(Qlde1rl)1llmrij Mlisic Ra)Jir.w 2000, .vol. 19,i'att 3, p.

2~O Photocopying p~ rmitted by license only

@ 2JJQOOPA (Overseas Publishers Assoctatien) N.V: . Published by 1i'(en5e under Hte Harwood Academic Pu blishers imprint,
part: "fCocd"" arid Breach l'iJblisl1iJil,g,

a mernberof theTaylor &> Francis

Gerard Grisey and the Foliation of Time
P. .A. Castanet
Translated by Joshua Fineberg

In the midst of the grayish panOTCU'1l8 ofcontemperary musie.amengthe creators of the post-war generation; Gerard Grisey (born in 1946) h.<15 been. composingin solitude for more than twenty-five' years. Thus, at the center of t:he laboratory of European musical science, a universe which, steadfastly prefers sterility and acceptance to the smoldering isolation of a more personal route, Gerard Crisey 11.ao5remained a true composer, determined and unique, possessing a vast amount of technique and profound instinct for realizing musical works. A shared seHsibility In the 20th century numerous composershave made use of nature in its raw form, as musical material. Water, wind, fire, along with various other naturally produced phenomena have been recorded or created irt concert, offering'composers (such as Mikhe, .Messiaen, Xenakis, Kagel ....) .<J collection of instruments rich in parametric possibilities, However, in the eady seventies a different aspect of nature - the organic, living, acoustic nature of sound - strenglyinflueneed a few research-minded musicians. Immersed in scienceand philosophy; with a hunger for' technological progress and with consideration for the cultural as well as physical aspects of sound, Tessier, Murail, 'Crisey, Levinas, Dufourt, who would


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guide the developmentof the ensemble l'Itineraire in Paris, began, each in their own way, the route towards, whatHugues Dufourtcallsdin his now historical article, "Spectral Music", Following a long line of eminent scientists, going from Calileo or Descartes to Newton or Saveur and touching upon the. "concomitant sounds' of Father Marin Merserme, the 'spectral' composers began hawkiltg a new idea and formed a new 'school.' In the middle of this group of experimenters, extolling the virtues of the 'ecology' of musical sautee material, Crisey would woik diligently on the 'evolution of sound]' focusingaesthatically on both musical and temporalissues.
Sonic fll'cheoiogy, 111usicalmythology

WHhoutgoing back to mythelogical references such as the Gandlurrva, the stories and legends China, the diphonic vocal techniques Mongolian Hooml singers or the techniques of the peasants of TOLrvCl, consideration of natural acoustic phenomena highlighting a fundamental note and its colored train. of upper partials has effected many postromantic musicians (from Debussy, Hindamirh, Soriabin, Varese, [olivet, Scelsi and Messiaen to Radulescu, Vivier, Per Norgaard ... ).In the wake of this cosmopolitan movement, confronted with the hippie-like happenings that grew out of the culture inspired by the student uprisings in Paris in May 1968, and in opposition to Fiene Boulez's Domuine Musiclil and its image of compositional technique within a vacuum, a group of Parisian composers and instrumentalists founded the ensemble




in 1973.

With the approval of Olivier Messiaen, this group's first efforts cried out for listening to the sounds themselves.for a musical 'language'and 'syntagm' based on a profound use of sonic phenomena. in.all their C:OIll.plexity, both harmonic and (youth and creative greed oblige) inharmonic, Those most concerned with the overall relationships of phenomenolegical sorucntatetiaJ (0£ this g:ro.llp of co~!.tlpose.rs,only Dufourt was not Messiaen's student) are dearly Cerard Grisey and Tristan Murail arong with Michael Levinas. to a lesser degree, Although a bit late, a spirit of modified rniero-spectrality is felt in certain recent works of Levinas: for example, Rebo1'1ds (1993}, Diaclas« (1993t Par-Deli: (1994) and the work


..I'l'".te: the expression used in French is 'devenir du 50)10re;' this implies the sonic evolution as p~0ieded into the work's future: the sound's becoming what it will


which synthesizes much of the research in the other pieces, the opera GO~gol (1994). In as much as his music make no use of micro-intervals and in opposition to the generally held view, Hugues Dufourt must be considered a sort of 'faux-spectral' composer. As for Roger Tessier, he only dealt obliquely with the techniques offered by spectral music, only occasionally using the solipsistic concept of a single sound as the basis for a piece (Cl~7ir~Ol7scu.r for soprano, instrumental trio and electroacoustic treatments - 1977, Coalescence for clarinet and two orchestras -1987).

