Taléa ou la machine et les herbes folles (1985-86)

Gérard Grisey

flute (piccolo, flute in G and bass flute), clarinet (clarinet in A and bass clarinet), piano, violin, and cello

Commission: Radio France

Talea, in Latin, means cut. In medieval music, it is a repeating rhythmic pattern supporting a repeating pattern of pitches, similar or not to the first, named “color”. Such dissociation of pitches and durations can also be found in 20th century music.

The idea of cutting that stems from the initial movement, the different rhythmic patterns being in or out of sync, as well as the two-part structure, of which the second could easily be named “color”, gave me the idea for this quintet’s title. In Talea, I’m dealing with two aspects of the musical language, rapidity and contrast, from which I had been taken away by my research on instrumental synthesis, microphonics and adjacent transformations.

Talea is composed of two parts, linked with no interruption, expressing two aspects, or rather two acoustic angles of a same phenomenon. A single intention (presto, fortissimo, ascending, lento, pianissimo, descending) is presented throughout the first part with average durations, and then is eroded until contrasts have been leveled. In the second part, it deals with the sequences’ succession and great forms. Polyphonic in the first part, the movement becomes homophonic in the second.

From a perceptual point of view, I see the first part as a relentless process, a true machine designed to create the freedom that will emerge in the second part. The second part’s process is actually pierced with more or less irrational appearances, sort of reminders of the first part, colored little by little by the new context until they can’t be recognized anymore. These wild flowers and grasses, grown into the cracks of the machine, will keep growing and overflow until they’ve given an entirely unexpected color to the sections they’ve interfered with.

(Source: Ircam; traduction Frédéric J. Victor Faugeron)