Browning Agon

Browsing Agon


Pour 10 musiciens (2008)

Partition Browsing Agon

avec la permission de l’Ensemble Aventa, dir. Bill Linwood

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The starting idea was to write a series of miniatures, quickly, for the whole group of 10 musicians of Aventa’s workshop. And the next step was  (through their conductor Bill Linwood) to ask each musician of the ensemble to send me by email one single idea. And this is what I got :

Krakatoa (from Miranda Wong, piano)

Zéphyr, or Amnesia (from Darnell Linwood, horn)

Bisbigliando (from Darren Buhr, contrabass)

Sushi (from Masako Hockey, percussion)

Flamenco (from AK Coope, clarinet)

Newt (from Mark McGregor, flute)

Hocketus with some Klangfarben (from Alasdair Money, cello)

Hot sandy beach, with sporadic raindrops (from Micah Kohut, alto)

Multiphonics (from Russel Bajer, oboe)

Shoes, Turkey – the country – and Wine (from Muge Buyukcelen, violin)


Agon (from Bill Linwood himself)

I couldn’t get over the idea of making a one movement piece out of all this, instead of a series of short pieces separated by silence. But how do you make a whole out of such disparateness ? Well, the idea was there, with Bill’s suggestion that Agon become the « overall theme ».

Agon : not only the greek God of wrestling, match and competition, a characteristic expressed here by the idea of centering each miniature on the instrument of the person who proposed its thematic idea, and sometimes also by some sort of musical opposition (of ideas, of instrumental subgroups). But Agon is also this fantastic ballet by Stravinsky for Balanchine, a turning point in Stravinsky’s production, started in 1954 but finished three years years later, as the composer had jumped into his last period inspired by Webern’s serialism. Despite the shift of technique, a undeniable sense of coherence can be perceived in that work. In 1971(the year of Stravinsky’s death), Henri Pousseur and André Boucourechliev have written important articles showing the profound unity of Stravinsky’s output, the first on the harmonic level in Agon, the second on the stylistic level for the whole corpus of his works.

Well… the historical validation of eclecticism was there…, with an inspiring model !

So each one of Aventa’s miniatures became for me a pleasurable exploration of some of the numerous resources present in Agon, from melodic contour to harmonic or formal ideas, etc, etc, guided by the (sometimes extra-musical) thematic proposals from the musicians. For some, you would recognize the source, for others not. But each should stand alone, as a little expressive moment. As for the unity of it all, it became a secondary matter for me, and the browsing gesture itself left its trace through a kind of pointilistic refrain between each miniature, like if we were quickly jumping from one channel or web page to the other before finally stopping on one. (Of course, one may think of a 2008 adaptation of the Promenade, from Mussorgsky’s Pictures of an exhibition…)

All oppositions and browsing resolved, the piece finishes like it started…

Michel Gonneville

(september 2008)