-Now and Then and Now  (10'10 – 2012) – dedicated to Julien Feltrin

       for recorder flute (Paetzold contrabass, soprano and tenor) and live electronics (Commissionned by Centre Henri Pousseur, Liège - formerly CRFMW)

       • premiered on March 15th, 2012 by Julien Feltrin  and Nicolas Vérin

listen to an excerpt (mp3), by Julien Feltrin and Nicolas Vérin :      Now and Then and Now (extr.)


Getting to know Julien Feltrin made me very quickly want to write him a piece, especially for Paetzold contrabass. This fascinating instrument is rooted in the ancient past of recorder flute, while being resolutely modern. My choice to combine it with electronics also evokes irresistibly a mix of ages. In the piece, the computer records some passages on the fly, to be later explored in slow motion by a filter that brings out its individual components one after another, as a veiled memory.
Two paintings  I juxtaposed were also a source of inspiration : Brueghel's Fight between Carnival and Lent and Miro's Harlequin Carnival. This led me to implement the opposition between an irrational element and a strict norm. I then added two elements, giving me a total of four threads to provide for various combinations.
I: irrational - a microphone feedback sound (high-pitched whistling tone, recorded in studio) is its model;
II: norm - an ostinato of repeated notes grouped by five with systematically augmenting attacks;
III: passage from horizontal to vertical, using multiphonic sounds, beginning on a single note an then unfurling into a complex sound, between a chord and a timbre ;
IV: a sequence of eleven impulsions of noise, with very sharp attacks, key clicks, vocal onomatopoeias, and various electronic sounds.
Each thread is made of several presentations of the model or a variation on the model.
Only the second, true to its principle of norm, starts by the model as in classical theme and variation form. Other threads begin by a variation, then get closer until they reach the model; one ends by the model, while the other two carry on, by diverging from it. For example, the work's beginning is made of the first presentation of thread I : a transposed and varied version of the electronic feedback,  transcribed for tenor recorder, with live electronic processing. It comes back two minutes later in a varied way, one minute later in another variation,  then 40 sec. later in yet another variation at the soprano recorder. The following occurrences are presented only by the electronics part, to reach the original the 6th time, diverging afterwards by other variations.
After the introduction of the first thread comes the first presentation of the second thread, then of the third thread.
Each variation comes at a time interval that is either stretching (thread III) or shortening (for I and IV), but for II which comes back regularly every minute and 15". Similarly, durations of each variation are increasing (IV) or getting shorter (I and III), except II which lasts a constant 18’’ each time.
Here and there are slight silences, and after some time superimpositions begin to occur. A few drones are added freely, so as to inhabit/people silences, to provide a binding and  harmonic support. The end is a kind of stretto, with time being more and more compressed and for the only time in the piece, the four threads are presented simultaneously.
This all results in a mosaic form such as employed, particularly starting with his work Archipelago, by Roger Reynolds, who was my professor of composition in San Diego, and to whom I here pay tribute (see Vérin Nicolas "analyse de Archipelago", Inharmoniques n°8, Paris, 1991).

Thanks to Julien Feltrin, whose talent motivated this piece and who generously gave his time and good advice, and to the team at Centre Henri Pousseur, Liège: Marie-Isabelle Collart, Jean-Marc Sullon and Patrick Delges.