Interview with Superpoze: the French Composer Turning Fantasy Into Reality
Cover Image courtesy of François Quillacq.
Rising French composer and electronic music producer Superpoze, also known as Gabriel Legeleux, released "Geneva", the second single off of his upcoming album Nova Cardinale, on February 16, 2022. The full studio album is set to come out on March 25, 2022.
Having composed for film, theatre, multi-platinum French rap singles, and French chanson albums, Legeleux found himself searching for a deeper level of meaning and originality within his solo work. In the summer of 2020, he discovered an essay by French philosopher Francis Wolff ("Pourquoi la Musique?"), which contains a table explaining connections between speech and music; its boxes are a spectrum ranging from "pure speech" to "pure music". Wolff's essay drove Legeleux to create a collection of instrumental music meant to stand on its own, one that does not need lyrics or a secondary function to be enjoyed.
"Geneva" enchants listeners, pulling them into a world of whimsy, adventure, and boundless imagination. The rich, multi-layered instrumentation of the single communicates more authenticity and emotion than a song highlighting a singer might. Lyrics sometimes limit an artist, but Legeleux composed "Geneva" free from any restraints; the result is transcendental. The uplifting melodies and lively cello components make the song feel like a choose-your-own-adventure fairytale. The piano contrasts the dancing strings–it's slow, steady, and appears at the perfect moments before dropping out to let the mix breathe. At the fullest moments of the arrangement, a melodic choir of vocal hums adds to "Geneva"'s magic.
The accompanying music video for "Geneva" was directed by Marc de Pierrefeu as part of a series surrounding the highly-anticipated Nova Cardinale. The resulting collage of film and photo is a celebration of the triumphs of life, however big, small, or unimaginable–an ode to the human experience and beyond.
We spoke with Gabriel Legeleux about the evolution of his artistry, Alan Moore, Nova Cardinale, and more. Check out the full interview below and listen to "Geneva". Let us know what you think.
How are you doing today? Very well–the weather is beautiful. Right now, I am listening to "Manhatã" by Caetano Veloso.
Where are you based? I live in Paris. Who or what first inspired you to create music? Music itself. I was at the conservatory as a child and music has always been a daily practice for me. I was very inspired by the musicians who performed on stage at the conservatory or elsewhere. Today, it's more the studio world that stimulates me. Who were your earliest influences? At home there was a lot of pop, rock, jazz and classical music... Air, Mercury Rev, Bach, Keith Jarrett, The Doors, and Ravel to name a few.
How have those influences evolved over time? Who are your current ones? I've always kept the music from my childhood with me; it influences me strongly today. I also listen to a lot of American folk, French chanson, and electronic music. As I write this answer, I am in front of my record collection and I see, for example, Grouper, Charles Mingus, Nick Drake, Eli Keszler, Leonard Cohen, Maxime Le Forestier, Caroline Shaw, and Recondite.
When you're not writing and laying down tracks, what are you doing? Right now I'm spending my free time exploring Alan Moore's universe. I recently reread From Hell and V for Vendetta, and I'm currently reading his novel Jerusalem. Tell me about your single "Parabel". "Parabel" is a seven minute long track that develops around a recurring melody. I tried, with this piece, to develop several levels of listening. In the foreground, there's this simple and repetitive melody, but behind it many other layers follow–the glockenspiel rain, the ritornello of the drums, the layers of organs diluted in a big reverb. Is your upcoming album a concept album (the songs should be played in order, continuously)? The album was composed as a long piece of music, but there is no concept behind it. I'm passionate about albums that you can listen to completely and come out of them feeling tested, shaken up–like when you reach the end of a great novel. The album has this ambition, but is not based on anything other than the pleasure of the music.
How did you come up with the idea for it? In the summer of 2020, I was invited to Geneva by Stephan Eicher (Grauzone) to compose a piece for an ensemble of automaton instruments (instruments that play by themselves, controlled via the MIDI system). The piece had to last fifteen minutes and I only had a few days to write it. I already had the melody of "Parabel" in my head and I started to compose around it. The piece took shape as the days went by, and at the end of the week, listening to those fifteen minutes, I felt that I had the basis for a new album. I went back to Paris and composed on the piano and with virtual instruments, based on the recording of the automaton instruments. Once the demos were finished, I went to the studio to record everything with real instruments. The whole process was very empirical. What is your favorite tune on the album? "Geneva" is my favorite tune on the new album. I love the snare drum that reminds me of the Bolero, the cello that zigzags between the eighth notes of the drums, and the melody that the choir, piano, strings and synthesizers all play in unison. For a long time, the working title of this piece was "The Sailor" because the melody reminds me of a pirate song. I like that it's epic and mischievous at the same time. There is a great dimension of adventure in the song... I love it!
"For a long time, the working title of this piece was 'The Sailor' because the melody reminds me of a pirate song."
How do you combine elements of electronic music, movie soundtrack, and more in the LP? This mixture is not a mixture of style or genre but simply a mixture of timbres, instruments, and emotions. My music is melodic, melancholic, and sunny. It's repetitive and progressive in its structure, but sometimes pop-like in its patterns and themes. It may sound like classical music, pop music or film music but I never try to stick to these labels. It's instrumental music, that's all!
Why did you choose the artist moniker "Superpoze"? I was seventeen years old and I liked the sound of the pseudonym.
How did Francis Wolff and his work influence your artistry? It's not a work that influences my music directly, but it's a reading that gave me the impulse to compose the album. I had been working as a producer for other artists for several years and composing music for film and theater. I had the desire to do an instrumental album, but I had a hard time sticking to it at first because I felt that it was missing lyrics–that the instrumental music wasn't strong enough.
In "Pourquoi la musique", Francis Wolff explains that music and text are intimately linked and that there is little room for autonomous instrumental music that serves nothing but itself. For centuries, instrumental music has had a "function". It has accompanied ceremonies, rituals, special occasions. I gathered from this reading that one could consider that at a certain point in history, pure music had been emancipated from any obligation. It is this idea of freedom, of the autonomy of instrumental music, that launched me into the composition of this new album.
"I had the desire to do an instrumental album, but I had a hard time sticking to it at first because I felt that it was missing lyrics–that the instrumental music wasn't strong enough."
How did the music video for "Parabel" come about? Marc de Pierrefeu is an artist who does a work of iconographic associations that fascinates me. This man is a fountain of knowledge and I am fascinated by his ability to match images from renaissance paintings and contemporary cinema. He has created a series on the whole album–it's a real collaboration. He has carte blanche; it is his interpretation of the piece that he proposes with the series.