Aurélien Froment attempts to bring to the screen the music of Franco Melis, by following its form. This Sardinian musician, player of the Launeddas (a traditional Sardinian reed flute), is the last representative of one of two long lineages of musicians to have been trained in the traditional manner. Back then, the training of a musician was done by sharing one’s days with a master, from agricultural and domestic work in the morning, to music lessons during the afternoon, without any discontinuity between art and life. The master transmitted to his student the foundations of each sonata from which the student would later affirm his personality as a player. It is a relational music, which passes from one breath to the other without any material support, nor score, nor recording.
Each instrument consists of three sections of different lengths of reeds, each one is equipped with a simple woodwind that the Launeddas player fashions for himself. On the right hand, a reed with 5 holes. On the left hand, a second reed also with 5 holes coupled to a third reed without any holes, the staff. The player plays the three reeds simultaneously, producing an independently complex sonata played with a continuous breath.
Informed by the research and analytical work conducted at the end of the 1950’s by the Danish anthropologist Andreas Fridolin Weiss Bentzon and by that of the artist Michel Aubry, the French artist went to meet Franco Melis in order to try to reproduce on screen this polyphonic music of one man.
The band of the film passes through the gears of the camera just as the air circulates from the nose to the mouth of the musician while playing. Each piece of music that is filmed determines the length of the shots, without cuts or interruption. The shots of the film come one after another like the phrases of a sonata and never repeat themselves. The filming locations chosen to carry the music to the screen inscribe the sound in the different fields of reality of the contemporary Laudennas player, which reflect as much the changing of social paradigms as the permanence of the gestures, which is far from folkloric simplification: At the archeological museum of Cagliari where a bronze statuette is preserved representing a player 1000 years BCE (it is the oldest artifact attesting to the presence of the instrument on the island) ; on a hill facing Tuili, Franco’s village, which is the probable site of a nuraghe ( primitive stone constructions that are found on each high-point in the landscape, in all likelihood for defending an area and communicating long-distance) ; on the banks of a stream – where reeds grow naturally ; in the workshop where the first sounds are born from the patient transformation of the material ; in the courtyard of a house, where the music compels dancing ; in the church where pagan and christian traditions mingle ; finally at the local museum where Franco teaches and where one witnesses the decomposition of a sonata.
Without commentary and without words, the film is the site of an exhibition and of the representation of a musical form. With all the enthusiasm, power and melancholy of the original.
Production Aurélien Froment & red shoes Co-production M-Museum Leuven With the support of the Irish Arts Council and Passerelle Center d’art contemporain, Brest
This project was selected by the patronage commission of the National Foundation of Graphic and Plastic Arts which supported it. Courtesy of the artist and Marcelle Alix, Paris