Michel Gonneville : Henricare’s Flight (2015)
(20 min) for solo flute and ensemble of 10 musicians
avec l’aimable autorisation de New Music Concerts (Robert Aitken, flûte; New Music Concerts ensemble, dir. Brian Current)
Henricare’s Flight is dedicated to the memory of Henri Pousseur (1929-2009). As a composer of the post-war generation, along with Boulez, Stockhausen, Berio, Nono, Goeyvaerts, etc., Pousseur has been profoundly involved in the musical avant-garde adventure of that period (development of new serial techniques, of electroacoustic or aleatoric music, etc), until he felt, at the turn of the 60’s, the need to go beyond the collectively self-imposed limits of this adventure. His effort, his « refus du refus », led him to reintegrate in his musical language elements that were temporarily discarded by his generation (consonance, thematism, periodicity, repetition, etc) and to further develop techniques allowing this reintegration. Works like Votre Faust, Couleurs croisées, Vue sur les jardins interdits et La seconde apothéose de Rameau are accomplished examples of this almost « pre-postmodern » reorientation.
A well respected composer, pedagogue and theoretician, Henri Pousseur was also a politically committed man. Highly sensitive to the injustices of our world, he often expressed in his own works his profound desire of a better future for humanity, notably inspired by the writings of the german philosopher Ernst Bloch. In Pousseur, the konkrete Utopie of the latter took the form of a new version of the myth of Icarus, where the hero could come closer to the sun because of heat resisting wings he had build for himself. Metaphor of the quest for an ideal humanity for which we are responsible to work patiently.
As a gift for Pousseur’s 70th birthday, I composed in 1999 a short piano piece whose title, Henricare, parti lécher les étoiles, associated a fragment of a poem by Michel Butor to a composite name now reused for Henricare’s Flight. A unique movement from the lowest register to the highest notes is common to both works, here expanded over 20 minutes. This movement is heard in the solo flute part as well as in the accompanying ensemble (10 instruments).
While composing this elegy, a strange image took shape : that of a group of shamans or priests – « impersonated » by the instrumentalists – who accompany a dying person or commemorate his death. The solo flute would then be the voice of that person, closely embraced by the microtonal synthesizer playing an accordion sound (this omnipresent shining shadow could very well evoke the acouphens associated with the hyperacousia suffered by Pousseur in his last years). I also imagined a group of these shamans (the instrumental ensemble) imitating the taking-off, the flight, the movement of the gigantically large wings of this departing Icarus, with the percussion punctuating hieratically the processional ceremony.
Composed as an homage to a man with which I have studied and worked between 1976 and 1978, and whose ideas and works have been of profound influence on my own, Henricare’s Flight is also thankfully dedicated to flutist, composer and artistic director Robert Aitken, who offered me the occasion of this project, as well as to the musicians and collaborators of New Music Concerts.
Michel Gonneville, March 8th, 2015