The piano beside itself. Sounds from a German Steinway, a Yamaha U3, and a digital Kurzweil, along with erased words and old scratchy records. The two live pianists are supported by ten modified / prepared piano tracks set up as if there were twelve players sporadically answering one another. A dialogue between pianists expresses things left unsaid. Duel, wandering, laughs, and delirium. Putting one’s ideas in order. Days go by… A week and a few bridges, months, years, but there’s always time… Euphoria, nostalgia, being hunted. Twelve variations on a state… The diary of a present, future, and past life.
The sound of the piano is a trigger that harmonizes with the feelings and the letting-go of one’s self… Vital space. Suffocating, having trouble breathing! I am being tracked down by a transforming shadow. This shadow is void, agitation, or someone I don’t know.
Structure: Overture, two themes, and 12 variations in and out of sequence. A life, a cycle of 12, as prescribed by the Chinese horoscope and the months of the year. The themes change with states of mind, moods that can be occasionally dark or sunny. The piano breathes and becomes the breath of life… Vital space. Words are inner voices that engrave themselves.
Technique: The piano score was composed out of my own improvisations. A highly personal approach that includes harmonies and a traditional bar. The themes, overlapped or developed separately, are multiplied by the variations, despite the original structure. At the beginning, a long tremolo cries its heart out. This is followed by a resonance. The pianos get carried away and spin out ritornelli. Word samples are transformed and cut through successive editing processes, growing muted, out of breath, and dull from the equalizing and the bouncing echo. An electronic sound provides a bridge between turned pages. On the tape, words fly by, in a jumble, saying nothing; modified sentences and onomatopoeia are battling for a place that would answer something. The words — thought-over, still, not spontaneous — blend in with the piano samples that are resonating like an ominous spectre. Where is the exit? Are we misunderstood?
Sources of pianistic and literary inspiration:
- A little diary of ideas started one day and never meant to see the next, where words don’t manage to clearly circumscribe myself, or maybe are they too obvious? Everything is on my piano, like a book of musical tales.
- Glenn Gould’s piano; the piano of Russian musicians. George Gershwin’s piano; the impressionists and the jazz pianists.
- Élise Turcotte, La maison étrangère, Éditions Leméac, Montréal, 2002.
- Élise Turcotte, Ma petite sœur et moi, Radio-Canada, 2001.
- Henrich Neuhaus, L’art du piano, Éditions Van De Velde, 1971.
- Miguel Angel Estrella, Musique pour l’espérance, Le Seuil, 1997.
- A wink at Claude Debussy.
[English translation: François Couture, xi-08]
Espace vital [Vital Space] was realized in 2004 at the composer’s studio (Productions RTM), with support from the Canada Council for the Arts (CCA). The composer thanks Laure Fugère, Élise Turcotte (recorded voices).
The acoustic piano part, performed by Christian Parent, was recorded on October 10, 2008 at Studio Digison (Magog, Québec).