clarinet and string quartet

Commission: SMCQ

Premiere: November 11, 1999, Ensemble Musica Nova, Salle Pierre-Mercure — Centre Pierre-Péladeau, Montréal (Québec)

Each of the four fundamental Hippocratic temperaments — phlegmatic, choleric, melancholic and sanguine — had an astral correspondence: melancholy was associated with Saturn, considered by popular belief to be a planet of misfortune, whose influence had a paralyzing effect which tied people to the earth.

Medieval theologians tried to explain any suspicious behaviour by the effects of melancholy. They professed that melancholy predisposes one to the devil’s business: Melancholia balneum diaboli.

Melancholic reveries and despondencies signify the outposts of hell.

The legend of Faust is proof of this.

To avoid any mythical or religious interpretation, the physician-philosophers of the Renaissance tried to attribute the responsibility for disorders of the mind to a natural cause. Thus, too much accumulation of black bile (melas: black, kholê: bile, in ancient Greek) in the body explained fear, sadness and delusion more conveniently than the influence of ancient demons or the mysterious effects of the Night.

However several poets, continued to imbue Satan with the seductions of melancholy. Others associated melancholy with some female figure:Mère Ancolie”.

According to certain psychiatric hypotheses, melancholy must be understood, in its essence, as a modification in the structure of temporal objectivity. A definition of music?


  • Score available at CMC, Région du Québec.
  • Recording: available at SMCQ’s office