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What I sought in all musical expression through the sublimation of the instrumental gesture (and its reverse) is found, taken to its poetic extreme of contradiction in the orchestra: the orchestra is both the sea crossed and the engine room. When the composer tackles orchestral writing, he must agree to Found a Family. Orchestration combines skill, strategy, expense, parsimony, astuteness and power. Here, orchestrating will thus have often been a matter of de-orchestrating in the fear of this mechanism that can, at any moment and by the effort of all, lash flat out at the high philharmonic seas and make the sacred roaring heard. Consider the barest formulas of musical expression, the most touching and most hackneyed idioms, take them out bare as in a vivisection, turn them over, use them against type, deconstruct them then make them palpitate again for a short moment, as in rehydrating them. How to express, were it even on a preparatory basis, the endangerment of the very attempt: necessary declivity work, certain aggravation of obstinacy in holding onto it in spite of everything, applied to a matter that one wants to lay flat and elucidate. When one advances a diagnosis, an aggravation is literally a "complication". Vertigo was already taken (Hitchcock), as was Machinations (Aperghis).
The endangered idea turned out to be a construction by successive lacerations, an obsessive advance, strips placed end to end then torn up, hence a poster designer's result where all is efflorescence, truncated nuance and extreme fragmentation. In Aggravations, I wanted to move forward without looking back, which is intellectually impossible (and in music even more so than in any other art), using, by crushing them, marches, horse-ride and waltz rhythms, ritornelli, familiar echoes, no quotations since it was a matter of archetypes but rather samples as if for a self-vaccine. Speed, being sucked up by the void, the impression of vertigo, a sort of progressive exhaustion of matter by acceleration brings us back to the idea of fright, of inexorable mechanics, of slope or leaning (also in the sense of inclination or propensity). At times whilst writing Aggravations, I indeed thought that I had captured the music too late, when it was already in its "spindrying" phase. The principle that precipitates, links and contradicts this rule is the loop, pure repetition, iteration by locking, the closed furrow. This rondo effect by continuous refrains inlays a certain structural slowness in a frenetic tempo - the subject is stuck (Roland Barthes). On the way, aggravation has become a format, poetic entity in this work, like the Beatitudes with César Franck. Thus, every aggravation is followed by a loop (one could say a "double"), precipitated by the previous matter. Two conducti-coloured silences-punctuate the form before the finale, denser and more unitary, in which one easily spots the ride motif then a sort of dry, grating mechanic that marks the last forces of the spring. In this laceration of posters, one can see very old, fraying figures reappear, to which we are linked by a profound tenderness, sometimes going back as far as childhood. One will recognise Bruckner, who himself often proceeded by successive panels, Messiaen and his cloisonné enamels, as well as Scarlatti (Junior) of whom Aggravations has taken, by reflex, this cutting-and-pasting of the thought, the febrile way, the cruel and delicate game - madness at work - whipping, tearing, aggregating the matter in a headlong flight, an almost disdainful way of harming the very idea and its integrity, as if, in fact, it were a matter of shaking off the pursuers.
translated by John Tyler Tuttle
Born on January 17th, 1958, Gérard Pesson studied at the Sorbonne and then at the Paris CNSM, where he studied composition with Ivo Malec, orchestration with Marius Constant and analysis with Betsy Jolas. In 1986, he founded a contemporary music publication entitled Entretemps. From 1990 to 1992 [...]