saxophone quartet

Premiere: March 4, 2023, QuasarMontréal / Nouvelles Musiques 2023: Dialogues intercontinentaux, Agora Hydro-Québec — Cœur des sciences — UQAM, Montréal (Québec)

This quartet is dedicated to the members of the Quasar Saxophone Quartet, whose extraordinary work in favour of musical creation never ceases to inspire admiration.

Abel: L’a-mort is developed from material from my “operatic proposal” L’hypothèse Caïn, with the libretto written by Alain Fournier. In this re-reading of the myth of Cain and Abel, although the former always kills his brother, he does so by accident rather than out of jealousy. Here it’s rather Abel who is jealous of his brother, jealous of the carnal and tender love that Cain shares with his sister Adah, while he himself submits to the delusions of Eve, their mother, who has been terrified of God since the punishment undergone by her and Adam — expulsion from the earthly paradise.

Already a major part of the orchestration in L’hypothèse Caïn,here the saxophone quartet repeats the slow chromatic descents in quarter tones as played in the scene accompanying Abel’s death. They symbolize the life that is gradually leaving his body. In the middle of these descents I chose to insert an arrangement of the music from the love scene between Cain and Adah, a scene witnessed by Abel, leading him to commit an act which will provoke his brother’s fateful anger. The music of this love scene, constructed like a great arch, is written in ’natural’ microtonality (with alterations in fourths, fifths and sixths of a tone.)

As an introduction to the initial chromatic descents, I have chosen to play a recording of the few seconds of the scene where Cain, enraged, violently pushes his brother and unwittingly causes his death.

The title, Abel: l’a-mort, with its privative a, plays on the ambiguity of love and death evoked here. Love, rather than fear and submission, could perhaps have saved Abel from death.

It is desirable that the piece be performed in a highly reverberant venue, or using artificial reverberation which evokes that venue.