Evariste: Jupiter film 1971

I’ve still not managed to find a copy of Jupiter (dir Jean-Pierre Prévost, 1971), which I’d love to see because aside from the fact that Évariste has a role in it, it also features the great actors Jean-Pierre Kalfon and Pierre Clémenti and the artist Martial Raysse.  Anyone got a copy?  Let me know if you have.

In the meantime I managed to find an article about it in Continental Film Review (October 1970):

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An Evariste Special!

This is one of my favourite finds for my Évariste collection – the sheet music for Connais-tu l’animal qui inventa le calcul intégral? 

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Who would have thought that even existed?

And to add to this, my friend Matt found this amazing Évariste film on Vimeo and sent me the link.  It’s called Aliénation et hiérarchie (ou l’anti-Dutronc) and it was made by Yves-Marie Mahé in 2012.  Watch it now, it’s absolutely amazing and there’s so much footage that you won’t have seen before (unless it’s just me who’s been missing out!).  Here are a few screen grabs to pique your interest:

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Amazing, uh?  Thanks, Yves-Marie Mahé, for this wonderful short film!

Another photo of Evariste

I recently purchased this lovely press photo of Évariste – or, actually, Joël Sternheimer since it’s regarding his work as a scientist.  Aside from the fact that I’d never seen this photo before, the most interesting thing about it is that it seems to have been produced for the British press and all the text on the back of the image is in English.  I wonder whether there was ever an English language press article about Joël / Évariste?  I might have to do some digging…

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Post Script  –  Here’s a message from Évariste:

“I recall this photograph being taken by l’Express news magazine, around a couple of days before a debate with physicist Louis Leprince-Ringuet, organized on February 7, 1972 at Ecole Supérieure de Commerce de Paris, by a then young student, future Agriculture Minister and European Commissioner Michel Barnier, who later took some responsibilities in the fight against pesticides (1). This had followed the censorship of Michel Treguer’s “Evariste et les sept dimensions” in January 1972 (http://unite.jean-jaures.org/unite/pdf/U001_01571.pdf).
(1) https://sosbiodiversite.wordpress.com/tag/barnier/.”

Happy birthday, Evariste

Today is Évariste’s birthday – by coincidence this past week I bought a fabulous collection of original press photos of him, so it seems somehow befitting that I should be posting them today.  I already had one press photo of Évariste in my small but growing Évariste collection – see it here – but here are 8 more.  Happy birthday, Évariste!

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Postscript  Évariste sent some comments on the photos, which I thought I would share here:

E:  Some photos made by Paul Slade (Paris Match photographer) at Princeton’s “thé des mathématiciens”, others by Araldo di Crollalanza…

HC:  It’s true, quite a few of these were actually from the Paris Match archives, which means that they were the ones they used in their Évariste article; the one on the statue, the one with the girls and the one below that with Évariste in front of the board explaining something to his colleagues

E: Formulas written on the blackboard of this photograph may be found in http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k4015m/f535.image where the first paragraph described for the first time (in 1964) Moshé Flato’s basic idea of correcting the squared mass operator, to feature additional dimensions where quantum waves should propagate.  

HC:  What were you doing in the photograph at the top with the equipment and the cables?

E:  Posing for photographer… as if I was doing data collecting from an experiment. But the (improvised) speech in mathematician’s tearoom, where I explained mass formulas, was genuine.  In Princeton, where these photographs were taken in 1967, the distinction between “experimentalists” and “theoreticians” had more than a taste of Huxley’ s “Brave new world”: really two categories. It has taken the discovery of proteodies — those melodies which may not only be conceptualized, but tremendously experienced by the body — to blow away this distinction for me.

Evariste aux fans: interview with Hero Culte part two

Well, here is part two of the interview with Évariste from December 2012,  so I hope you have already read part one?  Part two is a little more challenging, I would say, as we got down to some scientific content in this part of the interview, discussing protein music and the vibrational frequencies of the elementary particles!  I hope you can understand it better than I can, but I am sure you will enjoy it anyway:

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Hero Culte (HC):  Before you gave up your recording career, you were also involved in some plays or musicals?

Évariste (E):  Yes

HC:  Did you perform in those or did you just record the music for them?

E:  In 1968, yes, I cut a record with two songs I had composed.  The record was on sale in Boulevard Saint-Michel at a record shop which was called Chanteclair.

Chanteclair

And Claude Confortès was working with Georges Wolinski who had done drawings on the subject of May ’68.  He said, “Well, that’s very much like a theatre play; let’s make a play out of it.”  And as a matter of fact Georges Wolinski had a relative among the people who were occupying the Sorbonne and this relative made contact; Wolinski had done the drawing for my record cover.  And when Confortès saw that in the front of the record shop, he bought it and he liked it, and so he called me and that’s how it went that I was involved in that play, Je ne veux pas mourir idiotI don’t want to die an idiot – there was even performances in the United States under this title.  And I started to be on stage with them; I did it about 150 times, maybe.  And it went on because it was very successful, but I received a letter from my physics professor: “What are you doing there?  You should be doing physics!”  So I stopped then, but the show went on.  At that time it played over 450 times, I think.  And it was done after that several times more.

Evariste Je ne veux pas mourir idiot poster

HC:  I also wanted to ask how you were involved with Hari Kiri and Charlie Hebdo

E:  It was because I knew Wolinski who was doing drawings for them.

HC:  But did you write for them?

E:  Oh, a couple of articles only – but they supported me – not supported, they helped me… They had the rubrique [column] they called spéciale copinage, and so they put drawings in it about people that they knew and liked who were performing on stage or something like that.  But, yes, only a couple of times I wrote for them; and one was a letter in fact.

