Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Bridging the gap between score and audience


In an online interview Gérard Grisey (1946-1998) explains that spectralism is not a system like serial music, but an attitude that "considers sounds, not as dead objects that you can easily and arbitrarily permutate in all directions, but as being like living objects with a birth, lifetime and death". Grisey goes on to describe how spectralism, of which he was a pioneer, tries "to find a better equation between concept and precept - between the concept of the score and the perception the audience might have of it".

Writing in the New York Times in 2000 Paul Griffiths desribed how Gérard Grisey's "'Les Espaces Acoustiques' was a project of the 1970's and can now be seen to have got right much of what that decade got wrong. Grisey heard what was going on around him -- repetitive music, the rediscovery of bodily rhythms, especially the rhythm of breathing, the fascination with harmonic spectra, the idea that performing musicians are actors in an abstract drama -- and he made it all work". In Les Espaces Acoustiques (Acoustic Spaces) Grisey starts from the spectrographic analysis of the components (fundamental and harmonics) of a trombone E to create a cycle of six acoustic instrumental pieces that takes the listener on a revelatory journey from solo viola to full orchestra.

Heard what was going on around him - not a system but an attitude - the rhythm of breathing - sounds as living objects - the rediscovery of bodily rhythms - musicians are actors in an abstract drama - bridging the gap between score and audience... Today's celebrity fixated classical music has so much to learn.

Les Espaces Acoustiques is available in an excellent recording on the Accord label that emphasises how sounds are "living objects with a birth, lifetime and death". Header photo was taken by me in Nantes, France and shows a mural depicting the history of the city in the style of Diego Rivera that "appeared" overnight in May 2010. The photo is (c) On An Overgrown Path 2012. Report broken links, missing images and errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk Also on Facebook and Twitter.

2 comments:

Michael Strickland said...

I heard the 20-minute "Modulations" section of "Les Espaces Acoustiques" live at the San Francisco Symphony a couple of months ago, conducted by Susanna Mälkki. Great stuff, which made me want to hear the whole thing.

Out of the lion's mouth... said...

I first heard "Modulations" on an Erato vinyl conducted by Boulez. Today I'll be listening to the Kairos recording of the whole cycle. Would love to be able to hear lt live in the UK. Alas, I missed the London Sinfonietta performance conducted by George Benjamin in 2008 - the first and, to my knowledge, the only live performance of "Les Espaces Acoustiques" in the UK; and it's a work that cries out to be heard live, as does "Le Noir de L'Etoile" (which I believe has had rather more success on the performance circuit, particularly in the USA in venues such as Planetariums). Oh well, one can only dream that one day Grisey will be as lauded as Steve Reich and performed as much.