This project has its origins in a fortuitous bit of luck: an accident, if you like.
If a particular night in May, 2001, had not been so pleasant,
La Défense - Stage urbain would have never been realized. But it was: so Michael Rüsenberg spent his last free hours in Paris strolling La Defénse, a hypermodern suburb on the western bank of river Seine.
Imagine a warm night in spring, close to midnight; only a few stragglers cross the huge plaza in front of Grand Arche. Climb the stairs and sit where you can take in the view, and you can almost inhale the scenery: skyscrapers lit like Xmas trees, escalators yelling and moaning as they transport passengers mostly unaware of the drama around them... it hasn´t rained for days; the handrails are so dry they play weird melodies in the night air. Several of them are so beautifully unexpected Rüsenberg records them on the spot.
But it is an escalator next to McDonald's that captures much of our attention, for those with their ears open not only ride it, through an ever more melodic drone, but experience it: on arrival at the top level they are given an entire ambient performance. A loud hum on the left from an air conditioner echoes with formidable delay from the glass front of a theater on the right...
Later, when the air conditioner shuts off and he continues happily to record the soundscape, Rüsenberg is infused with a desire to return to the site: to better document its unique soundscape.
Yet on later visits, in November 2001 and September 2002, nothing sounds the same — the old soundscape composers' nightmare: the machines are still on duty, yes; but in near-total silence. But the resourceful Rüsenberg finds more sites of sonic interest, such as
le petit train la Defénse which at a particular location, in the back of Grand Arche, generates a unique rhythm on the loose plates of concrete...
And so — all these sounds are here to be heard:
le train, the escalators, the air conditioning — plus many more sounds, recorded around La Defénse.
A warning might be in order.
La Défense - Stage urbain is not a sonic polemic on the pros & cons of modern architecture. It debates neither commuterism nor urban planning. It isn´t even documentary, in the narrow sense.
Instead, it is a
composition, derived from sonic impressions that the throngs who frequent La Defénse every day can and do hear (when they are willing to listen), corporate cog and tourist alike.
In other words,
La Défense - Stage urbain is the product of a flaneur, a stranger to the
world of purpose, whom most people would expect to find haunting only the most picturesque parts of Paris.
La Défense - Stage urbain engages a different Paris, the one that is embodied in La Defense, but enmeshed in the city everywhere, inescapably. The composition considers this larger modernity, finding it first in the ride to and from La Defense on Ligne 1 of the famous Metro. Thus we start at Opera Bastille station, exploring the sonic textures of the Metro cars arriving at, and stopping at, and departing from, the station... for the musical ear this
hubbub is an ever-unfolding ambient music... the music of La Defense.
Like RealAmbient Vol 1 (Roma - a soundscape remix),
La Défense- Stage urbain has a remix section.
Soundscape composition is among other things a genre of personal impressions. It is only fitting that this notion be emphasized by making space for four different perspectives on the sounds of La Defense, from four different sets of ears.
Ears familiar with their subject: three of the remixers reside in Paris:
Steve Argüelles, Eric La Casa (who Rüsenberg interviewed for radio in May 2001), and Benoit Delbecq (interviewed in September 2002). Ned Bouhalassa lives in Montreal,but he was born in Le Mans.
Each remixer received 76 sound files from Rüsenberg, including both original and manipulated recordings. From a CD's worth of of source material, they were asked to create a remix of up to seven minutes: another way of hearing La Défense.
The remixes in this project are unique in that there was
no original to which they could refer to: none of the remixers were given Rüsenberg´s composition before the record was released. Thus they are best thought of as variations not on form, but on content: the La Défense that Michael Rüsenberg heard and recorded.

translated with the help of Aaron Ximm aka Quiet American