HC:  Can I ask as well, something a little odd, I read somewhere that your records were supposed to be a dialogue between a night bird and a howling reptile?!

E:  This was taken from an American newspaper – that’s what that newspaper had said and I recall the sentence…

HC:  We weren’t sure what type of howling reptile it was!

E:  Maybe I didn’t translate it very well!

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HC:  As you knew Lucien Morisse and you were signed to Disc’AZ, this means you were on the same record label as Michel Polnareff, did you know him at all?

E:  Yes, that’s right! Oh, yes, yes! I quite remember the first two sentences that we exchanged ever – I told him, a little bit whimsically: “Ah! You are the guy who borrowed the chords from the Ray Charles song Georgia On My Mind” and you know what his answer was?  He said, “Oh, that’s the guy who in the first sentence he says to me, he talks about Ray Charles – what a great guy!”

HC:  Yes, I’m a big fan of Polnareff but it’s quite funny that he won an award for that song, part of which was obviously stolen!

E:  Oh, yes, the harmonies but not the melody.  And the impression is quite different – Ray Charles sings it in a sad way, and on the contrary there is hope in his [Polnareff’s] song.  He has changed it, by taking the same chords, he has changed it.  There are many other examples like that, for instance, The Beatles’ Girl is borrowed from Buona Sera, and that is a contrary – Buona Sera is a happy song and Girl is sad.  And almost nothing has changed.  [Évariste sings part of Girl and then sings part of Buona Sera] That part is completely borrowed, but the songs are completely different.  They have made a sad song from a happy song, and Michel Polnareff did the contrary with Ray Charles.  He made a happy song from a sad song.

HC:  Do you think it was happy?  I’m not sure, he was in love with someone who didn’t love him back…

E:  It sounded hopeful, yes.  And also what is important to the SACEM, the royalties company, are the first eight bars and the melody – and the melody was changed. [Évariste sings “Love Me, Please Love Me, Je suis fou de vous!” and then sings “Georgia, O Georgia!” to demonstrate the difference in mood]  The harmonic suite is borrowed, but any rock and roll song does that…

HC:  Yes, there are only so many chords and sequences!

E:  But it shows that they might have shared something

HC:  Definitely – actually, I wanted to ask you about your special guitar – I’ve read about this guitar you developed that, o gosh, I don’t really understand this but it recreates the vibrational frequencies of the elementary particles…?

E:  Why is that so, that the elementary particles, their proper frequencies, are on the same musical scale?  That’s very surprising maybe for some people.  And the guitar was intended as demonstrating how it works.  It was inspired by two different cultures – it was first an ordinary guitar but then with sympathetic strings which was… maybe I can show with a guitar [draws a guitar], the sympathetic strings were like that [picture showing strings that cross over the main strings diagonally from bottom left to top right], which vibrate in sympathy.  With the strings you fix out the mode, exactly like do re mi fa, but not with temperate chords; with the exact harmonic chords, because it is based then more on harmony.

And then the second thing is, then the frets are gone and replaced by micro frets – one for each string – so that then once you have selected a mode, you depart from equal temperament by sliding the micro-frets a little bit – and if you start in this way on a Hindu mode for instance, sliding the micro-frets to optimize the resonance with the sympathetic strings, it will sound like a sitar; on an Iranian mode it will sound like a santur; and if you start on an African mode, it will sound like kora.  So the sound will be very different each time, different from a guitar also, because of the sympathetic strings that will reinforce the harmonics. This was developed with and by the French guitarist Filip Flejo.

And this is exactly the same principle which makes the vibrational frequencies of a particle to be in chords – to make chords.  And it shows that there are harmonics in them, which is contrary to quantum mechanics, but these harmonics are as I understood introduced by the subject and means that you may have subject not only in other people but also in animals and in trees and even in elementary particles.  And that you can directly relate with.

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HC:  That’s gone straight over my head!

E:  So, I have to say what it means – in medicine when you are sick they give you drugs and you take them but how do you know when you take it that the doctor is not mistaken?  Now, if there is a melody which you vibrate with, and which resonates with the molecule there is inside you, then you like the melody.  And this way you have a control, whether it is the correct molecule or not.  Because it is taking into account the subject.

HC:  I read somewhere that you said that the sound sequences you create can affect people quite badly, how or why is that?

E:  Ah! On proteodies, not on music.  This is because they [proteodies] are very special – proteodies have many things in common with melodies and very often they have bits in common, I can testify to that.  Very often you may find when you wake up in the morning with a melody, you don’t know where it comes from, well, in fact, there is a molecule and it is part of a diagnosis and even preventive.  And so the musicians are able to heal themselves, and they are able to live longer than the doctors and even longer than the average person.

So the difference is that when you find the molecule which the music comes from, then you have not only the theme of a few notes but the whole molecule of hundreds of notes.  So it is proportionately more efficient and also there are differences in the structure – you have harmonic laws in man-composed music; you have melody laws; you have rhythmic laws; but you also have cognitive laws, it is a cognitive activity of mankind.  And if you look at it from the point of view of information theory and look at the information content per note, and compare it with the information content per interval, mainly the information is essentially the same when you consider a melody and a sequence of notes or a sequence of intervals.  But from the point of view of information theory, if it was random, the sequence of intervals, the information content, should be much bigger because there are more intervals than notes.

