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Music Inside Out: Helen Gillet

Helen Gillet at the Sugar Maple
Art Montes
Helen Gillet at the Sugar Maple

German artist David Helbich first coined the term “Belgian solutions” when he moved to Brussels in the early-2000s. It refers to the ad-lib alterations to the architecture and infrastructure of the EU capital, which Helbich has made a central theme in his photography.

Around the same time, classically-trained cellist Helen Gillet – whose family hails from Belgium’s French-speaking south – moved to New Orleans, where she began to take a more experimental approach to her music. Much like Helbrich, Gillet’s musical vision finds beauty in weirdness and imperfection:

I like mistakes. I’m an improviser. I work with the mistakes. In fact, inevitably even the most polished of my songs… will have something that is unexpected… That is my joy in music, to work with the unpredictable.

Though Gillet had already begun to experiment with improvisational music prior to her arrival in New Orleans, she’s since flourished into one of the most unique, talented, and beloved artists in the Crescent City. She’s known for her eclectic palette – which includes avant-garde jazz, French chansons, funk, alternative rock, and the bohemian flair of the Velvet Underground.

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Gwen Thompkins is a New Orleans native, NPR veteran and host of WWNO's Music Inside Out, where she brings to bear the knowledge and experience she amassed as senior editor of Weekend Edition, an East Africa correspondent, the holder of Nieman and Watson Fellowships, and as a longtime student of music from around the world.