Just learned this morning that Jacques Taroni, the masterful “réalisateur” (producer/director) at France Culture has passed away. It came as a shock as Jacques seemed indestructible, his energy level even in his seventies way beyond any 30-something’s. At an age when most Frenchmen have been in retirement for years cultivating their onions, roses or home-made wines, Jacques was till working constantly & a rhythm only the most energetic youngster could follow. It was Jacques who in the early eighties introduced me to radio work, guided my baby-steps as author for a series of 1/2-hour programs on poetry, taught me how to edit (we were still cutting magnetic tape with scissors), how to build a show, how to LISTEN. Working first in cinema (Jean Eustache, & the latter’s La Maman et la putain” was major for him, & television, he left that business quickly not liking its constraints, but found his niche (well, his cave, Altamira-sized) in radio, at France Culture. He was one of the most literate people I knew, read ferociously, saw every interesting new play that opened or reopened in Paris & beyond. He loved the poet Nelly Sachs’s phrase “Let me hear things to come,” & liked to quote Orson Welles’s line that “on radio the image is larger.” And when I didn’t have a show to work on, & thus no money to pay my rent, he would always find a little role as voice-actor in one of the many radio-fictions he was producing. If it hadn’t been for the fact that I write in English & needed to get back to this country, I would happily have stayed in Paris working for France Culture — with Jacques Taroni as guide. If my love of radio started as a child, it was working with Jacques that made it a core fixture in my life: even today, at night, before going to sleep, & each morning upon waking up, I listen to France Culture.
What a wonderfully open & generous man he was! Always over-busy, he was one of the fastest talkers I knew, but that was understandable because he always had lots of things to say to many people, but wanted to get them said very quickly because what was really essential to him, what was the core of his art, was to listen to you & you & you.
I don’t have any English language samples of his work to reproduce here, but those of you who know French should listen to the interview with him below in which he retraces his career, and/or check out the links (here) for his work for France Culture. Those of you who don’t have French, check out the second link (to a “polar,” a crime-story by Jean Thibaudeau) & listen to the rhythms of his sound-constructions, to the sound-effects, to the way the voices come & go, respond to each other, to the silences, etc. Like they say, for those who have something between the ears.