The main constraint maybe in music is it’s cognitive; it’s that you can conceive it, you can remember it, because of this property that there is an information inside.  In proteodies this rule is replaced by another one; there is one informational bit of difference between information per interval, and information per note, so it’s not random but it’s a different way of going.  So you can’t remember it when you hear it, and when you don’t like it it’s okay.  But if you like it, you try to remember it and so you remember what is in fact simplified.  And what you remember is not somehow dangerous, but when you listen to something you don’t remember, then you don’t master it anymore and so you have to say quite quickly in a few seconds if you like it or not – because otherwise you may get side effects.  It may have side effects which you don’t control.

Evariste Vient de paraitre 11

You have in fact a control, that is what is of interest, in that very quickly when people listen to it, it’s even the biggest surprise when listening to them, that one knows that one immediately likes it or immediately does not like it.  And when one likes it, then it has a preventive and even a curative effect and with that property that it is a kind of medicine which the subject can handle and control for himself.  It’s a drug which you know before you take it or even in the first few seconds, if it fits for you or not.

HC:  How far have you got with the plant growth stimulation?  Can you grow big plants or massive tomatoes?!

E:  Actually there is a company that does that now, and the main thing it is working out is for a vineyard disease, caused by a mushroom which is called esca.  And in 2012, there were 52 vineyard businesses who were applying it, and with a drastic reduction in the disease because one molecule of the mushroom is inhibited, is refrained, while another molecule of the grapevine is stimulated; it works well together.  So the overall average over the year is about a fourfold reduction of the disease and even this year there was a startling observation that the number of people doubled every year that do it.  So in 2012 there were about 26 new ones and 26 who were already doing it the year before, but the effect was significantly stronger for those who were already doing it the year before.  Which shows that the plant sensibility has been educated – plants have a memory, of what was before, and those who had the music the year before were better off than those who were doing it for the first time, especially because this year the pressure of the disease was much higher than in other years. So those who had already been educated in this way defended themselves better and had a better response.  This is quite remarkable.

HC:  What do you do nowadays?  Do you just do research, or do you teach?

E:  I do some conferences sometimes.  I also help the people in that company, and in fact educate other people who learn first for their own health purpose, and also those who  work in that field for the application of things in the plant field.  It’s an area covered by the patent I filed as it was granted by European Patent Office, that’s why there was a company in that direction.  And I feel rather guilty that it doesn’t go faster for the medical side because when I see what it can do… well, one cannot go faster than music.

HC:  I wonder if you knew about this book I saw on the internet by Eric Drott called Music and the Elusive Revolution?   The reason I ask is because he writes quite a lot about you…

E:  Oh!  [Évariste looks at print out I have brought with me] I didn’t know it at all, it’s called…?

HC:  Music and the Elusive Revolution.  I thought maybe you had spoken to him?

evariste-la revolution-back cover

E:  Do you want to know if it’s correct or not?

HC:  Well… it’s just interesting that someone else has found you and written about you.  He singles you out for a lot of attention, and it seems to say that although you wrote about May ’68, it was more satirical than anything…

E:  Yes, sure.  You ask me what connection is there from the songs, to the present work – well there is none, it came from the physics not from the songs, but the compulsive sensitivity helped to welcome the results and of course helps to do the decodings because you need this sensitivity for that.  But the way in which it becomes fruitful is the way I just started to explain a little bit earlier, when I mentioned that La révolution was self-produced.  In fact in two very different ways, going with the majors or being self-produced, and I just did the same for science.  Starting with the majors and then moving on to self-production.

And I got the experience about this from the records and how it went out, and that is how it went in the rise of May ’68.

HC:  But you went independent at a very young age, didn’t you?  That was brave!

E:  It was a concours de circonstances [combination of circumstances], as we say, circumstances – … having suffered from World War II, and having escaped from World War II by a miracle, and then … and then there was a war, so that’s how it went… and also Jewish education, as I explained to you…

Evariste-Je-ne-pense-qua-ça-EP

HC:  Do you miss the music industry now though?

E:  The industry, no!  And music, well, music I’m so involved in that I really wonder how come not many people are doing it because, you know, there are, I find, two main things on the internet: on the one hand you have YouTube with all the songs we like there; and on the other, you have Medline with all the molecules and the proteins, with their sequences, their amino acid sequences.  And there is a one-to-one connection between them.  And how is it that not many people are taking the idea of it and trying to understand what is happening?  Then when they suddenly have a melody that comes out, I mean then that seems a must for me.

HC:  You’ve managed to combine the two now, then?

E:  Well, they are connected and every time I hear of somebody who has a bad disease, I say, ah, la la! Well!  On the contrary, there are sometimes I’m amazed by the precision of inspiration – for instance, you talked about Jacques Dutronc, he is married to Françoise Hardy, and she became famous with a song Tous les garçons et les filles and the theme of that was what inhibits prohormone-processing protease, you know.  And when people become teenagers, specific hormones start to work: so inhibiting prohormone-processing protease will refrain these hormones from being processed to become active, matching quite precisely the words of the song about a teenage girl waiting for the charming prince…

There are other examples like that – the Horshat haeucalyptus song by Naomi Shemer; the 7-note theme on these words is found in a eucalyptus maturase (that is, helping the tree to mature), as well as in a human olfactive receptor and in the proteody that inhibits the common cold virus.

HC:  One thing I wanted to ask before we finish, I heard that you were somehow involved in Renaud’s Crève salope?

E:  Not exactly, when I wrote that little song La révolution, we had the idea of people singing together in the chorus and so we wanted to issue the text in a few copies, and we needed a typing machine.  But I didn’t know at the time how to type.  Amongst the people who were occupying the Sorbonne only one person knew – it was Renaud, cos his father was a writer, and he volunteered to type the words of the song.  And he did it, and he said, “Well, that’s not difficult I can do this sort of thing.”  So this gave him, apparently, the impulse to try and write something himself and indeed he wrote a song.  That was how his career happened.

