Music Reviews from the Staff of the Poison Pie Publishing House


April 16, 2022
le chant des pistes - system friche
Label: not On label (self-released)
Catalog #: no catalog number
Location: France
Release Date: June 1, 2021
Media: digital download entry entry

le chant des pistes translates into Engish as The Song of the Tracks and system friche (or système friche) translates as Wasteland System. The album cover is a stack of used pallets. All of these signals are rather cryptic and don't prepare the listener to interpret the music in any particular way.

For a long time on both sides of the Atlantic, from the Instant Composers Pool to the Art Ensemble of Chicago, folks that make improvised music have accepted that there is a composition-improvisation spectrum and much "improvised" music falls somewhere along this spectrum with varying degrees of both composition and improvisation. We also accept the notion of indeterminacy in a musical score, which is intended to guide musicians without specifying particular notes.

In le chant des pistes Jacques Di Donato and Xavier Charles are both credited with composition. At the same time, the music release page on Bandcamp includes the meta-tag "improvisation" confirming what is evident to the ears--namely, that there is a significant improvisational component to this music. The question then, as one listens to the music unfold, is unwrapping what parts of the music are pre-determined through a score and what parts are spontaneous interpretations.

If we take the first piece, "if" as a study piece, we sense a structure in the undulating introduction that slowly gives way to an orchestral grumbling and the vocalizations of Isabelle Duthoit, which, we suppose, defy direction through composition. The implicit challenge in the listening is to derive by ear the "system" of the creation of the music. A clean decomposition into composed and improvised contributions is impossible but the impetus to undertake such an investigation is nonetheless the intriguing mystery posed by the music.

We suppose that the system employed by the musicians is obvious. It is système friche, the system of the wasteland. If one imagines what systematic laws govern a wasteland, we think of nature reclaiming places ruined and abandoned by human beings. Thus, the rules governing the retaking of the space are natural rules of growth and re-occupation, which are confined by unnatural remnants left behind, perhaps concrete pavement or environmental contamination in the allegory of wastelands. Could it be that, in the musical analogy, the natural growth is human expression through improvisation, which infiltrates decaying constraints of composition? This wild speculation is probably not the intent of the creators but such mental digressions serve to illustrate the power of le chant des pistes to provoke the mind through music.


  • Jacques Di Donato (clarinet, composition)
  • Xavier Charles (clarinet, chant, composition)
  • Félicie Bazelaire (bass)
  • Jean-Luc Cappozo (trumpet)
  • Benjamin Duboc (bass)
  • Isabelle Duthoit (voice, clarinet)
  • Franz Hautzinger (trumpet)
  • Simon Henocq (guitar)
  • Soizic Lebrat (cello)
  • Erik M platines (electronics)
  • Bruno Maurice (accordion)
  • Roméro Monteiro (drums, percussion, mridangam)
  • Nicolas Nageotte (baritone saxophone, clarinet, duduk)
  • Alfred Spirli (percussion, prepared objects)
  • Thierry Waziniak (percussion, drums)



Related Reviews from the Poison Pie Publishing House

  • PPPH 2017 Top Ten includes Lily - Isabelle Duthoit & Franz Hautzinger (December 16, 2017)
  • PPPH 2016 Top Twelve includes Nicole Mitchell's Black Earth Ensemble - Moments of Fatherhood w/ Benjamin Duboc (December 10, 2016)

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