Le Premier Jour

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General Infos
  • six voices 
  • 2015
  • 25′
  • texts by Proust’s Recherche 
  • commissioned by Musik der Jahrhunderte 
  • ESZ – Sugar Music

notes

Imagine giving to six persons a book and asking them to read it aloud for a few guests you have invited. The six (let’s call them the readers) open the book only to realize that yes, they can read it, but they don’t understand a single word. Nothing at all.

It seems like the meaning is gone, maybe it slipped away in the frantic movements of the paper sheets -the readers are panicking as they turn rapidly the pages hoping to make some sense of it all.

It’s too late to give up and it looks like the audience catches perfectly what the readers say

(which it doesn’t, but it would be rude to state differently!).

Steadily and slowly continuing in their performance, the readers get more comfortable with the text, a glimpse of understanding crossing their mind -totally wrong.

As they go on they acquire confidence, growing increasingly bolder and multiplying their efforts in pursuit of significance.

The audience is raptured.

As if by magic, words do begin to make sense, blooming into sentences, flowing like rivers across the public and opening in plains: the plains collide to create mountains and even further the riverbeds become streets in a beautiful city, a city of living tales merging and diverging in shouts and whispers…

The readers make their way to the central plaza where it suddenly dawn on them that the city with its rivers, mountains and plains is nothing but air, the breath coming from their lungs while they were reading. The book itself is just a monument, an effigy built to prove how books (and cities, rivers, plains or mountains) lack any sense.

In fact, the first impression was the very right: although rivers, cities, etcetera, etcetera seemed to exist – nothing but for a short while.

Now, switch this unknown language with Proust’s french to get a grip on how “Le Premier Jour” works.

Created by Serafini in 1976-78, the Codex is an illustrated encyclopedia counting eleven different sections, moving from botany, physics and mechanics to cookery, ethnology and architecture.

Exquisitely crafted drawings, not to mention a preface written by H. M. Italo Calvino, would have been enough to explain the enthusiastic and widespread appreciation of the first edition, but two other features made the Codex well known:

  • it depicts an insubstantial world inhabited by bleeding fruits and rainbow-weaving machines; it reveals how trees can learn to swim and careless lovers change into crocodiles.

  • the language filling the 400 pages of the encyclopedia is totally impenetrable: although an alphabet and a few occurrences are clearly distinguishable, any attempt to translate it failed.

In 2009, during a lecture at Oxford University Society of Bibliophiles, Serafini has eventually acknowledged (as expected!) that there is no hidden significance in those symbols.

The author’s intention was to recreate the feeling of a child inspecting a book for the first time or the astonishment of a barbarian entering a library: in both cases the subject can’t wrap his head around what he’s looking at, but he senses that those marks on the paper may have a meaning for someone else.

This idea is of primary importance in my score.

Codex-Seraphinianus-7

CODING THE CODEX

The Codex loses its opacity twice: there is a French quote halfway in the book, towards the end of a chapter on cultural anthropology. A man with a nib in place of his hand contemplates the sentence he has (probabily?) written. Scattered on the floor lie a few other french words.

The sentence reads 

 

fille orgiaque, surgie et devinée, le premier jour, sur la digue de Balbec

 

On the following page, the same man can be found skewered to death by a BIC pen. Some shreds of paper at his feet say :

 

statuaire, liade, souven, voici encore, yeux baissés, voire

 

Having found a single intelligible sentence in a 400 pages tome , I felt pushed to dig out its source. Google took me rapidly to this excerpt:

 

from “The Sweet Cheat Gone” by M. Proust

[…] l’Albertine réelle que je découvrais, après avoir connu tant d’apparences diverses d’Albertine, différait fort peu de la fille orgiaque surgie et devinée, le premier jour, sur la digue de Balbec et qui m’avait successivement offert tant d’aspects, comme modifie tour à tour la disposition de ses édifices, jusqu’à écraser, à effacer le monument capital qu’on voyait seul dans le lointain, une ville dont on approche, mais dont finalement, quand on la connaît bien et qu’on la juge exactement, les proportions vraies étaient celles que la perspective du premier coup d’œil avait indiquées, le reste, par où on avait passé, n’étant que cette série successive de lignes de défense que tout être élève contre notre vision et qu’il faut franchir l’une après l’autre, au prix de combien de souffrances, avant d’arriver au cœur

 


 

the real Albertine whom I discovered,after having known so many diverse forms of Albertine, differed very little from the young Bacchanal who had risen up and whom I had detected, on the first day, on the front at Balbec, and who had offered me so many different aspects in succession, as a town gradually alters the position of its buildings so as to overtop, to obliterate the principal monument which alone we beheld from a distance, as we approach it, whereas when we know it well and can judge it exactly, its true proportions prove to be those which the perspective of the first glance had indicated, the rest, through which we passed, being no more than that continuous series of lines of defence which everything in creation raises against our vision, and which we must cross one after another, at the cost of how much suffering, before we arrive at the heart

The words scattered on the ground appear later on the very same paragraph.

