- 01 – Start the Dance
- 02 – Berceuse et des Poussières
- 03 – 7 Vallées
- 04 – Fiocchi di Silenzio
- 05 – Sérieux Gravats
AURÉLIEN DUMONT, ENSEMBLE LINEA – STILLNESS
Fragile objects, particles of meaning
Aurélien Dumont seems just as unconcerned to promulgate the principles of radical musical thought as he is to achieve the aesthetic synthesis of his elders’ most radical contributions. Such a position does not deprive him of originality, which manifests itself as much in the particular aura of each work as in a number of constants throughout his musical output, and whose sum, or indeed interaction, helps to define what may be called his style.
His most easily detectable constant is one of a global state of timbre, as volatile as it is subtle, emphasised by playing modes that have gradually integrated into the composer’s usual palette. The choice of a precarious acoustic construction, whose balance is sometimes akin to funambulism, is not without consequences on the nature of these works’ material. Aurélien Dumont is not a composer of scholastic combinatorics, but of the arrangement of textures and objects. We can easily identify within the works gathered here – an observation also true beyond this disc – categories of recurring musical objects. Diversified but presented in relatively small numbers so as to leave an imprint in the listener’s memory, these objects are mainly intended to be combined and recombined, defining and refining each other in an ever-changing perspective.
Referring to the Nara cycle, of which Sérieux gravats (2010) constitutes the second part, the composer explicitly invokes the concept of “narrat” dear to the writer Antoine Volodine. Transposed in a musical context, the idea of “narrative snapshots”, that is to say micro-narratives acting both in isolation and in network, changes its nature but retains its relevance once the confrontation of objects suggests a narrative momentum. In a fairly typical way, we find in Sérieux gravats a wide variety of playing modes allowing the fine gradation of the noisy components of the timbre, notably through the hybridisation of the modes of emission: singing through the instrument, wind sounds, tongue ram, thumb-less fingering for the flute, slap, growl, key sounds and multiphonic sounds, breaths, flautando and tapping for the alto all contribute to the blurring of attacks and pitches. To the initial gesture – a chord with a luminous aura of whole-tone scale exposed in two stages by the piano – will succeed a whole procession of figures before we become aware, through the impression of accumulation and thus increasing complexity, of their recurrence partially obscured by various combinations. As a consequence of this “grammar of objects”, the structure of the work follows clearly-defined sequences, even if transitions by fading or tiling are more frequent than editing cuts. We can also distinguish sections with a harmonic dominant, often coloured by a microtonal intonation, and sections both inharmonic and more rhythmic. In both cases, there is a tendency to repeat – according to variable but often brief periodicities – elements which assume the appearance of strict or varied ostinati. It is tempting to hear in these kinds of physiological mechanics a stylized figuration of the “peaceful coexistence of highly differentiated entities within a whole” that the composer felt strongly during his first stay in the Japanese city of Nara.
While Berceuse et des poussières (2012) seems to be based on similar principles regarding the timbre and the organisation of musical material, there is a more polarised discourse, largely due to its referential background. Without being able to identify it as such, the timid tonal gesture revealed in harmonics by the cello (measure 36) marks the first appearance of one of these “A.M.O. (Aesthetically Modified Objects)” keenly used by Aurélien Dumont to open in his works a narrative breach towards some “elsewhere”, usually an antecedent taken from the History of Music. From an environment coloured by partially noisy playing modes and populated once again by discretised objects (loops on a diatonic pattern, a microtonal oscillation on a semitone, a triplet of repeated notes, a rhythmic systole/diastole, a wave motif on the clarinet), furtive tonal allusions emerge and finally a more explicit evocation – though distorted by an untempered intonation – of the beginning of Beethoven’s third Piano Concerto. The tape intrudes fairly late in the piece, after a climax of expressive tension. Its peaceful and consonant material creates a real rupture, resulting from a strong slowdown and the resynthesis of a Beethovenian fragment. A summit of harmonic hedonism is reached a little later when a bariolage in harmonics on a spectrum of D comes to match the material diffused by the loudspeakers.
Although close to the two previous pieces in terms of length, 7 Vallées (2015) differs from them in nature, which the composer himself describes as “close to the aesthetics of sound design”. While clearly inspired by the evocation of landscapes, these are not “soundscapes” as defined by Raymond Murray Schafer, since they relate far less to a “sonic ecology” than to a subjective and highly stylised impressionism. 7 Vallées shines through its minimal material, which rests largely on a simple glissando at the semitone and a microtonal oscillation. The discourse is polarised by the confrontation of harmonic stasis with punctual elements.
The two miniatures on this disc’s programme condense in a very short time most elements which help to draft a stylistic sketch of the composer. Start the dance (2009) is essentially based on a flute melodic-rhythmic ostinato, varied and sometimes interrupted, which has only two notes, one of which can be perceived as a tonic and the other a higher diminished fifth, imparting a blue-note feel. Supported in homorhythm by a viola “alla chitarra” and counterpointed by a viola part “col legno battuto on the bridge” with a rhythmic role, it is stated simultaneously with its rhythmic outline entrusted to the cello. In light of the title, the allusion to dance music and its loops is obvious, but while Western pop lives almost exclusively in 4/4 time signatures, the asymmetrical character of the 7/8 meter encompassing the ostinato rather evokes here the Aksak rhythms of Balkan music.
The title Fiocchi di Silenzio (2014) emphasises the importance of silence in this work. But it is in particular a new “A.M.O.”, the motet O magnum mysterium composed by Giovanni Gabrieli on the eponymous Gregorian response, which this time contributes to polarise the discourse. During its three occurrences, which correspond to three concomitant segments of the original score, Gabrieli’s polyphony is preserved but disturbed by modes that have already been outlined. It is more the effect of a distant reminiscence – and here Gérard Pesson’s “filtrages” come to mind – than that of a quotation produced by this historical reference which refers in addition to Luigi Nono, to which this short piece pays tribute.
Among the “objects” that constitute the opposing pole, one can note the holding of two conflicting notes (B-flat and B-natural), clearly echoing the ambiguity of these same notes in Gabrieli’s motet. If there is confrontation here, it is indeed a dialectical confrontation, such as establishing the permanence of musical elements whose fragility and variability threaten to dissolve at any moment into nothingness. While it is clear that the expressiveness of Aurélien Dumont’s music lies partly in this dialectical tension, it remains difficult to define its exact nature. In any case, it is not paradoxical to affirm that if the notion of pure music remains foreign to the composer, so too does the concept of descriptive music.
Booklet in English, German and French.
Program notes by Pierre Rigaudière.