Tension in intimacy

The more the concert held on Wednesday, August 25th settled down within me, that concert in which Haiti, Haiti by Chantale Laplante was premiered, the more this work seemed to me to be emphasized by the two works preceding it, to the point where the program itself could be considered as one single work logically constructed. I thus feel the need to contextualize this Postlude dedicated to Laplante’s work by also discussing the works serving as a prelude to it.

The entire program was unknown to me, but the opening work, Bass Clarinet and Percussion (1981), is pure Morton Feldman of the most recent period: some motives on the bass clarinet, sometimes reduced to a single repeated note, repeated with minimal variations and asking from the interpreter Lori Freedman all the mastery which she is capable of (even in the highest register). These motives define the various sections of the work as well as their accompaniment, primarily consisting of rolls from the two percussionists (Eric Derr and Aiyun Huang), ranging from gongs and cymbals, to timpani and keyboards, the whole – the clarinet and its aura – in a constant pianissimo and a slow pace or rarefaction which have for quite some time characterized Feldman’s music.

The same three performers met again to perform a work from Magnus Linberg’s youth, Ablauf (1983), in complete contrast to the almost clinical restrain of Feldman’s work. Here, the clarinet must from the very beginning overflow towards excess, towards a distorted sound, these expressionist gestures being relentlessly punctuated, fortissimo, by two bass drums placed along opposite sides of the performing area. They were rarely out of sync, and finally managed to considerably amplify the impact of the central crescendo, where the clarinet seems to seek extreme excesses. Lori Freedman visually embodied the sonorous outburst she produced with her instrument, to which she added the squeakings and barkings which called for by the score. The ending of this climax, on the bass clarinet, gradually and finally got back in touch with the reduced intensity of Feldman, but without however resolving all tensions.

I had the impression that Chantale Laplante’s work traced back again the two steps we had just overcome, setting up the possibility of tension with the return of the pianissimo. If Laplante speaks of the influence of Feldman on her musings, it is more as regard the question of durations, which touches on eternity by eliminating formal changes, by constraining the register, without however discharging the work. She does not retain from the American composer an attitude of distance on the level of expression, a sort of watchful neutrality.

For Haiti, Haiti, Émilie Laforest’s voice substituted for the clarinets, and percussionists concentrated their playing on a limited set of instruments: six Almglocken (alpine cow bells), two amplified bell-plates, a small Chinese theatre gong, and a simantra (a small metal board resonating like crotales. One must not regard the vocal presence, usually semantically charged, as the sole reason for the particular expressivity I have just described. The text is here replaced with some vocal colours and some guttural pronunciation discreetly filtered by a funnel, sonorities remarkably controlled by the singer, which become then an instrument blending completely with the percussion’s framework. Within the latter, rolls abound, on Alpglocken or bell-plates, but there are also resonances from the bows or the sounds of a Peking gong. To this are added discreet pre-recorded soundfiles: a high note, a rattle from far away recalling the sound of a cicada, etc.

This pianissimo is inhabited, it is not constant, it breathes. The material is restrained, economically exploited, but it is also carefully arranged, as with the singular harmonic colours generated by the Almglocken often used in pairs – which renders more complex the frequencies content – or the bell-plates judiciously processed by a ring modulator (for a result far removed from the clichéd colours typical of this treatment: Chantale Laplante told us about her previous experiments, her quest for adequate microphones; the result is convincing). The sensibility to sound which Chantale Laplante was able to acquire through her experience with electroacoustics is everywhere apparent.

The form is simple, with a central portion devoted mainly to the Almglocken, and the gradual progression of the frequency modulating the sound of the bell-plates provides the entire work with a subtle sense of direction. However slowly the unfolding may occur, this form entails surprises: it is all of a sudden, and unpredictably, punctuated by the simantra’s high pitch, which absorbs and rejects the accumulated tension, or by a trill from a metallic broom on a high bell, a sort of perturbing alarm clock whose influence one would like to resist because it takes us away from this profound reflection.

For the sixty listeners filling the perfect black cocoon of the multimedia room at the Conservatoire de musique de Montréal, the sonorous diffusion of soundfiles and amplified sounds was perfectly balanced with even the most tenuous acoustic sounds, and the proximity with the performers, whose perfect communion with the work one could sense, was ideal. During those extensive moments of Haiti, Haiti which symmetrically concluded the trilogy of the concert (slow pianissimo – fast and agitated fortissimo – slow pianissimo), it seemed to me that all the dramas of the second part where still present, interiorized but real, as if Feldman was coming back, humanized after having been violently assaulter by Lindberg. More than any seismic spillover, more than any complaint, the work lived up to its dedication. Close to Gaza, it is an eloquent landmark, and, it seems to me, a successful one, of Chantale Laplante’s attentive approach.