Serafini intentionally quoted the text and I was under the impression that I had found the key to disclose the Codex.

I subsequently tracked down every single occurrence of these words within “La recherche”.

Orgiaque produced a remarkable result, appearing only three times (excerpt above included).

The first emergence – in “Prisonnière” – is scarcely notable:

 

D’ailleurs, même en repensant par à-coups, par élancements, comme on dit pour les autres douleurs physiques, à cette vie orgiaque, qu’avait menée Albertine avant de me connaître, j’admirais davantage la docilité de ma captive et je cessais de lui en vouloir

 


Besides, even when I thought in fits and starts, in twinges, as we say of other bodily pains, of that orgiastic life which Albertine had led before she met me, I admired all the more the docility of my captive and ceased to feel any resentment

The other one – in “Within a budding grove” – is quite astonishing. It states the exact opposite of what has been written a thousand pages before, mantaining nonetheless a similar structure and metaphore.

 

Si peu plaisant que soit cet emploi de parfaitement, il indique un degré de civilisation et de culture auquel je n’aurais pu imaginer qu’atteignait la bacchante à bicyclette, la muse orgiaque du golf.

Il n’empêche d’ailleurs qu’après cette première métamorphose, Albertine devait changer encore bien des fois pour moi. Les qualités et les défauts qu’un être présente disposés au premier plan de son visage se rangent selon une formation tout autre si nous l’abordons par un côté différent – comme dans une ville les monuments répandus en ordre dispersé sur une seule ligne, d’un autre point de vue s’échelonnent en profondeur et échangent leurs grandeurs relatives. (…). Mais ce n’était qu’une seconde vue et il y en avait d’autres sans doute par lesquelles je devrais successivement passer. ainsi ce n’est qu’après avoir reconnu non sans tâtonnements les erreurs d’optique du début qu’on pourrait arriver à la connaissance exacte d’un être si cette connaissance était possible. Mais elle ne l’est pas ; car tandis que se rectifie la vision que nous avons de lui, lui-même qui n’est pas un objectif inerte change pour son compte, nous pensons le rattraper, il se déplace, et, croyant le voir enfin plus clairement, ce n’est que les images anciennes que nous en avions prises que nous avons réussi à éclaircir, mais qui ne le représentent plus.

 


 

However little to be commended this use of ‘perfectly’ may be, it indicates a degree of civilisation and culture which I could never have imagined as having been attained by the bacchante with the bicycle, the frenzied muse of the golf-course. Nor did it mean that after this first transformation Albertine was not to change again for me, many times. The good and bad qualities which a person presents to us, exposed to view on the surface of his or her face, rearrange themselves in a totally different order if we approach them from another angle — just as, in a town, buildings that appear strung irregularly along a single line, from another aspect retire into a graduated distance, and their relative heights are switched (…). But this was merely a second impression and there were doubtless others through which I was successively to pass. Thus it can be only after one has recognised, not without having had to feel one’s way, the optical illusions of one’s first impression that one can arrive at an exact knowledge of another person, supposing such knowledge to be ever possible. But it is not; for while our original impression of him undergoes correction, the person himself, not being an inanimate object, changes in himself, we think that we have caught him, he moves, and, when we imagine that at last we are seeing him clearly, it is only the old impressions which we had already formed of him that we have succeeded in making clearer, when they no longer represent him.

FSPV, capitolo I. Il frigo presenta una serata di gala

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General Infos
Forse sono proprio vermi, 1.

