Alain Amouyal • Composer
… and no one will contradict this evidence which takes us back to the history of Myth. Music and improvisation are so linked with one another, so interrelated that they are characterized as the favored moments of creative activity… Each composer, from the most prolific, to the most talented, in whatever the composition which he engages in on a second level, begins with improvising. One is not consciously aware of when the inspiration of a melodic phrase or rythm will emerge. Improvising is to ride on an adventure in a region of the spirit as yet unexplored, discovering true sounds that will arise spontaneously and will find their place in the passage of time."
— Translated from "La '3ème oreille' et la pensée musicale" - J. Verdeau-Paillès, B. Luban-Pozzla, M. Delli Ponti - Ed.J.M. Fuzeau - 1995
While I was pursuing my interest of the world of medicine, I also enrolled in a non-academic musical course in music. This attraction was probably a holdover of my years as a lead guitarist and bassist in a band. My mentor suggested that I buy an organ and improvise.
After years of rock and roll and jazz, I discovered a completely different universe. My musical world expanded: through this instrument, and the synthesizers that followed.
As a practicing dental surgeon, I never considered the therapeutic aspects of my music until a medical colleague asked if he could use my recordings in his work with psychiatric patients. As we began observing a form of catharsis in this medical environment, I came to understand why people dealing with emotional and mental issues felt such a strong connection to my music. This began my journey on a pioneering path toward creating an innovative form of entertainment emulating these legendary Greek healing venues.
Although I didn’t understand the meaning of it all, my family and friends felt a great resonance with my music. As a dentist, I was curious to observe its effects on my patients. Many appreciated the music’s ability to release tension, as well as the relaxation it brought to them.
Just as an archeologist digs through the layers of the Earth, I explored the deep layers of my own cerebral earth. I recorded my musical improvisations day after day. I gave a title to each composition as soon as it was born, and each title encapsulated a chapter of the special story that was coming forth.
Because of this special connection with this musical vibration, I became more and more convinced that I was not alone. I don’t mean to imply that I experienced any great trance or exaltation; just a great joy and a certainty. It felt like a release from something that I couldn’t define at the beginning, but which became clearer as time went on: I had lost my “Eurydice” and she was now coming back to inspire me. The music was the link for our reunion… and sometimes it was stormy!
I was living a transformation — a true self-healing process through music.
The music activated my subconscious and its driving archetypes and revealing different steps of awakening and consciousness. But I didn’t know at the time until what point the archetypes activated in myself could have an impact on others…
The impact on others was revealed at a party, in 1981.
I shared a tape of my music with Dr Michel G. Mouret, a friend and psychiatrist. He took the music to his clinic. A month later, I received a call from a psychologist in my friend’s clinic and asked: “Could you please record more music for us because, although our musical library is very large, our patients continue to ask for yours.”
I was very surprised, but I prepared it for him, nevertheless.
My psychiatrist friend discovered that my music stimulates particular zones of the brain and makes it possible to mobilize archetypes in his patients. When a patient creates drawings while listening to the music, it brings to the surface past traumatic experiences, and serves as a means of releasing the emotional baggage tied to them.
Unknowingly, I had uncovered an organic manner of inducing catharsis through music that seemed like a natural process.
A 5-hour musical program was created and intended to be used with his patients.
What a surprise when he presented a series of drawings made under my musical induction, and what a surprise for him: although the themes of the music were not communicated to patients, there was a striking correlation between the titles of the themes assigned by me, and the symbols appearing in the drawings.
He called my musical process: "Dynamic Evolving Impulse"
What was fascinating is that consciously I chose a medical profession, yet I was pursuing a passion that I never considered to be of professional worth. My mentor also asked if one path couldn’t serve the other. I felt encouraged to explore those concerns while pursuing my practice. This led me to go beyond my formal training and blaze new musical trails.
One evening, while at a small gathering, I entertained the group by improvising on the host’s organ. Several people asked what I was playing. This question triggered a consciousness within me that, like the psychiatrist’s observation about my music, it is more than a form of entertainment but a means to allow one to elevate to a consciousness of awareness.
