I’d like to know what that sounds like to you, and what springs to mind when you hear it. For me, it’s a shout – an explosion of joy. It’s like you’re never alone when you say it. In fact, I feel like it needs to be chanted by lots of people together. “BIIIIIIIIIIG BAAAAAANG!” Wow! That would blow anyone’s socks off! Maybe it’s because it hints at something huge and unpredictable that we know nothing about. And the Big Bang that created the universe was no doubt very loud. Today however, we’re talking about something completely different, but still thunderous in its own way: a sensational and colourful musical adventure. And it begins right here, right now…
Open the doors and you’ll find three friendly virtuosos eager to meet you. They know the music of the great Miles Davis inside and out and are determined to draw you into his world. Whether or not you’re familiar with any of this legendary trumpeter’s work, the important thing is to just let yourself be carried away by the musicians’ impressive range of colours and tempos, full of crafty references to the jazzman’s life and work. Experience a pitch-dark storm – like the one that blew through St. Louis the year after Miles was born –, followed by the red-hot rhythms of a boxing match and the cool, kind-of-blue vibrations of percussion. With hypnotic videos to set the scene, the trio will provide a feast for the eyes and ears. Are you ready for some jazz fireworks?
– Mélanie Dumont, Associate Artistic Director, Youth Programming, NAC French Theatre
INTERVIEW WITH Wouter Van Looy
One gets the impression that Mile(s)tones is a pure concentrate of extensive research about Miles Davis. How did you dive into the world of this legendary character to create the show?
We tackled the project from several different angles at once. We listened to and (re)discovered his music, watched interviews, read articles and biographies. He transported us to a very diverse visual world: his album covers, his paintings, his taste in clothes. His love of nice cars, but also his social, political and anti-racist activism. We absorbed all that, then retransmitted it through the lens of our own awareness and artistic practice. We quickly decided to organize the material chronologically, which shapes the show’s dramatic line and links each scene, each period in his life, to a colour.
Toward the end of his life, Miles Davis painted a lot, and his albums also have a striking aesthetic. Did these elements influence the visual aspect of the show, particularly the video?
We used several resources for the video. Black and white images from the beginning of the bebop period, the boxer Jack Johnson, psychedelic images for the electropop period, etc. We couldn’t use everything, of course; there was far too much!
During the performance, you invite young audience members up on stage to experiment with the jazz material. Do you recall a particularly interesting moment with one of them?
The moment when a child is invited to conduct the jazz trio is always a highlight. We’ve performed the show in several countries, and we’ve noticed some interesting differences: a more flamboyant style in Portugal and Spain, more understated and timid in Belgium and Germany. Can’t wait to see what happens in Canada! The participation of children with Down syndrome has also given rise to some memorable moments. Their reaction to the music while they conducted the musicians was wonderful and powerful.
– Interview by Amélie Dumoulin
In 1959, the year most major jazz albums were recorded, Miles Davis recorded his famous album Kind of Blue. It has sold more than four million copies worldwide.
While listening to Miles Davis’ album Kind of Blue, draw a picture that reminds you of the pieces you hear.
Improvisation challenge: put your eraser away! Jazz musicians often have to hear their own mistakes and find a way to keep going. Now it’s your turn to be a jazz musician, using only coloured pencils!
How do you feel when you hear this music? What colours do you see when you listen to the different pieces? What instruments do you hear? Do all the instruments play the same melody? What’s different about how each musician plays their part (volume, tempo, etc.)?
Zonzo Compagnie was founded in 2001 in Antwerp, Belgium, by director Wouter Van Looy, who wanted to produce innovative musical shows for young audiences. Today, the company brings together artists of all backgrounds to develop unique and inventive projects. Listen to the Silence: A Journey with John Cage, presented at the NAC in 2014, then Slumberland in 2016, introduced children to avant-garde musical worlds, reflecting Zonzo Compagnie’s mission: to share the richness and diversity of music with young audiences.