BWW Review: ELECTRO SYPMPHONIC PROJECT: LAURENT COUSON at La Seine Musicale
Teaming up with DJs Tom Fire, Benoit Lugue, and Charles Schillings, Laurent Couson has come up a delightful concoction, Electro Symphonic Project.
A detail summarizes project well: the Karl Lagerfeld trainers Couson wears. Like the fashion designer, Couson knows how to marry high culture, namely classical symphony, with the popular, namely techno music. His collaboration with Fire, Lugue, and Schillings feels like a long conversation: the DJs posing question to him with their loops, he responding with a symphony orchestra. Tom Fire and Benoit Lugue are conservatory trained; Charles Shiling is self-taught, but heavily influenced by classical music, motifs from which he has often used in runway shows for. . . Karl Lagerfeld.
As for the music, the score is in the same vein as Couson's The Modern Symphonic Album (Deutsche Grammophon, 2017). It's in 16 pieces ("Opening", "The Key", "My Funeral", and so on) that he comments on through the mike, describing his mind or drawing the public's attention to some musical element. It's didactic, but in an easy-going way. Fire's and Lugué's rhythms are in tune with Couson's: their music evokes sunny, grandiose images (he is the great Claude Lelouch's favorite film composer, after all). We think of John Williams or the great American westerns, which is why applause breaks out between songs, as if the audience were at a New Year's Concert in Vienna or a Christmas Concert anywhere.
Those who have had the great luck to have attended the Carl Craig's similar experiment Orchestra Les Siècles won't necessarily have the same psychedelic experience, except maybe during the two numbers performed by Schillings, who takes the time to imbue the concert hall with the kind of dark atmosphere typical of the clubs of the early 2000s.
Perhaps the greatest revelation of Electro Symphonic Project is the magnificent plasticity of the orchestra. Couson manages to exploit the instruments and the ONBA musicians playing them to their full potential. Many colors and tones are mobilized on a grand scale, and the players producing them are clearly having fun in the process.
The large vocal chorus, "Victoria Isle de France" directed by Michel Piquemal, also does wonders. One must remember that Laurent Couson's second love after film music is musical theater. In 2001 he composed his first musical Anges et Démons, based on a first draft first simply called Vampires, which played at the auditorium of Radio France in February 2003 before touring extensively. His role model in this field is Stephen Sondheim, with whom he shares a taste for adventurous projects.
His next musical theater project, commissioned by the City of Bordeaux, is expected to be Dakota, a musical hommage to the legendary building where John Lennon, Lauren Bacall, and other legends lived.
In the meantime, Laurent's Electro Symphonic Project, a moving tribute to his mentor, jazz-legend Didier Lockwood, is a testimony of his creative audacity. Who would dare, in an era of playing it safe, put on a more than two-hour concert of strictly original music, with almost a hundred artists on stage mixing two radically different cultures while still managing, thanks to his showmanship as a conductor and an MC, to make the entire audience of the packed auditorium stand on its feet and dance?