Instrumentation: for soprano, piano, vibraphone, marimba and percussion
Texts: Hermann Hesse
The fruition of a study of the Viennese School, especially of Webern. Blank regards this piece as classical, inspired by a respect for the song tradition. The seven songs vary in their instrumentation. Only the fourth - Centre of Cycle - brings all five performers together.
Duration: 14' 00"
Pièce pour orgue (1979)
Duration: 5' 00"
3 Intermezzi for Piano (1980)
Instrumentation: for piano
Written in the spirit of the late works of Brahms, these short pieces use, in essence, reduced thematic material, and develop it according to the principle of perpetual variation.
Duration: 5' 30"
Instrumentation: for two pianos, vibraphone and marimba
Duration: 15' 00"
Canti d'Ungaretti (1983)
Instrumentation: for alto and nine instruments (fl.ca.cl.bn/tpt.ut/perc/pf/vl.vc)
Texts: Giuseppe Ungaretti
This piece is based on eight poems by Giuseppe Ungaretti, taken from his ‘La Vita d'un Uomo’ (1914/1970) which in turn belong to two distinct cycles and epochs. The instrumentation represents a sort of reduced orchestra, this must allow the intimate timbre of chamber music to be heard yet simultaneously create a symphonic ambiance.
Duration: 14' 00"
Cinq pièces pour piano (5 pieces for piano) (1985)
Written in the spirit of Schönberg's suite op 25, these short twelve-tone pieces use thematic material reduced to the essential before proceeding on the principle of perpetual change.
Duration: 10' 30"
Instrumentation: for large orchestra (pic.2.fl-g.2.ca.2.bcl.2.cbn/18.104.22.168/timp.3perc/cel.2hp.pf/str)
Written for a large orchestra in which a quintet for piano, clarinet, violin, viola and violoncello occasionally provide relief. The piece grows out of an eleven bar motive and develops into perpetual variations, this is expressed by a canon in reversed movement by the violin and the cello and more freely by the viola and clarinet - the piano plays a supporting role only. Direct references are occasionally made to the original motive. The quintet, as a composite soloist, is not treated with a traditional concertanto approach but rather in such a way that the more intimate sonorities of a chamber orchestra are allowed to emerge. The result is not a dialogue between the quintet and the orchestra (which is seldom heard en masse) but is rather more a variety of instrumental groupings playing against the quintet.
Duration: 19' 20"
Trois soldats, simple pochade (1986)
Instrumentation: for ensemble (0.0.1.1/0.1.1.0/1perc/22.214.171.124.1)
Music for the play "Trois soldats, simple pochade" by Yves Laplace.
Fragments I (1986-1987)
Instrumentation: for string quartet
An experimental piece, the form of which can be defined as a unified whole which develops by combining numerous fragments set in a contrasting or superimposed manner. Idiomatic playing techniques (pizzicato, glissando, flageoletto, col legno, ponticello, tasto etc.) are utilised to produce smooth phrases, that is to say an unintended natural assimilation bringing about sound effects not necessarily anticipated by the composer.
Duration: 14' 00"
Fragments II (1987)
Instrumentation: for violoncello and piano
'Fragments II' is the creation of a rather contemplative character. The cello writing bears the same characteristics as in 'Fragments I'. On the other hand, here the piano does not always crave dialogue, but is busy colouring the sound field, adding rhythm and structure. It is used in a traditional way, i.e. without preparation and using only the keyboard.
