Reflexion about music with electronics

The development of a musical writing based on the use of electronics defines a singular framework both in the imaginary and in the concrete realization. The catalog I have been developing for fifteen years is mainly focused on this musical category, which is called mixed music and which operates the meeting between instrumental writing and electronics (real-time processing, soundtracks, amplification ). Initially, the use of electronics could be understood quite simply as an extension of the instruments, like for example a spectral extension. But electronic resources are larger than a mere extension of instrumental thinking, and they have a wide history that began with the electric revolution in the 1950s.

One of the essential aspects is the use of the microphone and thus the amplification of the instruments. A composer like Lachenmann freed the instruments of their use by masterfully clearing a universe extended to all possible noises, friction, breath, squeaks so that his music has been described as "instrumental concrete". But this step of a careful listening of the instrumental grain can remain more or less "utopian" in its perceptive dimension. The use of the microphone, although judged by some as the antinomic same of the instrumental sound production, allows on the contrary to enter even more in the matter, in the texture of the sound. The evolution of amplification techniques today allows us to go very deeply into sound that significantly changes the relationship to the instruments whose energy is strongly changing thanks to the microphone. In most of my works I seek to materialize an inner density of sound, precisely by using amplification and using it precisely in collaboration with the performers. This thought of amplification justifies all the more the use of objects, plates, wood, paper, skins ... which anecdotal status or even "exotic" (in the rather pejorative sense) find thanks to the listening and the close-up amplification a real reason to take part in the musical texture ...

Moreover, the electrified sound will be able to « dialog » with pre-recorded materials (soundtracks) insofar as, at the time of the concert, the instrumental sound is projected by the same sources as the electroacoustic material. Stockhausen has shown in many works that one could write also a kind of "amplification trajectory" using filters, modulators and other treatments. The grain of the sound, like the grain of the voice becomes palpable under the fingers of the one who broadcasts and an additional interpreter comes into play, operating the mixing in real-time sources. In pop/rock music, it's been common for several decades and all sources are mixed towards loudspeakers. The pure presence of acoustic disappear.

In the field we are dealing with, a very interesting link will remain with the acoustic level since it is rare that the electric sound, in contemporary music, completely covers the acoustics (contrary to rock or jazz most of the time). And this connexion between the two universes, acoustic and amplified, is extremely rich as a metaphorical disappearance of the sound source. It seems to me that the theatrical dimension of mixed music, finds one of its most singular effects: the ambiguity of the source. This ambiguity constantly raises the question of the origin of the sound and therefore of the role of the body on stage. In my first opera, created in February 2011, I used a lot this perspective: designing sound spaces where singers were amplified and mixed with their own voices, previously recorded and distorted as avatars. Beyond the spatial efficiency, harmonic and mass effects, this sometimes results in this loss of reference in the listener who is no longer attached to « source » of the sound but moreover its interior life.

Finally, and this is very characteristic of my work, diversity of sounds and sources also makes it possible to develop references that address memory directly, through the use of evocative, culturally meaningful sounds, regardless of their immediate context. I really like, for example, recording texts, bits of words, kinds of vocal ghosts that "haunt" the music like another presence: that of a humanity captured by the machine (a very contemporary metaphor finally!) and that of a semantic sensation which, even if it escapes us, ends up occupying, somewhere our mind, acting on an unconscious or emotional level that we can not directly relate to the music itself. This singularity is simply an issue of bringing out homogeneous and composed discourse, fragments, traces, porosities that weave matter from other, sensitive paths.

Published in Revue et Corrigée #91 - 2012