Michel Gonneville, 27 août 2010

Also read the prelude also related to this article (À l’intérieur du Temps, tous les drames)
The more the concert held on Wednesday, August 25th settled down within me, that concert in which Haiti, Haiti by Chantale Laplante was premiered, the more this work seemed to me to be emphasized by the two works preceding it, to the point where the program itself could be considered as one single work logically constructed. I thus feel the need to contextualize this Postlude dedicated to Laplante’s work by also discussing the works serving as a prelude to it.

The entire program was unknown to me, but the opening work, Bass Clarinet and Percussion (1981), is pure Morton Feldman of the most recent period: some motives on the bass clarinet, sometimes reduced to a single repeated note, repeated with minimal variations and asking from the interpreter Lori Freedman all the mastery which she is capable of (even in the highest register). These motives define the various sections of the work as well as their accompaniment, primarily consisting of rolls from the two percussionists (Eric Derr and Aiyun Huang), ranging from gongs and cymbals, to timpani and keyboards, the whole – the clarinet and its aura – in a constant pianissimo and a slow pace or rarefaction which have for quite some time characterized Feldman’s music.

The same three performers met again to perform a work from Magnus Linberg’s youth, Ablauf (1983), in complete contrast to the almost clinical restrain of Feldman’s work. Here, the clarinet must from the very beginning overflow towards excess, towards a distorted sound, these expressionist gestures being relentlessly punctuated, fortissimo, by two bass drums placed along opposite sides of the performing area. They were rarely out of sync, and finally managed to considerably amplify the impact of the central crescendo, where the clarinet seems to seek extreme excesses. Lori Freedman visually embodied the sonorous outburst she produced with her instrument, to which she added the squeakings and barkings which called for by the score. The ending of this climax, on the bass clarinet, gradually and finally got back in touch with the reduced intensity of Feldman, but without however resolving all tensions.

I had the impression that Chantale Laplante’s work traced back again the two steps we had just overcome, setting up the possibility of tension with the return of the pianissimo. If Laplante speaks of the influence of Feldman on her musings, it is more as regard the question of durations, which touches on eternity by eliminating formal changes, by constraining the register, without however discharging the work. She does not retain from the American composer an attitude of distance on the level of expression, a sort of watchful neutrality.

For Haiti, Haiti, Émilie Laforest’s voice substituted for the clarinets, and percussionists concentrated their playing on a limited set of instruments: six Almglocken (alpine cow bells), two amplified bell-plates, a small Chinese theatre gong, and a simantra (a small metal board resonating like crotales. One must not regard the vocal presence, usually semantically charged, as the sole reason for the particular expressivity I have just described. The text is here replaced with some vocal colours and some guttural pronunciation discreetly filtered by a funnel, sonorities remarkably controlled by the singer, which become then an instrument blending completely with the percussion’s framework. Within the latter, rolls abound, on Alpglocken or bell-plates, but there are also resonances from the bows or the sounds of a Peking gong. To this are added discreet pre-recorded soundfiles: a high note, a rattle from far away recalling the sound of a cicada, etc.

This pianissimo is inhabited, it is not constant, it breathes. The material is restrained, economically exploited, but it is also carefully arranged, as with the singular harmonic colours generated by the Almglocken often used in pairs – which renders more complex the frequencies content – or the bell-plates judiciously processed by a ring modulator (for a result far removed from the clichéd colours typical of this treatment: Chantale Laplante told us about her previous experiments, her quest for adequate microphones; the result is convincing). The sensibility to sound which Chantale Laplante was able to acquire through her experience with electroacoustics is everywhere apparent.

The form is simple, with a central portion devoted mainly to the Almglocken, and the gradual progression of the frequency modulating the sound of the bell-plates provides the entire work with a subtle sense of direction. However slowly the unfolding may occur, this form entails surprises: it is all of a sudden, and unpredictably, punctuated by the simantra’s high pitch, which absorbs and rejects the accumulated tension, or by a trill from a metallic broom on a high bell, a sort of perturbing alarm clock whose influence one would like to resist because it takes us away from this profound reflection.

For the sixty listeners filling the perfect black cocoon of the multimedia room at the Conservatoire de musique de Montréal, the sonorous diffusion of soundfiles and amplified sounds was perfectly balanced with even the most tenuous acoustic sounds, and the proximity with the performers, whose perfect communion with the work one could sense, was ideal. During those extensive moments of Haiti, Haiti which symmetrically concluded the trilogy of the concert (slow pianissimo – fast and agitated fortissimo – slow pianissimo), it seemed to me that all the dramas of the second part where still present, interiorized but real, as if Feldman was coming back, humanized after having been violently assaulter by Lindberg. More than any seismic spillover, more than any complaint, the work lived up to its dedication. Close to Gaza, it is an eloquent landmark, and, it seems to me, a successful one, of Chantale Laplante’s attentive approach.

Michel Gonneville, 27 août 2010

Also read the prelude also related to this article (À l’intérieur du Temps, tous les drames)

Pour tout commentaire, écrivez-nous.