Climbing the Mountain: An Interview with Mathias Rossignol.

Mathias Rossignol cooking up his orchestra of machines for tonight's performance.

Mathias Rossignol cooking up his orchestra of machines for tonight’s performance.

Come out to Hanoi Rock City tonight for one of the more interesting left-field music shows of the year, PERSONAL MOUNTAINS / COMMON GROUND. Four of Hanoi’s most interesting electronic/experimental musicians present sets specifically crafted to provide direct interaction with the audience. What form will that interaction take? It will likely vary with each performer and almost certainly contain some surprises. Expect an entertaining, revelatory and pedagogical sonic evening.

Hanoise was able to get some information about the concept and preparations of the show from co-organizer Mathias Rossignol. Thanks to Mathias for taking time out of preparations for his own set to share these reflections.
What was the inspiration for PERSONAL MOUNTAINS / COMMON GROUND? Is there a specific “genesis point” for the concept you can identify? Or was this an idea that developed slowly over time?

In some form or other, the idea’s been developing for a while… I could relate countless discussions with musicians or journalists or simply interested amateurs deploring how “experimental” music events were, typically, failing to engage the audience in any meaningful way — from the musicians staring at their computer screens like nerds checking their emails to the event communication being limited to “hey, we’re playing experimental music tonight, come! Come! Oh… Why don’t you come?”. Honestly, if musicians play for no audience, or an audience composed mostly of fellow musicians, it’s as autistic as artistic.

Co-organizer Vu Nhat Tan will present a set based around sound effects at the show.

Co-organizer Vu Nhat Tan will present a set based around sound effects.

If I may quote One Man Nation, who made a great show at CAMA-ATK last spring: “A lot of the sound art I come into contact that tries to give the impression of being highbrow and experimental is boring to me. As much as it is a sonic experience, I find it holds too much of the baggage of a patriarchal lineage. It’s very male, this whole sound art thing. With exceptions, it’s very much like – you all just fucking sit down and listen to me while I blow you away with the most powerful sounds I can find on my laptop. It’s got no real softness to it.”
(from this interview:

So, I’m definitely not saying I’m the first one trying to tackle that issue, or the most original… But when Vu Nhat Tan proposed to me to organize concerts with him, that was the way I wanted to do it: try to be not “just another experimental music night”, but something more, a meeting with the audience, an exchange. Actually, I’m even trying to avoid the term “experimental”, which tends to be used by artists as an
excuse to do whatever they like without considering the audience, and also bothers me as a scientist, since a scientific experiment follows a strictly designed protocol to test a clearly defined hypothesis, and there’s nothing like that in what we do here. I prefer “personal music”, or even “tinkering”, in French “bricolage”, the term originally used by Pierre Schaeffer.

 What do you hope will be the takeaways for both the audience and the performers on the evening?

For the audience, maybe a better understanding and appreciation of what they saw and heard, and hopefully a curiosity to discover more; for the artists, if all goes well, a greater satisfaction from having shared their passion.

Dan Henneberry will go guitar-less and hook up iPads to effects pedals.

Dan Henneberry will go guitar-less and hook up iPads to effects pedals to create new sonic textures.

Does organizing the event present any logistical challenges that one might not face when putting on a more traditional “sit down and listen” show?

I’m not planning on anything very special as far as organization goes — just no time! Maybe we’ll have time to consider that for the next edition… So maybe the greatest challenge is to make sure that my fellow musicians get into the spirit of the thing…

What would you qualify as a success for this show? What will it take for this to become an ongoing series?

Well, after what I said earlier, what else can I answer but “audience satisfaction and feedback”? For my part, I’m ready to keep organizing these as long as the audience remain interested and I can find local artists to meet the challenge

If there are future iterations of the event, how do you see the series progressing and evolving?

If possible, something I’d like to do is invite newcomers in the musical scene — find someone with a few interesting tracks on SoundCloud and invite them to do a first live set, even just 5-10 minutes if they’re not comfortable with more; that would be useful.  Also, maybe genre crossovers, inviting musicians from other “worlds”?

Sebastien Gesell will interact with the audience around the theme of sonic tourism.

Sebastien Gesell will interact with the audience around the theme of sonic tourism.

Can you give a sneak preview of what audiences might expect from your set beyond the initial show description? 

I’m not even certain yet, still putting things together! For a first part, I’ll have on stage a kind of machine producing a basic sound that will act as a building foundation for… something. Then another homemade device should allow me to try for a live version of a piece I made a little while ago using handwriting sounds. I have other ideas, but since I’m not sure yet if I’ll have time to prepare that, better not talk about it!

Thanks again Mathias! People, if you are at all interested in new and creative music, you shouldn’t miss this show! (Plus coming will help ensure the existence of future shows in the series.) 

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