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“In The Room of Dreams”
Tarkovsky Quartet

Blog
“In The Room of Dreams” Tarkovsky Quartet

10.09.2018

Article: Leyla Aksu
Illustration: Saydan Akşit

Embarking upon on a focused musical exploration paying homage to legendary Soviet director Andrei Tarkovsky, the Tarkovsky Quartet has steadily grown into something larger than itself. Weaving elements of chamber and baroque music, improvisation, and subtle glimpses of jazz into a dream-like experience, this French-German collaboration, helmed by pianist and composer François Couturier, has drawn from an increasingly intricate list of references, sculpting a breathing, cinematic sound since their 2005 debut. As the quartet now makes its way to listeners in Istanbul, bringing their lilting aural language to the upcoming 28th Akbank Jazz Festival, we take a quick glimpse into their work together and their source of inspiration.

-A most beguiling figure in film, Andrei Arsenyevich Tarkovsky shifted understandings of narrative meaning, time, and language in cinema through the just seven films he left behind. Creating a rhythmic and elongated visual language all his own, he is regarded to be “the greatest of them all. He moves with such naturalness in the room of dreams. He doesn’t explain. What should he explain anyhow?” by none other than Ingmar Bergman.

-Though a good few artists have carried Tarkovsky’s intangible influence into the realm of music, French pianist and composer, and founder of the Tarkovsky Quartet, François Couturier’s staring point for the project directly stemmed from one of the themes most associated with the director’s work--dreams. “The dreamlike impact of Tarkovsky’s work is very strong and particularly moves me. It’s this dimension that guides my research and my work for this new repertoire.”

-Featuring cellist Anja Lecher, saxophonist Jean-Marc Larché, and accordionist Jean-Louis Matinier alongside Couturier, the Tarkovsky Quartet first came together under the ECM Records roof, a home to each of these artists. Crossing paths in various incarnations as early as 1994, when Couturier and Larché first came together as part of oud virtuoso Anouar Brahem’s ensemble, when Lechner came to join these three frequent collaborators, the Tarkovsky Quartet was formed.

-Releasing their debut studio album, Nostalghia – Song for Tarkovsky, in 2005, this first record marked the onset of the quartet’s journey, featuring brand new compositions and subtle thematic ventures, each track paired with a specific film title, though their musical associations never made too explicit. The group then took the stage for the first time, making their concert debut at the International Bergamo Festival the following year.

-Couturier has said, “what touches me most in Tarkovsky’s films is their silence and slowness,” a unique avenue for musical study that has gradually unfolded across the quartet’s both improvised and modern chamber music, allowing each instrument its own space. And though initially utilizing specific allusions to Tarkovsky’s works, the group has since broadened its scope to also include his life and, increasingly, his notions of art.

-While their follow-up album, 2009’s self-titled Tarkovsky Quartet, included a widening net of influence, pairing the group’s pieces with references to Pergolesi, Bach, and Shostakovich as well, the group’s third and most recent outing, 2016’s Nuit blanche, produced by Manfred Eicher, used the imagery of memory and dreams as its central frame. However, with each release, including Couturier’s 2010 solo album, Un jour si blanc, almost an extension of the project, the group has deepened and developed the improvisational component in their music.

-Frequently working with Andrey Tarkovsky, Jr. in their stage performances as well, utilizing his video projections to round out the ethereal experience of their associative and evocative music, the Tarkovsky Quartet has firmly planted themselves atop fertile ground for musical discovery, evolving into something distinct, growing beyond their unique inspiration.

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