Late nite in Athens, thinking of Paris. We were there recently for the launch of a book of photographs by legendary rouge musicologist Charles Duvelle, compiled by Hisham Mayet of Sublime Frequencies. Last summer, my partner Brittany and I helped in the recording and transcribing of interviews with Duvelle at his home near Paris. Two days of long convos with Hisham and Duvelle, who, at 81, is sharp, funny, kind, and infinitely patient with us. He took us through his archives, served rose, cooked lunch, and asked incredulous questions about America (a long life of traveling the world and that's still the weirdest place of all). For a brief and truly sublime moment, Duvelle played piano, improvising as we fumbled with the camera gear, moved.
A year later and the book is out, a beautiful and weighty beast that Hisham poured his life into, shipped from Singapore to Paris in time for an event at the Musee du quai Branly. The museum, a monument to French colonialism and art deemed "primitif," sits amidst a faux tropical garden in the center of town. A room full of journalists and fans and the old elite of French musicology (though the academics were not invited). The conversation was long and very French, and we were proud and a little baffled to be a part of it.
Duvelle skipped the academic ethnomusicology route. Though his liner notes have always been thorough and he knows what he's talking about, he was never affiliated with a university, and he approaches field recording as an artist and musician first. He got shit for shunning the academy at the time, but his recordings are now canonical. Hisham, as they both agreed during the event, is following that path. A certain shared spirit, crossing generations.
Paris was alive. It was hot and the whole world was out, lookin good. We showed a nearly finished cut of our latest film, "Oulaya's Wedding," at a squat near Stalingrad. The crowd there grew up on Sublime Frequencies and looked up to Hisham the way Hisham looks up to Duvelle. That's a whollllle nother story that I'll tell you in picture form in the next post...