The work'S of Crisey from 1970-1980 contain at once self-generativ-e phenomena and self-destructive ingredient _Extracted from the mega-cycle Les Espaces Acoustiques (1975-1985), Modulat-f.on:s (1976-1977), for example, shows acoustic zones. in perpetualmotion around a fundamen-

tal E (41.2 Hertz). In this piece, where at eachinstant the material seems to be hoarding to itself the fragile allegory of self-genesis, the form itself recounts 'the history of th sounds of which it is made.' Moreover, in the same instrumental cycle, the composers attempts - with Partiele (1975) - to synthesize more richly the spectrum. of a single 110te played on the trombone using si teen instruments for the task. An analytical use of sonograms of bras .instruments along with spectrograms of the transfermations caused by adding various mutes, allow the synthetic reconstruction of the gIob<)hty of the timbre or, on the contrary, facilitate its controlled distortion. The general concepts of perturbation and erosion, read entropy, are the purview not only of Partiele but also of Chants de I'Amour (1981-1984),£01: mixed voices and computer synthesized voice. Using the program Chant, created at IRCAM (Paris) by Xavier Rodet and Yves Petard, Gri eywa able to realize a continuous oice and two streams of e, traordinary respiratory pulsations. I owever, while the success of this piece owes much to cutting edge technology, ~talso owes a debt to the rigorous structures used by the polyphonic music of the fifteenth century (mainly Cuillaume Dufay - 1400-1474 - and Johannes Ockeghem - 1410-1497) and to the games 'of Pygmi s from the Lituri region, Additionally, the synthetic voice functions as a referential model for the live singers, performing a similar role to the 'Iampura of Indian music, The machine voice can assume the roles of both Beauty and the Beast. "In turn divine, monstrous, threatening; seductive, both a mirror and a projection of all the fantasies of the humanvoice," this instrumental source "copies and multiplies itself into a crowd" explains


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the coutposer (listen to the duo titled 'Llove you' which unleashes a sonic vision worthy of Dante's' hell; a crowd of lovers is depicted by thousand of voices which call out to each other, swirling around then collapsing), Freely personified, the breath-date we call it the aruma? - learns to live, to breathe, to sing, to move/ to stammer, then finally to speak twenty-two different languages. Staged in the theater of life, the spatiosonic relations of the man-chorist with the machine-singer is made up of both fusion and interaction, of conflict and phagocytosis but also the false autonomy of J;llany types of dialogue (of belligerents, of friends, of tender confidence). Two moreexamples. first, Iook at the middle section in which 1.1 system of alternating echoes between the human and robot voices is established (see Figuren then consider the touching scene where the chorus sings a last lullaby then drifts off intosleep, dreaming in the 3n01;'e of the electronic monster, "Supreme seduction," Grisey told us, "that voice risks. being more human then a natural voice. both more pure and more painful." As can be seen, the true division between natural and unnatural has dearly, and happily.become very artistically vague. In fact Gerard Crisey, a curious and intelligent aesthete, likes the truth of nature. He: uses, to this end, fine distortions and precise blurs. Charles Ives said of nature that "she likes analogies but she hates repetition." If Dufourt strangles the beautiful nature of the encyclopedists (and the paStoral flute -think of Antiphysis -1978) and if Murail plays at warping mechanical systems (reread the pretext forthe grOlmd rules of Memoire - Elios,ion-1976), Grisey has subtly harmonized the laws of a curiosity inspired craftsmanship. GCilingfrom a system of timbro-temporaldeformation to a controlled spatia-harmonic dilation, Grisey'g iniprint never breaks the thread of his continuous preoccupation with temporal metamorphoses. Furthermore, the archetypal. times of nature move freely between the movements of Vortex 'Iemporum (1994~1995) "in constant times as different as those of humans (the time Gf language and the time of respiration), that of whales (the 'spectral time of sleep rhythms) and that of birds or insects (extremely contracted time where the borders become blurred)," explains the composer. Delicate 'violence ar,d realtfatse nature In the same way that the scenes of slight "catastrophes' suspended by the mathematician Rene Thorn or in the same tendency manifested in the pictures showing the imprecise crossing of the border from indigo to violet in the experiments of Newton on the dispersion of light, some


