• Allain Gaussin
  • Le vent se lève... (Tombeau de Maurice Ravel) (2014)

  • Alphonse Leduc (World)

Commissioned by the French State for Sillages Ensemble

  • harp, flute, clarinet, string quartet
  • 14 min

Programme Note

This work is like a buried memory, a sort of distant resonance emerging from this verse of the Cimetière marin of Paul Valéry which so overwhelmed me when I was twenty years old, when I decided to abandon my scientific studies in order to devote myself to music, with an immense desire to become a composer: « Le vent se lève !… Il faut tenter de vivre ! » ("The wind is starting up!… One must strive to live!”)
Composed for string quartet, flute, clarinet and harp, the score borrows its highly specific instrumentation from the Introduction et Allegro of Maurice Ravel, giving a quasi-soloistic role to the harp within the instrumental ensemble.

Le vent se lève… is made up of three parts, with a short coda. The first two parts are played without interruption.
In the first one, the strings provide a very long, continuous sound matrix, which evolves progressively. It starts with quiet harmonic sounds, or "grains of light” in the extreme high register. Next, very gradually, this is transformed, in the middle register, into a "floating polyphony”, before sinking into the lowest register, fortissimo. The flute and clarinet are superimposed at the beginning of this continuous matrix with short motifs which take on more and more breadth in the form of "ribbon figures” which now enter into a dialogue with the harmonic figures of the harp. Their evolution leads them to a tutti which concludes in the harp with an energetic ostinato which progressively blends and disappears into the powerful texture of the string matrix.

The second part, vers les profondeurs de l’inconscient… (towards the depths of the unconscious), plunges into a general conflagration in which the usual timbre of the instruments disappears totally, leaving in its place a noise-like texture in which there is complete fusion of the instrumental sounds. In this very strange world, which I liken to a molten flow of lava which slowly cools and hardens, the harp, flute and clarinet reappear above a continuous texture of strings, evoking the color of the clay. At this point in the score, I mix together two veiled references: the first one to Tristan Murail, to whom the piece is dedicated, with a series of arpeggios on the harp conceived on the basis of a harmonic spectre ; and the second to Maurice Ravel, with the motif in thirds on the flute and clarinet which is heard at the beginning of Introduction et Allegro.

The third part starts with a silence and a succession of sequences in which the harp plays a short cadenza. At this point a new motif is heard, taking the form of two ostinatos which are developed through different processes, one with the strings, the other with the harp. Intermittently, the flute and clarinet are added to this ensemble, with musical figures taken from the first part, then evolve with other figures in the form of slow waves which become progressively more and more intense.
In a short coda, a violent and rapid whirlwind springs out of a multitude of "ribbon figures”, only to conclude with the ascending spiral of a light wind…


Preview the score