Campo santo, an Installation/Concert for 5 musicians

Published on May 5, 2017

Welcome to Pyramiden! It’s here, at 78 degrees north, in Spitzberg a couple hundred kilometers from the North Pole that composer Jérôme Combier and video artist Pierre Nouvel have brought us. A ghost town nestled in a fjord, shadowed by a pyramid-like mountain. Pyramiden is one of the last vestiges of an urban utopia: a mining city organized to be ideal, true to almost every principle of communism. It’s was the “most perfect communist town in the world”, paradoxically located west of the Iron Curtain until the fall of the USSR and the end of all mining activity left it, abandoned, to the test of the elements, in dereliction.

It is this phantom of a town that Campo santo, title borrowed from W. G. Sebald, shows us. Between a concert and a sound and visual installation, it is above all, a hauntological work (concept coined by Jacques Derrida with his Spectres of Marx: a work built on traces of the past) drawn on sounds and images captured in situ, in a gangue of frozen time.

Electronic Challenges

Presented as an open installation in 5 successive tableaux interspersed with short interludes, electronics hold a central role in Campo Santo, particularly from a dramaturgical point of view. With fragments of speech in English, Russian, or Norwegian recorded during the two artists’ trips, the work also conveys fragments of texts by W. G. Sebald, Jacques Derrida, Charles Fourier, Robert Owen, or Auguste Blanqui, to question utopias connected to Pyramiden. The electronics also offer a lyrical counterpoint to the instrumental ensemble (two percussionists, an accordion, a guitar, and a flute), notably via a virtual and ghostly chorus. Lastly, the computers make it possible to have a sound reconstruction of the places visited – we can hear the piano of Pyramiden, the north most piano in the world in the reconstructed acoustics of the concert hall. Campo santo: a mausoleum of deserted human venues and Verlaine’s “dear voices that have been stilled”.   

Earlier Projects at IRCAM

Kogarashi, le premier soupir des fantômes (2002) for guitar and electronics  
Noir gris (2006) for string trio, sound and visual installation, creation Jérôme Combier and Pierre Nouvel based on Ohio Impromptu by Samuel Beckett
Stèles d’air (2007) for ensemble and electronics  
Gone (2010) for string trio, clarinet, piano and electronics  
dawnlight (2015) for ensemble and electronics

Works by jérôme Combier

  1. dawnlight by Jérôme Combier
  2. Kogarashi, le premier soupir des fantômes by Jérôme Combier
  3. Noir gris by Jérôme Combier
  4. Gone by Jérôme Combier

Campo Santo, Impure histoire de fantômes


  • Campo santo, impure histoire de fantômes