Duration: 12' 20"
for trombone and piano
Duration: 8' 30"
Instrumentation: for violin
Duration: 7' 00"
Fragments III (1989)
Instrumentation: for violin solo
Instrumentation: for soprano, marimba and four instrumental groups (1: fl(pic-g).ob.cl.bcl, 2: hn.tpt.tbn.tba, 3: 3perc.pf, 4: vn.va.vc.db)
Texts: Elvio Romero, Peter Huchel, Mario Luzi, Charles Juliet
The first two poems testify to the physical and mental suffering caused by the repression and censorship of totalitarian regimes. The two proceeding poems were written in free countries, but they bear witness to the suffering of human beings in the drawn out process of inner development. The declamation is entrusted to a dramatic soprano. For each poem, one of the four groups of instruments is brought to the fore, appearing in relief against the remaining three, whose respective timbres fill the background. The solo marimba part forms a link bridging the vocal and instrumental parts by proclaiming its importance and its complementary relation to the vocal part. It is also the fulcrum around which the various motives, themes and moods originate, at times engaging with the orchestra, developing and supporting.
Duration: 29' 00"
Instrumentation: for five instrumental groups (1: fl-g.ob.cl.bcl.bn, 2: tpt.2hn.tbn, 3: hp.cel.perc(vib.mba), 4: vn.va.vc, 5: 4va.4vc.db)
In memory of Kurt Joos, a friend of my youth who was found hanged in a house of correction. He was eighteen years old.
Duration: 8' 00"
Instrumentation: for soprano and marimba
String Trio (1995-1997)
Duration: 21' 00"
Instrumentation: for seven spatially set instruments (fl.cl/tpt.tbn/perc/vn.db
Homage to ARMAN.
Duration: 7' 00"
for piano and ensemble (fl.fl-G.bfl.ca.cl(bcl).cbcl/hn/tpt.tbn/multiperc/va.vc.db)
Duration: 29' 30"
for percussion solo
Duration: 15' 00"
Après CRIS (2001)
Duration: 6' 00"
... Ebbe(n) (2001)
for large orchestra (126.96.36.199/188.8.131.52/3perc/hp.pf/str)
Duration: 17' 00"
for flute (bfl/afl/fl-c/pic), oboe, oboe d'amour, violin, violoncello
"Wounds" presents itself in the form of a dyptic. The rather lively, dense and tense first part, which is formed by eruptive motives, paroxysms and sudden disruptions is echoed by a calmer second one, which is steeped in long, litany like parts – open wounds and painful memories. The instrumental writing favours expressive and violent timbres or on the contrary diaphanous, ethereal sonorities. The polyphony of the voices is partly superimposed by a proper "Klangfarbenpolyphonie", which is dominated by the harmonic ambiguity, since all the pitches have been continuously altered by the use of quarter tones, glissandi or multiphonics of the flute and the oboe.
Duration: 15' 30"
for ensemble (six soloists: harp, vibraphone, cymbalum, piano, celesta, marimba, 4 horns, tuba, accordion and 2 percussion instruments)
The disaster of Srebrenica and its consequently unbearable cruelties literally dictated to me the content of "CRIS" some years ago. Then there was "Après CRIS" for piano solo, which has been composed in large parts from resurrections of "CRIS". Nothing has really changed today, except maybe for the fact that the banality of the suffering forces us, each day, to further accept the intolerable. So, why not start a new work with the same theme? I thought if anything, that it would be salutary to try once more and name the unspeakable, the tragic infinity of pain – our powerlessness facing it – it would be like resisting indifference in the most moderate way.
I therefore began work on the material of these two earlier pieces in order to forge a third one.
