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Music for Viola and Live Computer at La Maison Française

Christophe Desjardins, violist
Thursday evening, La Maison Française presented violist Christophe Desjardins and sound engineer Christophe Lebreton in a palatable program of works for viola and electronic effects. The main point of the program was to present Philippe Manoury’s Partita I (2007) for solo viola and live electronic effects – yes, “live” electronic effects. The French Ministry of Culture commissioned the work on behalf of GRAME -- with the help of IRCAM -- with the plan to tour it in performance throughout the United States and Mexico.

Manoury, a professor at the University of Southern California, San Diego, gave verbal program notes outlining the history of electronic music. With the performer no longer a “slave” to a fixed recording, computers now may also be an “interpreter” able to control sound quality; however, Manoury made clear that he would never want a machine to replace the human element of art. In other words, the computer in his works functions as an intermediary or instrument used by a performer. In the case of Partita I, the computer is able to record and synthesize (with the help of the sound engineer) the violist’s playing through a small device attached to the player’s finger.

The forty-five minute work begins with the computer mirroring what the violist Desjardins had played at about a twelve-second interval. Soon his virtuosic playing was layered upon itself to become seemingly multi-dimensional, speeding circularly around the room though well-placed speakers. Manoury created a mountainous stacking and reproduction of the soloist’s material into a harmonic whole. The piece was far from aleatoric, as Desjardins took all his instructions from the score. Long harmonic notes contrasted to quick pizzicato patterns were most striking. The versatility of the viola as an instrument served the work well.

With the feedback techniques perpetually changing, your reviewer eventually gave up trying to analyze the specifics of what was going on and just sat back to take in the experience. As the work built to its fullest point, a bounce of the bow created a percussive cacophony around the room, a strong pizzicato a huge violent commotion, and high tremolo chords sounded like low-flying jets passing over the Potomac. Desjardins remained poised and committed throughout the work. Only one person walked out, and that only about a minute before the work’s conclusion.

Other Reviews:

Aaron Grad, A "Partita" For Our Time (Washington Post, May 30)
This program of contemporary music was compact, with a twenty-five minute first half and second half of forty-five minutes. The concert opened with Sébastian Béranger’s Le Triangle de Pascal (2003) for solo viola and Gérard Grisey’s Progolue (1976) for solo viola and electronic effects. Béranger’s brief work featured many different percussive techniques for viola. Grisey featured the computer adding an exotic echo to Desjardin’s playing. More and more foreign overtones were added subtly; eventually noise overwhelmed the viola completely. Once outside of the auditorium in quietness, one felt changed after experiencing this impressive program.

The next concert at La Maison Française will feature the Trio Hantaï (June 11, 7:30 pm), with the three Hantaï brothers -- Jérôme Hantaï (viola da gamba), Marc Hantaï (flute), and Pierre Hantaï (harpsichord) -- playing a historically informed program of music by Couperin, Leclair, Marais, Telemann, Bach, and Rameau.


Nathan Brock said...

Manoury is at the University of California, San Diego, not the University of Southern California, SD (which doesn't exist). Just a brief correction.

learn and master guitar said...

Electronic music is really a great way to have a quality music. One of the great example is the guitar, see how technology make our lives great.