We’ve become accustomed to anonymity in art. As egotism has grown increasingly acceptable in popular culture, the decision to release work under a pseudonym is recognized as a progressive statement. It’s about putting the art first. In this respect, it’s a kind of selflessness that we could do with a great deal more of.
It does beg a number of questions though. Would the work differ if it bore the artist’s name? What does its presentation gain or lose by removing identity? And the obvious: Why?
Consciously or not, sometimes artists choose not to put their names on work because they lack the confidence to do so. That sounds unkind, but it’s true. This has both positive and negative implications. On one hand, it frees less self-assured artists to go ahead and put their work out. (Often, a good thing.) On the other hand, it’s a bit of a get-out-of-jail-free card. Releasing something under your own name is a scary, liberating exercise that is ultimately good for you.
None of this is to be confused with artists who choose to perform under a stage name, but make no effort to conceal their identity. That’s a legitimate form of self-expression and creativity.
Jules is a pseudonym used by an ambient music producer in Kolkata, India. Adventures & Explorations (Volume 1), released last month, is the first chapter in a project that “aims to create a mysterious and fantastic author, called Jules, who will propose to the listeners a dreaming atmosphere and persona far from reality, living in exotic and non-existent spatiotemporal dimensions,” according to the album’s notes. “Jules is the spontaneity of the imagination and storytelling.”
Its high quality disqualifies Jules as an artist lacking in self-confidence. We are firmly in put-the-art-first territory here.
Fittingly, the project opens with “Paris, 1870. My first trip in a hot air balloon.” That’s more than a poetic title. In September 1870, the Prussian army invaded Paris, touching off a battle that would last until the following January. The Prussians were successful in The Siege of Paris, and would go on to win the Franco-Prussian War.
Isolated from the rest of France, Parisians used hot-air balloons to deliver mail out of the beleaguered city. The first delivery was on Sept. 23, 1870. It took three hours to deliver 276 pounds of mail to Craconville (now Le Vieil-Évreux), about 50 miles away.
This first piece is a traditional ambient composition. Fans of the genre will love it; the 17-minute work captures what it must have been like to sail off into the peaceful sky, away from the hostility on the ground.
Next is “Stories of long journeys in Indochina.” This is more of an electronic composition, in a mid-20th century style. Layered on top of beautiful drones, there’s a nice balance between the two.
I asked the artist about the album’s anonymity. “Jules is an anonymous project in order to keep the listeners free to imagine the author,” they explained. “Whatever they prefer.”
We look forward to Volume 2.