Theater absorbs the circus xy xyxy xyyy Q&A: Setting circus theater to music

"Le grand C" Compagnie XY Portés acrobatiques Main à main

Raynaud de Lage Christophe

Compagnie XY is known for setting its athletic circus performances to traditional French music, and its new piece, “Le Grand C,” features a new score composed in the traditional style by Marc Perrone.

“Le Grand C” co-creator Romain Guimard worked closely with Perrone in choosing the musical direction for the piece.

In an e-mail exchange, Guimard described the process of creating a soundtrack that would reflect Compagnie XY’s vigorous movements.

Q: What types of songs did you pick? And why?

A: It’s almost accordion alone. We loved the fact that the musician was a lone face to us, with his simple windy instrument like the noise of our breezes. Moreover, Marc Perrone is in a wheelchair, and we also loved his fragility and the fragility of his music face to acrobatics, his immobility face to our movements, his sound face to our silence.

Q: Is the music used a mixture of pre-existing music and composed music?

A: There is a song called “Les boites a Musique” from Les Freres Jacques, who are four singers who sang old-style French songs. There is a song from Les Genoux, who plays traditional French music. There is also an a cappella song, which is a traditional French song. Except for those three songs, all of the other ones were written by Marc Perrone.

Q: What are some quintessential elements to traditional French music? What does it sound like?

A: There are a lot of different kinds of traditional French music; it depends of the provinces. But traditional music was often linked with dances; it was made for it. Accordion is a classical traditional instrument.

Q: How would you describe Perrone’s musical style?

A: There are a lot of waltzes, at different tempos. There is a squeaking song at the beginning of the show which is a dark moment, with slow movements. There is also a Circassian circle (a traditional French style of music), but normally it’s a speed style of music and here it’s played slowly. And there is a long march, beginning quietly and becoming more and more intense with drums at the end of the show.

Q: How did you find those pre-existing songs?

A: When we created the show, we tried to work with different kinds of music before meeting Marc. And those three songs were so perfectly according to what we created with them that we couldn’t change them for any other.

Q: Is the music chosen before or after the acrobatics are choreographed?

A: The music was created according to what we choreographed. But when we created it, it was in regard to music he suggested to us. So we can say after, but it’s not totally true.

Briana Prevost is a Goldring Arts Journalist from Syracuse University.