In this technologically advancing age, French musician Colleen has released several CDs without ever stepping into a recording studio. She began her musical career in a band, but after it broke up she began to record using her computer and thousands of CDs she borrowed from Parisian libraries. Colleen's first release, the single "Babies," consisted of samples. However, she later abandoned sampling altogether and began releasing her own acoustic pieces that continued to gain in popularity with both her fan base and new listeners.
Influenced by The Pixies
Colleen, whose real name is Cécile Schott, was born c. 1981 in Paris, France, and grew up in a suburb 100 miles from the city. Music was a strong influence throughout her childhood and adolescence. She learned to play the classical guitar before switching to electric during high school. At 13 she heard the Beatles' "A Day In The Life," and it made a big impression on her. In an interview posted on Textura.org, Colleen stated, "I put it on just before Saturday lunchtime and I can remember thinking ‘My God, what the hell is this? Why is it making me feel like this? It's making me happy but I could cry at the same time.’"
After being heavily influenced by The Pixies and Sonic Youth, Colleen formed a band with friends that performed rock and pop music. She told Ben Sterling in an interview posted on Junkmedia.com, "Playing in a band really has to be done once in a lifetime, and also on a personal level it was very important for me because it really helped me get out of my shell." The band broke up, but Colleen's love of music continued to grow.
Released First Single
Colleen entered college, earning undergraduate and master's degrees. She began a teaching career, but music was not far from her mind. After hearing a friend put together a record on the computer, Colleen began acquiring the tools to ready her first release. She scoured Parisian libraries, borrowing CDs in order to choose the right pieces for her first single. She borrowed obscure samples from the CDs and created a new sound from her computer. Her first release was "Babies," on the Active Suspension label. Among those who were impressed was Tony Morley of the Leaf Label, located in London, England.
Morley signed Colleen to the label and she began working on her first full-length CD. Once again she scoured CDs available from the public domain and began choosing music to sample and then re-work into a new sound or melody. Once completed, her CD Everyone Alive Wants Answers was released in 2003. The CD received positive reviews, and Colleen went on to perform throughout France and Europe. According to The Milk Factory Web site, "Everyone Alive Wants Answers is a beautifully dreamy record, yet [Colleen] doesn't indulge in ambient gimmicks."
Stopped Using Samples
For Colleen, however, a dilemma had risen. Pulling out a laptop to perform each song made her rethink her use of samples. For her live performances, she would perform new pieces, never anything from her CD. For her next release, Colleen decided to use live instruments, which she either knew how to play or would learn to play. Still choosing her own place over a studio for her work, Colleen recorded using a computer, guitar, the melodica, a glockenspiel, and music boxes. In an interview with Dan Carney posted on the TuneTribe Web site, she stated, "The way I work is very intimate; I'm used to being alone in a room and trying things out without anyone hearing what I'm doing, and that's quite important to me because I don't want to be influenced by anybody's opinion, whether positive or negative." She continued to combine the instruments in ways that would convey a feeling or thought that was entirely different than the typical usage of those instruments. Colleen released her second CD, The Golden Morning Breaks, in 2005. In a review on The Milk Factory Web site, her latest release was heralded as "a radical departure … which not only showcased her great ability at assembling beautiful sonic constructions, but also highlighted her impeccable taste for crystalline atmospheres." Her audience remained positive and she garnered new listeners. Now able to rely less on her computer and more on her instruments, Colleen began performing around the U.K., Europe, Canada and Japan. She later released an EP in 2006 titled Colleen et les boîtes à musique.
Although Colleen continued to make waves in the electronica music community and was preparing a third CD, she continued with her teaching career. However, she switched from full- to part-time and began learning to play the viola da gamba (viol), an instrument reminiscent of the cello. Her next release, Les Ondes Silencieuses (The Silent Waves), was heavily influenced by Baroque, Gamelan, and Indonesian music. In addition to the viol, Colleen also learned to play the piano and the spinet, a small harpsichord. She combined these new instruments with her previous ones, adding sparse clarinet and crystal glasses, and continued to garner new fans from around the world. Carney wrote of Les Ondes Silencieuses, "The end result is a shimmering, evocative collection of homespun, frequently fragile musical moods which showcase [Colleen's] considerable compositional talents."
In addition to her other musical travels, Colleen played in several locations throughout the United States when she joined Beirut on their North American tour. She also scored "Serie," the last dance composition by French-Swiss choreographer Perrine Valli. Her next project was expected to be the score for the film Un An. With her ability to create new sounds from both music samples and her own instruments, many can expect great things to come from Colleen for years to come.
For the Record …
Born Cécile Schott, c. 1981, in Paris, France. Education: Earned post-secondary and master's degrees.
Musician; joined rock group at age 17; taught school, 2001-; released "Babies," 2002; signed with Leaf Label, London, England; released CD Everyone Alive Wants Answers, 2003; The Golden Morning Breaks, 2005; Colleen et les boîtes à musique, 2006; Les Ondes Silencieuses, 2007.
Addresses: Record company—The Leaf Record company Ltd., P.O. Box 272, Leeds, LS19 9BP, UK.
Everyone Alive Wants Answers, Leaf, 2003.
The Golden Morning Breaks, Leaf, 2005.
Colleen et les boîtes à musique, Leaf, 2006.
Les Ondes Silencieuses, Leaf, 2007.
"Baroque and roll," TuneTribe, http://www.tunetribe.com/Article?article_id=1681 (January 17, 2008).
"CD Review: Colleen Les Ondes Silencieuses," LAist, http://laist.com/2007/09/28/cd_review_colle.php (January 17, 2008).
"Chachi Jones," TapeOp,http://www.chachijones.com/interviews/colleen.html (January 17, 2008.)
"Colleen," All Music Guide,http://www.allmusic.com (January 17, 2008).
Colleen: Everyone Alive Wants Answers, The Milk Factory, http://www.themilkfactory.co.uk/reviews/colleen_answers.htm (January 17, 2008).
"Colleen: The Golden Morning Breaks," http://www.themilkfactory.co.uk/reviews/colleen_morning.htm (January 17, 2008).
"Colleen," Green Clothes, http://greenclothesmusic.com/2007/06/08/colleen/ (January 17, 2008).
"Colleen joins Beirut On North American tour," PostEverything, http://www.posteverything.com/news/20190 (January 17, 2008).
"Colleen," Junk Media, http://www.junkmedia.org/index.php?i=949 (January 17, 2008).
Colleen Official Web site, http://www.colleenplays.org (January 17, 2008).
"Colleen: Places In Time," Textura, http://www.textura.org/reviews/colleen_article2007.htm (January 17, 2008).
"Colleen," Undomondo, http://www.undomondo.com/tags/contemporary/ (January 17, 2008).
"Colleen's Silent Waves," 17 Dots: Notes From The Digital Underground, http://17dots.com/2007/04/20/colleens-silent-waves/ (January, 17, 2008).
"Ten Questions With: Colleen," Textura, http://www.textura.org/archives/interviews/tenquestionscolleen.htm (January 17, 2008).
"Toys of One's Own: Breaking Down the Boys' Club in Electronic Music," Exclaim, http://www.exclaim.ca/articles/research.aspx?csid1=68 (January 17, 2008).
—Ashyia N. Henderson
"Colleen." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 13, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/colleen
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