SP-Evariste-Reviens Dany Reviens

HC:  I wondered whether you have any unreleased music tracks?

E:  O, there were – I really stopped in the 70’s but was still composing songs for a while, until about 1995.  But I must say that since then, every time I have musical inspiration I look for the molecule, which is so much more interesting.

HC:  But you don’t mind that these people brought out the bootleg record?

E:  Do you have it?

HC:  Not here, no.

E:  I’ve never seen it!

HC:  I think there are only 500 copies or something, it was released independently by a company called NoSmoke Records.  On the cover they said that it has everything on it that you’ve ever done, but that’s not true.  It just has the first 2 EPs and a single on it, I think.  But we have the album – it’s very good!

E:  I don’t know the record company, I just saw that it existed on the internet but that’s all I know.

HC:  They should at least send you a copy of your own record!

E:  It is not with 500 copies that you make a living.  Well, happily enough it goes differently, because this year about 30,000 trees were saved.

HC:  You could do something to solve the problem with ash dieback!

E:  Les frênes?

HC:  Yes!

E:  I think it’s a major problem but there are answers for this.  And I wonder how dumb I am that the connection is not made and why only a few people know about it and heal themselves with it.

HC:  You’ve got a lot of work to do!  Before we go, is there anything you would want to share with your fans that they don’t already know about you?  Any interesting stories?

E:  Should I tell?!

HC:  Yes!  The story that makes me laugh – well, I got this press photograph of you from America and it had a little bit of a press cutting on the back.  And I tried to find the newspaper so I could see the full article, but I couldn’t get a copy – I managed to see a scan though and it said that the photograph of you on the cover of one of your EPs was of you with a urine samples set-up!

Evariste Connais tu l'animal A

E:  That’s right!  The photographer was looking for a laboratory and that’s what he found.  And the funny thing about it is that at that time I had an uncle in Chicago who had devised a new test in urine for some renal diseases and got a patent for it but it took so long to be acknowledged as the official test.  It is now the European official test for this.  And even worldwide, I think.  And it was at that time!  Quite funny.

And it was this uncle that made the connection with the patent adviser who helped me for protein melodies.

HC:  You’re a scientific family, then, because your brother is a scientist too, isn’t he, or a mathematician?

E:  Mathematician, yes.  And he has even contributed to this work in the very early 60’s and then worked on something else.

HC:  A talented family!

E:  But I have seen your paper [Hero Culte: Évariste means this article on here] and as a matter of fact I found that it was different from many things I had seen in terms of talent and enthousiasme.  It’s true!  Well, I mean it’s not common!  And I see that at the end you quote the paper written together with my brother, and a few other people.  And it was the one that introduced the idea that certain regularities in the particle masses could correspond to a wave equation, depending on the shape of these regularities.  And the first paper about it was that paper we wrote together.  And this paper was the origins of my work!

[At this point during the interview the recording machine starts to blink as the energy is running out!]

HC:  We’re almost out of energy!

E:  We talked too much!

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Évariste (aka Joël Sternheimer), December 2012, photograph by David Tinkham of Datapanik Design

– – O – –

Apologies for the abrupt ending of the interview – aside from being late and arriving wet from the heavy Paris rain and being stressed out because of this, I discovered that the recording equipment, fully charged that morning, had somehow switched itself on during the journey from England to Paris and the energy levels were getting low.  Thankfully it held out for about 90 minutes so I was very lucky.

I would like to express my sincerest thanks to Évariste for agreeing to the interview, for giving me so much of his time and answering so many questions.  I would also like to thank him for the music.  Thanks also to David Tinkham for his help, support and the photograph of  Évariste.  

Evariste aux fans: interview with Hero Culte part one

evaristeÉvariste (aka Joël Sternheimer), December 2012, photograph by David Tinkham of Datapanik Design

It’s not very long since I discovered the music of Évariste so this has all moved very quickly indeed but I have been most fortunate in tracking down Évariste and getting an interview with him in Paris.  It happened on a very wet and very cold day in early December 2012, in the office of Évariste’s alter ego Joël Sternheimer.  For the first time in  my life – and I have been there many, many times before – I got lost in Paris and arrived late, wet and feeling slightly sick with worry that I might have missed my chance for an interview after travelling all the way from England to France especially to meet my new French music hero.  In the event it turned out fine – the interview took place in English (for which I was most grateful!) and I found Mr Sternheimer very shy but also very talkative, which was just how I imagined he would be.  Here, finally, is part one of the interview, which I think should be called The Pete Seeger Story, you’ll see why:

Hero Culte (HC):  I understand you were 23 when you first auditioned with AZ…

Évariste (E):  Yes

HC:  But when did you first start writing songs and singing?

E:  Writing songs, in fact already as a teenager and as soon as I could have a tape recorder, which was something I asked my parents repeatedly for and they were saying, “Well, it will come and it will go like that…”  But I insisted so much that in the end I got one – Geloso, Italian one tape – and then I started to, since I could record, to make some songs.  Later I bought a guitar – there were also the cassette recorders which came out.  And then I really started, but I was already past twenty something.

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Évariste’s tape recorder, as seen in Tilt-Magazine, February 1967

HC:  I’ve read that you were a bit of a child prodigy, that you were really intelligent and had your PhD when you were 23…

E:  I had a doctorate in theoretical physics, oui.

HC:  Also I read that you learnt to speak Hebrew in 15 days!

