Lausanne and modern music
A giant open rehearsal location
By Stéphane Blok and Pierre-Yves Borgeaud
The Lausanne area is home to an impressive amount of activity in contemporary music – acoustic, electric, electronic, fusion and experimental. This abundance of musicians, associations, genres and venues cannot be presented in detail.
To give a brief outline, we met with people involved in Lausanne’s music scene, being careful to include all ages, roles and musical styles. It appeared that some of the principles that make up the wealth and fragility of modern music in Lausanne correspond to a relatively common vision shared by its participants.
Modern music in Lausanne: wealth and fragility
Lausanne is situated between two summer festivals that are among the biggest for modern music in the world: the Paléo Festival in Nyon and the Montreux Jazz Festival.
Because of this, the city periodically finds itself at the heart of the largest international scene, though which the actors, musicians and other professionals in modern music and show business have passed time and again.
For a few weeks, Lausanne is a capital of modern music. Also considering other facts like its high standard of living, its especially favourable social and political context and even access to information over the Internet, this particular situation is not without influence on the musicians who work there.
A place conducive to experience
In Lausanne, there are numerous musicians, many of whom are well known. Venues such as Les Docks, Romandie and the 2.21 attract big crowds, small festivals abound, and music schools continue to grow each year.
The environment for musicians is extremely developed and attracts many artists from other places seeking concerts, meetings, exchanges and new creative affinities.
With its 130,000 residents, Lausanne is certainly not a metropolis and cannot be compared to London or Berlin. But the quality, originality, size and diversity of its scene put the city on the map of modern music.
On the other hand, there is an almost complete lack of a market. With one and a half million residents, the French-speaking part of Switzerland is not big enough to constitute a commercial area by itself, unlike the German-speaking part of the country.
Labels, producers, managers and distributors are rare. A small city in a small region in a small country, Lausanne is only moderately influential with music sellers. And maybe we should be glad about that: perhaps modern musicians draw their strength from this.
A richness to be preserved
Rather than weakening their development, the commercial isolation of Lausanne’s musicians now generates a feeling of freedom, motivation to work on research and creation. Without obvious openings, or being "doomed" for export, musicians who remain in Lausanne can do what they like and develop their natural inspiration.
Lausanne is like a giant open rehearsal location where people can explore and work on their art, a protected place where they can express themselves in one of the most free and liberated environments in modern music. Essentially a place that is sheltered from the market. This appears to be an obvious strength and a rare wealth.
At a time of commercialism, dumbing down, measurable values, artistic cloning and even the systematic reclamation of the avant-garde, Lausanne can lay claim to its distinctiveness. How? By recognizing and protecting its own modern music "scene", which is alive and abundant, yet fragile.
Meeting participants: Karine Guignard, Laurent Bruttin, Laurent Biolay, François Lindemann, Christian Wicky, Pierre Audétat, Pierre-Yves Borgeaud, Stéphane Blok.
Service de la culture
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