Live in Paris, March 21, 2008 (55:48)
Venue: Cité De La Musique
Charlemagne Palestine: glasses, 6 electronic keyboards, organ, voice
Pictures above from an unrelated online video [+].
Charlemagne Palestine was born in New York, 1945/7. He lives in Brussels, Belgium with his wife Aude Stoclet. This is a personal live recording of a Charlemagne Palestine concert that was supposedly a rendition of Schlingen-Blängen, though the music was much more varied and eventful than this famous continuous organ drone CD.
Charlemagne Palestine entered the stage with a suitcase full of Teddy bears and stuffed animals he disposed around the stage. He poured water in one of his glasses and (supposedly) cognac in the other. The stage featured 6 synthesizers, a little table for the glasses and various objects, and an organ at the back of the stage with its pipes displayed in front of the audience. Palestine’s performance started by releasing a continuous note on each of the 6 electronic keyboards, one at a time, that were to remain playing for the rest of the show. He then started playing music with his 2 glasses (05:30), rubbing their edges and plucking them, while singing along in his one-of-a-kind beautiful, falsetto weeping tone. He then returned to the synthesizers (13:00) to add a new, more intense layer of droning sounds. Then he moved to the organ (14:00), at first only playing with the features and controls of the organ called ‘stops’, thus morphing the intangible electronic drone, adding rich overtones to the beating and shimmering sound, the organ pipes acting as additional loudspeakers. Later on, he started playing the organ keyboard, adding mesmerizing, enchanting overtones and chords to the already celestial sounds he had been previously delivering.
He resumed singing at 28:20, in a more urgent tone than before, reminiscent of that of LaMonte Young on ‘The Tortoise, his dreams and journeys’. At this point, I had chills all along my back spine, the singing being extremely evocative and meaningful to me. His chanting was mournful, akin to the synagogue’s cantor weeping tone. There is a special way of reading the Torah aloud that is called cantillation, adding special intonations to the words. Maybe this is where Palestine’s singing come from, since he has been trained as a cantor. Actually, his singing reminds the reading of the Kaddish during Shabbat (compare here). His vocal invocations were so moving, I thought he was onto releasing a new Golem like old Rabbi Löw in Prague’s ghetto. From past Palestine interviews I read, I understand he doesn’t want his music to be explicitly jewish, favoring a personal mix of hindu, indian-american, orthodox and jewish elements. So I might be over-interpreting his music with too much emphasis on the jewish religious ritual. Finally, he ended the concert with an improvisation on the organ’s pedalboard (51:20), at first rather slowly, then improvising a kind of frenetic tap-dance on the pedals that was very funny to look at. To put an end to the music, he just unceremoniously switched off the mains supply.
On 2 occasions, Palestine spoke in french to the audience. At 04:45, he asks the audience to put their coughing marathon on hold, for the sake of the rest of the show. He very kindly said he was ill as well and had taken eucalyptus pills before the show. Later on (06:00) he asked the technician to dim the lights, leaving only the red and magenta lights on.
I assume the kind of tape hiss noticeable at the beginning and end of the recording actually came from the organ pipes machinery, as well as from my recording level. The sound is rather thin at the beginning, getting really loud after 25mns. Check this picture of the sound level – this is definitely not minimal music!
PS:I just remembered I took a picture with my cell phone after the show was over. Here it is, while, after the long applause, Palestine is coming back on stage to take care of his stuff.