E:  Well, I took courses during 15 days, but it’s okay.  Technical conversation would be difficult but daily conversation is okay.  I’m from a Jewish family with no father because of shoah, holocaust you call it, and so that took the thing in a certain direction…

HC:  I have another story to ask you about, and that’s that I read somewhere that you sang with Pete Seeger in America in front of Martin Luther King and an audience of a million or so, is this true?

E:  This is true.  It was in April 15 1967…

HC:  How did it happen?

E:  Ah! It was a… well, the story takes a few steps…  After the doctorate I was invited to Princeton to work with a great specialist in my field – Eugene Wigner, a well-known physicist, a specialist in group theory, which I had to get more acquainted with than I already was.  And I was offered to be his assistant, so I took the ship in August 1966 – Pacquebot France – which took 4½ days.  When the boat left France I had my invitation and assistantship in my pocket and when the boat reached the United States I learned that there was a whole turmoil in the University because there were what was called “monetary restrictions” because of the war; the assistantship with Wigner didn’t exist anymore.

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I was offered another [assistantship], but I was perhaps maybe a little spoilt child and I soon realised that the direction in which the research would proceed was not the one I was intending in the beginning or was invited for.  And after a few days I declined the assistantship, so I had the problem of how could I live – how could I make a living?

There was a French speaking professor, Maurice Bazin, who said to me, “Well, look you’ve long hair, I’ve heard that you are musically inclined – why don’t you cut a record and this way you will be able to do the research in the direction which you like?”

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HC:  Did you already have your hair in the Évariste style, long on one side and short on the other?

E:  It was long, it wasn’t really intended to be the style – it was, you know, the time of Beatlemania and Lennon and McCartney’s way of having long hair.  And it wasn’t really intended, but not long after when I cut a record they made the sleeve of the record and there was some hair that went down the eye [in the photograph] and so, you know how they are, they said, “Well! That’s it!”

EP-Evariste-Wo-i-Nee-A

HC:  But then did you cut it so it was short on one side and long on the other?

E:  Ah! You remember how Lennon and McCartney combed their hair? They had it this way round, so I just put the connection with the political situation and I translated it: left ahead and right back.  And so made it mod and rocker.  That was a joke, but there was some political intention with this!

I had left the story where it was, when that professor told me, “Well, you have long hair why don’t you sing.”  And he knew that I was musically inclined and making some songs for myself. And I started thinking about it.  I did a trial in Gerde’s Folk City in Washington Square in New York where they auditioned wanna-be talents and I sang a few of my songs there and the boss came and said, “Well, you should go on.”  Of course, the reception was rather polite because I sang in French but… except a song called Herzl Rent A Car!  But he said, “You should go on, there’s something; you’ve got something”, and that made me think.

It happened that it was on the Tuesday afternoon and that I had dropped a course which I was supposed to attend; more precisely, Tuesday afternoon conferences in the Institute for Advanced Study.  And so I had gone there and missed it for a couple of weeks and then gone back and [J. Robert] Oppenheimer who was the Head had seen this, and at the end of the conference came to see me to ask me what was happening.  And so I told him about the situation, of which he was very well aware.

Oppenheimer was obviously very aware of the situation and apparently he had guessed that it was connected with [the assistantship].  And so I told him about my situation and what Bazin had said and that I was really thinking of being independent in my research; I was taking it seriously.  And then I saw Oppenheimer whose face was… well, he was already very ill but from the image I had of him from the outside I somehow connected it with guilt about Hiroshima.  That’s what I felt.  And as a matter of fact, other people who saw him at the same time had the same impression.  And when I told him that I was thinking of becoming independent he told me, “Ah!” I saw his face lightened; like hope coming back, like life coming back to his face.  And he said, “If you think you may find a way to become independent, do it! If I was your age now, that’s what I would do.”  That’s what he told me, the Father of “Big Science”.

And so I really thought about it and for the winter holidays we had vacation and I came back to France.  I had some friends in the recording business; I had already, as a matter of fact, had an audition before, but then this time I called my friends and said, “Well, I would like to see if it might work.”  In fact Lucien Morisse, who was the head of AZ Records, was very enthusiastic.  Gérard Woog had seen me and he was [Morisse’s] Artistic Director – he said, “Well, I am completely amazed!  I can’t take a decision by myself, so let’s go see Lucien.”  Lucien Morisse was enthusiastic and so we cut a record in a couple of days.  Just like that!

It was in between December 20-somethingth and January 1st.  And I even went out of the recording studio to take the plane back to the States and I forgot my guitar!  So that’s why I bought a new one in the Princeton University store, which Pete Seeger signed later.

Evariste Tilt Feb 67 14

But then what happened was that near the end of the month I saw a whole crowd coming, Paris Match and Télé 7 Jours and television and so on, because the record was a hit in France.  And I was very surprised about it.  I came back [to France] for two weeks in February for this reason…

Evariste Tilt Feb 67 5

HC:  Which TV show did you appear on?

E:  That one was Tilt Magazine by Michèle Arnaud, who was the producer.

Evariste Tilt Feb 67 24

HC:  I saw a clip of Connaistu l’animal qui inventa le calcul intégral but I wasn’t sure which show it was on.  I have Dim Dam Dom

E:  Ah! Dim Dam Dom is another one.  One of the first colour TV shows – this was a few months later.

Evariste Wo I Nee 3

HC:  Were you on any other shows as well?

E:  O yes! I have a whole list at home…

HC:  Wow! Send me the list so I can try and find the shows [HC Note: He did and I did find some of them, see here].  When I first saw you, it was on Dim Dam Dom, and I was just amazed – “Who is this Evariste?!”  Especially in the context of the show because you were so different to everything else…

E:  That is so nice!

