Des Lônes et des Pylônes. FLAVIEN GILLIÉ
(Green Field 2012)
The seemingly recent discovery of the liminal as a legitimate place to explore and cherish has opened up new areas of awareness for some people. For others who have always known of its existence and have often walked its tracks and paths for pleasure and inspiration, it has simply been given a name. It is possible to argue that the fringes of a town give a better representation of its true character than the monuments and buildings at its centre. The cleaned up town square, with its statues and carefully tended municipal flower beds has been designed to give a good impression to visitors and to make its citizens proud, but the outskirts where the urban conurbation gives way to the land beyond is where its soul resides.
It is the first impression you get as you approach a town, and the last thing you pass through as you leave. It is the ill-defined edgeland, a place where the line of tension between the rural and the urban becomes tangible.
Flavien Gillié’s ‘Des Lônes et des Pylônes’ describes a journey through a semi-urban landscape on the outskirts of Niévroz, not far from Lyon. A lône is a dead river, an arm of the Rhone discarded and left to silt up. Gillié says “I don’t go back there that often, but I like this desolated aspect of country, surrounded by the mists, sometimes even in summer.”
As the piece opens we are aboard a train. The familiar creaks and rhythms of this mode of transport are at once comforting and exciting. The hiss of the brakes alerts us to the fact that we’ve arrived. From the outset ‘Des Lônes et des Pylônes’ moves at the pace of modern life. It carries us forward and brings us into this fascinating landscape. Over bridges linking islands in the lônes, by the road, beneath the swaying trees and the still pylons, travelling through liminal sound.
Cars are ever present, but at times the traffic abruptly gives way to birdsong. A child cries suddenly, piercingly and rather disturbingly. A swarm of buzzing insects appear from nowhere, the sound of moving water, dogs, two men having a conversation, church bells. Surely this is a Sunday?
On one particular occasion the work occupies a position directly straddling the boundary between two worlds. In one channel nature, the mist, the birds, the water: In the other the cars, the tarmac and the manmade. When this occurs the listener is acutely aware of the meaning of the whole composition. For me it came as a revelation, because I didn’t notice it the first time I listened. Like exploring a hidden topography, discoveries can always be made. Often poems need to be absorbed more than once before the kernel of truth reveals itself.
After 20 minutes travelling with Flavien Gillié’, after being guided by his acute ear for detail and aural geography, we are once again transported away from these mysterious lônes. It feels like abandonment. It feels as if we’ve been left, as these pools of neglected water have been left, to our own devices.
The real history of our towns and countryside is not written down, it exists independently of the printed page. It is beneath the streets, in the cracks between stones, in our accents, our customs and our genes. We uncover it, build houses on it, desecrate, forget and disrespect it, yet it endures. Gillié says “I used to go for a long walk in the countryside every day, looking for solitude, trying to catch an echo of imaginary voices forgotten near the dead river. I used to take notes as I was walking, it’s talking about village gossips, dead children, lonely old people.”
The download includes a booklet of photographs depicting bridges, trees and water. The one chosen as the cover for this work shows a pylon standing tall and resolute through tangled branches, its power lines dividing the sky. The English poet Stephen Spender described pylons as “Tall with prophecy: Dreaming of cities.”
There are also three short stories included, but I could only translate one, a strange tale of an old cheesemaker.
I have a criticism though: ‘Des Lônes et des Pylônes’ is only 22 minutes long, and I for one would have been more than happy to spend at least an hour or so wandering this secret part of France.