LISTEN TO THE HOUSE
An echo-hauntology of the Villa Gillet
A sonic project by Agnès Gayraud (musician, philosopher)
In collaboration with Lise Lebleux (sound artist, ENSBA, Lyon), François Virot (musician), Clara Lemercier (video artist, photographer, ENSBA, Lyon) and Marguerite Martin (cello).
With its architecture from the beginning of the 20th century, perched on the heights of Lyon, in the middle of the Parc de la Cerisaie, the Villa Gillet would almost have a Gothic feel. High windows, freestone, ornate cornices and scenographic terraces, the building extends like a vestige of another world, while the cries of children who come to populate the park every day echo around it.
The Villa was built in 1912, it featured electricity in each room, functional bathrooms, and a « salle de spectacles », that you can visit today with a strange sense of melancholy, of the obsolescence of modernity.
In the late nineties, it became a cultural site. After having been the home of Marguerite and Paul Gillet, part of an important family of industrials in the bassin lyonnais, it has been populated by books, events, words from writers, intellectuals, generations of curious visitors, who came here to taste a moment of literature, theater, music, poetry. In 2020, however, the year of a global pandemic forcing bodies to keep away from each others, the Villa, like all places of culture, music, sharing, was rather populated by silence. The incarnate words of writers, the footsteps of visitors, could not resonate there anymore. Looking at the Villa, from the outside, so opulent but so empty, I began to think of its deserted salons and rooms, and of their resonance, of its woodwork, mirrors, mosaics — so many typical acoustic materials, which, I figured out, had also « absorbed » and kept a little of all the sounds, all the presences of the past.
I began to imagine a sound image of the interior of the house, to listen to the echoes that it still reverberated.
About Paul Gillet and his wife Marguerite, original hosts who lived there during five decades, we know very little. There are no photos, no manuscripts left, just a big painted portrait of mister Gillet in one of the salons. Paul and Marguerite loved the arts, music, parties, they had no children.
As the vacuum sets in, these remote lives become echoing ghosts haunting the rooms.
Sonically speaking, our recordings could not but involve an hauntological dimension, as soon as hauntology retains the affinity between recording and the occult, not of course to have fun turning the tables, but to enhance the hidden sound, literally, to listen to the unheard.
Within the Villa’s various rooms (it counts 57 different rooms), and with the help of Lise, François, Marguerite, and Clara, I worked on site to create a sound image of the Villa Gillet, which, in the momentary absence of its visitors, would let us hear its interior echoes, the song of its ornate walls, of its ancient opulence.
I tried to experiment our presences, as musicians, but also as active listeners of the house. We were here to activate its unheard echoes, to give them a voice, through a sonic and musical sound piece.
Agnès GAYRAUD (b.1979) lives and teaches in Lyon as a professor of theory and artistic education at the ENSBA. She is a songwriter, guitarist and singer under the name of La Féline (three albums and several EPs released by Kwaidan Records since 2015), but also of GRIVE (a recently released EP, in collaboration with electronic artist Mondkopf, Paul Régimbeau). Agrégée and doctor in philosophy, she is also the author of a philosophical sum about the aesthetics of popular recorded music, Dialectique de la pop (La Découverte, 2018), recently translated (Dialectic of Pop, Urbanomic, 2019) and of various scientific papers on music, Critical Theory or the visual arts. She is also occasionally a music critic for the newspaper Liberation.