“The Cirque Sound: Saltimbanco”

“The Cirque Sound: Saltimbanco”
By: Matt Dibrindisi – Northampton, Massachusetts (USA)

Cirque music until this point had always been modern and “of the time”- the frantic new age synthiness of Le Magie Continue and Le Cirque Reinvente and the mystery and operatic bombast of Nouvelle Experience- but Saltimbanco was, in a way, the first to start breaking away from musical fantasy: it was funkier, the grooves were tighter and it more accurately reflected a changing world ready to receive its candy-coated vision of urbanism. Composer Rene Dupere injected the show with a wide kaleidoscope of influences, from rock and funk fusion, to Cuban and Latin rhythms to classical Italian opera.

Bringing this new direction to life was the decision to include lyrics throughout the show, a first for Cirque, and writing them in their own unique and fantastical language, inspired by syllables in German, Arabic, Swedish and many other languages. Saltimbanco was the second Cirque show to use the Korg Wavestation, introduced in 1990, after Nouvelle. One of the main selling points was something Korg calls “wave sequencing”, or a programmed pattern or sequence of multiple short waveforms. Rounding out the new show’s sound was the use of not only a ton of factory presets ranging from strings to complex wavesequences, but custom loops programmed on the Wavestation composed by Dupere.

A quick note before we take a dive into the kaleidoscopic sounds of Saltimbanco:

*Indicates custom wavesequences composed by Rene Dupere that I’ve recreated from scratch cross-referencing with both the Live in Amsterdam album and a video recording of the show from May 1992.

These patches and loops might more closely reflect the early days of Saltimbanco up through Live in Amsterdam, though not assuredly the 1998 restaging.

A (fairly expensive) virtual Wavestation plugin is currently available from Korg (which is where I found all the following presets), but just might be worth it: https://www.korg.com/us/products/software/kc_wavestation/

Et maintenant… Cri langomam face… Saltimbanco!

*Barock Loop – Custom programmed for Saltimbanco, this complex wavesequence sets the mood for a wild party. You’d probably be surprised to know that this was NOT the original wavesequence used at premiere (a fairly simpler custom sequence was used), but instead made its way into the show later in 1992, presumably around the release of the CD.


ROM 4> Wave 7: BizyVox – OK, many Cirque soundtracks are known for arranging songs differently for CD and Barock is no different. Surprisingly, the most distinctive element in the entire song is replaced by a similar preset loop, which you’ll hear first raw and then with the delay used on the CD.


*Arlequin Loop – Another custom wavesequence for Saltimbanco, this frenetic loop kicks off Arlequin, a tight funk groove with an equally frenetic act.


*Pokinoi Loop – Something from the crates, this custom wavesequence accompanied Pokinoi when it was still used for the Vertical Rope act.


ROM 6> 10: The Wave Police (left half) – This patch is a very interesting split that contains not one, but TWO signature Saltimbanco sounds. The lefthand/bass half makes up the loop as featured in the beginning of Urgence/hand to hand.


ROM 6> 10: The Wave Police (right half) – The righthand half of this preset contains a sharp brass section used for the melody and suspense riffs of Arlequin.


RAM 1> 17: Bowed Strings – One of the most recognizable sounds in the show, there’s no mistaking the pounding rhythm of these strings as the Multicolored Worms storm the stage during Saltimbanco/Poles. These rich synthesized strings appear all throughout the show, for example in Amazonia/duo trapeze and Pokinoï/vertical rope.


Kurzweil K2000- 189: Northern Winds – Juzoom juzoom, bao gan mei… this haunting ambient effect kicks off Act II as the Baron takes the stage to reveal his much darker side…


To be Continued…