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Excess (CD) Le programme en détail


Richard Barrett

  • Année de composition: 1996-2000
  • Durée: 12:59
  • Instrumentation: clarinette contrebasse (voix, grosse caisse)
  • Commande: Elison
Ce texte n’est pas disponible en français.

Some worded notation for a performance guide found in the printed score are: “oracular; rapid ululation; yodel; febrile but meticulous; destabilisé; unstable and obsessive; half-whispered; explosive and distorted; wild fluctuation; austere and inscrutable; rapid muttering; incoherence; distant and receding…”

The title refers to the patterns produced by interacting beams of electromagnetic radiation or subatomic particles, as in the famous “two-slit experiment.” This experiment, simple and straightforward in itself, nevertheless has deep and unresolved implications for the nature of physical reality, leading as it does to the mysterious and (presently?) unanswerable question of what is “really happening” at the quantum level of space and time.

Such ideas permeate the structure of the composition in numerous ways, as for example at the first entry of the contrabass clarinet, where two ascending scales are repeatedly superimposed on one another in different transpositions, “interfering” with one another in the sense that any common pitches between them are cancelled out and disappear.

The Latin text of the vocal part is from Lucretius’ poem De rerum natura (“On the nature of things”), and describes the sudden and violent destruction of the world, though under what circumstances and for what reasons is unclear, since the crucial lines before the chosen fragment have been lost.

Interference is also a work of speculation in that the contrabass clarinet itself is a relatively “unknown” instrument, especially in a solo context. In adding to the already unprecedentedly virtuosic contrabass clarinet part a hardly less intricate one for the same performer’s voice, as well as a pedal bass drum, to date Lori Freedman is only the fourth player in the world to perform this piece. Interference proposes a particularly intense form of engagement by the performer and, while this is the result of developing specific rehearsal techniques demanded by the intricate notation, it draws crucial inspiration from the practice of free improvisation, on which Lori and I have been collaborating since the 1990s.

Richard Barrett


Lori Freedman

  • Année de composition: 2016
  • Durée: 12:25
  • Instrumentation: clarinette contrebasse
Ce texte n’est pas disponible en français.

This work was composed specifically for The Virtuosity of Excess tour as a personal response to Ferneyhough’s astonishing Time and Motion Study I. I wanted to have a piece in my solo repertoire that could contrast and complement that of Ferneyhough, something excessive in sound, speed, dynamic, and physical parameters, and without the manic degree of notated instruction. It was in fact one of my first compositions developing a graphic notation system specific to my own creative playing, necessarily incorporating a substantial portion of instruction for improvisation. It is a set of musical ideas discovered and post-organized in the moment of expressing them. Confounded and obsessed by the nature of Time and its omnipotent control of designing sound routes, I invite the listener to enter into a state of instability where music flows imperceptibly between spontaneous sound/line exploration and my memories of very recent musical thought. Improvisations hover between written graphics, precise gestural parameters and spontaneous structural needs.

Time and Motion Study 1

Brian Ferneyhough

  • Année de composition: 1971-77
  • Durée: 11:38
  • Instrumentation: clarinette basse
Ce texte n’est pas disponible en français.

Some words of performance instruction that says it all are: “possibile; molto furioso; lusingendo; enfatico; molto giusto; calmando; deliberate e pesante; espansivo; flessible; delicato; rapido; spettrale; with utmost violence…”

The densely worked and complex textures prevailing throughout much of this composition are, in a large part, a direct reflection of its dual point of origin. The title is intended to suggest both a desire to integrate the concept of efficiency as applied to the relationship between the performer, notation and realisation more explicitly into the fabric of the material and its organization than is perhaps customary, and the conviction that time is most usefully conceived of, not merely in a linear but also in a vertical fashion (i.e. as a function of the mutual interaction of several distinct and layered process-types). Both of these concerns seem to me most effectively exposed in works for a small number of performers. The employment, as here, of a single instrument — one, moreover, restricted to a single-strand, monophonic texture — allows for a direct confrontation with the internal polyphony of a musical gesture or process in a way which more overtly multiplex structures might actually serve to disguise or even hinder completely. The linearity of Time and Motion Study I is thus “exploded” into its component elements in a way as to enable each of them to be treated as an independent entity, to be expanded, made more diffuse, or eliminated altogether at will. By these means a number of linear “tendencies” were generated which serve to dictate the degree of focus which the discourse may assume at any given juncture. The textures produced can, in their turn, be understood as points of departure for new chains of tangential activity, or organised ambiguity, of processuality: in short, of verticality.

Further polyphonic layers are suggested by the degree to which the learning-rituals of the performer are audibly incorporated into the gestural flow of events. In order to learn Time and Motion Study I, the interpreter needs to be prepared to admit the possibility of his/her performing technique being made translucent to individual inadequacy, since the structural information thus provided is meant to refer the listener back to the “real time” activity of learning and, even, of composing the piece in the first place. The performance and the work object are both intended to be stages in a continuum, not an end in themselves. In a complicated (and complex) situation, only complex (if not necessarily complicated) reactions seem to me appropriate. Music needs to be both self-reflexive and self-critical: Time and Motion Study I seeks to reconcile these conflicting demands through its insistence upon a closed, cogent form which, in all other respects, is open.

