Charlotte Gainsbourg: MRI scans and vulnerability

As part of her recovery from a water-skiing accident and brain surgery, actor and singer Charlotte Gainsbourg was evaluated with MRI scans, which can involve weird mechanical noises up to the intensity of a jet plane taking off.

Her album, developed with Beck, is titled “IRM” – derived from the French for MRI. Follow the link to Amazon to hear samples.

In an interview for online publication The Quietus,
she talked about her creative work.

Your accident has cast a creative shadow on IRM. Were the actual MRI scans you underwent influential to the record?

CG: Yes. I remember lying in that thing and I thought of a song. It had to be put into song, because the sounds are quite disturbing. Rhythmically I found it very interesting, so I talked to Beck when we met.

I asked him if he thought it would be a good idea and he did. With my accident, I spent a year without working and it was difficult. I took a long time just to feel better and it was – how do you say, traumatisme? – traumatising.” ///

So there wasn’t one overriding frame of mind [for the album]?

CG: No, not a main mood. Beck asked me at the beginning what I wanted the album to sound like and I had no idea. I didn’t want to be precise. I didn’t want to take away any ideas that he would have.

The second time I went in I had done Antichrist, and that was quite heavy. Coming back from that I stayed for three weeks in Los Angeles and it was a difficult time.

A difficult time that I’m glad I had, because it just makes you think of things you wouldn’t think of if you were in a very good state.

So does your acting work have a marked effect on music you are making around the same time?

CG: It does. The film [Antichrist] hadn’t come out, so I just explained what I had been through and the film was so extreme that I had lots to talk about. I can’t say that it really went into the songs – I don’t think it did – but it gives you a baggage.

So would you feel more vulnerable singing, particularly in a live situation, or filming an intense, intimate movie scene?

CG: I feel much more vulnerable with this [singing]. With film you’re protected, it’s somebody else’s world. There’s a director behind everything and you get to know everybody that’s around you, it’s another family, it’s something that can be very intimate.

But it’s wonderful to be able to step from a film to a recording studio. It makes you breathe in a different way, to have experiences that are nothing to do with one another.

Are there two separate artistic mindsets that you tap into when you’re being creative in those separate arenas?

Charlotte Gainsbourg at the inauguration of th...

CG: Yes. I find that when you’re acting you keep secrets to yourself, the work is very much your own and then you show what you need to show, but it’s still very much to do with your own mind.

Recording songs is the opposite. You have to expose yourself and make it very, very personal. There’s no disguise. I find the music much more personal.

[From The Darkness Of Shadows: Charlotte Gainsbourg Interviewed, The Quietus , November 4th, 2009]

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Also see post: Traumatic Childhood, Creative Adult

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