Reflections in Zazou's 'Mirrors': Your Brain on Music or Your Music on Brain?
How do you hear music? And don't be a wiseass and say, "With my ears." Seriously: What happens with you, an individual, as sounds work their way into your head, are processed through your brain, and interpreted through your experiences and sensibilities into that thing we call music? How do you make sense of things that might be unfamiliar, things from other cultures or from experimental approaches or even from glitches in the transmission? Some of that was addressed by neurologist Oliver Sacks in his 2007 book 'Musicophilia,' which for a music lover includes things scarier than anything Stephen King ever wrote. (We can lose the ability to enjoy or even recognize music??? Noooooooooo!!!)
But these are also questions inherent in 'In the House of Mirrors,' the new and, sadly, last album by unclassifiable composer/producer/contextualizer Hector Zazou. The Algerian-born, Paris-based artist passed away in September at age 60, having just completed this project for which he formed the group Swara with four musicians from India and Uzbekistan working in classical/traditional formats. It's at once the most straightforward album he ever made -- and the most profound example of his distinctive, if elusive, stamp. (There are long samples of the songs that can be heard here.)
On first listen, particularly if not a very intense listen, 'Mirrors' sounds like a very good Indo-Asian border crossing, aesthetically compatible with such projects as Ghazal, the Persian-Indian collaborations anchored by Iranian composer-musician Kayhan Kalhor. But then even in Zazou's highest-concept (and highest-profile) works -- 1992's 'Sahara Blue' with Gerard Depardieu, Dead Can Dance and others celebrating the centenary of poet Arthur Rimbaud; Björk, Suzanne Vega, John Cale and