HC:  Then after that I saw the clip of you doing Connais-tu l’animal…, which was just wonderful.  How did you develop your performance, with the (making bad attempt at doing the leg under the arm thing Évariste used to do)?

Evariste Vient de paraitre 18

E:  Ah! At that time, I could do it.  Not anymore!

HC:  But it’s very physical and exciting to watch, because it’s so… strange.  Did you perform any other songs apart from Wo i nee and Connais-tu l’animal on TV?

E:  O yes, there were several.

HC:  I have to find them!  Did you know that somebody had released an album of your songs?

E:  I have seen this; it is a pirate album of course.  I have seen this but…

Evariste Do You Know The Beast LP

The bootleg album…

HC:  It’s created a bit of interest in you on the internet, with people writing about you and your music – people referring to you as a genius and so on.  Some have been likening you to Kim Fowley, do you know Kim Fowley?

E:  Erm…

HC:  He was an American musician, he did quite a lot of unusual records; he was kind of… slightly outrageous for his time in the ‘60s.  Well, they compare you to him, but I think you’re better than that anyway.  I just wondered what you thought of the comparison…

About your lyrical inspiration, from what I could work out – I’m not fluent in French, I’m fairly good but I don’t understand everything – it seems to be a lot about mathematics, the moon and Antoine and Jacques Dutronc.  Was that a comment on the pop scene at the time or did you not like them…?

E:  Not at all.  I mean that thing, which has perhaps been misunderstood was a reference to a mathematical theorem which is called Gödel’s theorem – you may have heard of it…

HC:  [looking blank]

E:  …it states that from the inside of a system, you can’t prove that it is not contradictory.  And on these grounds there is an ideology that you should describe something from outside, which for me is quite contradictory to what I learned as a Jewish boy in the Pesach – Passover – holiday.  In the seder Passover one says: What is the difference between the wise and the bad?  The wise look at things from inside and the bad look from outside.  So I was a bit upset with the way the theorem was applied.  The demonstration relies on sentences which are so-called proto-descriptive; which talk about themselves.  And, so, I made this sentence:  Ce que je pense d’Antoine et de Jacques Dutronc… It’s a sentence, which starts with C and ends with on.  And Ça commence par C, ça finit par on, also starts with c and ends with on… So that’s what it was intended to mean, nothing more than that – the sentence is auto-descriptive.  But that was not at all understood!

HC:  That’s very clever!  But there’s some other references as well, like, how did you manage to relate La chasse au boson intermédiaire back to Antoine and Dutronc as well?  Mais où sont donc passés Antoine et Jacques Dutronc…”?

E:  This was in the second record, and so it was a reference to the first one!

HC:  I thought maybe you really hated them!

E:  No, not at all.  As a matter of fact although I never met Antoine, I had him once on the ‘phone and I thanked him for having paved the way for the recording companies…

HC:  Because he was an engineering student, wasn’t he?

E:  He was an engineer, yeah, at an engineering school.

HC:  Because I was thinking when listening to the records that it would seem odd if you didn’t like them…

E:  No, I loved them!  On the contrary, I was very excited by the song Élucubrations.  On the contrary, I loved that.

HC:  Yes, because I thought that with Jacques Dutronc, he might have actually appealed to you because although he was very handsome and kind of conventional in his appearance, the lyrics he sang were sort of at odds with his appearance because they were very caustic and kind of critical of certain parts of society.  For example, with Et moi, et moi, et moi

E:  Ah! Dutronc, that is the game that he played.

HC:  And Antoine too, I know some people were dismissive of him and said he was a bit of a novelty act or that he was not too talented, but I really admire him – he has some clever lyrics, things like Pourquoi ces canons particularly, which is a lovely song that goes round back on itself…

E:  I heard him once say that he has a magical power and he took his harmonica and [hums harmonica line from Elucubrations] everybody around says, “Oh, yeah!”

But I had started to answer your first question and…

HC:  [Somehow rather rudely talking over Évariste and asking a question despite the fact he wanted to return to the Pete Seeger story…]  I wondered as well that you had created this personality for yourself as a performer, calling yourself Évariste, and I know why you called yourself Évariste, but was it…

E:  This was because when the occasion came to make a record I had to find a name – at that time, they used stupid names, you know.  I was talking about it to a young fellow student who was an École normale supérieure student, and he said why not Évariste referring to Évariste Galois.  And that’s how it came.

Evariste Paris Match 2a

HC:  Another mathematics reference.  And I wondered if it was a reference to… you mention Nicolas Bourbaki in Wo i nee, and that was also a creative personage…

E:  They were several personages! But one of them was Claude Chevalley who was the Director of the Maths Department in the Université de Vincennes after May ’68 and I taught there for a while.  But, anyway, with Bourbaki we learned the little bit of mathematics that we know.

HC:  I wanted to ask you as well, you wrote all the music but when you recorded it was orchestrated by Michel Colombier…

E:  That’s right.

HC:  How did that happen?

E:  Because he was orchestrator at AZ Records for Lucien Morisse and so we met – this was arranged by the recording company – and he liked it.  I remember the question I asked which was a special question at that time for a recording, I asked him, “What can we do so that the batterie [drums] are heard as poum poum and not as tak tak?”  And he said, “Well, that’s our problem!”

And when the song Calcul intégral was recorded, when I was singing the song myself I was just doing one chord – that’s all I knew, Em – and I was hitting the guitar.  Hitting the guitar with my [knuckles], like that [demonstrates it on the table].  And so he got inspired by that and superposed to the batterie [drums], somebody who was alone in the cabin and who did that [makes gesture of rapping knuckles] on the guitar, and that made the sounds special for the time.

