Palimpseste is the fourth and final piece of a cycle called Onomatopoeias begun in 1991 with Éclats de voix followed by Spleen (1993) and Le renard et la rose (1995). The pieces of the cycle were dedicated to the childhood, adolescence and adulthood where the fourth one is an homage to old age. As with the first three pieces, this one is divided into five sections, each of them evoking a feeling associated to a musical parameter: Fury and Rhythm; Bitterness and Timbre; Anger and Dynamics; Tiredness and Space; Wisdom and Texture. The title refers to a palimpsest, which is a manuscript on which the first text (even many texts) was erased in order to write a new one over it (parchments being rare and precious). Here, the first text was the timeline structure of the previous works. It is still there but in the background. It has been written over with another layer made out of a series of new categories of sounds, more noisy, absent in the previous works of the cycle.
Palimpseste is made exclusively with vocal sounds and more specifically with onomatopoeias that are extremely rich because they represent those instances when the sounds of human language correspond directly to the designated object or to the expression of a sentiment. The voices were recorded in Germany — Christian Gressier, Eberhard Geyer, and Gabriela Lang — and in Québec — Andrée Lachapelle, and Christiane Pasquier.
Palimpseste was realized in 2005 in the studios of the Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie Karlsruhe (ZKM) in Germany and at the composer’s studio and premiered on February 12, 2005 during the trans_canada festival under the title ZedKejeM. It was revised during the summer 2005 and premiered on October 21, 2005 during the event Theater des Hörens at the ZKM’s ZKM_Kubus. It was finally revised in 2011. Palimpseste was commissioned by the ZKM with the support of Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec (CALQ) and Canada Council for the Arts (CCA). Thanks to Sabine Breitsameter and Ludger Brümmer. The work was finalist in the Musica Nova 2005 International Competition of Electroacoustic Music (Prague, Czech Republic), and was selected by the Canadian Section of the International Society for Contemporary Music (ISCM) to represent Canada at the 2007 World Music Days in Hong Kong.