- Musique

" It was strange to walk out on stage and behold a sea of blue masks before us "

Marie Torres - 30 octobre 2020
American author, composer, singer and musician Elliott Murphy has been living in Paris since 1989. On the occasion of the release of a new album, "The Middle Kingdom", he was kind enough to answer micmag.net's questions.

Your new album, "The Middle Kingdom", is composed of eighteen poems, written by you, that you recite, accompanied by the music of your faithful partner, Olivier Durand. Can you present it?

Elliott Murphy : "The Middle Kingdom" album was born out of a desire for Olivier and I to continue working together in spite of the travel restrictions of the Covid-19 epidemic. Olivier lives in Le Havre an I live in Paris so that was problematic and of course all our concerts over the summer were cancelled. But during this time I had been going into my son Gaspard Murphy’s studio to record an audio book for my memoir JUST A STORY FROM AMERICA and I had the idea of also recording some of my poetry and to ask Olivier to add music to it as he had recently set up his own home studio. So I asked him if this project would interest him and, of course, he said absolutely. So I sent him the original book of my poetry The Middle Kingdom which contains 50 poems and he chose those he could best relate to both poetically and musically and he came back with 18 titles which I then recorded. We sent the voice recordings to Olivier in Le Havre and he started composing and recording music to accompany the words and we worked together to modify his musical approach so that it would best suit each poem. For the poem The Middle Kingdom which is over 9 minutes long Gaspard also contributed musical ideas. And finally, Gaspard mixed the whole album in his studio in Paris.

What can you say about "Like Gérard Depardieu do“ and ”On the death of Prince” ?

E.M. : Well, like all poetry the content of the poem and the relation to the title can exist on many different levels. I’m a big fan of Gérard Depardieu and some time ago I read an interview with him and he must have said something about drinking 14 bottles of fine red wine and not getting drunk and that was the inspiration for the basic poem. But the Depardieu inspiration was only the starting point and then the poem took on a life of it’s own. For some reason, it’s the most popular title on the album on Spotify!

"The Death of Prince" is a kind of Shakespearian tribute to the amazing musician, performer, songwriter and personality known as Prince. I tried to put his untimely death in the context of our times and the insulated world he created for himself in Minneapolis.

Do you have a favorite poem ?

Well that would probably be "The Middle Kingdom" which is the most autobiographical work on the album so it was kind of a catharsis to record it. I wrote that poem while sitting in a cafe in Paris one December afternoon and it’s very long yet the words kept flowing like a river. When that happens its a magically spiritual moment for a writer when you’re transported into another zone.

Recently, you played two concerts in Brittany and one in the suburbs of Paris, what were your impressions in front of a masked audience ?

E. M. : It was strange to walk out on stage and behold a sea of blue masks before us but we kind of got use to it and even got the audience on its feet. I missed seeing the smiles on their faces ...

What music do you like to listen?

E. M. : Lately I’ve been listening to Keith Jarret’s “The Köln Concerts which is a monumental work on total improvisation and the best-selling solo jazz record in history. And, of course, I’ve been listening to my friend Bruce Springsteen’s new album “Letter to you” which is just wonderful and powerful and comforting in so many ways.

Have you a few projects in mind... for a future confinement?

E.M. : Actually, I’m co-writing a novel with my Spanish translator Peter Redwhite that shifts between time and space of our current Covid era and Columbus’ discovery of America. The next musical project will hopefully be a new album released in time for my March New Morning shows in Paris. And maybe another poetry with music project with the added contribution of my very talented violinist Melissa Cox. Since I’m not going out on the road and playing shows - this is the longest vacation I’ve had in over 40 years - it’s very important to me to have structure to my days. During the confinement I performed 56 “Corona Couch Concerts” on Instagram/Facebook and it was incredible the reaction of the fans. We had over 1000 viewers on many nights. So, like everybody else on the planet, I’m just trying to keep busy and wait for this dark age to pass …

Read it in french, here

Propos recueillis par Marie Torres www.micmag.net
Check out The Middle Kingdom on Spotify and iTunes. CDs will be available around November 1st and you can place a pre-order now in the store

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