations through listening,” he says of the album’s striking sound, a product of both his engineering and choice of material. source.

A growing number of artists are exploring the fertile ground between folk traditions and modern experimentation, but Bergez’s work still sounds unprecedented, eager to explore possibilities most wouldn’t consider: rap cadences, instruments of the Middle East, house concrete music.. No wonder he spent his teenage years messing around with instruments and software. “I discovered a lot of things trying to do things on my own based on what I heard on the records.” As well as being an autodidact, he was a series obsessive: “There were times when I was really only into rap,” he says, and others when he was focused on house music. or drum & bass.

Bergez’s mother is originally from Auvergne, but although he grew up with parents who listened to everything from rap and electronica to Algerian raï, post-punk and dub, he knew nothing. to the traditional music of the region. The first time he heard traditional music sung in Occitan, the traditional language of the south of France, it was “like a slap in the face”, he recalls. At the time, he was deeply into an avant-garde approach to sound and composition, but the open and collective approach to music spoke to him on a different level. “Traditional music seemed to respond to a different value system,” he says. “It was something that was really rooted in life, and not just in forms of presentation.” During his training as a music teacher, he is led to learn a new musical practice: he buys a cheap violin and begins to learn traditional repertoires.



By working from collections, field recordings made by amateur musicologists and folk enthusiasts in the 1960s and 1970s, he learned the music of his ancestors. He found the experience liberating, which he attributes to the psychological benefits of being freed from the need to create new things. “It changed me deeply, I had less need to nurture certain obsessions, to look for radical sound formulas, to find clever production ideas.” Yet, paradoxically, he also provided abundant material for Sourdure, as his initially naïve reproductions “said many things but at the same time were unlike anything else”.

The arcane nature of De Mort Viva owes a lot to the language in which it is sung, the traditional language of the troubadours. As with music, Bergez is self-taught. Auvergne is technically bilingual, but no one in his family spoke Occitan, and it’s not taught in schools (unlike other parts of France). He explains that his Sourdure music is intimately linked to the language: “Alongside the music, there was a life goal to start speaking this language. To this end, his words on De Mort Viva—inspired by literature and poetry in Occitan – reflect his desire to “offer songs in this language, now, in the present”. For him, it is as much a written work as it is a musical one – “The lyrics are autonomous”, he says – and he has since published the lyrics in Occitan and French.

He set out to write something that answered his own need for spirituality, “something that could be read on many levels”. While writing, he realized that there was a hidden logic in his words. “Well, logical, not really. But they were linked to each other by a whole lot of connections. Inspired by the ancient Chinese divinatory system of the I Ching, De Mort Viva is constructed as a form of “pagan tarot” with recurring linguistic themes and musical motifs, to be interpreted by the listener. The sequence of the album is arbitrary. It is not a set of songs “with events that follow one another” but rather “a galaxy, with elements positioned in different places in space, where any type of relationship can be interesting”.

Subjectivity is something Bergez appreciates. Explaining his work as a producer and engineer, he summarizes his philosophy well. “The technique… I never take it as something objective. It is never neutral. It’s like a photographic filter, he says, “something through which I hear a sonic reality”. De Mort Viva, then, is a kaleidoscope for the ears: “On a track, you hear different spaces. It is sometimes very contradictory. You feel like you’re in a room, and at the same time you feel like you’re outside.

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