trombone and orchestra

Commission: Association musique nouvelle en liberté, Académie Ravel (Saint-Jean de Luz, France)

Composed in 1994, Watt had its premiere on June 1, 1995, with Alain Trudel and the Nevada Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Virko Baley, and was awarded a prize at the 45th session of the International Tribune of Composers (UNESCO) in June 1998. Bastien Gallet provides this description of Watt, inspired by Samuel Beckett’s novel of the same name:

«Everything begins with an inventory. Each one draws up a detailed list of his possessions, as though on the point of stepping over the line that marks out the shade of definitive enterprises… The trombone is alone; its groanings resound on the tapestried walls of the dark room. From a lower floor, echoes are heard, deformed, as if his stammerings were being replayed en masse.

The trombone communicates with the orchestra of the interior, for, like the Leibnizian monad, it has neither doors nor windows. It’s from the murky depths of lairs that they weave their characteristics and their roles, and that, through some mysterious underground passageway, they lay the foundation for storming the light. Pascal Dusapin erects a musical character on his tritones. Only, he’s a bit dizzy; his outlines are wanting in distinctness; it happens even that he wails like a newborn. Watt’s trombone is a monad waiting for God to bring it into existence, an actor looking for his role, a character in search of memory, which he must invent just as he was invented for the needs of an eponymous piece.

The future of the soloist is his own past, or someone else’s, which he causes to gush forth from a place where everyone indifferently blends together. What awaits him is not part of his possessions (what’s needed for that to happen is the voice of Alain Trudel, above – on this side of – the instrument and the piccolo flute that he doubles). What awaits him at the detour (a little before the middle of the piece) comes from farther away than his murky depths, is not of him but comes to him…. A ritornello. The trombone becomes a child, a forgetting and a new start, a first movement, a game. Watt is music itself.»

Performance