mais le corps taché d'ombres

2019 (rev. 2021) | 10' | harp and string orchestra

 for Marc Sabat and Thomas Nicholson

« Rêvons ensemble, Amour, à quelque dur amant                  
Grand comme l’Univers mais le corps taché d’ombres                  
Qui nous bouclera nus dans ces auberges sombres                  
Entre ses cuisses d’or, sur son ventre fumant. »
- Jean Genet

‘mais le corps taché d’ombres’ is a tense, writhing work in which strands of melody, at first isolated and drifting, navigate an increasingly complex harmonic web to connect with each other. Sometimes they are obscured by the overlaying tissue, sometimes penetrating it to come up to the surface. The fragmented tunes chase each others’ tail until they finally are given their head on joining together and conjuring up a pair of ecstatic climaxes. This piece’s tonality deals in extreme contrasts between hyper-consonance (23-limit just intonation) and hyper-dissonance (critical-band intervals) which lend to it a sometimes nerve-jangling, sometimes almost overly rich sonority. The melodies conjure up not only Mahler’s swooping strings and the extremely tight-knit counterpoint found in Berg and Ligeti, but also the great Disco diva’s of the 70’s, like Gloria Gaynor and Donna Summer. The title comes from Jean Genet’s poem Le condamné à mort, in which he describes darkly lit taverns where he would meet men, unbuckling them, while hardly being able to see their faces, their bodies ‘overwhelming as the universe, but stained by shadows’. The piece can follow 2020’s unde imber ignes as a companion piece. This piece’s opening chord is the latter’s ending chord, and both pieces exchange some musical and thematic DNA throughout.

                   [it's] An ingenious, dark and claustrophobic piece,

                  with ominous strings and a throny role for the harp

                  - mischa spel, nrc 30 may 2021


Commissioned by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and the Mahler Foundation. After being originally scheduled for the 2020 Mahler Festival, it had to be postponed. It was premiered by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra conducted by Fabio Luisi.

Instrumentation: [ | | Hp.|]

stream by the ROYAL CONCERTGEBOUW ORCHESTRA, conducted by fabio Luisi