09/09/1985 - Kyoto - Orchestre de Kyoto - Seiji Ozawa (conductor)
For its sixtieth anniversary, the Kyoto Community Bank, which commissions a piece by a Japanese composer every year, instigated a project called the Kyoto Symphonic Trilogy, consisting of three orchestral works written by composers from three continents: Toru Takemitsu for Asia, the Canadian Murray Schafer for the Americas and myself for Europe. The three pieces were meant to be freely inspired by Kyoto and its atmosphere. They were premiered on September 9 and 10, 1985 in Kyoto and then in Tokyo, by the Kyoto City Orchestra conducted by Seiji Ozawa. A new version for the French premier, (with a slightly reduced string section), was performed in 1990 by the Lyon Opera Orchestra conducted by George Benjamin.
The commission given by the Kyoto Community Bank was supposed to somehow evoke the city of Kyoto. Not wanting to introduce any anecdotal elements, I decided to limit myself to a meditation on the image and symbol of the rock garden, a distinctive and well-known aspect of Kyoto.
This is what the title somewhat abstractly expresses. Sillages: furrows, trails, traces left in water, in sand, in gravel.
There are divers explanations as to the meaning of these gardens, in particular regarding their central element, a rock surrounded by gravel in which concentric circles are drawn. Some people see them as animals, others, as islands surrounded by the sea... I propose a more "cosmological" vision (doubtlessly anachronistic, with regards to the age of these gardens): worlds flung into outer space, with space being deformed by the masses of the worlds themselves, and the enigmatic designs of the gravel evoking all sorts of force fields representing this deformation of space. The furrows traced on the ground seem drawn to the boulders, as if influenced by their shapes. The structure of my piece is largely based on that analogy. Substantial masses, with blocks of chords attracting waves of music, deforming durations, provoking accelerations and slowing. Though there may not be any anecdotal evocation of Kyoto, several echoes from the Japanese context may be found on a deeper level, completely integrated into the processes that make up my music, for example the rhythms of the large wooden drums that punctuate temple life, the accelerated or slowed beats of gagaku, the bells that chime in the wind, the breath of bamboo flutes. At the time, I was also struck by the fantastic sound of the Kyoto tramway horns, and included their "spectrum" in the piece's climactic moments. During a recent trip, I noticed that the old tramways had unfortunately been replaced by an ultramodern subway system...
1 CD aeon, AE1222
Le Partage des eaux - Contes cruels - Sillages
BBC Symphony Orchestra, Netherlands Radio Philharmonic, Wiek Hijmans (guitar), Seth Josel (guitar), Pierre-André Valade (conductor)