Sous le regard d’un soleil noir

Francis Dhomont, RD Laing

Programme notes
To my sons and their mother

It is a question here of a ‘particular form of human tragedy.’ A space for ontological insecurity, the loss of reality, the dissolution of the being and the exploding of personality, where a universe of implacable confinement is constructed: that of schizophrenia.

It is not a question of scientific thought. The ‘clinical commentaries’ that serve as landmarks throughout the work — these comments of a therapist/coryphaeus (although not devoid of tenderness) — only serve to introduce the distance, using few caesurae that will spare pathos from the pathetic, and in regard to ourselves, voyeurism.

It is the poetic reading of a text not designed as a poem, but whose images impose by the weight of the message and the decisiveness of the words. I have also chosen intelligibility, only provoking semantic parasites as an echo of the apparent verbal perplexity, the obscure terrain of delirium.

Sous le regard d’un soleil noir is the history of a shipwreck: the hallucinated derivation across an obsessional landscape where the note B natural is the obsessed character, the tonic axis that binds together the eight sections. A veritable ostinato, ‘Invention on one note’: the memory of Wozzeck stands out, the symbol of a man who, according to Jacques Drillon, “drowns himself in the lake because he has arrived at the point of social and interior inexistence from which there is no possible return.”

Perhaps however, the successful voyage consists, as Laing proposes, in going from the exterior towards the interior, from life towards the ‘experience’ of death, from movement to immobility…

… then to travel the path in the opposite direction to encounter an existential renaissance.

The eight sections of the work were inspired by reading the work of the psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Ronald D Laing. The texts are borrowed (with the generous permission of the author and Éditions Stock — French translation by Claude Elsen) from the French translations of the three books The Politics of Experience, Knots, and — especially — The Divided Self.

The original version of Sous le regard d’un soleil noir [Beneath the Glare of a Black Sun] was realized in 1979-80 in the studios of the Faculty of Music of the Université de Montréal and during November/December 1981 in the studio of the Ina-GRM (Paris, France) for the sixth section, Citadelle intérieure [Inner Citadel], which was added to the initial version. Sous le regard d’un soleil noir premiered on February 3, 1981, at the Université de Montréal and was presented at the 11th Bourges International Festival of Experimental Music (France) on June 14, 1981. Section 6, Citadelle intérieure was a commission from the Ina-GRM (Paris, France). The composition of this piece was made possible by an artistic creation grant from the Music Section of the Minister of Culture and Communications, (France, 1979) as well as the amiable invitation from the Faculty of Music of the Université de Montréal. Sous le regard d’un soleil noir was awarded the 1st Prize in the Electroacoustic Program Music category at the 9th International Electroacoustic Music Competition in Bourges (France, 1981). The recorded voices are those of Arthur Bergeron, Marthe Forget, and Pierre Louet.


  • February 3, 1981, Concert, Salle 1020 — Faculté de musique — Pavillon Marguerite-d’Youville — Université de Montréal, Montréal (Québec)
  • March 28, 1983, Premiere of the final version: Cycle acousmatique 1983: Concert, Grand Auditorium — Maison de Radio France, Paris (France)


  • Composer(s): Francis Dhomont
  • Writer(s): RD Laing
  • Year of composition: 1979-81, 83
  • Instrumentation: stereo fixed medium
  • Commission: Ina-GRM (section 6: Citadelle intérieure)
  • ISWC: T9007718163 / T3028805343
  • Publisher(s): Ymx média


Pareil à un voyageur perdu

Foreign Reality. Threats. The Incarcerated Self. A Solitude Inhabited by Shadows.

First variations on the note B natural. Appearance of ‘pivotal elements.’ Breakdowns.

  • ISWC: T9247710630
  • Duration: 7:55
  • ISRC: CAD509612310


First Delirium. Exterior Intrusion. Denial. Mother/sea: liquid burial, filled, crevices, abysses.

A play on the rhythms (broad pulses) of ebb and flow (respiration?).

  • ISWC: T9247710629
  • Duration: 7:48
  • ISRC: CAD509612320

Arrête! Arrête! Elle me tue.

Anguish at the disappearance: the inexistence. Hallucinations. Destruction of self.

A play on rhythms (tight pulses). Intermodulation of sequences. Energetic contrasts. Polyphonic crescendo.

  • Duration: 7:19
  • ISRC: CAD509612330


Reality Persecutes. Invasion and Opression. Withdrawal.

New variations on B natural, a ‘fixed’ parameter. Dynamic modulation of numerous materials by the piano (announced at the beginning of the previous section and confirmed in the next).

  • Duration: 4:08
  • ISRC: CAD509612340

Le moi divisé

Division, fragmentation, fracture, fissure, crack. Double sense.

The struggle of B natural in narrow ‘clusters.’ Profusion of materials, polyphonic. Piano-swirling.

  • ISWC: T9247665174
  • Duration: 6:22
  • ISRC: CAD509612350

Citadelle intérieure

Denied reality. Distortion of Elsewhere. Icy terror. The Subterranean Labyrinth. ‘Here’ and ‘there.’

Amplification of the pivotal elements. Anecdotal sounds. False loops: unfaithful repetitions. Agressive accentuation of the upper spectral regions.

  • Commission: Ina-GRM
  • Duration: 7:38
  • ISRC: CAD509612360


Catatonic: “There is now only a vacuum where there was a person” — Ronald D Laing, The Divided Self

‘Invention’ on the preceding sections. Achronologic recapitulation of the strong moments, but degraded, anamorphosized, scratched. Traces of Wozzeck. Superposition of durations in decreasing progressions.

  • Duration: 5:16
  • ISRC: CAD509612370

Le message quand vient le soir

“No one penetrates there, not even with the message of a death. But you, you are seated at your window and, in your dream, you call out the message at the coming of night.” — Kafka, An Imperial Message

Return of sequences, figures and objects from sections 1 and 2 in different relationships: modified listening perspectives.

  • Duration: 4:15
  • ISRC: CAD509612380