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Madeline Kenney
Perfect Shapes

Nov 20, 2017




Pianist, composer, arranger and musical director for the likes of Phoenix and Sebastien Tellier, the charismatic and talented Christophe Chassol gave birth to an unclassifiable artistic piece. His compositions articulate voices, music, sounds, images onto new audiovisual objects. The result has a name : "ultrascore".

Born in 1976, Chassol discovered music at the age of four. Son of an amateursaxophonist father, this "black kid" joined the Conservatory as others join the army. He would spend sixteen years there, starting out by learning harmony, scales, and melody as essential illumination for what would follow. Traumatized at a very tender age by the soundtrack for the film The Towering Inferno, the young Chassol quickly understood that he would not release his first album at 20. No, indeed. His initial ambition was to compose for the cinema, covertly uniting sound and image in order to produce movie music of great elegance in the tradition of Jerry Goldsmith, Michel Magne, and Quincy Jones, among others. In the mid-1990s, Chassol practically disappeared. He headed for darkly-lit movie houses with immediate boarding for fifteen years of composition for the big screen, television, and advertising. Between advertising jingles, Chassol found the time to become an orchestra conductor from 1994 to 2002 and then discovered the world of pop music while accompanying Phoenix and Sébastien Tellier on Politics (2004), for which the young double of Jean-Michel Basquiat did most of the arrangements. One of the quirks of such shifts is the confusion they create between the avant-garde and one's own ambition. "I am a musician who makes serious and accessible music in a pop-music format," Chassol says in order to pull himself out of ghetto niche markets, where so many others bask. As much a disciple of the Minimalist school of music (Steve Reich, John Adams) as he is a passionate enthusiast for pop culture, this Parisian loves to wander off the beaten path, as is shown by his "ultrascores" ("absolute film music" composed on the basis of a film's sonic elements) for Nola Chérie (the latter of which accompanies this first record "X-Pianos" as a DVD supplement), Indiamore (his second DVD/CD project) or the Big Sun (third and final part of the trilogy).

Big Sun, Christophe Chassol's brilliantly-dazzling third album, crowns his trilogy of ultrascores (a method he elaborated for harmonizing, symphonizing real life, the 'here and now'), which started out in Creole-speaking New Orleans (Nola Chérie, 2011) before pursuing its route through India (Indiamore, 2013). In March 2014, Christophe Chassol took off for Martinique, his family's birthplace; these West Indies that epitomize everything he dreamt of expressing, from the purely personal to the perfectly panoptic. Hand-in-hand with the production sound mixer Marie-France Barrier and the sound engineer Johann Levasseur, the trio filmed and recorded a myriad of extraordinary encounters, scenes of everyday life, the carnival... a highly-evocative documentary that was to become the matrix of Big Sun. Back in France, he composed, edited, rehearsed and created the 27 tracks of a 70- minute West Indian space odyssey. Big Sun is a weaveworld of birds' songs and Pipo Gertrude's whistling, Joby Bernabés poetry and a tête-à-tête with a lady mountain-dweller, Sissido and Samak's rap, Mario Masse's flute, the Fort de France carnival, conch shell echoes, the ocean's music and the hullabaloo of a game of dominos. And sumptuous pieces of music like La Route de la Trace or Reich & Darwin, which suddenly spring up at a bend in the road and take our breath away.