for saxophone quartet – 2012, ca. 11’
Ricordi Germany publisher: Sy. 4226

in memoriam Julien Copeaux (1975-2003)

UA: 27. April 2013, Wittener Kammermusik Festival, Witten, Germany ; Saxophonquartet Xasax

Program note:
When I look back on my first saxophone quartet, Durch, in memoriam Gérard Grisey, composed fifteen years ago, I realise how far I have come as a composer, but I retain one constant: the attempt over all these years to construct a ‘cognitive music’, that is to say a music perceived not as a signal by the ear, but as a succession of ‘cognitive schemata’ (in the sense of the swiss psychologist Jean Piaget) perceived by the brain. In practice, this means playing on expectations, surprises, analogies, ambiguities and other double-perceptions of language elements.

The great tonal musics and those of other cultures can then serve as a model: the underlying languages are cognitively effective not because they are functional, but because they play magnificently on analogies, ambiguities and other double perceptions: from the major/minor analogies of early tonal music to the ambiguous play between counterpoint and harmony in Wagner, from the added sixths and other Neapolitan sixths of the classical composers to the harmonic ambiguities in Schumann that often confuse, from the very beginning of the piece, the understanding of the main tonality: one could reread the whole history of music from this perspective of cognitive misleading.

This means that the composer must invent and patiently construct his or her own language articulations, avoiding two extremes: on the one hand, saturating perception with analytical complexity on paper, where the work becomes perceptibly incomprehensible, incompressible, and ultimately unintelligible; on the other hand, drowning in the borrowings of functionalities from past languages, losing their aura and the strength of their ambiguity. In other words, it seems to me that the composer must force himself/herself both to take risks while taking the risk that this will be understood.

Towards the door we never opened is no exception to this long-standing obsession of mine: a harmonic and rhythmic language of its own, patiently constructed over the past 15 years, with the aim of providing the linguistic substratum for exchanges of voices, subtle games of counterpoint and false evidence to disturb perception at the cognitive level.

The work was written in memory of Julien Copeaux, a magnificent composer who died too soon.

(…) What might have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.
Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden. My words echo
Thus, in your mind.
But to what purpose
Disturbing the dust on a bowl of rose-leaves
I do not know. (…)

T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets