Multi-instrumentalist, electroacoustician, composer and artistic director of Décor Sonore, Michel Risse sees the city as a place of invention for his sound compositions. He draws on the sonorities, resonances and harmonies of the natural and industrial elements that make up our daily urban lives to offer us a new way of listening to the world. These singular creations offer a new perception of our sound environment and reinvent our relationship with music.
Born in Algeria in the second half of the twentieth century, he began playing music on a small harmonica he discovered in an attic at the age of 4, as well as on his mother’s piano, which, it is said, fell (the piano, not his mother) in the port of Marseille; this piano, now beyond repair, became a marvellous terrain for sonic adventures, a “prepared piano” in total ignorance of John cage, far richer and more surprising than the dull, sadly tuned piano of his teacher.
He also builds guitars of sorts out of shoeboxes and rubber bands, before taking over his sister’s guitar (the guitar, not the shoe), and ends up destroying the little tape recorder his father brought home, trying so hard to turn it into an instrument (the tape recorder, not his father).
But it was at secondary school that the prospect of making music all his life (and making music all his life) became obvious. First with a folk-rock band in which he played percussion and guitar, then with an express school reorientation to obtain a music baccalaureate which led him to the percussion class at the Strasbourg Conservatoire. The immediate proximity of the Théâtre National and the Ecole d’Architecture encouraged cross-fertilisation, encounters and a wide range of experiences, and he soon had the opportunity to take part in stage music recordings, shows, happenings and exhibitions.It was in 1973 that he composed his first “sound decors”, electroacoustic compositions on magnetic tape, not intended to be heard in concert, for the exhibitions of his friend, the photographer Alain Willaume.He interrupted his studies in literature to work as a drummer in a dance band, and it was during a long tour of Morocco that he was introduced to the rhythms of the Gnaouas and Ahuaches, questioned the European methods of learning music and art in general, and finally began to play jazz properly.On his return to France, he settled in Paris, resumed his music studies at Paris 8 – Vincennes and continued his musical experience in the company of artists as diverse as the group Herbe Rouge, Moondog, Vince Taylor, Angel Parra, Hélène Martin, le Grand Or and others.
“If our soundscape can now be considered a landscape, then how can we describe the urban soundscape?
A wasteland? A field? A forest? A rubbish dump?
And instead of abandoning this public space to industrialists and advertisers, shouldn’t we entrust it, at least a little, to artists?
So I’m abandoning the panoply of the composer in favour of that of the landscape gardener, and even of the gardener, an acoustic gardener; who would take care of the landscape with his tools as musician, acoustician, instrument maker, composer, of course, but also as a surveyor of streets, squares, public spaces, and of the public themselves, in other words with infinite precautions, always and first of all listening to what was there before me.”