" Songs of a Landloper "
for soprano and ensemble
- Nominated for : The Musical Composition Prize 2008
The English word landloper comes from the ancient dutch landlooper meaning vagabond, adventurer, or even renegade. Somewhere in the tradition of Schubert (Die Schöne Müllerin, Winterreise), of Mahler (Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen), and by Vaughan Williams (Songs of Travel), among many others, Songs of a Landloper deals not only with geographical voyage, but also musical journey. These ten songs are rooted in different stylistic grounds that differ radically from each other. The principle that unifies these various wanderings is simple: I have let myself be guided by my passion for very different kinds of music and I have not deprived my whims from intruding on areas considered by some as "problematic". The result is a kind of self-portrait in music, highlighted by my quotation from the autodédicace of Satie of his work "Prélude de la Porte héroique du ciel" on the first page of my score.
Songs of a Landloper challenges the modern trend - especially present in american universities - to reduce music to controversal categories as well as the motivations of those who claim the inherent superiority of a particular musical content over another. While the work is based on these issues, it is also somehow my answer, but a response both sincere and misleading, sad and absurd, disconcerting and reassuring, nostalgic and disdainful. I felt buffeted on all sides when writing this work: on one hand, I was very happy to write what is essentially a great love song to music itself, but on the other hand, I was appalled by the possibility that my efforts would become victim of extra-musical and academic disputes. In this respect, my landloper is an "involuntary renegade", but he has no regrets. Naturally - I permit myself to borrow a word from Gertrude Stein - I wanted more, but I do and can say that all that are here are those that I wanted the most, thanks and thanks again.
SYNOPSIS OF THE SONGS
evocative style and musical language of the english composer Gerald Finzi (1901 - 1956) on a text by the poet and english clergyman Thomas Traherne (1636/1637 - 1674), Finzi's favorite writer.
A rhythmic "groove" built around the soprano who recites an excerpt of the book The Principal Navigations, Voyages, Traffiques & Discoveries of the English Nation (second edition, from 1598 to 1600) by Richard Hakluyt (c. 1552 - 1616). The text tells the story of a clash between british officers with a contingent of spanish soldiers in the West Indies in 1568. The instrumentalists provide misleading elements specially designed for those who seek to politicize the music. Giving the false impression of "gradually" appropriating from the aboriginal music, the musicians sing a completely invented melody, from a culture that does not exist. Half of the melody consists of an exercise in korean school children's alphabet that combines all the consonants of the korean language with one vowel at a time: ka, na, da... ki, ni, di... ko, no, do, etc.. The rest of the melody is made up of sounds noisily sucked in.
3. em, artaud, sand, maeterlinck
a "cheap imitation" (cf. John Cage) first ten measures of the first movement of Le marteau sans maître by Pierre Boulez (1925). These measures have been cut, lifted and entwined by several variations of the first vocal phrase of the third movement. A quote from the work Also sprach Zarathustra by Richard Strauss (1864 - 1949) situates the Boulez in a surreal tone. The original text of René Char (1907 - 1988), is subject to a part of the "word golf" (cf. Vladimir Nabokov) in which char's red trainler is converted into the white whale in 5 "strikes". This song also has a violent interjection improvised by the percussionist and the publicity jingle (familiar to americans) of the National Broadcasting Company (NBC).
4. I'm not ashamed to won my lord
almost exact transcription of a recording of the anthem I'm Not Afraid to Own My Lord sung in the primitive antiphonal style primi called "lined-out" by the members of fundamentalist baptist church in Kentucky. The original recording can be heard here: http://www.oldregularbaptist.com/music.html
L'ensemble is divided into "chef" (bass clarinet) and "congregation" (soprano, violin, cello and electric guitar), while the electric keyboard provides a constant drone. All musicians imitate the vocal style of the original recording with their instruments and with their voices.
5. counted days
A musical setting of the short poem Vers l'arbre-frère aux jours comptés of Rene Char, translated by the composer. This song includes a quote from Shareno horo, a song written by the composer and gadulkaïste bulgarian Georgi Andreev. The rest of the song consists of an additive rhythmic process based on bulgarian rhythms while the soprano floats, indifferently, above the dance.
6. Fat on fruit or intelligibility
a jazz air on the badness of carbohydrates, or perhaps a song without meaning, cruelly intended to deceive the Freudian and other seekers of Truth. Who can say?
A collision of two kinds of pentatonic music: the air "shape note" Idumea Collection Southern Harmony (1835) William Walker (1809-1875) superimposed on a "cheap imitation" (see song 3 ) early Concerto in Slendro (Balinese-inspired) by Lou Harrison (1917-2003). All members of the ensemble can sing while they play this piece.
8. let 's get serial
modernist love song that begins with an excerpt from the song What a Fool Believes written by Michael McDonald (1952 -), Kenny Loggins (1948 -), and the Doobie Brothers and progress towards the twelve-tone harmonization of an approximate version of the song Let's Get Physical by Olivia Newton John (1948 -). The twelve-tone-serie used is the same symmetrical serie written by Anton von Webern (1883 - 1945) for his Symphony, Op. 21 (1928). In the middle of the song is a quote, condensed with variations I., III. and V. of the second movement of Webern's Symphony. The composer stresses that the clarinet part from the mesure 449 of Let's Get Serial is a precise quote without modification of the part of the clarinet in Variation VI. of Webern, superimposed on the melody Newton John and recontextualized by the "riff" Doobie Brothers.
9. close your eyes
set to music of two text fragments of Die Schöne Müllerin Wilhelm Müller (1794 - 1827):
1) "Thu' die Augen zu !" ("Close your eyes !") Of Des Baches Wiegenlied;
2) "Die Lerche wirbelt..." ("The lark coos...") of Morgengruß
Two birds connect the ninth and tenth song the lark and the nightingale. The nightingale is included in the quotation from Oedipus to Colone de Sophocle ("ti/nag xw/Rouj a0fi/gmeqa;") printed at the top of the ninth song. When the old blind traveler asks his daughter, Antigone, to describe the country in which they have just arrived. Antigone mentions nightingales. The second bird, the lark, is contained in the extract from Müller. Both birds appear in the spanish medieval text of the tenth song the which the word meaning lark - Calandria - comes from ancient Greek, ka & landroj.
"The two ghosts" of this song are musical: the first is the Des Baches Wiegenlied melody and the other is a kind of imaginary koto music.
The second piece of Müller ("Die Lerche...") was translated into russian to show the worth of the culminating moment of the song which leads directly (attacca) to the final song.
10. Mes de mayo
This last song is built around a metrically incorrect citation of the first movement of Piano Concerto in A minor, op. 54 by Robert Schumann (1810-1856). It includes a fragment of melody composed by Paul Bowles (1910 - 1999) for the same text in 1944. This text, sometimes known as the Romance del Prisionero (The Prisoner's Song), exists in several versions. The current version is the same as Bowles has used his own song.