Disquietudes : Vergangenheitsbewaltigung – new work notebook

(pour la version française, clicker ici)

Rather than offering listening directions for Intranquillités I (english : Disquietudes I),  this text, which deviates and develops multiple roots, aims to open up fragmentary venues that hope to blur – and thus enrich – the lived moment.




Two simple words. Two neologisms.

Followed by a quote :

“I wish to be anonymous and private. To speak without talking, were that possible.”

Clarice Lispector


“The Book of Disquiet” by Fernando Pessoa.  One of the few books I still haven’t finished reading.  A book of rare beauty. But too absorbing, captivating.

To be in a state of Disquietude is to be alive, to walk – as Saint-Denys Garneau would say –  “alongside a joy”,  all the while sensing the closeness and elsewhereness of the unspeakable.

Vergangenheitsbewaltigung. A German neologism.  Germany, the country in which I resided during the composition of Intranquillités I ;  in Stuttgart, to be precise, to the south-west ; in a village 92% of which had been razed to the ground by the mid-20th century. Vergangenheitsbewaltigung is a term forged to be attached to a reality that was to incite decades of reflection by addressing a personal and historical past.

“I want to be anonymous and private.  To speak without talking, were that possible.” In the course of reading, I happen upon such sentence that expresses the essence of what I myself, as inventor, as composer, have long been striving for. “I want to be anonymous.”   and, as a creator,  to accept that I am but a vector for what surrounds me, a prism warping a narrow reality.   “I want to be anonymous”, wants to explain what has coined the prism ; it is a self-confessed hope that, consciously or not, this twisted point of view give birth to reason, in a world so profoundly devoid and so desperately in need of it.

Two words, one quote, and, happily, one catalyst : the Katcor ensemble, commissioners of the work for french horn quartet.


to you i offer  that of my most precious silence and breath

for four horns

dedicated to all nature’s helpers, everyday hero.eins,

and to the Katcor Ensemble

breath and silence

human essence

connected, inter / dependent

primary noise, fundamental

breath/silence, interwoven

from presence, environment,

a moment, a place


for me, this piece is at once a culmination of interpretive liberty

(the graphic score is at once too precise and too free)

as well as

a fresh departure in sonic art that assumes/attempts a musical distancing only to come closer to a  singularly pure human experience devoid of artifice.

Stuttgart, April 2013

“Nought can be born to a day non-existent. Alien to the seasons, I turn my back to the sun. ”  Chantal Bergeron

“Living so impresses me.” Clarice Lispector

SH Intranquilités image1


There appear grafted onto this first movement for four horns, three other voices, each in turn :  a harpsichord part, another for piano and finally, a part for string quartet.  Each of these parts

is intended as a solo piece,  or each part can be combined with any one or more parts. The first performance consists of the following layout :

1.  Four horns

2. Solo piano

3.  Harpsichord and four horns

4.  Piano and string quartet

5.  Solo harpsichord

6.  Tutti

Each of the parts is independent, possessing its own plastic, poetic and above all, sonic identity.  All parts relate and refer to each other through the device of quotation.


and yet here does light enter ‘tween the yellow threads of your large cardigan of cotton wads

string quartet

” Poreless voices proclaim my death

enflamed in charcoal

It is untrue

To my secret smiles I am their God

And in truth I am myself

Candid, noble and filled with freedom

Draggammalamalatha birbouchel

Ostrumaplivi tigaudô umo transi Li”

Claude Gauvreau, In Retrospect (Detention Poems, 1961)

SH Intranquilités image2


rivers ring out hour ‘pon hour their insistent beauty honey the essence for all that, desire

solo harpsichord

” (…)  Ah well I’ll confide in you, to end, that I would like to be a composer of music, to live among instruments in the Viterbo tower that I’m unable to purchase, in the most beauteous of landscapes in the world, there where Aristotle would have been so deliriously happy to see himself reborn into the innocence of an oak forest and hills, waterfalls and ravines, and there, to compose music, music, perhaps the most singularly elevated expression, as undefinable as actions of reality.

Pier Paolo Pasolini

SH Intranquilités image3


you know there was really no tenderness committed between her tired fingers

unless perhaps a glance

solo piano

“weep weep with your legs you whose body reveals the meaning of every stone”

Nadia Tuéni (found poems, published 1986)

SH Intranquilités image4


With the exception of the fourth movement, all movement titles are taken from the finale

of a lengthy poem entitled her body spoke so as not to die


despite their palour of complexion I nonetheless wish the street urchins a happy future a happy end 


a meaning


self-conscious teaching of a dead language in the church basement everyone already comprehends I myself am but an alien upstart have I the right of speech to the chapter ?



cries of pain and revolt against despondency


against the Notre-Dame-des-Neiges cemetery and a place near Jean Drapeau near Maurice Richard


do you still listen to me without reason ?


do you still seek to comprehend your state ?



rivers ring out hour ‘pon hour their insistent beauty honey the essence for all that, desire


this is not a debate


the dislocated spinet-fortuitous innocence


and yet here does light enter ‘tween the yellow threads of your large cardigan of cotton wads


a little animal at rock bottom


the telling




you know there was really no tenderness committed between her tired fingers

unless perhaps a glance



Symon Henry

Montreal May 10th, 2014


P.S. For information on the subsequent pieces in the Intranquillités series, and that have already been premièred…


* * *

“Intranquillités” concert

May 16th 2014 – 7 :30pm – Café l’Artère – 7000 Parc Avenue, Montreal

Programme :

Intranquillités IIb – Project K – 20’

Intranquillités I – Katcor Quartet, Daniel Áñez, Jean-Willy Kunz, Marc Labranche, Geneviève Liboiron, Freddie Tremblay-Gagnon and Julie Babaz – 60’

* * *

translation :  vivienne spiteri

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