P. A. Ctlslauel

pages from Criseys work di creetly reveal the inde cribable paradox or the impossible dialectic. lour, Conire-jour (1978-1979) is an exact image of a quasi-virtual passage of the progression 'from daily time to musiral time,' As in Pariiels the imagination perceives the timbral lighting, in extremely special halftone colors, as sweeping movements from shadow to clarity, exposing impressions of a jumble, now nocturnal, now diurnal. Le Nair de I'Etoile (1989-1990), written for si percussionists placed around the audience, integra res into the sonic discourse a fill ic created by the speed of rotation of two pulsars (the residue of a Super Nova): one called Vela (in French) was prerecorded and the other is captured 'Jive' by radio telescope. The troubling. effect o.f the re-transmitted periodico-astronomic sound of this neutron star comes in part from. the fact that the sounds are the result of the audible transcoding of the electromagnetic waves that make up <.I, portion of- the star's 'light' .and also because the sounds that have finally become audible hOI ve taken at least fifteen thousand years to reach us, For those wanting to study more Iosely Grlsey' continuous transitions, his parametric dovetailing OJ:' his aesthetic mediations} all iII depth study of Portiels or Tale« might prove useful. Concerning Particle, and outside of the analysis of the classic parameters, an informed listener could concentrate OJ1 the following dichotomies (see the table below):

dynml7ic pole





strict no ttltion repetition ad-Lib.


non-pulsated agog-if

kine.t-ic, spaho-f:mLpOI:af activity

passive (fermata) active SOllie gel7.esis

sometimes free

sometimes free poly-tempi aesthetic
organic; nature


biomorph (natural model) technomorph (electronic model}

artificial noise




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sound sinusoidal. noisy

timbve pure


homogeneous he terogeneous

consonant dissonant density

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dngle ound/two part spectral band ( 2 £I.) tutti - each instrument deploying its own network of harmonics

purification contamination by parasite

dynamic and timbric isual and scenic

More recently, Le Temps ei I' Ecunie (1988-1989) for four percussionists, two synthesizers and chamber orchestra contains pairs of mstrumerits rigorou Iy written in "false-unisons' or 'false-octaves.' Simjlaxly, Vortex Temporum U (1994;....1995)for sextet, leaves the pianist with the feeling of being free, but under surveillance as regards the means of circumscribing the metronomic stability: "to give the impression of hesitation to the tempo (accelerando 01: rallentando)" ... "to create a blurred periodicity using slight fluctuation around a constant," writes Crisey on the conductor's score, along with the dedication to Salvatore



Gerard Crisey looks for inspirationin the richness of extra-European art and philosophy: in this regard, the poly-metric ritual of Tempus ex uutcnina (j979) for six percussionists must be considered .as well as the spatial disposition and accumulating stratification of temporalities of L'lcone Pnraaaxale (homage to Piero della Francesca -1993-1994 for two women's voices and large orchestra divided into two groups). The Egyptian symbolic codification inspired by The Book oj the Dead was used in Anubis-Nout (1983-1988) and a desire to bring out the 'myth of

