vibraphone and piano

When Gérard Grisey left us in 1998, I had started working on a commission for piano and vibraphone, commissioned by Japan’s Shizuoka Hall. The tone of my piece was sprightly and playful but I now found myself in a place of overwhelming sadness. I dropped the work in progress, which was all but finished. My question now was how to pay homage to Gérard through my own language, without reliance on quotation or influence. The answer lay in Grisey’s work for solo piano, Vortex Temporum. The violence of this piece was my starting point, but I refused to study the score, using instead the force of the work as a metaphor. I had never before been faced with this kind of exercise. The piece seemed rapidly to gain the pretence of a ritual, and the part of the vibraphonist expanded to include additional percussion instruments such as cowbells, gongs, and a wooden drum. These were my means of “upsetting” the piano while stopping short of total discord, a balance Grisey had achieved in Vortex Temporum. For the first time, my music would not be “objective”, as Gérard had qualified it. I had great difficulty in reconciling the musical material with my moment-by-moment surrender to complete intuition, which might not have pleased the dedicated. However, it is the very spirit of Gérard that permeates this piece and I could not have written it without him.

“At the heart, we are collective beings; what we can strictly call our own is so limited! and as such, considered alone, we are so little! We all receive and we all learn, as much from those who came before us as from those who are with us…” (Goethe, February 17th, 1832.)

Philippe Hurel