What we learn from the history of Ravel’s Bolero

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    1. Original publication 21 of May 2016 by Hervé Le Crosnier in


    . Translation by Nicole Leonard

In 1928 Ravel composed Boléro, a piece that would become a worldwide success with hundreds of versions and arrangements. A harmonic crescendo that was also worth millions.

An excellent series of nine 8-minute videos, directed by Fabian Caus-Lahalle and distributed by France’s National Audiovisual Institute, tells the story of the post-mortem reach of this gem from Maurice Ravel, who barely profited from it, rapidly falling ill and dying less than 10 years later.

The series looks like a detective story, with treachery, secret markets, fiscal paradises, and a masseuse on one side, and political men inundated by lobbies and incapable of defending the public domain on the other. Here we have a saga that shows the harmfulness of the notion of “rights-holders” – the hijacking of laws and cultural practices by businessmen who then use this acquired power to influence politics and further reduce the public domain.

Everything is set against a background of Bolero and many interpretations of his work from around the world, in all musical styles and from all time periods.

Tax havens hide the money coming from the ashes of Maurice Ravel, who died without children and left everything to his brother, who was also childless.

But it’s a real political affair in which the cultural industry lobbies pre-empted public powers and our dear political men, ready to be seduced.

Switzerland, Monaco, Gibraltar, Panama.. culture does not know borders, and neither does money.

It is interesting that it would be the National Audiovisual Institute who produced this rant, just one day after the government’s retraction of Article 8 of the Lemaire Act, following pressure from the supposed “culture” lobbies. This law aimed to protect the information commons, particularly by allowing specialized associations to submit complaints to defend the public domain against enclosure.

This needs to be shown to members of the mixed Senate-National Assembly commission that will definitively define this law. It also needs to be shown to all of our elected officials so that they see how their lack of interest for the protection of the public domain is nothing in reality but a submission to scammers, to lobbies, to monied powers, and to the disregard of society and its desire for cultural sharing and creative reinterpretations of cultural works. They can no longer close their eyes: they are responsible for what they steal from the public domaine for the profit of Panamanian or Monacan society.

What would Maurice Ravel say? He wrote, “Take a model, imitate it. If you have something to say, your personality will never be more evident than your unconscious infidelity” (this sentence is the conclusion to this superb documentary).

Publication 21 of May 2016 by Hervé Le Crosnier in Vecam.org. Translation by Nicole Leonard