A concert said to be contemporary

Modifié le : 2016/09/16

Last Fri­day, I attend­ed a con­cert where my teacher Vin­cent Ranal­lo “per­formed.” The pro­gram revolved entire­ly around four works by Xenakis, and, for the con­clu­sion, a com­po­si­tion by Que­bec com­pos­er Gabriel Dufour-Laper­rière, a con­cert orga­nized by ECM.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been “con­front­ed” with con­tem­po­rary music. I knew no more than that about the work of Xenakis, a lead­ing fig­ure in musi­cal explo­ration in the mid­dle of the 20th century.

If the per­cus­sion works impressed me, if Vin­cen­t’s vocal prowess made the spir­it of a piece that escaped me (the whole para­dox of con­tem­po­rary works, I think), if the com­po­si­tion of the ele­gant Dufour-Laper­rière (I know I’m super­fi­cial) was lis­ten­able, and if the audi­ence BCBG-BOBO-hip­sters shout­ed bra­vo while sit­ting well in their chairs, I left the musi­cal expe­ri­ence, with a strange fatigue of the mind.

My teacher promised me a “wild” and orig­i­nal con­cert. From the out­set, on the pro­gram, I was warned that there was no ani­mal­i­ty except in the cere­bral expres­sion of it and that Alice Ron­fard signed a “put in space.” Some­times, if you don’t mere­ly name things, or because you have to jus­ti­fy your fee, you say feline instead of yelling at the cat. A more sig­nif­i­cant con­cern for the sound bal­ance would have been appre­ci­at­ed, because we some­times lost Vin­cen­t’s vocal sub­tleties, in favor of an omnipresent per­cus­sion, beau­ti­ful indeed, but too noisy. The place­ment in space some­what obscured the instal­la­tion in sounds.

I don’t want to be harsh. I enjoyed my evening, but I think that Xenakis’ music has sim­ply aged and Dufour-Laper­rière’s work is in line with the bureau­crat­ic and sub­si­dized con­cep­tu­al­iza­tion of con­tem­po­rary music that is meant to be explorato­ry, but that would stress any dairy cow that just wants to give its milk. We want to tell all these com­posers that we must move on to some­thing else, come back to the real cry, not just try to paint it, to get out of the box­es of rup­tures to com­mu­ni­cate more with humanity.

It seems to me that the soul is not there. Per­haps I was too imbued with the ani­mal and sound explo­rations of a Mered­ith Monk to appre­ci­ate the quan­tum research of musi­cians such as Xenakis, whose works, in the end, invari­ably brought me back to Chi­nese, Japan­ese, sprin­kled with Greek and Bali­nese antiq­ui­ty, a form of rep­e­ti­tion, reread­ing, blah, blah, blah.

All of this made sense, we under­stand, all of it was pro­fes­sion­al and demand­ing. All this was “ring­ing.” And who am I to speak like that ? Noth­ing but noth­ing. And I prob­a­bly don’t under­stand any­thing but noth­ing. Pop music is not bet­ter for me, it’s prob­a­bly worse for my ears. More “sim­ple,” “zen” com­posers have appeared in the set­ting of con­tem­po­rary music, Pärt, Lau­rid­sen, Taven­er, Glass, which seem to me to be more attached to the skin and rhythm of men. I like to lis­ten to them again. It’s eas­i­er, probably…

If I smell the air of the times, I tell myself that spir­its, but espe­cial­ly hearts, need direc­tion, mean­ing, and phi­los­o­phy. All this seemed to me to be miss­ing dur­ing that evening, and it’s not bad either. I am an igno­rant per­son, of course, and I will be told that one does not pre­vent the oth­er, that there is room for everything.


I admire these peo­ple who gave this con­cert. They are pas­sion­ate, whole, and con­vinc­ing in this tiny niche. To know one, I know how deep this work requires, and the qual­i­ty of their inter­pre­ta­tion is undeniable.

I final­ly say a lot about the empti­ness I feel. I guess my point has noth­ing to do with this con­cert after all.