As part of the Cahors organ festival, the astrophysicist Dominique Proust will give with Jean-Pierre Maillard, Friday, October 15, a concert “Organ and cosmos”, at the crossroads of his passions.
Astrophysicist and musician, your profile is atypical …
I am an astrophysicist by profession at the Paris Observatory. When you do this type of job, there is necessarily a passion aspect. But I have a solid musical background, I worked on the organ with the great masters of Notre-Dame de Paris. For more than forty years, I have been the titular organist of the church of Meudon where I accompany the services. During scientific congresses abroad, there is always a cultural evening where I often give concerts.
You have already played at Cahors Cathedral ten years ago. What memory do you keep of it?
It was with Albertus Dercksen. I remember an excellent instrument and a magnificent cathedral. I am really delighted to be back.
“There will be at the same time for the ears and for the eyes”
With Jean-Pierre Maillard, you offer an original concert, “Organ and cosmos”. How was it designed?
It is a different formula from a traditional concert: there will be at the same time for the ears and for the eyes. My colleague and friend Jean-Pierre Maillard was director of the large Canada-France-Hawaii telescope for quite a few years. It will project images and films collected by the largest telescopes in the world, in relation to the pieces presented. These images are valuable scientific documents for us, but for the public they are aesthetically self-sufficient. The imagination will be able to wander.
Is this connection between music and the cosmos obvious to you?
It is all the more obvious since I have been working on the subject for more than thirty years. There have always been special links between music and astronomy. The properties of the acoustic wave and the light wave obey the same laws of physics, and this had already been sensed five centuries before our era by Pythagoras. I made two books about it, including a preface by Hubert Reeves.
How did you choose the works for this program?
It will be quite eclectic. For example, there will be a piece by Galileo’s father, organist in Florence. I will also play a piece by Georges Delerue, the famous composer of the music for the film “Jules et Jim” and the series “Tour du monde, tour du ciel” which was broadcast on TV in the 1990s. Also surprising: there will be a fugue by William Herschel (1738-1822). This composer discovered Uranus and infrared radiation and became an Astronomer Royal.
Your decidedly original career made you play with Jean-Jacques Goldmann, who celebrated his 70th birthday on Monday.
Yes, I called him to wish him his birthday. He’s an excellent friend, we’ve known each other for a long time. In astrophysics, we follow very heavy university studies, and they are not given! In the years 1965-1970, I was making music to finance them. I played the keyboards with Jean-Jacques, in balls and dances in Montrouge and in the Paris suburbs.
Conferences in Labastide-Marnhac, concerts in Cahors
At the invitation of Mayor Daniel Jarry, the coming of Dominique Proust and Jean-Pierre Maillard to the Cahors organ festival actually results from the organization of two conferences in Labastide-Marnhac. His wife Brigitte Proust, honorary associate professor of chemistry, will speak on Thursday, at 8:30 p.m. at the sports and leisure complex, on the theme of climate change. Disabled by several strokes, she will speak through an artificial voice activated by blinking eyes, as Stephen Hawking did. Jean-Pierre Maillard, emeritus research director at the Institut d’astrophysique de Paris, will speak about “the measurement of the distance of stars, from antiquity to the present day” (8:30 pm). Reservations recommended for conferences on 05 65 21 02 29.
As for the organ festival at Cahors cathedral, organized by the AAOCC, it begins this Thursday with concerts reserved for schoolchildren. Then, Friday, at 8:30 p.m., “Organ and Cosmos”, at 8:30 p.m. (free participation). Saturday October 16, at 11 am, “Pierre et le loup”, by Prokofief, by Alberthus Dercksen and Christopher Gibert on organ and Christiane Laurain on voice (free entry). At 8:30 p.m., organ recital for four hands, with Gaëlle Coulon and Mickaël Durand; presentation of the organeto with medieval music (€ 15; € 14 Grand Pass; free for minors). Sunday October 17, at 4.30 p.m., harp and organ duo, with Manon de Preissac and Florence Ladmirault (€ 15; € 14 Grand Pass; free for minors). A large screen will allow you to see the organists.
Reservations at the tourist office and ticket office at the entrance to the concerts. Phone 05 65 22 64 05.