Commission: Ministère de la Culture et des Communications du Québec
Commissioned in January of 2004 by the Quebec ministry of culture, this work was composed as a test piece for clarinet graduate students, in response to a request from Nicolas Desjardins (director of the Quebec conservatory system). It is part of a cycle of works for solo instruments called Danses des Hauteurs, in which each piece is infused with a strong sense of rhythm and an overall motion towards the upper pitch registers. Each work also refers to a signal composition for the featured instrument. Here I drew inspiration from the image of a goose dreaming of a final flight that, after a low pass over the earth, would lead it beyond the clouds to the cherished stars it contemplated from below. This image fell naturally in line with a theme of desire for birth that emerges from Pierre Perrault’s Plus que Naître (from Ballades du Temps Précieux, 1963)—the source for the poetic verse that serves as a title for my composition. The music is replete with beating wings, gliding patterns and cries that play on registral leaps. It is as though, even in mid-flight, the goose was continually casting an eye above and below, measuring the path taken and the distance ahead. The allusions to Messiaen (L’Abîme des Oiseaux ) and to three short clarinet pieces by Stravinsky came of their own volition—proof that this goose is both cultured and endowed with a sense of humour. This work is dedicated to André Moisan, with thanks for the judicious advice he offered me during the compositional process, as well as Nicolas Desjardins, who was a clarinetist in his adventurous youth.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009