RE: mad masters

Violin, computer, videotext.

Yannis' YouTube channel

RE: mad masters is a piece for violin, soundtrack, live electronics and video text based on Jean Rouch's famous legendary film “Les Maîtres Fous”. It plays with the colonial subtext of the film and the relation between music and possession. One of the many things that have been said about this film is that it forces the viewer to ‘de-colonize’ his mind. The viewer is forced to makes sense of the confusing images he is seeing by imagining something beyond their own ‘European’ mentality. Even the apparent satirization of the British colonial masters seems to have a totally different weight in the Hauka ceremony than it does in the film, and subsequently in our minds. But it's difficult to fathom that weight, only by the way it explodes in front of our eyes can we have a hint of the emotional catharsis that is at stake.

Other than the mystery of the possession ritual the main aspect that fascinated me by Rouch's films was the music. Music is often a sub-theme in Rouch's films simply because of the function musicians have in the societies and rituals he is filming. The musicians in his films seem to be mediums by which spirit possession occurs, they seem to sense the flow of spirit traffic. When the musicians play the repertory connected to that particular spirit, they are drawn to the bodies of the mediums.

In the piece RE: mad masters, I use only the texts describing what we are supposed to be seeing, text that are originally Rouch's commentary on the film. The violinist takes on different roles, as if she is at times the possesed, the master of ceremonies or even a symbol of the colonial power. Her sound changes throughout the piece as if her violin has been possessed by a medium far more powerful than it's original body. I took inspiration from the way the ‘spirit’ replaces its ‘double’ in the possession ceremonies to find a way for the electronic music to transform and displace the 'real' of what we hear both in the soundtrack of the orginal film and the acoustic sound of the violin. This displacement of the ‘real’ soundtrack is a tool by which music can focus on the inner space rather than the outward one captured on film. The objective is to create something with a powerful rhythmic drive, yet with all the multi-layered complexity and contradictions that the Hauka ritual suggested. The animist spirits colliding with the colonial military machine.

performance history

  • 10 April; Premiere by Barbara Luneberg at Deutchland Funk.