Le Jazz in Saint-Germain (May 8, 2005)
Dessay and Solfege (August 9, 2005)
Agnès Varda (February 19, 2005)
Your father was an orchestra conductor and film composer. Is that why you became one yourself?It is hard to imagine that silly duet, with actual sisters Catherine Deneuve and Françoise Dorléac playing musical twins, with any other melody than the zippy, dippy one that Legrand created for it.
Not at all. My father
shot himselftook off when I was three years old [Mon père s'est tiré quand j'avais trois ans]. My mother had no real skills, we didn't have a penny, we were living in a fleabitten apartment. My father had left behind an old piano. My sister was already going to school, my mother was out working, and I stayed at home alone with my adorable grandmother who understood nothing I said. It was so boring that I stayed at the piano all day long, and that saved my life. Otherwise I would have leapt out the window. I would listen to something on the radio and try to tap out the melody, then the harmonies. Music did come to me by some decision or event, but because there was nothing else for me. [...] Seeing this, my mother gave me some little lessons in the neighborhood when I was four or four and a half. I was very gifted and entered the Conservatoire Supérieur in Paris when I was nine, four years before the minimum age, with special permission. I remember that at the solfege test, the pianist played the piece once through before the actual dictation began; well, I had already written it all down at that first hearing.
At the Conservatoire, you studied with Nadia Boulanger...
A monster, and one of the wonders of the world. She is the undeniable master who has made all the composers of the entire world work. I was in her class for seven years. I learned rigor there, discipline, and when she was done with me, when I was 20, I was ready for anything. I acquired such technique from her that, when I am at the podium, when I play, when I write, I know exactly what I want. I play very badly, but I play all the instruments, which means that almost no one can bullshit me. [...]
Here is how I work: when I think that a film needs to have a principal theme, I search for a melody. I have a very strange melodic gift: melodies come to me effortlessly. So I write melodies—thirty, forty, fifty—then I cast them off until I have just two or three. If only one is needed, I go see the director and ask him to decide. That happened one time with Jacques Demy for the duo of the twins [in Les demoiselles de Rochefort]: I went to his house in Noirmoutier to play 35 possible themes for him.