Vive Les Instants Chavirés

From the excellent Avant Music News site comes the unfortunate, but hardly surprising, news of financial trouble at Les Instants Chavirés, a longtime important venue for creative jazz, based near Paris.

Secondhandedly, I quote:

On Thursday July 2nd 2009 we were shocked to learn that the balance of the operational subsidy allocated to our Association by the General Council of the Seine-Saint-Denis Department had been slashed by no less than 25,000€ – a drop of more of 19% [with another 7,000€ having been cut from funding from the town of Montreuil.]

The lack of funding has forced us to cancel our Autumn season of concerts, video projections and exhibitions, in its entirety. …

… We urge you then to sign the online petition (, and write to Claude Bartolone, President of the General Council of Seine-Saint-Denis, and / or to the Mayor of Montreuil, Dominique Voynet, to inform them of what the Instants Chavirés represents in the local, national and international cultural landscape, and express your own commitment to the lasting nature of this project.

Tim Berne's Bloodcount: Low Life.  Source: winter & winterFunding for cutting-edge arts is always a problem, especially for music due to the patience required of an audience. Let’s keep our fingers crossed for Les Instants Chavirés. It’s an important space.

And for me, it’s even a little sentimental. It was the recording venue for the Paris Concert trilogy of CDs that were my introduction to Tim Berne and to avant-garde music in general. I knew so little about the music. The recordings were so quiet, the audience inaudibly still. Les Instants Chavirés seemed like a faraway, mysterious place (because, to me, it was).

In 1999, I got my chance to see it for my own eyes. During a week-long stay in Paris, I snuck away twice to working-class Montreuil, just off the Metro map, where Les Instants Chavirés is tucked away down a street that might otherwise be populated by warehouses or industrial offices.

It’s a spare but comfortable room — at least, that’s how my mind chooses to remember it. I was there for two evenings. The first was with Jean Derome and Joane Hétu, performing as the duo Nous Percons Les Oreilles, and through them I learned of the ActuelleCD group of labels from Montreal. (I introduced them to KZSU, and we’re still receiving and playing their music!) The second was with Berne and Marc Ducret, playing as a duo to a packed house.

Places like this need a home. The silver lining is that Les Instants Chavirés is hobbled by a simple lack of funding. It’s not being uprooted with the kind of hostility that Bay Area venues have experienced as city officials chase them from one location after another. (The saga of 21 Grand is telling — check out what happened to them in 2007 — and it was worse during the dot-com bubble, when it seemed every square inch of San Francisco had to be offered up to the yuppie-loft gods.)

The music will soldier on, but it would be quite a blow to lose such a literally world-famous arts space. Bon courage, Instants Chavirés.