More sweetly forgot – more gently forgotten – is a collection of four melodies based on verses from Sappho. Like most of his poems, they were written to be sung, with music that is no longer there; they have come down to us in very short fragments, often the size of a word.
Sapphô, the free and famous poet, the lesbian and inventive musician, was often betrayed by the translators who, judging the fragments too short, linked and modified them. The Canadian poet Anne Carson, sensitive to erasure, proposes a stricter version, where the fragments are given literally on almost blank pages. She even invents a sign for disappearance: the character ] indicates the trace of an illegible or missing word.
I wanted to transcribe the blanks, just like the words. Thus, in the first melody, the singing on consonants recalls the lost words. These articulations of the voice are taken up by the instruments, which create a web of echoes and doubles.
The second melody is built on a single word: youth – jeunesse. It is extremely touching to read it on a manuscript that is more than two thousand years old. This word, which has survived the disappearance of all the others in the same poem, is a symbol of resistance. One should not be young, but remain young.
The third melody, in sprechgesang, shows another way of approaching disappearance and oblivion. The spoken voice seems the trace of a song. By dint of creating silence around it (the soprano asks several times to play more sweetly), one ends up hearing it: it is Sappho’s love.
To finish, a very slow melody. A tender and almost visionary message: quelqu’un plus tard se souviendra de nous.