Yvette Horner and the Authenticity of the Soundscape

On June 11th, 2018, the famed musician Yvette Horner passed away. She was perhaps best known here in the states as the accordion-playing symbol of the Tour de France, though she did have a career in other media and a following for her music (and possibly hair) alone as well, playing the accordion until she … Continue reading “Yvette Horner and the Authenticity of the Soundscape”

On June 11th, 2018, the famed musician Yvette Horner passed away. She was perhaps best known here in the states as the accordion-playing symbol of the Tour de France, though she did have a career in other media and a following for her music (and possibly hair) alone as well, playing the accordion until she was 80. Accordions aren’t just incredibly irritating, they’re also incredibly heavy, peeps. So, that’s tough.

This obituary brought up an interesting point, though, in terms of film making. Her sound is iconic, and recognizably associated with the Tour de France. Now, one thing that really interests me is the capacity for film to preserve cultural in unusual ways. And one of those ways, of course, is sound.

In the case of Yvette Horner, she appears unmentioned in The Triplets of Belleville riding in the caravan and–listen carefully–as the soundtrack:

Does the reference work without a visual cue? I think it would. The visual celebrity caricature is interesting but that kind of thing shows up all over cartoons. The Looney Tunes cartoon “Hollywood Steps Out” is a really famous example. (You can see it on HU DVD 12736.) But, I would argue, you could take the visual caricature out of Triplets of Belleville, leave in the accordion soundtrack, and it would be just as much and just as definitively a reference to Yvette Horner even though she would appear neither in voice or visage.

This is even more interesting in the case of cartoons, because, as is true of the visual aspects as well, there’s nothing that exists accidentally in animation. Crew do not accidentally wander into the frame. Animal actors do not accidentally injure extras. Clouds do not accidentally assemble themselves into dirty words. Cartoons are made. Intentionally. So someone made this sound-scape intentionally as well.

I suppose the difficulty here is, this kind of thing is insanely hard to catch. But particularly now that places like Paris have licensed buskers on their metro who audition for the privilege, I wonder if there is a subconscious authenticity of soundscape that is secretly preserving the contributions of real musicians in references like this.

Something to think about, future film makers!