"Nachhall" (echo) is written for three instrumental groups: The first group (vibraphone, harp, cymbalum, piano, celesta and marimba) is placed like a concertina around the conductor, the second group (four horns, tuba and two percussion instruments) is facing him like a small orchestra. The ensemble is completed by the third "group", a solo accordion, placed in the background of the stage. While this particular setting favours the symbiosis between the first (soloistic) and the second (orchestral) group, it also allows the position of the accordion to blur, the placing of which is the key element to the piece's acoustic construction. The initial sonority emanating from the group of six soloists is highly dense, a density derived from the fact that the instrumentalists rarely play in a concertante manner but rather more simultaneously, almost as if each one would be the register of a sort of giant piano. In addition to its ordinary role each "register-instrument" plays a well defined and established second role according to its specific timbre in order to create exactly this dense, unique and unified sonority: the vibraphone with its long resonatory capabilities, the harp with the violent "secco" chords, the marimba with its strong dynamic and timbral contrasts etc. This "multiple" soloist is answered, like in a first echo, by the instruments of the second group, which is not treated as defined identities with clearly distinguishable voices, but rather more as a compact, homogeneous mass capable of creating a first state of a harmonic stability (based on chords of four and five tones) which is assimilated by the accordion which holds them almost continuously. The harmony, "frozen" in this style, can now be perceived like a immaterial resonance - like a second echo. Suddenly the instruments of the second group are no longer simply a bond between the soloists and the accordion: their big mobility, their immense pitch range, their extreme dynamic capacities, their refined timbres - modulated by the use of resonating metals, allowing unlimited sound prolongations - makes them to actors creating a slight shift (by the use of quarter tones), provoking ruptures, uproars, amplifying or deforming certain acoustic phenomena in a sort of expressive exaggeration in order to change the sound image of the whole, somehow as if one would superimpose the image of an ideal world upon the image of the real world; a world of misery would appear where out of nothing some intact parcels of beauty would emerge. "Nachhall" is dedicated to Heinz Holliger.
Duration: 16' 00"
for large orchestra (184.108.40.206/220.127.116.11/3perc/18.104.22.168.8)
Dedicated to Kofi Annan.
"Cette grande chose sourde par le monde et qui s'accroît soudain comme une ébriété" — Saint-John Perse, Exil
Displaced persons, masses and whole populations, are forced to flee their homes, and leave behind everything. Families are decimated, the sick abandoned to their fate, and the dead left unburied. Faces of despair can look forward only to an unwanted future as refugees in a camp, awaiting an improbable improvement and an even less likely return. People are dependent on humanitarian assistance, subjected to every indignity, and made to feel that they are a burden, just another statistic in the never-ending list of catastrophes.
What should one say, how else can one react other than by sharing a little of that gnawing pain and by protesting, each in one's own way and as best as one can, against this intolerable iniquity?
Exodes is intended as a modest plea to fight against indifference and neglect, a call not to forget or accept a reality which no utopia has unfortunately ever managed to transform. My work is dedicated to Kofi Annan in tribute to his untiring efforts to promote peace.
Duration: 14' 00"
String quartet N°2
At the climactic moment of the Elegia in Bartok's 'Concerto for Orchestra', there appears a treble motive in quintuplets, played in unison, fortissimo, by the first and second violins. Rehearing the work in a concert performance, I was completely overwhelmed by the sense of tragedy (no doubt intensified by the use of the extreme upper positions on the G string) that this moment invokes, even though I had previously thought to have long since assimilated its emotional impact. Several months later, and although completely immersed in the writing of the present quartet, this little motive would filter up from my sub-conscious, night or day, and with considerable insistence.... Thus I decided to integrate it (and, in the end, in a rather pervasive manner) in my own composition, adapting its structural elements in a way that would organise certain key passages. The effect produced by undergoing certain permutations (the employment of quarter tones in the place of semitones, or, in one instance, a triple rhythmic augmentation, for example) tends to distance the motive from its primary sense, in a way, using the link thus created, to divert it towards the expression of something quite different, but none-the-less connected- in an intimate and almost hidden manner- to its original source.
Duration: 17' 00"
for amplified bass flute/piccolo and 2 percussion instruments (vibraphone, marimbaphone, deep timpani, 4 thai gongs, 4 bell plates, 6 rins, crotales, 2 amplified chinese cymbals, 2 istanbul cymbals, 4 cenceros, 2 tubular bells, 4 triangles)
The piece is inspired by a poem from the collection "Atemwende" by Paul Celan. It takes its title and the poetic flow from this poem.