36 RA.


ispresent in Vo'tte;'CTemponsm III and in St,ele (1995). All of these examples serve as so many cultural clues to a need which is musical, above all else. Stele ~, duo for percussion dedicated to Dominique Troncin ~ bears aheading with the followingsymptomatic phrases: "How can, a cellular organization be made to emerge from a flow which obeys other laws? How can you sketch with precision and at the edge of silence, a rhythmic inscription, first indiscernible then finally in a11 archaic hammering? While composing, an image carne to me: that of archeologists discovering a stele and cleaning its surface until its funeral inscription becomes visible." See, in. Figure 2, the hi-temple use of the can trabass torn and very law bass drum extracted from Stele. The motion of the represented space is built LJPQn two simultaneous processes. The first rule governs the superposition of the different 'tempi (quarter note .""40 for the torn, quarter note« 450):' slower for the bass drum); the second controls.the evolution towards disappearance of the rhythmic cells that nourish it (longer and longer rl1ythmic values fbI the torn, a cellular game of variable durations with stopping points for the bass drum). Grisey is no stranger to thesecular archetypes of occidental music, either. To illustrate this, take Modula_tions (1976-1977), for example. A canon of neumes crystallizes in a polyphony of blocks.in which can be observed the independence of structural models. Additionally; the application 'in situ' of the medieval idea of the iale« influencing the disassociation of rhythms and pitches! the color, is manifested in Taiea (1986). Remember that Michael Levinas wrote something along the same order with Arsis and Thesis :in 1971. We should also try to understand the Gl'iseyist idea of (re)considering the aura of sympathetic resonance that is wrapped around the ancient notion of monody in Prologue (1976.),the first piece of the EspaceS Aco'llstiques, Looking through this prism, with its almost didactic connotations, the presence of zones of coherence can be seen ~ dose in some ways to the ancestral apparatus of occidental tonalify - within the complex stratagraphy that sculpts the interior of
duration' Vortex TempCmll1'l (1994-1995). We

finally judge the lyrical interplay

of duplication, spectral ambiguity,ambiva1.ence and. consonance in L'Tc61:1_ePar61doxale '(1.993-1994). In that recent work, the orchestra is spatialized as two times two ensembles: the large orchestra is divided into low instruments and high ones and a small phalanx 'is split into two symmetrical g)"Oupswhich envelope the two female voices, A close relation is created to the visualIogic of Fiero della Francesca's fatT1QUS painting, La Ma.domwd'el Paru: Explicit references are given by Grisey in the title, through the distribution of the orchestral ensembles also through the structure of the piece. Whlle the ferm of the work 'traces rna






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make up the middle section,' the temporal material foliated into different levels as in Vortex Temporum - uses here 'the proportions which underlie the composition of the fresco: 3-5-8-12.; The composer explains that in this way the Time 1 istextremely compressed.' High pitched instruments of the large orchestra playa coinpressed version of the entir piece in 16 seconds, "like the view of a painting from very far away, where' only a vague distribution of colors and forms can he distinguished." This reduction in format is perceived through fragmentary progressions and repetitions. Time IJ tries to be 'linguistic.' With the accompaniment of the small orchestra, the soprano and mezzo-soprano perform a slow evolution, starting from vowels and moving toward consonants, from color to attain noise-like sounds, sustained. notes standing against the rhythms. In opposition. to the timbral principals of Time I, Time m is somewhat related to the linguistic content of Time il, but dilated. Here, it is the low instruments of the large instrumental gxOLlp that "articulates in slowmotion the 'noise' of consonants €ontained in the different signatures of Piero della Francesca (in Latin andItalian):" Diametrically opposed to the radicality of Time 1, "Time IV is extremely dilated." The entire large orchestra presents a slow spectra] punctuation which, from the beginning to the end of the piece, as always in Grisey's music, determines the pre ence of the different harmonic fields. Gerard Crisey concludes the prefatory notes to [/Ico1'1e Paradaxale in this way: "When Time nand Time III cross at the intersection of the diagonals, a continuous and periodic rotation invades the entire available sonic space." The score ends with a th.ree part temporal foliation (an accumulation f times I, II and N) followed by a short coda recapitulating all the spectral material '

