cello and 8 flutes

Commission: Ensemble de flûtes Alizé, Véronique Lacroix, with support from the CCA

Premiere: November 8, 2005, Mariève Bock, cello; Ensemble de flûtes Alizé; Véronique Lacroix, conductor • Concert, Église Saint-Pierre-Apôtre, Montréal (Québec)

Inspired by Jean de Lafontaine’s fable, my approach for this piece was to musically evoke not only the literary and formal aspect’s of the fable, but also more importantly the playfulness that this genre exerts in the human sphere. Since the goal is not to moralize but to criticize impostures that seem natural, these fables retain a remarkable degree of timelessness. While composing this work I relied on three main themes:

  1. the co-existence of the moral story, the human animal, and pleasurable instruction;
  2. the idea of opposition, like the confrontation of musical elements;
  3. sound spatialization. The idea of the co-existence of elements emerges through the unfolding of the many characters in the cello’s solitary monologue that opens the piece. The notion of opposition is evoked as the solo instrument is confronted by a mass of flutes, and through the various play of the instruments’ timbres. I devoted particular attention to the idea of spatialization in the construction of the mass of flutes, through the launching of a common range or gesture that moves within the flute ensemble. This movement of a musical gesture seeks to create an echo effect through a play of imitation and repetition that creates greater density within the sonic mass and renders it almost noisy.

The piece is structured around the main characters whose task is to sustain the plot—as they do in Lafontaine’s text. Formally, the cello’s initial solo, the alto flute-cello dialogue that follows it, and the invasion of the dialogue by the flute ensemble that ensues, mirrors the fable’s structure. At the same time, throughout the piece the cello’s music transforms through the gradual simplification of its materials. Stripped of its inventory of sound colours and reduced to a grainy sound, at the end of the piece this instrument speaks in a dark, quasi-lyrical tone. This work was commission by the Alizé flute ensemble and Véronique Lacroix with the help of the Canada Council for the Arts. It was premiered by the Alizé flute ensemble and cellist Marie-Ève Bock under the direction of Véronique Lacroix on 8 November 2005 at Montreal’s Église Saint Pierre Apôtre.