"Fadensonnen /über der grauschwarzen Ödnis / Ein baum-/hoher Gedanke /greift sich den Lichtton: es sind /noch Lieder zu singen jenseits / der Menschen"
"Threadsuns /over the grey-black wasteness. / A tree- / high thought / strikes the light-tone: there are / still songs to be sung beyond / humankind"
Duration: 14' 00"
Vers l'Obscur (2005)
for 32 strings (22.214.171.124.4) and 2 horns
The work takes reference to Mozart's Notturno for a similar formation: four string orchestras and horns. For this work I went back to the central movement of my "Trio à Cordes" from 1997, which diffuses a very dark almost obscure colour. Following this path I accomplished this return towards the obscure ("vers l'obscure"). This time I set out to develop some new expressive perspectives by treating the material as a perpetual canon or more precisely as a generalised phase shift, which has been applied to the parameters of pitch, duration, timbre and density. The spatial distribution of the ensemble in four distinct orchestras has to accentuate, on an acoustic level, the perception of the phase shift.
String quartet N°3
"TRACES", string quartet N°3 is the second part of my "Livre pour Quatuor" ("SATZ", the quartet N°2, is the first part). Like the previous quartet, "TRACES" proceeds as one piece, although it is written in two principal movements. A dense and intense first part is followed by an episode/epilogue in a rather peaceful – almost meditative – character, distinguished by aerial and ethereal sonorities, accented by multiple resonance phenomena, pitch alterations (the use of quarter tones to modulate the pitch of a sound is very present here) or even by fingering and specific ways of playing (pizzicati produced with the fingernails for example evoke a slight remembrance to a Japanese koto). The harmonic structure of the quartet, on the other hand side, is almost entirely based on the major second and the major third and together with its rhetoric, alternating between darkness and clarity, is the sign of a certain quietness. Nevertheless this relative calmness (this appearance) is often disrupted by energetic, sometimes violent, even choleric gestures originating from the preceding quartet: what we hear here is the memory, the traces which have been left by the pain of the interior experiences – that which shows us the misery of our condition.
Duration: 15' 00"
Trakl Lied (2007)
String Quartet N°4 (with soprano)Texts:
My string quartet with soprano sets to music the poem "Einklang" (Accord) by Georg Trakl (1887-1914). It becomes the third and last part of the "Livre pour Quatuor à Cordes", which I started with "Satz" (2005) and was continued in "Traces" (2006). As a whole it acquires a part of its substance from the two previous "quartet-movements" which somehow result in it. An isolated motive (eight notes in pizzicato) which overlays the reactivation-variation of the central part of "Traces" (in a harmonic sense) serves as a starting point. Like an evocation of the "Very bright tones in the thin winds" before the "mementos to lost companions" changes the discourse provisionally to darker colours and more nostalgic and painful lines. The remains of the theme recur in parts in a veiled and hardly recognizable manner – having altered through the filter of the poetic suggestion – before the motives, which can be heard now in an alleviation of the sound matter, lead to a final episode with purified sonorities – where at least they renounce the strong expressiveness, which characterised the two previous movements. The voice of the soprano is stretched like an arch above the four voices of the strings, in order to abet the high-pitched, even shrill, tessitura in a quest for the absoluteness, in the transgression of the earthly reality, which wants to bear testimony of the elevation of the soul towards "more distant heavens" and which guides it to the end of a passage, more and more liberated from the burden of man's fate to be "completed by eternally new suns". The work is dedicated to my contractor and friend Eric Ballard and the members of the Quatuor Sine Nomine.
Duration: 16' 00"
Dans l'instant (2007)
Instrumentation: for violoncello, clarinet and piano
Duration: 15' 00"
Instrumentation: for oboe, trumpet, harp, violin and violoncello
Duration: 16' 00"
Flow II (2009)
Instrumentation: for flute, clarinet and viola
Composed as a sort of banter, Flow II alternates between five small sections, five musical moments to be played without interruption. The solo clarinet begins a recitative where some of the sounds resonate in an insecure echo produced by the flute's multiphonic chords. After an ascent culminating in the production of extreme dynamics, a rapid fall leads to a second episode, slower, mainly devoted to the bass flute, whose part is characterized by a tragic expression. A third part reunites the three instruments as equals in a fluid and spirited motion, where trills and arabesques weave a moving texture (of apparent carelessness) before the viola's cadence puts an end to it in an energetic gesture. The last part is the most concert-like of the five. It repeats and varies in a sort of recapitulation of the previously heard elements. The piece ends as unexpectedly succinct as a question in one single bar.
