Against all expectations
This editorial presents both the objectives of the review L'inouï and the content of this first edition.
The unheard is a paradoxical notion. The unheard, it could be claimed, is both non-existent (in the sense that we can only be affected by that which is recognizable) and omnipresent (since we can only understand that which initially surprises or affects us). In musical terms, this raises a practical question: how can we produce the unheard if it cannot be programmed into the composition of a work or take place in any definite way during listening? It becomes necessary then, to clarify the conditions of our listening and its effects, and to provide it with tools to enhance practices of repetition and variation, open to the unexpected.
In the eye of the cyclone
A raging storm, blurring sounds and images, Avis de tempête is a sound machine on the verge of explosion, a bustling tempest, caught up in which the eye and ear constantly harass one another. The performance stages a representation of seeing. A cacophony of sound made up of voices throws this representation into a panic. Broken words pervade the opera, breaking and interrupting the flow of sense, irrupting like fragments of madness: a narrative torn apart by a hurricane. The storm leads our theoretical eye into the eye of the cyclone, to a place where it is willing to tell and write its own paradox. In this place without place, in this sea preceding sense, the eye (that which is left of it) seems to meet the ear and invite it to listen.
After the storm
A double headed dialogue between Avis de tempête’s composer and librettist. A look back over the performance and at certain elements of their collaboration. A chance, also, to reaffirm certain choices: "to avoid everything that could resemble theatre", "as little affect as possible", since "a storm has no psychological reason"...
On the beach
This Avis de tempête is the music of our time: such was my reflection as I left the Opera de Lille on November 17, 2004. That is to say, music in which questions of the unexpected, entailed by the unheard-of, are put into play at new expenses, in such a way that this very unheard-of is produced by the outburst of all expectancy horizons and by what expectancy remains though when there is no more expectancy.
However, as conscience, temporal by nature, constantly combines retentions and protentions, and is conscience, that is to say attention, only under that condition, there are always retentions serving as expectancy horizons, even when everything is set to make them fail and let the unexpected crop up: where they are absent, attention invents them, fantasizes them and creates them; in this sense, listening is always creative. In a way, the more these horizons are lacking, the more essential they become. And, always, there already or still needs to be some rails in order to derail things in the listening process that is awaiting, guided by its most unexpected expectancies, the unheard-of where things derail.
For one does not not go off the rails just like that (even Achab, above all Achab doesn’t go off the rails "just like that"): to go off the rails is something one can learn (expect), as one can learn, for example, how to fall.
First audition, repeated listening
If the primordial arena of contemporary music is the concert and its definitive moment is world premiere (that is to say the first hearing), it is thus not surprising that hearing is often depicted as a whole, absolutely attentive and unrepeatable. But all musicians, from the occasional listener to composers or professional performers, know how versatile situations, within which a work is accessed, can be: the social and technical conditions of listening are as variable as our reasons and manners for experiencing music.
This signifies that the previously unheard produced by a composer, can and must be at the same time the occasion or subject matter of the previously unheard that occurs in listening as a practice. In fact, contemporary music frequently tries to articulate these two "previously unheard" elements; it must thus confront its internal contradictions – first hearing compared to repeated hearing, performed music compared to recorded music, etc. For material we will refer in particular to texts by Stockhausen, Pousseur, and Schoenberg, and to a 1931 manual dedicated to disc amateurs.
The new musicants
This synthesis aims at evidencing the emergence of new functions of musical technologies issued from recent research (content-based navigation in music databases, new listening instruments, production tools and instruments with simplified control, extension of the notion of musical instrument) and foreshadowing new forms of, in particular non expert, practices that they may introduce.
What happens to sound, or: listening is a two-step
One wonders what must happen to sound in order for it to become music. One wonders as a result if what happens to sound is not rather a different way of listening to it. One no longer knows which comes first, the listening or the sound. One has thus to admit that music is nothing, it is a deafening subject and one must be deaf to hear it.
Public of the work, work of the public?
The public: not just an audience or box office figures. A work cannot be a work without a public to share it with. If this is so, the public cannot be made the scapegoat from whom creation constantly seeks to escape, but must be considered a fundamental fiction at the heart of the creation process. For a sociologist also (at last...) interested in music as an object, the public offers ideal grounds for a practical analysis based on its effects: what music does and what it provokes, the effects on music of its performance and the effects provoked in music by its performance. Music as the sum of procedures and methods invented to enable the public to be brought together with a work... Not surrounding it, but being in it.
"The magnetic tape contains a sound that wishes to be repeated"
Sarkis & Bernard Stiegler
Bernard Stiegler interviews Sarkis, whoses artistif work has for a long time followed, interrogated od absorbed music, using Beuys’ questionning of the print. Bach, Berg, Feldman, Schnittke, Scriabine or Cage accompagny Sarkis in his meditations into notions of flow and temporality, art and technology, hearing, work, film and repetition.
About Symphonie III (anima mundi)
Throughout the hour of Symphonie III (anima mundi), Brice Pauset reveals a labyrinthine opera free from all scenic representation. The piece offers an interpretation of Mallarmé’s "Book" focusing on its unique theatricality, through an audio projection combining real spaces (the five groups of musicians) and imaginary spaces (the network of loud speakers placed around the audience).
The listener is invited to share memories of the improbable choreography of the "Suite de danse" which passionately concludes the first half of the symphony, (Mallarmé grants dance a distinguished place by assimilating it to a corporal prose); memories of the symphony itself, recorded and duplicated at the time of the concert, and transformed into primary material for mysterious polyphonies; and finally, memories of the tonality, at once ghostly, eternally moribund. A paradise lost but always found.
Perspectivae sintagma I: an analysis
This analysis of Perspectivae sintagma I (1997), based on the composer’s notes, explains the profound relationship between the score and its musical or extra musical sources. The analysis also demonstrates the roles played by these sources in the construction of the work: not by searching for a unity of material developed according to a series of principals (as practiced by serial music), but through the desire to bring together elements belonging to different fields, fields which are apparently unconnected. All this is made concrete using an intellectual procedure such as the canon, interpreted as a relationship between two factors, two values or two numerical series.
Nachdruck, a post-script rhetoric for Brice Pauset's Perspectivae
Looking back retrospectively at the assembly of texts to be set to music by Brice Pauset in Perspectivae sintagma II, the aim is to trace the genesis of the work and demonstrate the role played by the notion of rhetoric. This notion impregnates not only the relationship between music and words via the openly exaggerated use of madrigalisms and figuralism, but also the large-scale form and instrumental writing. Brice Pauset’s art thus reveals itself as a quest for "constructive mannerism", anchored in history.
Underlying form, implicit gestures. Dialogue
Brice Pauset & Andreas Staier
Composer and performer look back over their collaboration in Brice Pauset’s Kontra-Sonate. The insinuations intentionally left by the composer within the score are an integral part of Pauset’s writing. Staier clarifies some of his choices using the articulation between Kontra-Sonate and Schubert’s Sonata in A minor op. 42 (D845), which it englobes.