The measured passage of the cel1hll'y and history

The recent pieces of Tristan Murail avoid a priori processes that are too clearly predictable hom the outside. If musical content seems to have calmeda bit, while still continuing its evolution within. the directional time of spectral music, form seems to have become truly more complex. Analyze, for example, the Lise of the principal of fractals in Serendib for 22 instruments (1991-1992) the creation of a paradoxical flow (impact of the micro-logic and a udden bifurcation of the macro-formal structure) in La Dyull/1'lique des Fluides for orchestra (1992), the deavageof the structural layout for Ln Barque Mystique for quintet (1993) 0)" the rhythmic


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vortexes (organized by the idea of a spiral.centered on multiple ostinati) 1r1 La ManiiJ'agr5're for piano (1993). Hugues Dufourt works with a new typology of duration, transgressing the strictures of traditionally assignable forms. In the same w.ay as for a pagan ritual, he tries to suppress all external references. and all articulationswhlch are too connotated, Look at the extreme auto development in the progression 'of the Philosoph« eelo» Rembrandt for orchestra (1987-1992), at tile. intcl.ligent manipulations of parametric perspective in 171'e. Water'Y Star for octet (J.993)erasill,g, at once harmony; timbre and pulse to create theinextricabUls of instrumental fusion. At the recent pr,emiere of L'Espace aux Ombres (1994-1995), the composed evoked the quarrel which has framed the last ten yeats modernism VB. post-modernism. According to Dufourt, this conflict can doubtlessly find a "constructive solution," leading to a "synthesis of styles" and giving birth to "an original from of art." 011e of thereal problems facing current musical creation is "that of re-using tradition." "The relation. to past attachments. does not, however, cry out for vain repetition. On the contrary, it has become essential. to re-evaluate the craft of musical composition, to pick back up the threadof history, with neithereclecticism nor tech.. ical n obsession.' In firr~, the basic question presented by the authoref L'f.{el-/'re ·des Traces Was phrased in the following way: "How (an we renew om relationship with tradition without giving these renovations a traditional form?" Gerard Grisey solemnly swore to us that, like many people today.be has stopped believing in an tnfiuitely rosy future and that the notion of "enlarging the field of consciousness in concentric circles" seems to have become preferable, today, to that of. progress. Following Dufourt's example, Levinas seems to have kept some distance hom the ardent flames of technology to embrace the acoustic body inits brute form, free from the artifice of Magical Electricity Moreover, while Dufourt thinks that 'the orchestra is still the best synthesizer we have,' Cri:sey ismoving slowly away from the sphere of art-scienee in which he had total confidence in earlier decades (19705-19805). Today, Gdsey tends to. denounce the plethora of orgiastic sounds and the almost unlimited breadth of scale systems which, according to him, willnot necessarily produce viable long-term solutions. Thus history has .. ever stopped following ils long; chaotic but unintern rupted, rocket ride of referential or even irreverentevents, If serious listening to Le Temps e1 I'Ecum,e by Crisey evokes a certain heritage from Debussy; scrutinizing certain pages of Im;lIi, CBl1.tre-jou.'r inevitably calls to mirtd a certain kinship to Ligeti. In this way, leaving the circular matrix that encloses the ideas of Messiaen and Stockhausen, camped at theend of a boundary Iine Iinkir... the three 'eas' (Debussy, Scelsi and g


P. A. Cdot(in~1

Ligeti], Grisey searches, listens, evolves, lives and opens. "You have to ope.nup in order to live better within the enclosed gardel:L of sonic images. Listen then rnedita te, then listen again,' ad vises the composer of Chants de l'Arno'utin an article printed in the Cahiere du Renerd. In this way, otherunexpectedinfluences have marked the pieces with a more recent spectral 'essence: from the rhythmic sedimentation, that comes from extra-European musical practices, to the original COncept of vertiginous repetition, d.ear to Morton Feldman, passing through the incisive rapidity of short objects in the manner of Janacek, or the swirling treatment of distinctive material in the manner of a Ravel quotation for VOl'te..·c : Tempon.lI11I, II- III' ... to be continued: Raymond Queneau wrote, during World War II, that the truly gTea,t history was the history of inventions. "It is they which provoke history, based on statistical, biological and geographic data'{ ... At the dawn of the XXIst century and in our specialty, might we not add to this perspective credo the adjective 'musicological'?

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