Composer Julien Sénélas brings new picture book to life with interpretive electronic soundtrack

The picture book ‘Daniel de la Nuit’ tells the story of a nice little squid who refuses to sleep and heads out to investigate the Night of the Periwinkles. As well as being beautifully illustrated, the story has been realised audibly with an accompanying soundtrack by composer Julien Sénélas.

Originally a children’s show that combined theatre and animation, ‘Daniel dans la Nuit’ is the creation of Timo Hateau in collaboration with Carmela Chergui and Vincent Lahens. Produced by La Rotule, it told the tale of a little squid called Daniel who would venture out into the night to marvel at the luminous display known as the Night of the Periwinkles.

In its latest form, ‘Daniel dans la Nuit’ has been adapted into a 44-page picture book with charming illustrations by Timo. To give the story an added dimension, composer Julien Sénélas, also known as Funken, has composed music and sound design inspired by Daniel’s adventures to accompany the book.

This isn’t Julien’s first collaboration with Timo and the team. Speaking to Creative Boom, he reveals that he was fortunate enough to participate in creative residencies during the production of the ‘Daniel dans la Nuit’ stage show.

“This allowed me to see the character designs, the set, the pacing of the story, and how actor Vincent Lahens moved within this world,” he explains. “I built a significant portion of the sound universe during these collaborative work sessions.”

In fact, when Timo contacted Julien about the project, he specified another piece of his work, In C for 11 oscillators and 53 forms, as a point of reference. “It was a visual and electronic reinterpretation of “IN C,” the iconic work by Terry Riley, with two modular synthesisers (11 oscillators) and a graphic interpretation of the original score (53 shapes),” Julien reveals.

“He liked the idea of offering children a soundtrack created with modular synthesisers and exploring the relationship between noise and music. The goal was to move away from ‘childish’ music and instead propose a creation that is both unconventional and playful.”

Despite having a previous connection to the story of Daniel dans la nuit, Julien reveals that the stage performance and the book are two quite distinct entities. “Therefore, I composed new tracks to align with the illustrations and the book’s narrative,” he says.

“For instance, on the central double page, readers are invited to find Daniel hidden in the crab’s house. I then created music with frequency modulations (mixing percussion and notes) and introduced breaks and pauses in the rhythm using falling object sounds. It’s as if Daniel, the little squid, sets the piece’s tempo by overturning objects or hiding.”

As well as the visuals in the book and his previous involvement with the story, Julien also found inspiration in American minimalist music. “During the creation of In C for 11 oscillators and 53 forms, I extensively listened to American minimalist music, including Steve Reich, Terry Riley and La Monte Young, but also pioneers of electronic music such as Delia Derbyshire, Raymond Scott and Jean-Jacques Perrey,” he says.

“I find that this music is very contemporary and accessible. I appreciate the fusion of science and arts, how mathematical concepts transform into poetry, or the manipulation of electricity to create infinite sounds.”

To make the story and dialogue work in a book format, Carmela and Timo completely rewrote the tale from the ground up. This resulted in an exchange of ideas to find the right balance in the illustrations, text and layout, which stood in contrast to the performance where the actor guides the evolution of the narrative.

“In the underwater world of the book, it is the characters themselves who recount the famous Night of the Whelks and how, in the middle of the night, Daniel, the little squid, came to wake them up,” Julien explains. And despite this being the biggest challenge facing him while making the soundtrack, everyone is happy with how it all came together.

“We are all very pleased with the result as it is our first book! We are thrilled that this creation exists in book/CD format and even on cassette tape, thanks to the collaboration with the Un je-ne-sais-quoi label.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.