Jérôme Combier, who are you?
The sound and/or noise you like
The sound of the shakuhachi and in like manner the noise of the wind in the bamboo forests the shakuhachi is supposed to imitate, since this Japanese flute, itself a product of these forests, is supposed to hold its memory. It was a sound that, when I was a composition student, was the equivalent for me of an exercise in strict counterpoint – that incidentally I loved.
What was your first musical emotion?
The Goldberg Variations of Johann Sebastian Bach played by Glenn Gould (in the 1980s version) and that I used to listen to in the course of my walks. They were one of the first objects of study for me, in which I became aware of the internal workings of a musical work and of the gap that separates knowledge of a work from its mystery. I found there a lesson that is perhaps the only worthwhile one, the one that associates science and acuity, rigour and freedom, something that remains an ideal for me in everything I undertake … even if very often it is inaccessible.
Your best moment for composing
I am definitely a night person. The night has always been my territory, the place where time is in suspension, where everything stops. I have been through it many times and on occasion have lost myself in it. Many pieces have been written then and I have as it were been hitting the walls of my conscience. But today I can still quote the titles of the pieces I have composed during the night and at once find myself again in all those rooms, all those places where they were written: Respirer l’ombre and Lessness in the small workshop of the Villa Medici next to the Pincio, Noir gris on a table corner at 36 rue Fabert very near the Invalides, Terre et cendres in the little room under the eaves in the Place Jacques Demy, Campo santo in the flat of the Château de Chambord, Dawnlight in the office that overlooks the roofs of the 14th arrondissement of the Rue de Gergovie.
The most striking thing you have read lately
My reading is more than just an add-on to music, very often it is continued into the musical object. It is also as much the echo to my convictions as an artiste (in the very idea of writing and work on form), as it has a certain relationship to reality that I could not quite convey in music that is too abstract, and it’s the better for it. Two striking reads for me: Austerlitz by W.G Sebald which gave rise to a journey following the book’s trail, then an adaptation made by the musicians of Ictus, lastly a strange stage work performed at the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence with my associates Pierre Nouvel and Bertrand Couderc. And then Les oiseaux by Tarjei Vesaas, one of the most beautiful recent books I have read, and of which I retain the idea, a precious one, of being able one day to turn it into an opera.
Your cult film or series
2001 A Space Odyssey, for the intelligence of the sound, for Hal’s little song at the end that was the first song sung by a computer and that contrasts with the breathing of the man who gradually unplugs the computer, a synthetic voice that dives into the extreme low register and the throes of oblivion; and for many other things.
Your preferred activity
To live free