The Ever-Restless Yann Tiersen on his New Album “All”
When the film Amélie came out in 2001 it became an unexpected smash hit. Audrey Tautou as the “French Edition” Manic Pixie Dream Girl swept US audiences away, with the film garnering five Academy Award nominations in the bargain. The soundtrack, especially, became a shibboleth for a certain type of older millennial; in a year when the top five singles on the Billboard Hot 100 were by Lifehouse, Alicia Keys, Janet Jackson, Train, and Jennifer Lopez, Yann Tiersen’s whimsical, sweeping melodies — simultaneously recalling traditional French chanson and the minimalist compositions of Philip Glass — were a lifebuoy for nascent hipsters in the US.
Tiersen, however, is ambivalent about both the soundtrack and the international fame that it brought him. “I’m fine with it, of course,” the composer tells me over the phone from his home on the French island of Ushant. “The only part that is a big misunderstanding about the soundtrack is that it wasn’t a soundtrack in the first place. It was excerpted from my first four albums, which were already very linked to Ushant and to nature and central to those subjects.” Tiersen points especially to the song “La Noyée” (The Drowned Girl) off his third studio album Le Phare, composed after the one hundred year commemoration of the sinking of the SS Drummond Castle. The Drummond, a passenger and cargo ship, was traveling from Cape Town, South Africa to London and wrecked off the coast of Ushant, killing two hundred people, one of which was a three-year-old girl named Alice Reid. “I was alone on the island, working, and I was obsessed with this girl, and I was feeling her ghost everywhere.” Tiersen tells me. “So, the song had nothing to do with Amélie.