The cathartic function of music brings to the surface past traumatic experiences and serves as a means of releasing the emotional baggage tied to them.
Along the way, I met Chantal Desmoulins, who had a passion for research. Her intellectual curiosity, and the originality of her university studies - foreign and French Iiterature, linguistics, comparative literature and the study of the organized system of images particularly interested me.
We both entered then in a research period, with a group of about 15 people of diverse specialties, studying thousands and thousands of drawings made under musical induction of my music creations and supporting hundreds of professionals ranging from the small private medical practice to large healthcare institutions (psychiatrie clinics, hospitals, retirement homes, rehabilitation centers) all of them pioneers in the field of art and music therapy.
Our passion to study the effects of the music grew with the years, supported by remarkable psychiatrists who brought honor to their profession by their dedication and resourcefulness in introducing music as a viable therapy.
In 1983, another psychiatrist implemented our method in his inpatient After Care Psychiatric Clinic.
A few months after implementing the music in the clinic, he expressed clearly that, in his opinion, my music was particularly cathartic, allowing for the mobilization of emotional experiences by associating it with patient memories — the cathartic function of music bringing to the surface past traumatic experiences and serveing as a means of releasing the emotional baggage tied to them.
Catharsis, which is derived from the Greek word katarsis, means purification or purgation of the emotions (such as pity or fear) primarily through art. This purification brings about spiritual renewal or release from tension. Catharsis is also a psychoanalytic method which consists of eliminating a complex by bringing it to consciousness and affording it expression. (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
At that time, I totally ignored the precise origin of "Catharsis".
Photo by Ronny Siegel: http://www.ploync.de/reisen/5041-epidauros-peloponnes.html
After some research, I discovered how centuries ago, the ancient Greeks erected spectacular sites to stage great classical dramas connected to highly developed healthcare centers.
Their shared desire was to be restored to health through cathartic theatrical spectacles. Spas were part of a healing system that included elements like kurparks (celebrating nature), and theaters (expressing community).
This began my journey on a pioneering a path toward creating an innovative form of entertainment emulating these legendary Greek healing venues.
My mentor and muse was driven by the vision and the certainty that, in the future, Great Staged Spectacles, properly designed — blending art and technology — would heal the masses. This inspiration stirred a passion within me.
Some great thinkers and visionaries have had the same certainty that, within 10-20 years in the world music and art, the most important evolution would be "the artist who is able to give meaning to the human condition; to show both the human tragedy and to make emerge the beautiful to suggest that humanity can excel."
— Jacques Attali, L'art contemporain, Public Sénat, Conversation d’avenir
Orpheus breathing his last breath Marble by Alphonse Eugène Guilloux, 1882
Nestled within a park of my childhood village is a marble statue of Orpheus. But until recently, this sculpture was shrouded from my memory during the past six decades.
In retrospect, it seems destiny arranged my rendezvous with this fabled figure — who moved the masses with the sweetness of his music, and inspired much of the literature, poetry, and drama through the ages.
The breadth of this legend of a musician, separated from his wife, transcended my life as an ordinary man. Its essence crept into my being and forged many roads I traveled.
As a dental surgeon, I observed patients becoming peaceful when my music was offered, as in the legend of Orpheus.
My music was influenced
by a fabulous foursome
that impacted my generation:
With musicians of the sixties as my inspiration, I began to entertain others with my talent.
As I matured, my desire to ease the pain of others inspired my professional studies in dental medicine.
Later, I was drawn to music therapy and began creating powerful, evocative music capable of inducing catharsis. Eventually I found my muse, who in a wondrous pas de deux, lured the composer in me into an endless love story.
An adventure in itself…
…where I conducted musical research on synthesizers, until this passion prompted me to create a professional recording studio in 1987 with Dominique Julliard, my new friend, and independent architect in Geneva (Switzerland).
