An Evening with Yann Tiersen

Solo in Concert - Songs from his new record EUSA and his soundtrack work

Touring in support of his first solo piano album, EUSA, Yann Tiersen will be making a stop at The Theatre at the Ace Hotel on Friday, December 8. EUSA, the Breton name for the island of Ushant located 30 kilometers off the west coast of Brittany in the Celtic Sea, is the island where Tiersen lives. With EUSA, he has created an album of sparse beauty.

Living on the island Tiersen is immersed in remote, rugged natural surroundings every day and his objective with EUSA was to make a musical map, a tool for the listener to navigate and experience his surroundings. Tiersen doesn’t want to tell the listener what to think or feel, rather EUSA is intended as a guide for the listener.

EUSA was not originally intended as an album, but as a book of sheet music for ten new piano pieces. “At the beginning the idea was to release a piano book and to start a musical map of the island where I live”, explains Tiersen.

Tiersen released the sheet music in December and premiered his performance of the compositions during a sold-out European tour in the spring (which included two dates at Barbican). The tour saw the ten piano tracks performed solo, inspiring him to go on to record the album. The album was recorded in Studio 1 at Abbey Road, further highlighting the pure, stripped-back approach of EUSA.

The collection of ten solo piano pieces do indeed form a musical map of Tiersen’s home island of Ushant; each of the ten pieces was created in and named after a specific location on the island. When the tracks were released as sheet music, each piano piece was accompanied by a coordinate for its location on Ushant, a field recording from the exact spot referred to in the piece of music, and an image of the area.

Tiersen writes: “What we are is always relative to where and when we are; our sense of self is made up of what we feel to be our home. So — I am the granite stones of my house which were once rocks in the sea, I am ‘gwalarn’, the northwest wind that blows over the island of Ushant and all over Brittany, I am the sheep’s wool, I am the smell of the moor, I am the dead trees and the ones still standing, I am my music and my music is all of this. I’m not a big city and I’m not Montmartre — I am my island, I am the wildernesses I have cycled through.”

Taking in the tracks and the sounds of their surroundings, the listener is shown how to get on the island and being immersed in its raw, natural beauty, with the gentle sound of the sea in the distance, and local wildlife. The map guides the listener to the rustic isolation and exposes earthy way of life in which Tiersen immerses himself, and his love of desolate, sparsely-inhabited landscapes. 

“We are more and more, because of capitalism and this crazy world, completely disconnected from nature so this has become something of a political statement. I want to explore this and the small piece of land where I live. There is part of the land in the music for sure, they are connected.”

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