soprano and chamber orchestra

Commission: SMCQ, with support from the CCA

Premiere: March 3, 2006, MusiMars 2006: Aurores boréales, Salle Pollack — Pavillon Strathcona — Université McGill, Montréal (Québec)

This project originated in two sources: First, a dream in which the world is divided between an infinitely large spirit (the Angel), and a tiny mute being (Thing), in a type of encounter that most nearly resembles a break-in (in Argot: un casse). Second, echoing the sentiments of the dream, my own return to the idea that death is an omnipresent aspect of Quebec culture (recall here Aquin, Gauvreau, Vivier, Nelligan, etc.)—that we are, as a result, continually constrained to the expression of sorrow, as though we were irrevocably tied to the gates of death and dying in all its forms (either real or metaphoric), and that the pursuit of a personal style, like any danger, leads more or less to every type of loss possible (mental, physical, social, etc.) Thus it seems to me that by opposition with the Orpheus myth, our “artistic territory” is a place of no return, on the other side of the river Styx, and that we remain suspended in the cemetery of our “heroes.” It is morbid imagery that we speak of very little, sociological specter or taboo that nonetheless feeds off a troubling past. As a result I decided to create a musical work that would instill a more positive symbolic balance in the face of our “macabre ritornello.” I invented a place where it would be definitely possible to represent our return from the other side of the river, a triumph over this painful image of death that has adhered to our creative experience. This work is intended as a depiction of sorts of survival, a symbolic liberation from sorrow, and deliverance from alienation and destruction. Since it will be given here in an unstaged version, and because the narrative character of the music depends heavily on this aspect of the original work, the text-music relationships may seem abstract. It is perhaps best to think of this version as a dreamlike sequence of “song tableaux.” Many thanks to Marie-Hélène Parant for her remarkable contribution. Even though we are to be deprived of the visible part of her contribution (the media staging), I would like to acknowledge it here as an inseparable aspect of the work, in the hope that audiences may one day be able to appreciate the piece in the fullness of its expression. SCMQ’s commissionned—Thanks to a grant by the Canada Council for the Arts.

Performance

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