On FADING SOUNDS, composer Georges Raillard turns a creative eye towards the simple wonders of the world with a deep appreciation for the fleetingness of each moment. The aptly titled album presents 10 works for solo guitar, each of which take full advantage of the instrument’s tone and timbre. As the pieces conjure images and memories of landscapes, experiences, and thoughts, every cheerful chord, harmonic passage, and lyrical progression inevitably ends with a haunting resonance that leaves the ear wanting more.
Today, Georges is our featured artist in “The Inside Story,” a blog series exploring the inner workings and personalities of our composers and performers. Read on to learn about his new passion for poetry, and how he discovered a new meaning in his album following its release…
Tell us about your first performance.
I first performed as a guitarist a few months after beginning to play when I was a teenager. The guitar lessons comprised not only playing techniques, but also harmony, counterpoint, musical forms and, from time to time, auditions together with other guitar students in the home of one of them. I remember playing some very simple etudes or pieces of Carcassi, Carulli, and the like. I also presented some first attempts at composition, mainly simple melodies with or without counterpoint. Over the years I got increasingly interested in composition and playing became more and more a mere means for composing, while performing in front of the public was getting too time-consuming and distracted me from what I was really interested in: creation, not recreation.
If you weren’t a musician, what would you be doing?
I have never been a musician exclusively. There have been times when I wasn’t even a musician at all. Music has always been for me a kind of “language” for realizing my creations. There are other “languages”, first and foremost language itself. For many years I have been a writer rather than a composer. I published six books of short stories in German. Nowadays I still write texts, lately — above all — poems. As to less creative and more serving, remunerative activities, for many years I worked as a translator and I was also a foreign language teacher.
For the last 20 years I have also been busy as an archivist, transforming legacies into resources for historians and cultural scholars. I had never expected to have any talent for or even to take pleasure in such a rather bureaucratic activity…
If you could collaborate with anyone, who would it be?
I would like to collaborate with a singer. As a composer I am capable of writing music and as a writer I can write lyrics. But joining the two is more difficult: I can play the music and I can recite lyrics, but I’m not a singer, not even a bad one.
Do you have any specific hopes about what this album will mean to listeners?
When I decided to record and to publish this album I mainly had in mind the idea of presenting some of my newer compositions to the audience. Creating music is marvelous, but without listeners music doesn’t really come to life.
Initially it hadn’t been planned as a concept album. But following the album title, FADING SOUNDS, many people seem to listen to it as if it were one. There are really many pieces on it with moments of fading sounds, of reverberation, of silence, and of expectation for the sounds to come. Therefore I now think listening to the music on this album can help us to become aware of and to cope with what I think is quite common in our culture: horror vacui, the fear of the void. Normally music is used, or misused, for covering and concealing the void produced by the absence of sounds. But music always precedes its own fading and falling silent, it prepares us for the void to come at its ending. Hopefully listeners realize the creative potential of such moments of void, when all input from the outside stops and gives way to brief meditative gaps.
What are your other passions besides music?
One of my passions is writing stories as well as literature in general. Lately I have begun reading and writing poetry, above all as a consequence of translating the works of a Spanish poet into German. Some of these texts and poems are associated with particular compositions, others are even combined with music as works for guitar and reciting voice.
Another passion of mine is urban exploration by bicycle, on an athletically moderate level though. Cycling is my favorite sport, but I don’t like doing sport as an end in itself, I need some cultural and/or spiritual additional value. And so I like taking rides through parks and along streets with little traffic. I often explore peripheral, non-touristic districts. Although they don’t offer spectacular views, there are always things to be discovered which don’t appear in any guidebook: modern buildings with a surprising variety of colors, flowers in a front yard, rabbits running away (or not running away) in a park, new buildings growing taller, people doing everyday things, etc. Apparently commonplace life manifests itself full of significance and surprises.
What was the first performance you remember seeing?
I remember my father taking me to symphony concerts when I was a child. The main attraction for me was observing my mother playing the violin in the orchestra. In fact I wouldn’t have been taken to those concerts if my mother hadn’t been a member of the orchestra. I don’t remember the concert programs, but as the musicians were all – though very good – amateur musicians, the pieces were not very difficult to play: symphonies of Mozart, Haydn, maybe Mendelssohn or Schumann, concerts with (professional) soloists of Mozart, Haydn, or less known composers of the classical and romantic period. My mother said the orchestra used to choose lesser known works of famous composers so that the public would be attracted by the well known names, but not knowing those particular works they wouldn’t notice the mistakes. I liked the music, but the compositions seemed to me to last a bit too long – and moreover they consisted of several parts!