Jeu du hasard et de la détermination  (1998-1999)

Play of the chance and the determination


For piano, percussion and memorized sounds — (22’30)


This is an idea not very distant from that what I work since a rather long time. Whether found objects and how and where they are found, or the work on the cycles (tautology) that fabricates fortuitous encounters, I always was and I am still, fascinated by what produces what one calls the chance.


It is first a reflection on the individual and why he is at such place at such time. It is then a reflection on the collective made by individuals who cross at such place and such time.


An individual is made of a whole of rhythms, either physic, emotional, social, or etc… that combine, sometimes while repeating themselves and which makes him move, or quite simply live.


The society is made of several individuals whose rhythms clash, are confronted and are stack up. The social is the friction of all this magma in the continuity of the moments.


On the one hand, the individual is determined in his moments, on the other hand the society is the hazardous reserve of these same moments and it brews them and assumes their diversity, sometimes it guides them by protocols.



And how this concept can become composition or artistic creation; the question was put in many of my work. Whether by the experimentation of the superposition of cycles of various lengths (tautologos), or by the involvements of the reservoir (fable of the resignation and the ashtray).


Precisely the ashtray, if diverted from its function which is to collect ashes, because of its capacity, can be used as receptacle of objects such as for example notes and even chords, silences, the rhythms, complex objects, etc.  I did it, but what a worry!


In this new project, my idea was of saying for example: I have duration and I have sounds and I would like an instrument (which is not me who would place them with a hell’s determination), but somebody of neutral, like software… I thus asked the GRM to construct for me a program, which would do that without pain. François Donato conceived the object, which we called “the digital ashtray”, whose role was of saying to which place in the total duration; each sound was to be located.



I decided to compose 21 minutes because I found that it was an interesting duration. I decided that there would be sounds (which we will henceforth call ‘elements’) elements, which would go from brief until long, maximum 45″. I thus had to imagine how many elements one could put in 21 minutes and I decided that, everything considered and after multiple simulations, 371 were needed.

All the memorized sounds (often polished up in a radical way) are instrumental sounds; this is why I decided that the tape would be traversed from one end to the other by a realistic but blur environment (i.e. ambiguous realism).

Some words on this environment: It is about of the station of Los Angeles, which is a very pretty Mexican style construction. There is a very large hall with a soft and slightly reverberating sound, and which has the advantage to be fitted out with large very comfortable leather armchairs. It was thus a question for me of sitting down in an armchair, of posing my microphone on the armrest and of recording a sequence shot of 21 minutes. I then placed this sound in the mix, it does not have there any cut, I promise.



There are two types of elements, those that will compose the tape, and those intended for the instrumentalists.

For the memorized sounds, I needed to imagine a whole store of elements, which could as well go together as contradict themselves in their diversity and this without knowing how they were going to be assembled. For the instrumental elements, I had to invent characters in the abstract, by defining by principle their identity by instinct and by taste, while not knowing where and how they were going to combine.


Memorized Sons (there are 295 of them)

I chose rather ordinary characters but having sound qualities of a great subtlety (it is me who thinks it): rhythmic elements, percussive elements, evolving harmonic elements, confused elements. Each element having duration and a tessitura. Each element repeating a certain number of times, but never exactly similar.


Instrumental sounds (there are 76 of them)

For the elements intended for the instrumentalists, I needed to forge families of characters that I took in my practices although I defend myself to have some, such as for example: gathered fast or dispersed fast, irregular or two poles pulsed fast or ascendant tempo regular chord slow tempo, etc…

Sometimes it happened that by the play of the chance, certain contradictory characters were intended to the same instrumentalist, therefore technically acrobatic.

Solutions had then to be found. I found them.



As I said it a few moments ago, all the elements were numbered from 1 to 371. It was thus enough to let me lead by the digital ashtray and build the tape and the instrumental score. What I did. Without cheating. At least not too.

What is curious, except the fact that elements fell in composition in a surprising manner, is that chance created a coherent form and the even a bit conventional: a kind of big crescendo of effervescence towards the third quarter of the part.

Moreover the ashtray had the audacity to complete the work by choosing the most conclusive sound of the collection. I found that it was in extreme limit of bad taste. But I left.

And on this moving ground which is a station hall, cross beings (sounds, elements, creatures), animated by choices or individual obligations, joined together one moment, by the only fact of coincidence, in this place delimited by quays but at the same time open on the geography.

So goes the train of the composition, in this diffuse chance and this furious determination.


As I already said, I did not cheat, at least not too.


Paris, September 22, 1999


Composed at the Atelier Post Billig with the assistance of the GRM (Special commission by the Ministry of Culture and Communication)