Magma - volcanic music


Magma is a composition for contrabass clarinet, stones, and live electronics.
I received the commission in 2003 from Ensemble Accroche Note (France) and the Dresden Centre of Contemporary Music (DZzM, Germany) for the exciting project ExperimentMusikTheater. This concert featured new music ensembles from several European countries.

The whole event took place in October 2003, during the 17th "Dresdner Tage der zeitgenössischen Musik", in the freshly rebuilt Hellerau. We spent a week of rehearsals with Armand Angster (clarinets), Françoise Kubler (voice, percussion), Jean-Daniel Hégé (double bass, stones), the dancer Michel Kelemenis, and the two other composers who wrote for the group, Philippe Legoff and Gérard Condé. The "bed and breakfast" was a place for creative discussions, while we ate an excellent rösti in the simple Swiss restaurant close to the concert hall.

The score of Magma gathers six classes of sounds:
Explosion - Ébullition - Expansion - Érosion - Effusion - Éruptions

  • Explosion: improvised overture.
  • Ébullition: a quadriphonic soundtrack of volcano sounds, that I realized in Kürten, Germany, during the summer 2003.
  • Expansion: six solos for contrabass clarinet. The sixth part covers four and a half octaves.
  • Érosion: seven parts for stones, from the first on beach stones to the last ones on fine sand.
  • Effusion: seven miniatures for contrabass clarinet, stones, and live electronics (for the concerts up to now, I realized the programs in the Max/MSP/Jitter environment.)
  • Éruptions: at any time, an improvised eruption may happen, initiated by either the clarinetist or the stone player.

The stone set includes mountain rocks, volcano lava, beach sand, as well as phonolites. Up to now, the stones used in the performances came from the French Alps, from the "Piton de la Fournaise" volcano in La Réunion (thank you Béatrice!), and from Brittany (sand from the "côte de granit rose"), while the phonolites came from Massif Central (many thanks to Louis Chouvet, who shared with me his passion for the region he knows so well. The picture shows us experimenting. Thanks also to my father, for boring holes in the stones, and others...)

In the "new music connoisseur" magazine, Anton Rovner found that Magma "combined a tasteful approach to novel sounds for electronics and a somewhat unusual instrument with a high sense of theatrical drama." Read the review of the complete event.

Magma has also been played by Ensemble In Extremis at the Musée d'Art Moderne et Contemporain de Strasbourg, with Thomas Monod, contrabass clarinet, Édith Le Rôle, stones, and myself, live electronics.

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