Conceived and constructed as a center for research and creation, it has become an internationally recognized professional facility. This was achieved in collaboration with renowned American acoustician Tom Hidley, and the electronic engineering genius David La Barre. The amazing main speakers from Shozo Kinoshita and the wonderful power amps from Jean-Marie Fusilier created an acoustics performance with a purity of sound that was tremendous. It was, sonically, one of the most accurate control rooms I have ever heard in my life, said Tom. This experience helped me prepare for the "grand plan", a few years later…
Composed & Published
Recording & Publishing 13 hours of music
My spiritual mentor told me one day: "Your music tells something… it is taking us somewhere… indeed, you are composing like a writer".
And she was right. "I saw my entire life playing out in front of me: my childhood, my adolescence, all the years of my life going by; I saw the future before me...no other music has had this type of effect on me. Despite any negativity in my life, I saw the good, and I felt at peace. This music really helps you evaluate and assess your own life.", expressed one day a patient, after completing the Catharsis Application Program.
I recorded and published 13 hours of music for The Orpheus Project, including the ones for The Catharsis Technique and Catharsis Application Program, thanks to the faithful friendship of Dominique, Chantal and others. Their belief in the transformative power of art boosted us to prepare this project for the future and to stay strong in the face of all obstacles, at all stages down to the smallest details!
Testing the waters
In 1988, after a difficult — but always enriching — experience with a musical production team in my brand-new, cutting-edge and "attracting" recording facility, I decided to testing the waters with preparing musical pieces for the piano, after someone expressed to me: "When a melody is good, it works well at the piano".
In 1991, I hired two talented concert pianists and prepare with their help two Etudes for piano. What is assuming about this story is that when both pianists heard about the music they immediately expressed that my "music" was not "music". This response made me smile… my music was not following conventional technique. In fact, other than my medical courses, my life had always been about the unconventional… following intuition not the rules!
We recorded, mixed and edited these two Etudes for piano.
Many piano concerts were performed, based on these arrangements.
In 1998, a Belgian pianist having heard of my Etudes for piano, and finding the melodies interesting, wanted to perform them. He visited me in early January. At first sight, he looked more like a sales person than the pianist that I was looking to perform my compositions. But I asked for a casting of course and found that he was also a very good performer!
He asked me: "Do you want your music performed by a 75 piece Bielorussian symphonic orchestra?". Really? I said…
A month later, I hired a talented young orchestrator and I tried to handle my dental office and the orchestration at the same time. Even when I tore my Achilles tendon in June, I managed to attend the first concert on crutches in Paris that September !
Although we were supposed to rehearse during seven hours we were only gvien an hour and a half! Despite not working well together and the pianist at one point being thrown off by half a bar (yes!), we received a standing ovation. That’s the magic of live performance. And while the performance was a success, the recording made during the event was a disaster!
Concerts performing my first orchestral program "Orchestral suite for images" followed in France and Germany, with the 75-piece classical orchestra, solo piano and soprano accompaniment. The success of this and other ensuing concerts was a clear indicator that I should focus my time and talents on music.
Six months later, I made the decision to close my dental practice and devote myself to music completely even though my patients were distressed and my family disapproved.
Abbey Road Studio One
Moving forward into the magic, my path led me across the same white-striped crosswalk of a historic London street corner, straight through the gates of the famed Abbey Road Studios. My heart soared as I realized my adolescent dreams were coming true.
My friends Chantal, Dominique, and Luc accompanied me on that first day, and to this day, we still reminisce about that crowd of tourists—as ubiquitous at the main gate as the writing on the wall. As they watched us pass through the Abbey Road Studio entrance, their gaze gave us the distinct impression that they thought we were VIPS. Truth be told, we actually imagined that we were very LUCKY people.
Here I was — 35 years after starting my own first rock‘n roll group in France — a bona fide musical composer!
So, in December, 1999, six of my musical themes were performed by the prestigious London Symphony Orchestra and recorded at Abbey Road Studio, the studio where the Beatles recorded!
Shawn Murphy, a famous sound engineer, and Conrad Pope, an astounding orchestrator, both from LA, worked on the project.
George Frederick Watts - Orpheus and Eurydice
With great love, there may come a time of devastating loss, and seemingly two souls become one. Mourning the death of my loving muse, I found myself in a dark, wretched place.
