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‘An inner travel diary This is what ‘Love Songs’ wants
The voyages the great voyages always remain
Contemplation of inner universes
The poverty that hurts
The dictatorships that dishonour
And the smile of a child listening to music
Such are my travels
Such are my memories
And my cries of horror or tenderness
‘Love Songs’ is one of tenderness’
wrote Vivier.

Love Songs incarnates the powerful symbol of love, through the evocations of mythical heroes (Romeo and Juliet, Tristan and Isolde) as well as of childhood, hummed in tales and nursery rhymes (as in Love, the second part of Journal). A score of speech and gestures: intensity, nuance, tone, rhythm, sound effects, word, phrase, movement, speed—everything is orchestrated and instrumented in such a way that the emotions sing. The means employed are of all types: musical, when they make light of range, highly contrasted dynamics and sound planes (e.g., whisperings covered by ‘terrible laughs’), plays of timbres (like the one generated by the whistling in perfect homorhythmic style with a voice that sings, or else quite varied coloration of tremolos), prosodic speeds (that can go as far as hysteria, as in the first part), giving the impression of different tempi; or poetic when the emotions (moaning, laughter, fear, love…), coloured by whistling, breaths or coughs, structure the musical articulation, when gesture-lyrics punctuate the sequences (stop! hu-hum! appeals), or that the affective resonance of the words vibrates like music (‘don’t leave me alone…’); poetic-musical, when they roll up in the repetitive rhythms of childhood and hum the refrains of the collective memory; or else when tears are ‘musicalised’ (the other way round of lamento style) against a background of Requiem aeternam. And the ‘pure’ music that, in three melodies, pierces this buzzing and often febrile sound background: diffuse and in the background as concerns the first, while the last two, entangled, advance to the front of the stage, a rare luminous garland in this agonising search for love. From a structural point of view, German accentuates the important moments (a reference to Tristan?). Present from the very beginning, it punctuates the end of the first part and starts the second before fading out in favour of a Slavic and an ‘invented’ language… From a compositional point of view, Love Songs treats the vocal elements like ‘sound objects’. The piece introduces its raw matter: tenuto sounds with or without tremolos, coughs, phrases, calls, breaths and glissandi. Their various associations (collage technique) give a pulsation to this beginning. Then the loop process is established and will inhabit the whole score: the principle of reiteration, an allusion to childhood, is soothing in that it engenders stability. As soon as they are superimposed, the loops etch a music in which several levels of existence rub shoulders (each loop is a world in itself), in a diversity of tempi and articulations whose sole link is the principle of periodicity; a studied arrangement of sound planes can create effects of perspective that give volume to a projected space in an essentially linear fashion. By making language one of the foundations of his structure, Vivier transcends the naturalism inherent in this approach into an essentially musical act; he roots out the inner music of words and confronts them, jostling them together, superimposing them, but rarely making them blend. Sweetness? There is none. Except in Varouchka, the penultimate song, where the music adopts a melodic curve of such tenderness and nostalgia that it leaves us with a feeling of irremediable loss. For Love Songs ends with an acknowledgement of failed success. As if the composer, full of burning dreams and ‘dreamt planets”, had felt in vain a garden rustle, there, within reach of breath, without ever managing to accede to it. It seems to be of some other destiny, that which is able to open the doors to the luminescence of life.

Christine Mennesson

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