Musical treat out of the spotlight

The self-taught French composer Rene Aubry is a discreet yet prolific artist who combines classic harmony with new age, rock, world music and French tradition. He writes, arranges and plays many of the instruments used on his recordings and produces his projects himself. Aubry tends to favor the guitar but also plays bouzouki, mandolin, banjo and harmonica. His compositions are adorned by various other instruments, including violin, trombone, accordion, piano and clarinet. Aubry’s atmospheric music carries the listener away to dreamlike worlds, while some of his material brings to mind work by Manos Hadjidakis, a composer whose strong influence is acknowledged by the Frenchman, as was highlighted by a 1997 release, «Ne m’oublie pas,» which Aubry dedicated to the late Greek composer. Aubry first performed here eight years ago and has since visited for shows on numerous occasions, including recently. Kathimerini caught up with the musician for an interview at his hotel in Athens. So, who exactly is Rene Aubry? I usually don’t talk often about myself. I reveal things only through my music. I feel like more of a craftsman than an artist. I don’t write music but just come up with music using my hands, on the guitar or the computer. Perhaps my biggest difficulty lies in my relations with others. I’m a lonesome and hesitant person, yet despite this, I smile a lot at others, including strangers, even if some of them don’t reciprocate. What’s the key to your success? I don’t know if I’m successful, as you say, so I suppose that my success is a relative thing. In France, I have virtually no connection with the mass media. References to me are rarely made, and when I am to perform concerts, I really need to put up a fight to get some article into the newspapers. Of course, it’s a pleasant thing to receive recognition and understanding from fans for your work. I feel happy about that. But I’m no Sting or Michael Jackson. Are you a happy person? It’s an ephemeral thing, nobody can be constantly happy, unless he or she is stupid. I live a relatively comfortable life in Paris and on some days I feel happy, that is, when I don’t think of the problems of this world. For me, Africa is not merely a geographical region, but more than that. It’s a burden on the shoulders. The biggest times of happiness in my life have come from meeting the significant women in my life, and, naturally, the birth of my children. Then, way down the hierarchy, comes the joy I feel from whatever success my music achieves. What is music? It’s a very difficult thing to define. Music belongs to the sphere of feelings and is of vital importance. It literally helps us live – not just me, but millions of people. Removing music from the world would be almost like taking away love. Composing music maintains my intellectual youthfulness – it’s like dreaming when you’re awake. How would you define art? Art is a method of living in harmony with yourself and others around you. One does not need to be a musician, artist, or painter to achieve this. One could also be a taxi driver or a cook. Art with a capital A is a powerful and abstract thing which goes straight to the heart without passing through the mind. What do you think makes you different from other music contemporaries? I don’t know if I”m really different than other musicians. This term seems a little far-fetched to me. If I do differ anywhere, if I follow a different approach to music, it may be because I’m self-taught. A series of chance meetings put me on the musical track – Carolyn Carlson, Manos Hadjidakis, who influenced me greatly and other musicians and artists. My music is influenced by my place of birth, as well as the places that I love, such as Italy. But I draw my inspiration mainly from the things that happen in the world. I try to be honorable whenever I’m composing. What is war? Do you believe that the international economic crisis is irreversible? The reasons for a war usually hail from the inability to communicate; the inability between people to agree on certain things. But wars differ greatly among themselves. There’s tremendous social injustice in this world. The world’s wealth is very unfairly divided and the gap between rich and poor is widening. Catastrophe will come if we are not careful. It’s not politics but economics that rule this world. It’s unsettling… however, we now have the chance to reduce environmental emissions, offer genuine support to Africa, or protect various animal species from extinction. Is there such a thing as equality? The declaration of human rights says: «People are born equal by law.» But let’s stop fooling ourselves, we’re not all equal. There are among us the so-called leaders, or people who feel the need to govern others, as well as people who feel the need to be governed. As far as I’m concerned, equality doesn’t exist in the real world. We need to provide free space to people, so they can utilize it as they wish. Would you trust the future of your children in the hands of George W. Bush? In France, we have a small George W. Bush called Nicolas Sarkozy. Like many others, I’m not a fan of George Bush and believe that his dominance will soon come to an end. Under no circumstances would I trust my children in the hands of any politician. And to be precise, I would trust as few people as possible with the future of my children. What kind of things charm you? What do you detest? I feel charmed by many things, beauty, intelligence, innocence – especially innocence. I despise the concept of nationhood. I don’t even know what this means. I don’t feel that I belong to a country, only to planet Earth. Started with music for ballet Rene Aubry emerged in the late 70s when he wrote the music for ballets headed by Carolyn Carlson and Pina Bausch. Later, Aubry wrote music for theatrical productions by Philippe Genty, as well as five soundtracks for films. Commissioned work aside, Aubry has also been prolific with work of his own. «La revolte des enfants» (1991), «Killer Kid» (1994), both soundtracks, and a personal album, «Ne m’oublie pas» (1995), are his best known releases to date. On «Plaisirs d’amour» (1998) and «Invites sur la Terre» (2001), Aubry focused on acoustic sound. His «Seuls au monde» (2003), obviously influenced by the 9/11 events, returned to darker electronic sounds. More recently, the Frenchman has released «Projection Privee» (2004), which includes the soundtrack to the film «Malabar Princess,» and the ethereal «Memoires du future» (2006). A forthcoming album, titled «Play Time,» has been scheduled for this coming March.