Thalleïn

Année de composition
1984
Durée
18 minutes
genre
Instrumental
Effectif
Instrumental ensemble [14 musicians] : Flute (also piccolo), oboe, Bb clarinet, bassoon, horn, trumpet (ut and piccolo), trombone, percussion, piano, 2 violins, alto, cello, double bass

The Greek title of the piece means “to bud” and refers to a natural phenomenon: growth, the slow blossoming of organic life.

 

A small orchestra (14 players) brings together all the sound possibilities of a large orchestra while avoiding fusion effects: each instrument is present only once (4 woodwinds, 3 brass, a rich array of percussion [one player], piano and string quintet). The instruments are supposed to avoid any vibrato; for the composer, this requirement takes the form of a profession of faith: “vibrato is forbidden!” he declares on the first page of the score. The human or simply vital aspect of the breath is thus suppressed in favor of a more anonymous sound flow.

 

The movement that the listener feels emanating from this piece resembles both the slow change of plants with its almost imperceptible transitions and the violent shaking that recalls phenomena such as wind or earthquakes and not voluntary movements. Very often, the instruments describe glissandi with imprecise contours; the use of quarter tones is a further means of removing any reference to a universe of twelve identifiable sounds. Even the “chords” and clusters are arranged in such a way that they do not constitute landmarks, but disappear behind a veil of tremolos…

The string instruments, traditionally considered to be the most “human”, are subjected to an extremely complicated rhythmic regime that gives the effect of a discreet coldness and an almost mechanical virtuosity. Thalleïn buds without metre and without recognizable rhythmic figures. A slow pulse (a quarter note=54) emerges from the conductor’s beat, which indicates to the instrumentalists the reference points or, if you like, the lowest common temporal denominator.

 

The philosophy of this piece is characterized by an exclusion of any gesture of musical rhetoric. This music does not want to persuade us, perhaps not even speak to us. Located beyond the warmth of the human world, it does not claim to be superhuman. The purity of its style calls for a purification of the spirit. The meaning we seek will not be found in what we think we already understand.

Création mondiale
February 14th, 1984 | London
Éditeur
Salabert

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