The French word “relâche” [ruh-LAHSH] literally means “rest” or “break.” In the theater, it means “no performance,” or “the theater is dark”. “Sorry, we’re en relâche.”
The revolutionary Dada movement rebels against the dry formalism of “high culture” and ignites the art world with a new mix of sounds and ideas from popular and “low culture.” Four leading Dadaists create a multi-media work called Relâche. Erik Satie writes the music; René Clair makes a film; Jean Börlin choreographs and Francis Picabia directs. On opening night, the performance is mysteriously cancelled (en Relâche?), and the audience is sent home—a Dada joke? One week later, Relâche premieres, the crowd riots, and the show runs for a year.
New York City 1960s
Maverick composers and players challenge the dissonant and complex music being written at “uptown” conservatories. They create a daring new music, drawing from diverse styles and genres, from popular and folk, to jazz and electronics. Crowds flock to their performances in the lofts of lower Manhattan, and the idea of “Downtown” new music is born.
A composer-performer ensemble was founded by Joseph Franklin and Joseph Showalter named Relâche. Its mission was to celebrate the populist, boundary-breaking and genre-bending connections between Downtown and Dada. Joseph Franklin served as executive-artistic director until 1999. “ His book titled “Settling Scores: A Life in the Margins of American Music” documents the early history of Relâche and The Relâche Ensemble.
The internationally renowned octet Relâche Ensemble fuses the familiar sounds of our popular world with the freshness and edge of the experimental avant garde and plays to a diverse and growing audience.
Founded in 1978, inspired by the musical adventures of Paris’ Dada and New York’s Downtown, Relâche continues to commission, perform, entertain, and educate, bending genres past and present in a spirit of collaboration, innovation, diversity, and respect.