ABOUT THE ARTIST
Etienne is a french born musician who came to Australia in 1969. He started with a background of Classical Guitar.... and fell in love with the Chord-Zither !
Discover more about his story and how some of his music was composed.
letter from a music lover
Etienne's most complete work is a 5 CD-box set called "The five seasons of guitar".
The idea behind this work came from a conversation with his son, who was 19 at the time :
- “Dad, I want you to record all your guitar pieces! ”
- “Yes but …”
- “You can do it.”
During the process of putting together such a huge project, Etienne got inspired to write a booklet summarizing his life journey... a musical and spiritual life journey. "The five seasons of guitar" reflects on his intense search for the meaning of life and the secret of happiness for the soul. It centers around the 4 seasons - which are like the heartbeat and rhythm of our mother Earth - and most importantly, gathers all his guitar compositions and arrangements.
The fifth season contains his early pieces ‐ some quite discordant, which belong to a more distant horizon, that of outer space. Etienne used to be very fond of science fiction as a young man and so, he named many compositions after planets. They were written during a period of search for life’s meaning and reflect this thirst for Truth.
Well, that’s supposed to be about me.
Hi! What can I say?
I’m just someone who loves playing music, especially stringed instruments.
This is me playing guitar with the scouts in France. Now, how did it all start you may ask? ...
Simple: a toy zither under the Christmas tree when I was six and later, a guitar under another Christmas tree when I was eleven. That was in France... and I took classical guitar lessons from the cousin of David Oystrach (a well known Russian violinist) who came all the way from Paris to our house, in the outer suburbs.
Then, playing my guitar much more than doing homework…
Everywhere I went, I played, inspired by the atmosphere it would create.
fragrance of France
Actually, I didn’t study music in any institution.
I studied agriculture, in Normandy. This was an ideal setting for much improvising and composing: Nature and its enchanting seasons… dreaming… questioning the meaning of existence… getting inspired by life itself, and putting my all into a guitar solo or a song. As I was getting older, my love for music became stronger.
Listening to Simon and Garfunkel’s songs and deciphering their guitar accompaniments note by note using an old record player…
Taking my guitar with me on hitchhiking holidays through Europe, discovering the world along with breathtaking landscapes in France, Italy, Austria, Scotland...
beyond the sea
When my brother and I were still young lads, our parents decided to immigrate to Australia. My mind and my imagination had a lot to work with...
A far away country, a big ship, the perspective of a long travel towards the unknown… This only added further fuel to the fire that was burning in my heart, a fire of emancipation and detachment from the mundane everyday life.
Thus, we came to Melbourne.
After further studies in agriculture (Longerenong for 6 months), then horticulture (Burnley for a year and a half), I took the road to Adelaide just to visit a cousin there.
I found this city so nice that I decided to stay and got a job, teaching classical guitar (an instrument that was very much on demand in those days).
mystical call from inside
Two important things happened during my time in Adelaide:
My search for the meaning of life intensified. I spent a lot of time and attention in my spiritual quest. I took off in a kombi‐van, leaving the security of home, Mum and Dad and Melbourne, and eventually found myself sharing a house with a very good friend, Brian Ford.
I also happened to stumble upon a Chord-Zither there... I remember taking it home. I tuned it and experimented with it, fascinated by the sounds.
I would spend hours just playing and losing myself to its magical harmonies...
It became a hobby, or should I say a passion.
The house sat on top of a cliff in Marino Rocks, overlooking the sea.
From my bedroom, all I could see was sea and sky. I used to walk every morning, jumping on the rocks and relishing the sights and sounds of the beach. Writing music came naturally...
My fingers searched the fret board for the next note or chord. Nature, the sound of the seagulls, the rocking
of the waves and the whispering of the she‐oaks were my inspiration and sufficient motivation to put pen to paper. Many of my pieces were born at that time: Prelude and Song , Lamp on the Roadside , and some arrangements: The Lullaby of Spring , Whiskey in the Jar.
I used to play around Adelaide in coffee shops (such as “the Catacombs”) and folk clubs. Over the years which followed, I altered the tuning and developed a technique which enabled me to play my favourite music. I did some busking in the Adelaide mall.
In 1976, I went for a pilgrimage to Europe with no other reason than an impulse to continue my spiritual quest. Of course, I carried my guitar with me!
I went to the Arch (founded by Lanza del Vasto) in the Massif Central in France, then Findhorn in Scotland, also in Samye Ling which is a Buddhist retreat centre in Northern England and finally in some Christian community in Geneva.
While in Scotland, I visited Iona and Fingals cave. While we were traveling on a boat towards the cave, I started whistling a beautiful melody, which came to me from God-knows-where...
I later wrote some guitar variations on this theme and called it “Staffa Island”.
inspiration from elsewhere
guidance of the soul
My spiritual search culminated in a visit to a spiritual Master of a very high order in Dehli (India).
His Name was Sant Darshan Singh.
This great, yet so humble saint blessed me with the initiation into the practice of ‘Surat Shabd Yoga’, or meditation on the inner Light and Sound, which I still practice today. I subsequently visited Sant Darshan Singh, then his successor Sant Rajinder Singh at their ashram, numerous times, and performed in their presence on many occasions.
After this turning point in my life, I returned to Melbourne. I stayed with my parents in their home located in Park Orchards and resumed my guitar teaching... I then recorded my first cassette, called “The Peacock’s Dance” containing both zither and guitar music. I used to play in markets or busk outside trendy shops, selling my cassettes. This freedom allowed for much artistic expression and composition. Sant Darshan Singh personally advised me to remain an amateur (so that I would not be constrained by engagements or commissions).
the journey called life
To cut a long story short, some 25 years later, I make CDs and sell them at the “Sunday Market” (Southgate). I sometimes joke that I am a Frenchman (I’m actually naturalised Australian) playing a German instrument in Australia. And instead of playing “Sous les ponts de Paris…”, I should play “Sous les ponts de Melbourne…”.
I had many classical guitar students in the early days, but gradually, I started to teach the zither as well. These two instruments follow me through my life’s journey which is full of mysteries and discoveries. I managed to support my family thanks to music – Debbie my wife, and my two sons Nicholas & Jeremy - with teaching and playing both these instruments.
Then, COVID-19 stuck the world and Australia was very much affected. The lockdown was a difficult time for everybody, but we felt blessed that we do have a home... so I chose to use this time to reflect on life, feelings and expression of uncertainty - and wrote the "Estudio Ponderoso" series.
The essence of happiness lies in contentment... and for me, life is like an equilateral triangle centered around three main pillars: family, music, and spiritual path. As long as each side remains strong, life will remain stable.