Wednesday, March 29, 2006

"Claude Lamothe"
My nine year music mystery has finally, finally, finally been solved. For nine years I have been haunted by haunting cello music. For nine years, I have brought out on occasion a rattling old unlabelled cassette tape, blown the dust off its brittle plastic case and played the music on it with a certain reverence. Cellos. Sounding like trains. Doing things that I have never heard cellos do before. And I like cello music, I've heard a fair amount. But nothing like this, not in nine years.

The cassette came from a Lyric Hammersmith Summer School I took part in, August 1997, in between my first and second year of A levels. The company leading us was Volcano Theatre Company.

The show involved 32 young people, and among our roles were two lawyers in snorkelling gear in a bathtub on wheels, a 4'10" female Superman - no cape!, a Cantonese speaking mallet-wielding housekeeper with enormous feathered wings (me), a pantomime horse, a PVC-clad prosecuting lawyer and a cowboy with a Yorkshire accent. We did warm-ups every morning before we got started on the very physical devised work and I had my first introduction to yoga and pilates as well as weight-bearing, release technique contact improvisation aka how to run around and jump on people without hurting yourself or others too much in time to music. Those warm-ups were done to a variety of music - Hungarian folk songs, Depeche Mode-type industrial rock, Turkish pop and some very striking cello music.

I liked the cello music so much I asked if I could copy the CD but my friend Neil had beaten me to it and had the CD at home. I gave him a tape to make me a copy while he was making his and since then, the cassette has been in exactly the same state as I got it back: unlabelled and slightly battered. Who the hell is the cellist who can do this with my favourite instrument in the whole panoply of musical instruments? (Sometimes I favour piano but that's another story to tell) Who wrote this stuff? Who plays it? Who lets out that gruff, triumphant groan at the end of a particularly gut-wrenching frenzied sawing of the lower strings?

For nine years, all I had to go on was a vague memory of being told it was French Canadian, by someone called "Claude". I finally tracked down the Summer School leader through contacts at work and emailed him. He emailed back the next day.

The cellist / composer is a Montreal based French Canadian called Claude Lamothe. The album I have on the cassette is called Nu from 1995. I've yet to find a place to purchase it on CD or to download. But I know what it is. I know what it is. And it is marvellous.

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