Brian Ferneyhough

Library on Fire

Paul Steenhuisen

  • Année de composition: 2015
  • Durée: 12:13
  • Instrumentation: clarinette basse
Ce texte n’est pas disponible en français.

A few of the numerous descriptive performance instructions printed in the score are: “slap tongue thud; mouth gym; robotic; scoop; ghost pitch; pouty; lyrical; vary inside mouth shape; moan, urgent; huh; woof; pop; spoken; multiphonic gliss; unstable and dynamic; flurry; breathy spit tone; frail tone; momentary partials; less spit, intense air; vocal growl…”

Library on Fire is a piece in six contiguous sections ordered in any of 720 possibilities. The piece was initially inspired by a statement attributed to Pierre Boulez (“I want to be a library on fire”), and uses as a point of departure Brian Jungen’s sculpture Shapeshifter — a whale skeleton constructed out of mass-market white plastic chairs. The cultural and material hybridity of the Jungen sculpture extends into the resonant composite construction of the music. Library on Fire is based on selected free improvisations by Lori Freedman, filtered improvisations based on those improvisations, improvisations guided by text, more improvisations guided by text about the text, drawings of arches and spines, more drawings of arches and spines, and written music that is multiple, absorbed iterations of a submerged tune (K’naan’s Wavin’ Flag, the theme of the 2010 World Cup of Soccer in South Africa). The results were then molded together and meticulously reverse-engineered into a combustible, variable whole that sparks outward in its references and sound world. Library on Fire was commissioned by Daniel Cooper, and is dedicated to Lori Freedman.

Paul Steenhuisen


  • 3 août 2015, Festival international de musique de chambre d’Ottawa 2015: New Music Now II: Library on Fire, École secondaire publique De La Salle, Ottawa (Ontario, Canada)


Paolo Perezzani

  • Année de composition: 2014
  • Durée: 10:03
  • Instrumentation: clarinette contrebasse (voix)
Ce texte n’est pas disponible en français.

A selection of performance instruction found in the printed score are: “scorrevole; improvvise et veloce; animato; misterioso; subito; calmandosi; liberemante; parlante; delirando; deciso; con agitazione…”

Thymos for the Greeks had something to do with the almost cosmic force that inhabits man. I don’t think that this word can explain (or reduce to concept) the meaning of this music. But, since “thymos” has to do with the fury and the ardor that inhabit the body, it seems to me that through contact with this word (its “tone” or its “gesture”), this composition may find another decisive way to take form. This music itself perhaps desires to be an invitation to the fury and the desire of the body, or of the breath (“thymos” has been translated even so). But then there’s no need to speak about it: I created this music so that, while listening, it could exist. The strength and the corporeal ardor necessary for this to happen is precisely what I had already perceived in Lori’s way of playing. She knows how to be raging, even while following all the details of the writing: not to express a controlled delirium, but to give it more strength. This music is dedicated to her.

Paolo Perezzani


Raphaël Cendo

  • Année de composition: 2006
  • Durée: 10:52
  • Instrumentation: clarinette contrebasse et traitement
Ce texte n’est pas disponible en français.

Some performance instruction that appear in the printed score are: “violent, sans retenu; strident, agressif; excessivement nerveux; trembler, smorzando dents; très metallique; cries d’oiseau effrayantes, strident, très mouvementé; impulsif, incontrollé; vers l’apaisement; souffle; bruits de clef; bruit blanc; hors limite; très calme”.

The principle of this music is “a thwarting of the limit, thanks to an excess of energy.” Releasing the instrumental energy and bringing the performer’s body into the field of the composition make the concert no longer a simple disaffected representation but a basic musical act, a sound ritual in which the performer is the officiant. This calls for mad virtuosity from the performer. The sound is metamorphosed. It is no longer a matter of planning, but of losing oneself; it is no longer a matter of organizing, but of cutting a path in an unstable, wild and unknown world, for what is written is as much as for the player as for the listener.

In Décombres, the sound space deployed is the result of a constant confrontation between the electronic sounds and the contrabass clarinet. The clarinet writing is essentially organized around complex sounds, through the use of the voice while playing the instrument, through inordinate energy, a virtuosity of excess. The resulting saturation of these materials brings out the instrument’s electronic side as much as its wild animal side. Here the notion of excess is reinforced by great virtuosity, the use of all registers, and maximum tension in the energy. At this limit of the possible, the instrumentalist finds herself no longer in a performance but in a musical action, a sensitive, palpable ritual where the body is at the centre of the playing. The mass of electronic sounds is treated according to different granulation techniques to form only blocks of scattered, tense, damaged sounds. The search for fusion between the electronic and instrumental worlds creates a paradox in which the identification of the sound sources is intentionally blurred. These timbres, which seem to suddenly appear from an ancient primordial source, push their materials to the extreme: up to dizziness and their destruction.

Raphaël Cendo

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