Mune – Claire Bergerault and Jean-Luc Guionnet use sound against the signifier.

In the journey through sound as a signifier, interruptions to existing symbols are (as anyone who reads this blog regularly knows) considered by myself the most interesting art being practised today. I review a lot of experimental music albums on this site, and will continue to do so, because I think the creative work being done to interrupt and reorganise our listening is interesting, important and most of all, an enormous pleasure. For me, art that challenges me to think differently is exciting.  Art that calls forth something inside of me – even if it has already been there – is a great gift and part of the journey toward what it means to be human.

This brings me to my review of Mune, a disc of three pieces of music performed by Claire Bergerault (Voice) and Jean-Luc Guionnet (Pipe organ) released recently on the Cathnor label.

This very beautiful disc is the combination of Bergerault’s exquisite operatic singing and Guionnet’s deep dark brooding pipe organ.  Like all music released by Cathnor, this is an appeal to the freedom and collaboration of the listener.  Beyond that, this particular recording is also a confrontation with a certain history. There is more than an interruption with our listening here. This is an appeal for the liberation of the two chosen instruments. Like all interruptions, it is a distinct separation from something it leaves behind.  Something it has killed off in its being severed. Both the operatic voice and the Pipe Organ are instruments with a distinctive history – a frame, and a pre-emptive footprint.  The signs and signifiers of each of these instruments are well established and often associated with the sacred. To subvert them – to take their sound and invert – is to perform a direct assault on those signs and signifiers. It is more than appeal. It is a death.

The shadow associations (symbols) of these instruments lie in the borderlines of corporeal, sensory and perceptual zones and yet at the same times it eludes them all because primarily it is a psychic entity. The signifiers of these instruments exist as mental inscriptions of the residues of our own separation with the part-Objects themselves. In other words, it is inside of each of us that the associations with these instruments exist, and it is through our listening that the annihilation / severing of these associations take place.

The space underneath is held by Guionnet’s astounding Pipe Organ.  Where silence would be an imposition of reality over the symbolic, the organ carries the voice as well as filles the spaces between, thereby holding us to the borderline where the disruption is occurring. This exists for the listener as a rather unnerving experience that is difficult to identify.  Heard without the voice, the organ is a series of disembodied sounds, beautiful, but not necessarily with the heated element of the cut that severs it from its own signifier. By moving stealthily around beneath the voice, it can remain in the realm of the psychic zone, hold the voice there also, and retain its ability to “stand” in its own symbol. Because it doesn’t behave like we know a Pipe Organ should behave, and yet insists on holding us to the symbols and signifiers of all that we know a Pipe Organ to be, the effect is startling and is why  – for my listening experience – the sound carried with it the death of its own symbol. There is very little here that will remind you of all the things you know a Pipe Organ to be, and yet it is unmistakably a pipe organ throughout.

A similar but more violent occurence takes place within the sounds of the voice. Bergerault is an opera singer and she sings in that style here.  At the same time, she quite aggressively interrupts the signifier of the sound and the instrument such that the more distinct break, that will inform the pipe organ, echoes through the inner chambers of our own sensory experience. Where the pipe organ slithered around beneath filling in the passages between the signifiers so as not to connect us with the real, the voice cuts and insists its way in, using splits and separations that incite the listener unconsciously to recognise the lost part-object. She both is and is not “opera singer”. in the hands of this talented musician, we are left within the signifier and yet firmly severed from it as a symbolic other. The sound is not unidentifiable, it is more that our desire to identify it as been removed from us and we are left with what we have always had and so much more. The subjectivity is fatally intermingled with the already always lacking psychic objects, which will reveal to the attentive listener, holes in the Real, Imaginary and Symbolic.

These talented musicians both rob us of what they have promised and provide us with what they have promised at the same time as offering us something beyond what we expected. The collaborative listener is invited to set down an attachment we didn’t know we had that lay not so dormant in our own psyche. However we are only to take a piece of that attachment away, so that instead of imposing something new, we are held to a deeper understanding of something we felt we knew.

This is a deliberate act by these musicians. They are challenging you in the most shocking and subversive acts of art. They are holding you to your own symbol, even as they change it before you.

For me this created a sublime listening experience. One where I was thrilled to give myself over to the complicated challenges and pleasures offered. Mune is an incredible journey into a piece of yourself that will never be quite the same after your willingness to be a collaborative listener.

Mune has been released through Cathnor Recordings and is available here.