Chat noir explores through sound how the paradox of opposition develops in the psychological reality of mankind, which happens notably through the shadow-making process in the young human being.
According to Johnson, when the civilizing process culls out qualities that are perilous to the smooth functioning of our ideas, they are stored in the shadow, the psychological realm for that which is unacceptable. The shadow is seen as the despised part of our being that is pushed to the bottom of the spiritual pool. We separate the self into the ego and the shadow because our culture dictates that we act in a particular way. However, very good human qualities also can be relegated to the shadow because they, too, do not fit in the vast leveling process which is culture. Chat noir explores this shadow.
The work is a scherzo in which the young human being witnesses the developing oppositions in its soul in the form of a sonic game. At every development in the game, a ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ are established, sewing the seeds for internal conflict. During the musical discourse, the ‘wrong’, the shadow accumulates energy and appears in the form of sonic knots of great tension.
Offering a counterpoint to the character of the young being and its turbulent development is the character of a small feline — a black cat. The gently playful, whimsical presence of the cat, illustrated through scampering sounds and iterations, represents the pure gold part of our personality which is often banished to the shadow.
Chat noir is the second work in a cycle that is inspired by the book Owning Your Own Shadow: Understanding the Dark Side of the Psyche (1991) by Robert A Johnson (Portland, OR, USA, 1921).
Chat noir was realized in 1998 at the Métamorphoses d’Orphée studio of Musiques & Recherches in Ohain (Belgium) and the electroacoustic studios of City University London (England, UK), and premiered on November 18, 1998 during the 5th international acousmatic festival L’Espace du son at the XL Théâtre du Grand Midi in Brussels (Belgium). Much of the sound material for Chat noir was created in July 1996 in the studios at the Groupe de musique expérimentale de Marseille (GMEM, France). The piece was realized with the help of the ministry of Communauté française de Belgique.
This version was mastered by Cyrille Carillon in September 2013 at the Studio Domino in Marseille (France).