During this time, I re-read a book she wrote during her lifetime. In one passage, she mused about a strange dream she once had, whose end was a drama… The liberation she experienced through her dream was a Revelation to me… As if my Muse left a hidden message waiting to be decoded… As she gave me the seed that contained all the elements of a Great Staged Spectacle, just waiting to be planted.
To decode the meaning, I I was compelled to delve further into the Monteverdi's Orfeo. Consequently, I was inspired to reinterpret the myth as "The Orpheus Experience"—a profound exploration of the human existence.
As my vision unfolded, I was overcome by a desire to create a venue for grand spectacles that bring significant meaning to the human condition. Daring to dream big, I embraced artful concepts to demonstrate how tragedy, goodness and beauty, can transform humanity to greater levels of excellence.
After Romeo & Juliet — Franck Dicksee (1853 -1928) • Ary Scheffer (1795-1858) — La mort d'Eurydice
I reconnected to those legendary couples who inspired great composers to create some of the greatest operatic master pieces: Orfeo by Monteverdi… Romeo and Juliet… Tristan and Isolde… the "Dramatic" fate of those couples called out to me.
We can ask ourselves, in effect, why this permanent feature in librettos has inspired the grandest composers and has given way to some of the greatest masterpieces in Opera. Maybe to remind us, as did Aristophanes in the the Banquet of Platon, that somewhere there is compensation for this suffering: Meditate and find the ideal and original unity again...
Hence Wagner wrote to Mathilde Wesendonk: "...So the remains of the hero were adorned before being consumed into divine ashes. The lover threw herself in this tomb of flames and perfume so that her ashes would unite with the ashes of her beloved. Thus, they made only one! one element! Not two living human beings, but the divine original element of eternity..."
As a watermark, in all these masterpieces, one finds coexisting with this drama a need to accede to totality and to a fusion in Everything in which the suffering of symbolic couples seems to be an obligatory passage, an "accent" is put on our human condition and the need to experience a metaphysical initiation in order to go beyond, to transcend this condition...
The "nostalgia" surrounding infinity perpetually brings human beings above and beyond themselves. "Constantly haunted by the notion of unity, man is and remains", according to Marcel Doisy's expression, " a knight of the impossible, a lover of the absolute"... ( translated from Avant scène- Opera - Tristan et Isolde - JP Krop ).
The Dream comes alive
The challenge I faced was to be able to superimpose the Orpheus Myth with my own life. In time, it was clear that I was creating what appeared to be a meta-narrative spectacle — looking at the story beyond the story.
A new kind of Opera
Daring to dream big, I embraced artful concepts to demonstrate how tragedy, goodness and beauty, can transform humanity to greater levels of excellence: a new multimedia staged spectacle for the future depicting a reinterpretation of the Orpheus Myth — adapted for the 21century — showing how Orpheus could succeed in reviving Eurydice…
Through such an endeavor my Muse will live on.
A Total Immersion
I envisioned exceptional acoustics in this state-of-the-art amphitheater — meticulously designed and balanced to support the performers, while compelling spectators on every perceptible level. The seats are disposed in an arc to resemble the Ancient Theater of Epidaurus.
The core of the performance comprises live orchestral music with elements of the story played out on stage by actors and dancers, much like an opera. Overhead, the realism of cinema delivers additional narrative elements, including 3D images, sound and holograms — further immersing the audience in total multi-sensory experience.
Flashback to an auspicious event in spring 2000, when we had, Dominique and myself, the privilege of meeting Los Angeles producer Fred C. Caruso, during the filming of Deuces Wild. He asked us how we had found him and why, in the middle of the filming, he had himself agreed to receive us...
We presented him our project of multimedia staged spectacle whose frame should be a film. He immediately embraced the concept and wondered, at that time, whether or not there was a suitable location for a project of this size.
His friendly voice is still beckoning me: " No place exists right now that will house such a fantastic experience. You must build it! ".
Personally and professionally, this was an auspicious meeting, one of these special encounters that occur only very rarely in a lifetime!