Milo, the small village on the slopes of Mount Etna that inspired maestro Franco Battiato, will be the stage for the first edition of the Opera Festival, which will take place over two weekends during which the music of Italian and international artists will enliven the Sicilian landscape.
This first edition, which will take place from 27 to 29 August and from 3 to 5 September, is entitled “Genesi”, referring again to Battiato and his 1987 opera, in which the maestro stages the irreversible decadence of the human race, which can only be averted through beauty, dance and music.
Opera Festival searches for this beauty in nature and in the elements offered by the landscape that embraces Milo, which will blend with the sounds of the leading artists, among whom Christophe Chassol stands out on the first day – Friday 27th August -.
We at Collater.al were lucky enough to have a chat with the French composer and musician, who told us how his passion for music began, how his albums and films are created and gave us a sneak preview of his performance at the Opera Festival.
Visit the Opera Festival website to buy tickets and find out the full line up, and read on for our interview with Christophe Chassol.
Hi Christophe, this is the first time we talk about you on Collater.al. Introduce yourself to our readers. How did you get into music and how did your career start?
My name is Christophe Chassol, I am a French musician and artist, born in Paris in 1976 but my parents were originally from West Indies, Martinique. I started with music very early, around the age of 4, and I learned to play the piano when I was about 5. I started with classical music, then I discovered other genres such as jazz, which I love, and when I was a teenager I had a band with which I did covers of jazz pieces.
After my teenage years I studied philosophy and went to Berklee College of Music in Boston.
Over the years I have worked on music for commercials, movies, TV shows and various arrangements. For a while I also worked with a 24-piece orchestra with whom I did several shows and live performances.
Then I moved to Los Angeles where I started experimenting a lot until the advent of YouTube in 2005 when I started making music by integrating sounds from the videos I made. I started calling these tracks Ultrascores.
A few years later, in 2008, I got my first commission from a museum in New Orleans for whom I made NOLA Chérie, a film and an album, and from then on I started using a technique I call “harmonizing speech”.
My second album was made in India, where I recorded a lot of traditional musicians, and my third album, “Big Sun”, made with the same concept, was made in Martinique.
And then, well, there were so many things and other albums after “Big Sun”…
You are French and with Martinique origins. How have your origins and the places you’ve visited in your life influenced your music?
They influence the music in the sense that I make music with the sounds I capture while filming. For example from Martinique for “Big Sun” I shot a bird singing and this melody became the bit for one of the tracks.
I could say that these places not only influence my music, but they are the material I need to make it. That’s why the structure, the sound, the form of my music is always the same because in the end I also have my obsessions and the things I like, but what changes is what you could call the soloist, the melody, which is closely linked to the place where I film and record.
A more technical question. During your travels, what equipment do you use to record sounds and noises?
Oh, it’s very simple, often all you need is a camera and a microphone. Usually when I’m travelling there’s a cameraman and a sound engineer, but when I’m alone and I’m recording everything and I just put a microphone on top of the camera. That’s more than enough.
Let’s go back to the concept of Ultrascore, what are they and how did this name come about?
I started giving this name to my experiments in 2005 because I needed to classify my work and I simply started naming the files this way. You know, with “score” I refer to the film score, so the music, whereas “ultra” is a very objective thing, almost joking, as if I used “super!”.
On August 27th at Opera Festival you will be performing “Big Sun”, your latest album. Tell us about this album and what’s new about it compared to your previous works?
“Big Sun” was released in 2015, but not everything that makes it up is from that time because it’s like I’ve been playing it all my life and I think I’ll go on playing it all my life. It’s a work, a film, that I shot in Martinique and the aim was to film Carnival because Carnival is a special moment, where things go upside down, during which, for example, even the most homophobic person can be seen dressed as a woman.
Moreover, as my parents are originally from West Indies, I wanted to capture not only the beauty of the Carnival but also the beauty of the island in general. Martinique is so small but has an unparalleled richness, both in terms of nature and in terms of traditions, culture, language and of course music. They have a much deeper and more rooted musical culture there than in France, for example, and yet it’s not seen very well here and people make fun of genres like zouk. So I wanted to show how rich and deep Martinique’s culture is, filming singers, musicians, people at the market, nature, birds, Carnival and harmonising all this to create a film and a show.
Lastly, speaking of live performances and linking back to your participation in Opera Festival, what did you have in mind for the occasion? What kind of live performance will the spectators attend?
Well, you’ll see fantastic drummers and on the screen there will be different characters. It will be a kind of triptych made up of the drummers, me on keyboards or piano and the screen. The screen is the real protagonist and we are like inside the screen. Actually we are in front of it but it’s like we are inside it. It will be a dialogue between the music and the images on the screen.