Today's guest is Georges Raillard from Switzerland. Georges is the composer of the album ‘BUTTERFLIES IN THE LABYRINTH OF SILENCE’ (also read the interview with the album's guitarist David William Ross).
Q1. Please tell us about yourself (music background, your musical influences, styles, etc.).
As a child I heard my mother practicing the violin and the piano almost every day. She was a member of several amateur chamber music ensembles and also of an amateur orchestra that gave two concerts each year. When I was 8 or 9 years old she tried to teach me a few piano lessons, but I wasn’t really up to practicing much. In the late 1960s I discovered pop music; I especially liked The Beatles. Later I discovered The Who and their guitarist and composer Pete Townshend whose “symphonic” guitar playing fascinated me. It was then, in 1973, at the age of 16, when I really felt I wanted to learn to play an instrument: the guitar, of course. Though I might have liked playing the electric guitar from the start and becoming a star like my guitar heroes I understood that the classical guitar technique was the most complete and the one which opened most musical doors. My teacher from 1973 until 1978, when he emigrated to the United States, was Elfin F. Vogel; he taught me not only the techniques of classical guitar, but also the basics of harmony, musical forms and composition. He actually became my spiritual mentor. Many compositions date from that time. In 1981 I was about to begin studying composition at a college in New York City, but finally I renounced because I felt my urge to creating music had weakened, and in fact it remained absent until 18 years later when I rediscovered my old compositions and decided to compose some new stuff. But these 18 mute years by no means were creatively lost years because in the meantime I had become a writer and published two books with short stories.
Q2. Please tell us about the album 'BUTTERFLIES IN THE LABYRINTH OF SILENCE'.
The album, published by Navona Records, contains twelve compositions of mine for solo guitar from the years 1999-2008. I selected them because they all share a melodically rich and luminous quality, as opposed to many earlier or more recent compositions which sound more experimental, academic and difficult (for example “Sinking Islands”). The album title merges the titles of two pieces contained on the album: “Butterfly” and “The Labyrinth of Silence”. It is a very suggestive title, open to different interpretations. I’m hinting only at one: the butterflies may be these colourful pieces of music themselves which sound through the inscrutable silence of life.
a.) What inspired you to make this album?
It was seizing an opportunity. In May 2015 I got an email from Michael Papa of PARMA Recordings, a record company based in New Hampshire and specialized in contemporary music. He had come across my composition “Sinking Islands” on my website, georges-raillard.com, and thought it would fit well into a chamber music compilation project pursued by PARMA. We soon came to terms and in September 2015 the American guitarist David William Ross recorded my composition in Portland, ME. The compilation album “Between the Echoes”, containing my “Sinking Islands,” was published by the PARMA label Navona Records in September 2016.
Some months before PARMA had suggested they could record another album with only compositions of mine. I then selected 12 compositions (out of 51) for the project. The recording took place in July 2016 in Boston, again with David William Ross, who did an excellent job. I am very happy with the results.
But I had really never before thought of making a record nor had I actively pursued such a goal or dedicated much time and energy to promote myself, because for me, promotion and marketing should never displace my creative work. Therefore I limit self-promotion to my website where digital recordings of my compositions can be heard and scores can be downloaded. For me it’s enough being visible to any persons interested in guitar music and seizing the opportunities when they happen to come along. Thinking too much about self-promotion, career issues, pursuing opportunities, etc. easily leads to corrupting the creative processes.
b.) What was your composition process like? You are also a writer and translator. Do you find any correlation between literature and music in terms of your creative process?
Basically it’s “creating by doing”. When I take out the guitar for practicing, I usually first improvise during some minutes. These minutes are the best for getting inspired: my ears, my attention, my mind are fresh, like after waking from a long night’s sleep, open and eager for hearing new sounds, harmonies, melodies. Sometimes it’s difficult to catch the tones because they sound once and then they’re gone. I use a tape recorder and there is always a blank sheet of music on the music stand for notating any ideas. As soon as a musical idea is caught, I play it again and again trying to work it out and to find a fitting musical structure and form.
“Creating by doing” also means “doing for creating”: I actually play the guitar mainly for composing and I compose music only for guitar because I want to be able to play my music and so have control over it.
The creative process in writing literary texts is not very different from composing. The best ideas occur to me while writing: creating by doing again. Translation by contrast has more similarity to interpreting and performing music. As a translator you interpret, or perform, a text the same way you interpret, or perform, a score. It’s like the performance of a given text in another language.
c.) What potential do you see in the guitar?
The guitar is such a versatile instrument it will always have a great potential - as long as there are guitarists (and listeners, too). I see so many young (and less young) people chatting and playing games with their computer or smartphone all the time. It’s a “touch of the button culture” we live in more and more, we’re keen to always obtain immediate results and instantaneous satisfaction. I expect further technical progress to increase these tendencies. By contrast learning to play the guitar, or any other musical instrument, requires time, patience, discipline, perseverance. Will there be enough persons willing, and capable, to acquire these skills? Maybe I’m a bit pessimistic. In any case much can be achieved if we overcome those widespread concepts of music, and art in general, being something “useless”, “unproductive”, “unprofitable”, and “pure luxury”. Art is, on the contrary, at the core of individual and collective human growth and is therefore well worth all the money society spends for musical education and maintaining art schools, conservatories, concert halls, etc.
Q3. Please tell us about your next project.
The very next project will be publishing my next short story book in German; it is almost finished. In a longer term I would like to merge words and music – my words and my music. The traditional way of combining words and music is the song, but trying to write songs I have always felt my words being restrained by the requirements of the music, and vice versa. Since many good songs have been written in the past and are still being written in the present, I have to deduce that neither my words nor my music fit into songs and their patterns and that I will have to explore new ways of writing texts and making sounds so they can merge.