By Ravi V. Chhabra
French composer-instrumentalist Emanuel Séjourne's musicial skills comprise piano, vibraphone and marimba. His compositional range covers classical music to improvised music. Its hallmark is ryhthmic, romantic, energetic, inspired both by the western classical tradition and by popular culture (jazz, rock, extra-European).
He has been awarded with Best Music for Drama at the Festival d’Avignon, the Prix de l’Academie du Disque Français, as well as the Repertoire Prize, awarded by the French Music Publishers for his composition Khamsin. He participated in the CD - the Concert of the guitarist Friedemann for which he won the German Jazz Award Gold.
Many orchestras include his music in their repertoire: RadioSinfonieOrchester Stuttgart, Nagoya Philharmonic, Osaka Philharmonic, Sinfonia Toronto, Croatian Radio Television Symphony, Luxembourg Philharmonic, Lausanne Chamber Orchestra, Orchestre de la Suisse Italienne, Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Camerata de Bourgogne, Sofia Soloists, Latvian National Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre d’Auvergne, de Cannes, Nice, Pau, Mulhouse, Bochumer Symphoniker, Wurttembergisches Kammerorchester, Paris Brassband and numerous additional ensembles.
Ravi V. Chhabra: With such fine accomplishments in music genres and an eclectic style of playing, including the 'invention' with 6 mallets, could you tell us despite being a trained multi-instrumentalist, what made you take to the marimba as the mainstay?
Emmanuel Sejourne: I am a pianist and then a percussionist. I love the vibra more than the marimba. I have composed several pieces for both. But since I compose music on order, I have lots of marimba requests.
Ravi: Marimba was not widely popular in chamber music (western classical) until mid-40s and was introduced by a French man and you have, perhaps, reintroduced it to a versatile level....how was the process to get it together?
Emannuel: No, now there is as much marimba in western chamber music just like the vibraphone.
Ravi: Which vibraphone/marimba players impress you most and reasons?
Emmanuel: Gary Burton on vibraphone and Bob Becker for xylophone. Many other musicians have impressed me equally but if I had to cite two names it would be Burton and Baker.
Ravi: Which brands of marimba do you prefer and why? As a jazz player, how well does the marimba fit itself in freestyle playing as in a solo...
Ravi: I am curious to ask a queer question as I myself love to experiment with various musical instruments/sounds...has someone attempted to produce a marimba with clay as in the ghatam...I mean it could sound incredible, isn't it?
Emmanuel: Yes, I am curious.
Ravi: Your views about world music, especially in context to some venerated Indian percussionists?
Emmanuel: World music is a source of great inspiration. It is magnificent to see it in all its richness and diversity. When I was young, I loved groups like 'Shakti' and Spanish folklore music like flamenco.
Ravi: The French are fond of India and one of our wonderful cities - Chandigarh was planned/designed by Le Corbusier. Have you visited India...any plans?
Emmanuel: I have never been to India and I would like to go there some day. I'm sure its a wonderful country. I've composed a marimba solo called Chandigarh.
Ravi: If you were to choose one Indian instrument to master, which one would it be. Also as a duet, is there an Indian musician you would wish to play or experiment with?
Ravi: Future plans and your views about electronics attempting to grab a lot of 'real' instruments space, for obvious reasons...I mean as a musicologist-teacher, what are your honest thoughts on this?
Emmanuel: Electronic is interesting but it's dangerous. It's easy to manipulate, lucrative but I hope it would not replace the real acoustic instruments.
Ravi: Is teaching music more satisfying than creating/composing music for films and orchestras. How do you balance it with such overflowing passion and packed timetable?
Emmanuel: I have 3 jobs - - teaching, playing, composing. And I have been doing that forever. I need it intellectually. It's difficult sometimes but I get round it. I am thinking of slowly playing less.