May 2014 - Musical Caravan - Hughes de Courson

We were expecting a lecture on music. What we experienced was a musical caravan that travelled throughout the world and through the ages. Hughes de Courson was once a member of the French folk group, Malicorne which performed and recorded in the 70’s and early 80’s. Today Courson is a composer and arranger of blended music who puts together pieces as  disparate as you can get, that is, until you listen to the flawless merging of Celtic music with Vivaldi, African rhythms and chants with Bach, Flamenco paired with Bulgarian singers. Courson feels his interest in combining musical traditions might have begun when he was a young French child living in Spain where he developed an ear of two sets of sound and language.Courson’s goal is to make listeners open their ears to a more global, less pop- oriented kind of sound. 

Hollywood and American music currently hold sway over what the majority of the world listens to. However, most American pop and jazz has roots in the slave music that the West Africans brought. Here is a musician who delights in putting together an orchestra of classically trained western musicians who only read musical transcription with Arabic musicians who only improvise.

Music originated by primitive cultures with voice, then sticks added percussion along with reeds that were used as flutes. Reeds joined together like pan pipes introduced scales. Religious ceremonies and rituals, dance and sound to accompany the spoken word added more music to everyday lives. Music by a primitive group in Papua, New Guinea made sound by putting an insect on a string into the mouth, then varying the sound and creating harmonics by changing the shape of the mouth. Primitive tribes in Brazil slap reeds and sticks on water to make a haunting sound, while the Tuba people of Vietnam make sounds deep in the throat so that the throat and mouth cavity create an echo chamber of harmony. Weapons are thought to be the origin of string instruments where strumming and sawing make unique sounds, like the Brazilian birimbao.
Although the Scots are usually thought of when you hear bagpipes, over 300 cultures use them, wherever shepherds needed amplification to control their flocks. We learned about the complicated rhythms and scales of Arabic and Indian music while European music developed harmony. The Chinese have only five musical notes yet have created music with them for thousands of years.
If you sing in the shower or are old enough to remember doo wop groups in the boy’s room of high school, you have used the environment to enhance sound. When you listen to the earth, you can hear the origin of all music. That is the intention of Hughes de Courson.
Please go on YouTube to find music by Malicorne and Courson’s newer more classical world music. You won’t be sorry!
Reviewed by
Rissa Larsen