Ogni forma di vita, ogni piccola forma di vita

Prima o poi finisce lunga distesa
Effe mangia i cavalli, si rotola nel letto
Il cavallo scalpita, i sonagli squillano
Le zanzare intonano Cavalleria Rusticana
Effe pensa agli scarafaggi in cantina
Buon appetito, dodici chilogrammi di lenzuola

Sei un naftalinaburger nel tuo letto
Guardi il sofftto fusa con la tua
spremuta di compensato
Ti dibatti come una mosca nella tela, pensi:

Quell’armadio è così brutto
Quel comodino così sfrontato
Nella sua
Ributtante vernice verde pisello
Alzati Effe, alzati e cammina
Risorgi dalle tue ceneri
Carnosa escrescenza del tuo letto
Rotola fuori, ecco così, no!
Cade dal letto, si piscia addosso
Frigna e si succhia il dito
Effe non cambi mai
Attenta a dove metti i piedi
Non accettare caramelle dagli sconosciuti
Ma nemmeno tutte le altre cose.

 

Gli scaffali
Devono essersi
Gonfati gli scaffali
Non sembrano nemmeno di compensato ikea

truciolato carne di bambino thai non più
I libri come tanti dentini voraci
Ballano sugli scaffali
Maestra mi dondola il dente
Uno alla volta cadono tutti
Si spezza il cuore e trascina membrane

Gommosi embrioni nei sacchetti
Mi cola il latte fno alle ginocchia
Sento solo che sono sveglia e spalancata

Dentro è tutto un grumo raggrinzito,
mi alzo,
il cucchiaio è nella gola
ma il grumo resta là, mi sfda.
I libri da riordinare
il più grande, il più piccolo
ci cammino sopra e sparisco
il frigo presenta una serata di gala
signore e signori benvenuti
ecco un petto di pollo
un barattolo di pesto
un congiuntivo e il corpo di cristo
si chiude il freddo sipario
“ritorna a letto Effe
cuciti gli occhi col cotone
fai tanti sogni fritti fritti fritti”
taci, frigo, taci, mostro sotto il letto
mi avvolgo nel lenzuolo
faccio numero otto passi
ed esco dalla finestra.

Lorem Ipsum

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General Infos
  • mezzo, ensemble & electronics
  • 2012
  • 11′
  • commisioned by Radio France, Alla Breve broadcast
  • ESZ – Sugar Music

Lorem Ipsum has been deeply inspired by the works of D. F. Wallace and T. Pynchon, a postmodern route through a labyrinth assembled with “impossible” texts: the standard version of Lorem Ipsum (a sample text used in printing layout setup) Luigi Serafini’s Codex Seraphinianus and Ma fin est mon commencement by Guillaume de Machaut.

 

The fundamental weakness of these texts, whereas they don’t have (almost) any meaning, becomes the cornerstone of an unlikely library of Babel, a tower where nothing is what it seems, a haunted house from where to sense the surroundings and catch a few glimpses of our world

further infos

 click →→→→←↓

for the whole version of Lorem Ipsum on France Musique, with an interview in french

  • recording credits: Johanna Brault, Mezzo. Ensemble Court Circuit

AMGD

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General Infos
  • 5 voices, 2 percussionists
  • 2012
  • 60′ (first version)
  • 45′ (second version)
  • commissioned by Biennale di Venezia and Musik der Jahrhunderte,

    with the support of UE ENPARTS project

  • unpublished

c/o Ru de Courtablon, près la Mare Chaudron

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General Infos
  • baryton, counter tenor and ensemble
  • 2010
  • 22′
  • texts: 6 Mirlitonnades, by Samuel Beckett
  • unpublished

The word “Mirlitonnades” is a coinage forged by Beckett on the expression “vers de mirliton” (easy verses, tasteless rhymes). Due to the the obsessive abundance of repetitions, alliterations and assonances, these compositions could actually look like nursery rhymes. It is only upon closer examination that the reader unfolds the quantity of hidden references and thus their true opulence.

Rather than nursery rhymes, Mirlitonnades are enigmatic images, veiled and ever-changing questions; facing them means to transmute our relationship with the language and the world behind it.

 

In this work I tried to remain faithful to Beckett’s purposes, at the cost of immediate comprehension of his texts. In each movement the two singers declaim two different poems, in some kind of musical mise-en-scene: the characters look oblivious to the meaning of the text and to the reason they are singing it.

Nevertheless they can’t stop reciting, crushing, repeating and shouting their lines.

This curse to repetition is reaffirmed by the musical forms that I have chosen for each movement: a ciaccona where a series of consequent auditory layers, arranged according to an imaginary perspective, gradually shatters and disperses; a rondò where iteration soon becomes a threatening and claustophobic circle, interrupted by an intermezzo. Here, the vectors from the previous movements can finally interact and collide, emerging in the last, weary reprise of rondò.