Visages Brûlés


German version

Curriculum vitae


On "INTEGRAL" - Concerto for percussion instruments and chamber orchestra (1986)
Commissioned by the Badisch State Theatre Karlsruhe, with the support of the Ministry for Science and Art, Baden-Württemberg. Stuttgart

The conception of INTEGRAL is based an the idea of acquiring a different, broader insight into the concept of a concerto by doing away with the strict traditional allocation of roles in the alternation of solo and orchestra. The instrumental combination of percussion and chamber orchestra seems to me to be an ideal one, since an the one hand groupings of the most manifold kind can be created within the framework of the orchestra consisting of soloists, and an the other hand the orchestral sound can still achieve a breathing transparency even in tutti. By virtue of the different nature of the basic material from which they are made (wood, skin. stone, metal etc.) as well as the individual characteristics of each instrument, the comprehensive collection of percussion instruments becomes an inexhaustible supply of manifold sounds and colours, ranging from pure noise right up to highly aesthetic sound. Thus the prerequisites are created for a network of relationships, continually changing in the course of the composition, between percussion and orchestra.

Whereas parts of the percussion fulfil a purely orchestral function, particularly in the case of static, block-like sounds and/or fluctuating bands of sound, an abundance of combinations between very different orchestral and percussion instruments in a concertantefunction with each other can be perceived, apart from the cadences and the passages in which - in the sense of a solo concerto - the xylophone or vibraphone is almost exclusively contrasted with the orchestra. The essential feature here is that in these small-scale "concertinos", which are continually being re-shifted and newly-formed, one new instrument after the other is exposed in a prominent position.

This applies, for example, to the connections between the harp, the piano and the percussion Instruments in extremely intensive dialogues with one another just as it does to the trio of trumpet, saxophone and vibraphone, an instrumental combination which has its roots in jazz.

It is not until the end of the 2nd movement that the chamber-music style of long sections of the concerto changes. Originating from the inaudible, layers of sound with inner structure and in the most delicate nuances of colour develop in the strings, at the beginning not yet perceptible behind the linear texture of the winds, but then increasingly dominant. When the winds also take over these rhythmically layered figures, which are repeated in waves, the subsequent highly energetic concentration of sound seems to be the point towards which the whole development has been striving; however, as soon as the impetuous motion of the orchestra has reached its highest intensity, the xylophone enters, slowing everything down and leading by way of a short, conclusive dialogue between flute and xylophone back to the chamber-music opening of INTEGRAL.

On VISAGES BRULES for piano trio (1987)

The "burned faces". a highly differentiated piano trio, represents in its essential contrasts, in its exchange of sound and noise going up to and beyond the limits as well as in its impossibility to make compromises and connections a series of autonomous scenes perhaps connected only by their temporal order and their common instrumentation, i.e. set in a continuum.

The polarizing character of such contrasting scenes already audible at the beginning prevents over long periods of time the development of communicative-symbiotic expressions. The inner conflict is also articulated, however, within individual passages; for example in the section which strives towards the rhythmic synchronousness of the 4 highest notes of the piano. hit together as a shrill "cluster", with the hard accents of the strings and the gradually ascending chords struck in the left hand:

After the synchronic difference has been reduced by means of continual rhythmic approximatian until it is only as long as an appoggiatura, the strings pass over and elude the moment in which the simultaneous meeting of the 4 impulses concerned would be possible. indeed, probable.

Thus the process of dissolution of this scene is set in motion, the "false" appearance of an apparent homogeneousness and unity of thought is avoided.

The conclusion of VISAGES BRÜLES, the reprise of the ff-glissandi in connection with hard tritones, is also not a final conclusion in the real sense, the piece could continue. There is no attempt at a solution, the gestures, some of which are more conciliator and the closing sections have no effect. In this respect the VISAGES BRÜLES is a "song of the end of time", simultaneously an end and a beginning-for me a point has been reached here which it is impossible to explore further.


On "L'ABIME" for alto flute, violoncello and accordion (1990)

LABIME (French: the abyss) is chiefly dominated by 3 variably treated elements of form:
A. A "marking-time" of sounds which is impossible to overlook-sounds which are probably always there, but of which the listener is only aware at certain points in time. They evade any kind of limitation by means of soft, fleeting blurring of the limits; they are extremely soft sounds in microtonal layers, frequently hardly above the level of silence. This is made particularly clear in the fragility of the beginning, at the limit of audibility.

B. Repetition/insistence with differing character: for example the reprise, with the indication breathing heavily, which orientates itself to human breathing, but also insistently repeated repetitions of one note such as ""Repetition presto possibile" (repetition as fast as possible), connected with continual irregular shifting between the 4'. 8' and 16' registers of the accordion, or hardly perceptible vibrations with the indication "tenderest oscillation, little repetition".

C. Tensions which build up and relax expressively: e.g. >brutal oscillation". immediately followed by the contrasting "tenderestoscillation".

The 3 elements - in spite of their contrasting character- have in common the essential feature of the whole composition, the evasion of any kind of limitation:

in the case of A through the above-mentioned blurring of the limits, the "marking-time" on the borders of audibility, the refusal to become concrete;

in the case of B through that which at the beginning is perceived as a representation which does not change, but which then eludes the listener, in addition even the soft and blurred sounds carry elements of insistence in themselves, in spite of the very manifold layers of sound and the iridescent motion; e.g. through the microtonal, recognizable notes of reference, figured and decorated by movements in colours and sound. The tensions mentioned in C; too, are, in spite of the energy which is so violently released, never isolated, but rather continually counterbalanced in manifold connections with the phases before and after them; for example, also by means of continual processes leading to different situations.

The first phase of repetition of the beginning, >>broadly, with emphasis, butpp", "heavily breathing", entering after the restrained and tender hovering sounds of the opening, urges itself upon the listener's consciousness and then continually tries to withdraw, finally losing itself in inaudibility, and is then inverted towards the end of the piece in a process of intensification which leads to sound no longer interrupted by rests. When this development, which seems to be final, at last arrives at a resting-point, however, L'ABIME behaves elusively once again: the piece does not end, it withdraws itself from perception by means of the continual elongation of the "expectant pauses". Time becomes >>immeasurable", the silent sounds (rests) elongate themselves into immeasurability in spite of increasing volume no end is reached, no decision is made, everything is possible, the abyss (L'ABIME) does not have to be perceived.


On "3 movements for recorders and harpsichord" (1980)

The 3 movements for recorders and harpsichord dating from 1980 attempt to experience their own reserved, acrid sensousness of sound. The " 3 movements", balancing an the edge of the expressionistic style, are far removed from a differentiatedly forming structuralism as in later works such as NOMOS-Gegenbild (1989) or CONTINUAMENTE (1992/94). The fragility referred to is also characteristic of the following poem, which is closely woven-in with the recorder pieces and was written together with them.


On Quartet 2 for flute, piano, percussion and violoncello (1987/94)

Quartet 2, dating from 1994, is a revision and re-arrangement for flute of Quartet 1 for recorders, piano, percussion and violoncello dating from 1987. First performance-Quartet 1 <.: Studio of South German Radio. Karlsruhe.

Toni Völker. 1996