Play audio clip


Most likely of English origin, the French term contredanse might well be a distortion of the name for a 16th-century village dance (“country dance”). As part of the development of the suite (the first organised style of purely instrumental music) in England, France, Italy and Germany, the spirit of the contredanse has inspired many a composer for lute and later keyboard.

But what about this Contredanse… that of the silène Badouny (du silène Badouny)?

We might perhaps concede that the lively and somewhat unpolished character of the orinigal dance peeks through a bit… Actually, it is literally a “dance of two hands”, with very rapid and slightly asymmetric mechanical alternation between the pianist’s two hands. It is based entirely on a micro motif of seven sixteenth notes shared between both hands which, moreover, play in ranges that are quite extended. Almost the entire piece is based on tiny fragments, truncated repetitions, inversions, diminutions, displacements and concatenations: a building game assembling mini-blocks that are all similar but all different, too…

This way of doing things brings to mind several literary processes, like puns and word games. And, indulging in lexical derivations of the word contredanse, we can allow meaning to vary with connotations, quickly obtaining contrepèterie (spoonerism, a transposition of letters and syllables), contre-pied (taking the opposite view), contresens (the opposite meaning), and even contrefaçon (forgery). Would it be possible to “contrefaire” (counterfeit) a contredanse?… recalling that Boris Vian enjoys using contredanse to mean contravention (a fine)… And this brings us quite naturally to other similar processes like the palindrome, the calligramme, the acrostic and, stretching the analogy further, the portmanteau word, alliteration and even the anagram… And while in this mode, we could rapidly go back to the source of the silène Badouny by rearranging the letters forming the composer’s name…

But I really have to stop here because reading this text in musical jargon could take more time than the length of the musical work itself… And this would be contraindicated

Denys Bouliane, Cologne, 2002