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Contra me (miserere)

  • Category / Instrument : Vocal and instrumental ensemble
  • Orchestration : 2S.Hc.Bar / traverso / oud (ou luth) / vlc baroque
  • Duration : 10'
  • Genre : contemporary
  • Sortiment : Score
  • Number of pages : 11
  • Publisher : Lemoine
  • Code : 28117
  • Published : 01/01/2002
  • ISBN / ISMN : 9790230981170


22/06/2002 - Chimay - Collégiale Saints Pierre et Paul en Chimay, Festival de Chimay - Ensemble XVIII-21, Jean-Christophe Frisch (conductor)


"Opus sectile" is a technique used in late Roman mosaics in which worn fragments of marble were used to create floors with geometric patterns. The material is used in its unpolished, even rough state so that it can be perceived as different, although even in this final change of use it obstinately remains what it always was, a reject. Each fragment may be seen simultaneously as the spark from a lost whole, and as part of a piece (re)composed for a special occasion.
Similarly, Contra me ("Before me") has taken only some tiny fragments of Psalm 50 (Ps. 51 in the Authorised Version) attributed to David, when the prophet Nathan came to him after he had been to Bathsheba. The opening word is "miserere", and between two and six words are selected from each verse in the order in which they appear. The formal unity of the twenty verses is retained, each one becoming a fragment of a few seconds, linked to the others by silence, thus using opus sectile.
The whispered "miserere" expresses the essence of the words and their function in the liturgy, namely regret, the recognition of guilt and the thirst for purification.
Verse 19 refers to the destruction of the walls of Jerusalem, the subject of Jeremiah's lamentations.
The selected, dismembered elements of the text may be used to compose a subtext in which the common word would be the vehicle of the word, and the object of purification by those parts of the body mentioned in the psalm (face, tongue, lips, bones and heart), namely facie tua, lingua mea, labia mea, ossa humiliata, cor mundum and cor contritum.
The instrumental part of Contra me is only a sign, barely a link, in the silence-miserere section. The instruments leave aside all rhetoric, virtuosity and artifice, so that their progress is fully visible, hugging the design of the spoken word.
The work was commissioned by the Ensemble XVIII-21 Musique des Lumières, to form part of a programme devoted to the Lamentations of the prophet Jeremiah, blending music by Couperin with Jewish liturgy, Arab songs and Bible readings.

Gérard Pesson



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 [...]


    • 07.03.2020
    • Nebenstück
    • Kortrijk (Belgium)
    • Festival
    • Ensemble Ictus
    • 02.12.2019
    • Le Gel, par jeu
    • Paris (France)
    • Conservatoire Paul Dukas
    • Ensemble des Possibles, Antonin Rey (cond.)
    • 01.12.2019
    • Le Gel, par jeu
    • Saint Mandé (France)
    • Auditorium
    • Ensemble des Possibles, Antonin Rey (cond.)
    • 16.11.2019
    • Le Gel, par jeu
    • Paris (France)
    • Cité des Arts
    • Ensemble des Possibles, Antonin Rey (cond.)

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