HC:  And do you remember who was in the band?

E:  Yes, Michel Colombier was director; there was Francis Darizcuren; Raymond Gimenez; at the organ was Eddy Louiss, who become famous also as an organist; in the choir there were several chorists, one of them became very well-known, Danielle Licari, who sang ba-da-ba-ba-da-ba-da-ba-da-ba-da-ba…, that Concerto pour une voix by Saint-Preux.  Saint-Preux is today a friend, that’s funny.

HC:  And did you ever do any concerts or live performances?

E:  Yes, at that time, yes.  But maybe we should start the story where we left it – you asked me about Pete Seeger and I didn’t finish the story… so, it was bad things that were happening in the United States in the end of fall of 1966, which were somehow connected with the Vietnam war.  And Maurice Bazin was actually a Leftist activist and he had given me this advice, because he hoped that it would open my political consciousness; that’s what he said to me after.  And what I didn’t know at that time was what really happened, because this has been known partly – but very partly – when the Pentagon Papers appeared and fully, or at least more fully, recently after [Robert] McNamara, who was involved, passed away.

And what happened in reality is that the American government had asked some bright physicists to collaborate with them for the war.  The thing was that McNamara had been appointed by [John F] Kennedy and he was not in a very good agreement with [Lyndon B] Johnson, who took over, and so to keep in with Kennedy’s idea to take the best and the brightest and so on, he had the idea to ask the physics community if they could imagine more modern weapons that could take over the bombings in North Vietnam, which in his eye was inefficient and of course very costly.  And several agreed to cooperate, others did not – and that was the so-called Jason division.

The story is told well in the Pentagon Papers, partly, because there was a bunch of physicists who suggested to use many things which were futuristic at the time –  a barrier called the McNamara Fence, which would be protected by lasers and so on.  [Charles] Townes – one of the inventors of laser – was one of the people who made suggestions, and also one of them, we don’t know who, suggested to use cluster bombs: BLU-26, bombs made of bombs.  These were immediately used by the military who had not really thought about it before.

And these bombs were dropped on North Vietnam.  Many are still there because very often the bomblets do not explode and so they are like mines and still kill.  It was recognised by the Oslo Convention a few years ago as a war crime, but it’s a very difficult situation…  And that was what I declined to go to, by dropping the assistantship.

evariste1_web

It happened that some people who had accepted were indeed among the brightest, and there were others who didn’t accept.  And Wigner was amongst them – Oppenheimer also – and the story was that this way I met them and Wigner was very happy at what I had done by refusing another assistantship.  I didn’t know why, but later I could understand.

But maybe perhaps the worst thing of all is that the administration had a filter, I don’t know, that dropped some names of people who were supposed to have been in contact with the Jasons themselves.  And they were very much assaulted by the Leftists who said, “Well, you have been collaborating….”  And these people said, “Why? What?  What are you talking about?”  The thing is that in fact the administration had dropped out the names of those who had said no.  And they kept secret until very recently, when it was declassified, the people who really did collaborate.  I would have been involved in that if I had said yes, and that’s what I said no to.  This was on two grounds; on the ground of scientific disagreement, and on the grounds of, I would say, personal sympathy for people who were in this category of saying no.  And this, what I told you, I just discovered recently on the internet because the people [who] really were [involved] had spoken a little bit of the report of the end of August 1966, which long classified had been declassified with the new presidency.

[pause]

HC:  The Pete Seeger concert?

E:  And, so, I was contacted by the Leftists and, you know, in August 1966 the opposition against the Vietnam war was a minority – but a few months later it became nearly a majority of people.  On April 15th 1967 there was a huge demonstration which was organised in front of United Nations with all the people converging there.  Martin Luther King was indeed there and Pete Seeger had asked me to be with him, in a car which was going down the avenue, and to sing together with him.  And he also asked me to sing the song Le Déserteur by Boris Vian.

And, as a matter of fact, my song Calcul intégral, which starts with French and English was inspired by the English version of Le Déserteur by Peter, Paul and Mary.  So, you know: Messieurs qu’on nomme grand / Men whose names are great, as they were singing, and which was after Monsieur le Président, as Boris Vian had sung.  And to have French and English at the beginning was borrowed from that.  So, indeed, we sang together with Pete Seeger the Boris Vian song; happy to know that we sang together because I didn’t know the chords!

HC:  Why did you make so few records?  Did you decide to stop or was it because you were concentrating on your research?

E:  Two reasons combined: first one, when May ’68 burst out, on the contrary to what happened in the United States where I was like “Fabrice at Waterloo” – that’s an expression in French coming from Le Rouge et le Noir by Stendhal – that the soldier in the war couldn’t understand what was happening.  It was resented, it was felt, so in the United States I didn’t really understand what was happening besides the fact there were demonstrations against the war.  And in May ’68 there was no war, and there were even critics who said that this happened because there was no war!  But it was evident there was something deep, in that it was something with a quite different meaning.  So I was involved in May ’68, and cut a few songs, and Lucien Morisse could not release it within AZ because it was too political.  But he gave the authorisation; he gave the permission to do it, by myself, in self-production together with the musicians and other people.  And, as a matter of fact, it was as far as I know what started self-produced records in France and elsewhere too.  As far as I know.

evariste-la revolution-front cover

So that was already half a step away from the majors.  And the other thing, then, that played a definitive part was when Lucien Morisse committed suicide in 1970.  And you know I had no father?  When I found Lucien Morisse, he was like a father – we had a very intense relationship.  And so when he died, well… I didn’t cut records after that.

