Yann Tiersen Biography

23 June 1970, Brest, Brittany, France. On his million-selling soundtrack album Amelie, Tiersen is credited with playing toy piano alongside more expected instruments such as carillon (glockenspiel), banjo, mandolin, guitar, harpsichord, vibraphone, accordion, piano, bass, and melodica. He studied at the musical academies of Rennes, Nantes, and Boulogne yet despite this classical education cites the Stooges and Joy Division as influences and says he completed his training in rock groups where he experimented with electronic sounds and pop formats. His 1995 debut, La Valse Des Monstres, drew comparison with artists such as Nino Rota, Erik Satie, and the Penguin Café Orchestra. Tiersen’s subsequent minimalist recordings led to the composer being dubbed ‘the Gallic Michael Nyman’, a title with which he has expressed discomfort. The UK newspaper The Guardian, however, has less kindly suggested that Tiersen lacks the ‘analytical rigour’ of the composer with whom he is most frequently compared. Nevertheless, Tiersen’s compositions seem ideal for film, particularly to signify ‘Frenchness’.

Music from his albums Rue Des Cascades, Tout Est Calme (partially recorded in Tiersen’s Paris apartment), and Le Phare (a collection composed during a retreat to Brittany) has been appropriated for Erick Zonca’s La Vie Rêvée Des Anges, André Téchiné’s Alice Et Martin, and Christine Carrière’s Qui Plume La Lune?. Tiersen was commissioned to produce the soundtrack to Amelie (aka Le Fabuleux Destin D’Amélie Poulain) after French director Jean-Pierre Jeunet heard Tiersen for the first time on a car journey and subsequently bought his entire back catalogue on the same day. Combining chansons, specially written tracks and material culled from Tiersen’s previous four albums, the soundtrack album subsequently sold one million copies worldwide and was nominated for a BAFTA. Regardless, he has admitted the soundtrack was not a project to which he devoted a great deal of time, preferring, instead, to work on his studio album proper, L’Absente. Although the musician wrote most of the tracks on his own he subsequently surrounded himself with other people to perform them: the album featured 43 musicians from the Vienna Symphony Orchestra, sometime 4AD Records artist Lisa Germano, Neil Hannon (from the Divine Comedy), regular collaborator Dominique A, Les Tetes Raides, Sacha Toorop, Christian Quermalet aka the Married Monk, and actress (and Tiersen’s partner) Natacha Régnier. The resultant album was a frequently lovely recording at the midpoint between pop and classical.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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