Yann Tiersen at Royal Albert HallSupport: Dr Stephan Harding
October 30, 2017 at Royal Albert Hall
Promoter: Parallel Lines
I have a lot to thank Yann Tiersen for, first and foremost for breaking my writer’s block, which has been inhibiting me for quite some time now. For the first time I left a show and the words just started to come to me – and for a very good reason. This was definitely the most thought-provoking performance I have ever seen.
The opening for Yann Tiersen’s piano performance at The Royal Albert Hall was a lecture. And it was the most fascinating lecture I’ve heard in a long time. It was conducted by Dr Stephan Harding from the Schumacher College and it focused on Deep Ecology. I can imagine how a vast majority of the audience was quite surprised to be lectured on ecology while waiting for a musical performance. However, as Dr Harding assured us, knowledge of Deep Ecology would allow us to understand Yann Tiersen’s music a lot better – and it genuinely did.
The most important quote that Dr Harding introduced during his lecture was that of Norwegian philosopher and fonder of Deep Ecology – Arne Næss: ‘All life has intrinsic value, irrespective of its value to humans’ – and this is a belief that has been very close to my heart for a long period of time now. He explained how Deep Ecology and Ecosophy (or ecophilosophy, a philosophy of ecological harmony or equilibrium) are vital to understand now, at a time when Earth is already on the brink of ecological disaster. At the core of Deep Ecology is self-realisation and Dr Harding encouraged us to bring to mind what he calls a Deep Experience – an experience with nature that left a profound effect. The room fell silent. Deep Experiences with nature lead to lead to Deep Questioning, which in turn leads to Deep Commitment.
It turns out that Yann Tiersen had an experience of that sort – a couple years ago he was cycling with his wife somewhere in the woods in California, when they suddenly realised they were being chased by a mountain lion. The chase went on for a few hours, but as a result, Tiersen – despite the experience being terrifying – understood the significance of the Earth’s ecosystems. Suddenly the woods became more than some trees in the middle of nowhere – all elements were linked together: the trees, the grass, the lion were all parts of one functioning ecosystem, in which he was just an ignorant tourist who didn’t know where he was. From this moment on, through Deep Questioning, Tiersen has developed Deep Commitment to his home island of Ushant, a small Breton island on the English Channel, where he’s been working on preserving the Breton language and the island’s ecosystem. In fact his latest album title EUSA means Ushant in Breton.
He started his concert with ‘Porz Goret’ and immediately you could feel how organic the experience was. As soon as he sat by the grand piano, a vintage radio tape player started to play one of the field recordings that make up EUSA as much as Tiersen’s compositions and it was transparent how much the island means to him. In fact he is known to have said that Ushant is a lot more than just a home – it’s a part of him. He let the sounds of the island guide his compositions. He would leave his field recorder on without much supervision, resulting in the most extraordinary sounds, like crows pecking at it. The beautiful minimalism of his piano pieces together with the sparse stage set up (piano and the tape played being central, with the stage illuminated with a spotlight and a few lightbulbs) made for the most intimate experience, despite being surrounded by hundreds of people in the most opulent interiors.
Tonight was extraordinary because it was so inspiring for an musician to use his medium to genuinely convey a message – and it so happened that it was a philosophy I’ve been unknowingly trying to live by myself. It proves that when an artist strongly believes in something, that conviction transpires through their work and effortlessly touches those who dare to listen.
In the recent months there have been many reports of unethical and/or unlawful behaviours by many artists we once deemed to be idols, provoking conversations about whether someone’s past behaviour warrants turning your back on their artistic output. Whereas I do not have the definite answer to that dilemma – I only have my own – I can wholeheartedly encourage following artists like Yann Tiersen, who not only inspire and educate, but who live and breathe their causes. Who introduce new terms to your everyday vocabulary. Who wake up your consciousness and lead you to a path of self-realisation. I could throw in a cheesy line that Yann Tiersen is making the world a better place, but he’s doing much more than that. He’s improving Ushant’s community and ecosystem and if he inspires at least one person out of the hundreds present at Royal Albert Hall tonight to pay attention to their surroundings and realise we’re all a part of a much bigger picture and we’re not in charge of it – we’re merely an element – there’s a huge chance his passion will catch on and one by one we will start to care for the planet we tread on.
‘All life has intrinsic value, irrespective of its value to humans.’ – Arne Næss