I still went on singing in the 70’s because there was the anti-nuclear movement in France – I sang there, with some success because there were some which were abandoned.  But then what happened in 1977 was there was a demonstration against the Creys-Malville [Superphénix] breeder reactor in France, where there was a demonstrator – a physics professor – who was killed.  And one of the policemen who protected the reactor had his right hand taken away.  From this I made the connection with the psalm 137 in the Bible, which you may know: “If I forget thee Jerusalem, may my right hand forget me.”  And I said, well, there is something forgotten in the understanding of matter which was imposed over populations and the real work is in physics to correct what is missing.  Then I really started to go back completely on physics.  It was at the end of ’77.

– – 0 —

That’s where we leave the Évariste interview for now – don’t worry, he may have been talking about the end of his recording career here but there is much more to come in Part Two very soon!  Sincerest thanks to Évariste for giving me so much time for the interview and thanks also to David Tinkham for the moral support and the photograph!

Evariste Tilt Feb 67 20

Evariste on Dim Dam Dom 12 November 1967

I’m a big fan of French music, which I think is obvious, but I’m also a big fan of French music shows from the 1960s and 1970s – they were so stylish and/or crazy and one of the most stylish, and crazy, was Dim’ Dam’ Dom’.  Ideal for Evariste then…?  Yes, he appeared on Dim’ Dam’ Dom’ on 12 November 1967 (director Peter Knapp?, broadcast on the 2ème chaîne).

Evariste performed Wo I Nee.  Seeing this performance alone, my first encounter with Evariste, was enough for me to start seeking out his records, magazines and articles and the TV shows.  See one performance and you will want to see more.  A unique artiste indeed:

Evariste Wo I Nee 1 Evariste Wo I Nee 2

Do you know why there are so many Chinese babies lately?

Evariste Wo I Nee 3

Well, it’s because their parents would often say very tenderly: Wo i nee [I love you]

Evariste Wo I Nee 4

Holy cow, the cows have moustaches!

Evariste Wo I Nee 5

I’m a tiger, can I go in your tank?

Evariste Wo I Nee 6

I don’t want a filthy beast in my tank!

Evariste Wo I Nee 7Evariste Wo I Nee 8 Evariste Wo I Nee 9 Evariste Wo I Nee 10

Bach, he had 26 children – he played his instrument really well…

Evariste Wo I Nee 11 Evariste Wo I Nee 12

I love you, baby!

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Wo i nee!!!

Evariste in Paris Match No 934, 4 March 1967

Here’s Evariste in Paris Match from 4 March 1967:

The headline is:  More qualified and more yé-yé than Antoine: Évariste teacher at Princeton

Evariste Paris Match 2b

He says, “Evariste rhymes with shirker [fumiste]”

Evariste Paris Match 2a

Évariste is a teacher at the age when one is still a student.  At Princeton where he was conducting research alongside Professor Wigner, Nobel Prize in Physics 1963, all his teachers recognise: “There is something of the genius in this boy.”

Evariste Paris Match 1a

On TV with the University of Princeton t-shirt

Evariste Paris Match 1b

Here, we are very free, he said, climbing on the statue of Dean Sir Andrew Dean Flaming West

Evariste Paris Match 2Evariste Paris Match 1

Again, let me know if an English translation of the interview is required and I’m happy to try my best.

Evariste in TOP magazine, 19 March 1967

It seems like it’s Evariste week here on Hero Culte so I might as well share some more stuff on here before I upload the interview (a long time coming…).  Here’s Evariste in the 19 March 1967 issue of TOP Réalités Jeunesse:

Top Realites Jeuness 19 March 1967

Evariste Top Realites JeunesseEvariste Top Realites Jeunesse 1aEvariste TOP 1

I can translate the article into English if there’s an audience for that kind of thing – get in touch if you’d like me to do that, otherwise I’ll leave it here in the original language.  Excuse wonky scans!

Evariste on Vient de paraitre 09 March 1967

Just a few days after performing Dans la lune on the elections show, Evariste appeared on Vient de paraître on the 2ème chaîne (directed by Georges Barrier), performing the excellent Connais-tu l’animal qui inventa le calcul intégral. 

Sandwiched between France Gall and Nino Ferrer on the show (a nice place to be) is Evariste:

Evariste Vient de paraitre 3 Evariste Vient de paraitre 4 Evariste Vient de paraitre 5

 

This is a totally wild performance of a wild song:

Evariste Vient de paraitre 6 Evariste Vient de paraitre 7 Evariste Vient de paraitre 8 Evariste Vient de paraitre 9

Would you like, my love, to integrate equations night and day?

Evariste Vient de paraitre 10 Evariste Vient de paraitre 11

Evariste has muscle aches!

Evariste Vient de paraitre 12

She was cute, she was called Chipette…

Evariste Vient de paraitre 13
Do you know the beast?

Evariste Vient de paraitre 14 Evariste Vient de paraitre 15 Evariste Vient de paraitre 16

No, it’s not me, it’s my sister who broke the calculator

Evariste Vient de paraitre 17

Seven hundred million yéyés

Evariste Vient de paraitre 18 Evariste Vient de paraitre 19 Evariste Vient de paraitre 20

O yeah!!!

There is some additional footage of Evariste with a clapper-board but unfortunately the frame is slightly out on my recording, so part of the image is cropped off the top and shows up at the bottom of the screen instead.  It’s not terribly interesting anyway as it’s just a screen test showing the back of Evariste as he paints on the wall.

Evariste Vient de paraitre 1 Evariste Vient de paraitre 2