flute, Bb clarinet (also bass), piano (+ very low tam-tam), violin and cello
DURATION • 8 minutes
EDITOR • Suvini Zerboni
PREMIERE • May 11, 1999, France, Strasbourg, Musée de l'Œuvre Notre-Dame, by a group from the Strasbourg Conservatory.
Skiaï, from the Greek meaning "shadows", was written in 1998. The first version of the piece had five autonomous lines, with measurements, nuances, playing modes and variations of individual timbres. For practical implementation reasons, the measures have become common to all instruments; but the basic principle has remained the same.
It is a singular piece, insofar as - apart from the explosion following the second cadence - it is almost always at the threshold of the audible, as if the sounds fused, became unidentifiable, aiming at the indentification of the timbres. All my pieces since then have been based on instrumental, digital and gestural virtuosity.
Moreover, the other singularity is that the structure of the piece, as well as the internal structure, are not the result of clever calculations or systematic pre-structuring: on the contrary, the piece was approached without any preparation, without pre-organization: the musical discourse was deployed throughout the composition.
However, several factors led to the compositional act: the unity of the harmony (always very diatonic - an omni-interval chord doubled by a minor seventh - and whose consonance is blurred by the quarter tones), the linearity of the music and its interruption by cadential sequences, much more cursive. In hindsight, I realized that Skiaï was my first attempt (albeit unconscious) to give the illusion of a piano playing in quarter tones. The fusion of timbres and resonance, as well as the microinterval environment, are such that the illusion of a temperate piano appears.
This music must seem unreal and ecstatic, because of its extreme slowness and almost immobile deployment, time must seem dilated: the individuality of each instrument contributes to it, annihilating any temporal reference point.
Christophe Bertrand, 2010.