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David Braid Tells us About Chauvet

Hailed in the Canadian press as “A jazz genius to call our own” (MacLean’s Magazine), Two-time Juno award winning David Braid is among a new generation of Canadian artists making his mark on international stages. Braid has performed across Western Europe, Scandinavia, Asia, Australia, Brazil, the United States and Canada. Combining harmonic intricacies fundamental to European classical music and the spontaneity of American jazz, Braid’s original music engages audiences with melodic lyricism and rhythmic pulses that do not conform neatly to any one musical genre.

We feel very lucky to host David as he briefly touches ground in Canada, after a tour of the UK,  before he sets off to play Tianjin and Prague. David tells us about the inspiration behind “Chauvet”, a highlight of our upcoming concert Early Expressions, on April 17th:

A few days before Christmas in 1994, three hikers along the Ardèche region of southern France found their way along a particular rock face, searching with their hands for the passage of air that might indicate the presence of hidden caves. They broke open one narrow cavern that at first did not seem unusual beyond being particularly beautiful. Further exploration deeper into the cave revealed what renowned filmmaker Werner Herzog describes as “the greatest discovery in the history of human culture.”

Until the discovery of Chauvet Cave by Jean-Marie Chauvet, this pristine cave was completely sealed for tens of thousands of years, containing the perfect climate to preserve astounding paintings created between 20,000 and 32,000 years ago. The paintings appear fresh however a film of calcite deposits on some of them indicates they are not a forgery. In fact, these are the oldest known paintings, more than twice as old as any other. Recent archeological research shows that humans never lived in this cave and so it was used as a place for painting and possibly ritual. Even more astonishing is the paintings were created over a period of 12,000 years – an inconceivable amount of time to us.

“…to me, their art symbolizes pure expression, unaffected by modern life: economy, or materialism. Their expression prompts in me the question: ‘Why did the first musician play music?'”

I have never seen a film twice before, but I returned to the cinema eight times to watch Herzog’s introspective documentary “Cave of Forgotten Dreams.” Chauvet Cave is a frozen piece of ancient history. If one of our modern art galleries remained closed until 20,000 years from now, it is impossible to imagine how a future person could reconstruct our world through examination of our art. We have the same inability to recreate the world of the artists of Chauvet Cave. What drew me back to watch the film again and again is not precisely clear; however, I wanted to spend more time with this ancient creativity; I wanted to remember the images of these artists throughout my whole life – to me, their art symbolizes pure expression, unaffected by modern life: economy, or materialism. Their expression prompts in me the question: “Why did the first musician play music?” Certainly, it was not to make money.

The piece you are about to hear is my musical recreation of a descent into Chauvet cave. The musical themes and moods represent the various narratives expressed in the paintings, such as: the fierce and gentle faces of the animals, the mysterious clues of long forgotten dreams, the millennia of solitude – you may also encounter echoes of the original artists, and maybe, even possibly encounter yourself.

- Ben Dietschi

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