solo piano, flute (piccolo), 2 flutes, 3 oboes, clarinet (bass clarinet), clarinet (clarinet in E-flat), clarinet, 3 bassoons, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 2 trombones, bass trombone, 2 tubas and 6 percussions

Commission: SMCQ, with support from the CCA

Premiere: June 2, 1991, Concert 203, Hangar 9 — Quai King-Edward — Quais du Vieux-Port de Montréal, Montréal (Québec)

Musique du feu unfolds on several levels:

  • Sound: crackling, blowing, whirring;
  • Morphological: all forms of flames, short, long, forked, tapered, sparkly, tree-like, oscillating; and their spatial and rhythmic movements;
  • Thermal: radiation from a hearth (suns, stars).

Underlying all are the “Tongues of Fire” of Pentecost and an association is made with the Gregorian melody of the hymn VENI CREATOR SPIRITUS (“Come, Creator Spirit… living source, fire, love”). Always presented in bits and pieces, begun in excess, then dispersed in the sound matter. The last presentation alone is complete. The Livre de feu, Mozarabic miniatures of unusual strength created around the year 1000 AD and based on commentaries on the Apocalypse by a monk named Beatus, was most valuable and stimulating for me. Especially the highly stylized angels blowing on enormous trumpets (please check). I tried to imagine music for these images, what kind of sound they’d evoke.

Always starting from the extreme low register, movements with very slow orbs, ripped from immense flames rooted in the abyss. The velocity of the lively flames contrasts them, myriads of tapered rotating flares. If the fire is multiple it is simultaneously paradoxical and convivial, radiating heat, or the total destruction of life, leaving only vitrified ashes. Of the fire and its war images that remain with us we can say this. It is cold! In any case, fire transforms matter and consumes it. It also provokes a vacuum that fascinates. Rife with vehemence, like a tempestuous void sucked up by an absent F# followed by an F# in fullness, it dramatically reflects the fringes of nothingness, a dialectic of EMPTY and FULL.

Commissioned for the SMCQ’s 25th anniversary, this work is dedicated to all the SMCQ past and present artisans who, since its foundation, have kept the sacred fire alive.

Gilles Tremblay