Duration: 8' 00"
Homage to Bernd Alois Zimmermann
Instrumentation: for viola solo
"Gegen" is composed in three movements. The first is characterized by a path leading from the obsessive repetition of certain gestures to an exciting and diaphanous end where large figures as ascending arpeggios melt little by little into trills without any tension. One can see the expression of a tormented and hurt conscience and its desire for elevation.
The second movement is of a calm nature in the form of a Lied and is a kind of figural choral. It is based on two quotations from the Sonata for Viola by Bernd Alois Zimmermann. The first quote is incorporated as such at the end of part A - comment and punctuation. The second quote (the cantabile from the eighth bar of the sonata) forms the actual heart of the piece: first it is introduced fragmentary at the beginning of part B, and later undergoes progressive reconstruction during a course which is actually a stranger to the phrase itself - as if it could not express itself effectively other than by constant ruptures and brusk questionings. At the end of the process, the fragments (heard as furtive memories) are finally reassembled to an intelligible entity, and the phrase can be heard in its original form. A varied reprise of part A finally leads to a short coda consisting of a single melodic fragment of three notes, borrowed from the choral "Gelobet seist du Jesu Christ" (on which the end of the sonata is based) but transposed by a small major seventh - like an echo of the subtitle Zimmermann gave to his work: "… an den Gesang eines Engels" an epitaph to commemorate his daughter Barbara which died tragically only a few days after her birth.
The third movement is a reminder of the composers sad destiny - he killed himself on August 10, 1970. It is constructed upon a series of ten chords of three or four tones where the note c plays a crucial role. First introduced fortissimo in a sort of cadence with a broken verve, they suddenly make space to wide melodic motifs alternately strident or meditative or to energetic rhythmic cells exploiting the extremes of the range, tempo and dynamics. Then chords reappear gradually but indistinctly (as strongly distorted by particular modes of play) before they return to their original eloquence. This last appearance this time leads to a final episode, con sordino, peaceful and collected - although the c in the final measure, held at length together with an h sharp raised by a quarter tone, excludes, by its refusal to unify, any form of reconciliation.
Zimmermann's music, a highly symbolic form of independence - but also of resistance - is a model of integrity and interior requirement. It bears the mark of a man who seems to have concentrated in him all the stigmata of his time. His whole life he fought against them but also against himself: "The enemy of my soul - this unnecessarily tormented side [...] - finds itself invisible behind my chair, and knows it will not die "he confided to his diary in 1946 ... It is the spirit of this struggle as much as the figure of Zimmermann itself, I wanted to pay homage.
Instrumentation: for 14 string soloists (126.96.36.199.1)
Duration: 4' 00"
Instrumentation: for string quartet and soprano
Instrumentation: for accordion
"Chords"is based in its melodic framework, albeit in a very distorted manner, on the choral "Vater unser in Himmelreich". The choral's individual phrases were subject to various manipulations regarding composition and timbre, according to different episodes in relation to expression and agogic. The melody covers the entire register from the extreme high to the extreme low notes of an instrument, conferring a certain unity to the ensemble even though it is not recognisable as such because of the complex harmonic treatment, which represents it rather as a polyphonic voice than a leading voice. The tribute to Bach (whose motif B.A.C.H. is implicitly exposed twice as a supplement to the chorale melody) is somewhat hidden, masked by the numerous chords which envelop the material from the start.
Duration: 9' 00"
Tentations de la clarté - Auprès de "Reflecting Black" de William Blank, in: Dissonanz (Juni 2010)
110 (2010), S. 60-67 [Internet