An Interview with Alain Franco
The Pulse of Music and that of Dance

“Anarchiv #3: Songs of Love and War” by Deufert and Plischke
“Anarchiv #3: Songs of Love and War” by Deufert and Plischke | Photo (detail): © Anja Beutler

The pianist, conductor and composer Alain Franco adapts contemporary and classical music for choreographers such as Teresa de Keersmaeker and Meg Stuart. Yet he also appears onstage with the performers. In the interview he talks about how dance and music inspire each other.

How did your collaboration with choreographers begin?

I have always been interested in stage work. I have a classical training, but I soon began to conduct contemporary music. The collaboration with dancers and choreographers is a logical development from the attempt to also work with contemporary art and from the need to put more complexity into my art, to add language, movement and corporeality to it.

In some works you use pre-produced music, in others you join the performers onstage. What does it mean for a musician to become a performer?

For me it was a relief. I was disappointed at a very early stage by the coldness that prevailed in the concert halls and had been asking myself since the 1980s: what is actually happening with the sensitive experience of playing music before an audience? To some extent it seemed to me as something deadly since part of the feelings were lost as the audience traditionally disassociated itself from them. We have to keep on thinking about whether the classical presentation form is transferable to contemporary music.

So is the dialogue with dance and performance inspiring for contemporary music?

Yes, of course. When we think back to what Stravinsky did with the Ballet Russe, then we already see that collaboration plays a new role. Or when Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker works with Steve Reich then there is a very close collaboration between the pulse of music and that of dance. These days more and more composers are taking an interest in dance, they are seeking a more intuitive and, at the same time, reflexive dialogue. This happens via the body, but also via an intellect that thinks more diversely. A body that becomes intellectual and an intellect that becomes corporeal – basically this is an inversion of the Cartesian body.

Both dance and music address the recipient very directly, the analysis takes place afterwards. Is that productive for the collaboration?

Very productive. I believe there is already a constant connection in the brain. When we hear music we also hear movement, when we see dance we also see movement in the room. We share the non-socio-functional mobility. Movement as such is an intuition, and afterwards the question arises as to how it is formed.

You don’t compose any new music for choreographies, you assemble it. For Meg Stuart’s “Built to last” you used Beethoven, Rachmaninov, Schönberg and Meredith Monk, among others.

I send the scores into a time flow, that is to say a score is a publicized form, and this form is a determination of the time. But a score is also a moment in time, and with my montage I try to let history criss-cross the publications. To some extent scores are dissolved or I modify them. In Built to last I also stretched music. I aim at an articulation in history – history as a development pattern in the sense of historicity, but also as a history of our perception. We travel with music into history, and thus images are produced that remind us that the image of man has changed in its entirety. The five performers thus receive a number of identities and associations with various ideas of man.

For “Anarchiv #3: Songs of Love and War” by Deufert and Plischke you adapted Wagner’s entire Ring for a piano.

Deufert and Plischke have their very own conception of what the stage actually is. The distance between viewers and artists is dissolved in favour of participation. The invitation to the audience is developed in all directions. Artists stand onstage as moderators or as workers. I then developed, rather ambitiously, Wagner’s music via the piano. I made a piano version of the Ring, which took three or four months, but it was a possibility for me to delve really deeply into Wagner’s music.

In Isabelle Schad’s “Experience #1” you work with “time windows”. What does that mean?

Isabelle Schad worked with analyses from medical research, which nowadays is investigating how organs develop, what their functions and effects are on body and mind. From this she developed her very own body language, an embryology in the medical-scientific field. Experience #1 enquires into togetherness for common reasons, which are organic reasons. When she contacted me she had already developed a form for all dancers, they have certain freedoms but a common direction. My task was to react to this. I suggested to her that we use the music as time windows. There was no reason to break through the continuity of the movement, but I could play the role of someone looking in from the outside. When you look from inside a flat through a window you see a very different situation from when you look in from outside. This also creates a time difference. So my music selection was based on the situation that one was confronted with different temporalities, with baroque music, but also with contemporary and electronic music.