Broadcast on Radio-Canada — September 8, 1997 — Navire Night
I first discovered the universe of Frida Kahlo, not through her impressive paintings (tainted by suffering, she nonetheless led an exceptional life and bequeathed us her paintings) but rather through the intimacy of her diary that she kept during the final years of her life. In her writing we discover her heart, her senses and her soul.
The unusual fate of this woman led me to reflect on the influence of fatality on the trajectory of life, on what happens to the children marked by war, insults, malformations, cruelty… I allowed Frida Kahlo’s world to influence me to a point of transposition.
What you will see this evening is not her life but rather her transformation into a wholly new life. The music of Jean Piché, the colours of Anita Pantin, the adaptation by Yan Muckle will transport you, I hope, into the singular world of a child who has become an adult, subjected to a difficult destiny, that, in keeping with Frida’s image, lives a life with another kind of outlook, that of tenacity and courage.
At first I hesitated when Pauline Vaillancourt asked me to write this music, for a number of reasons. Inexperience was one of them. In my 25 years in the craft, I had never written for voice. Up to that point, opera had been a discipline inexplicably far from me. Carefully, I got closer.
Kahlo revealed herself to me as a public and political woman and also as an artist of prodigious talent. The precise images she left us are like windows looking into an imagination where the vice of physical and emotional suffering define both art and emotion. From her poetic and anecdotal writings I learned about the resilience of the will, the courage of existence and the devotion to a physically demanding artistic vision.
Pauline Vaillancourt’s dramatic vision is a singular and keen retelling of her story. Working in this new realm I wanted to create music that was direct and which held nothing back. Music, that would above all sing, without ever screaming, and create a sustained, and in the end absurd, suffering. Suffering I know nothing about. That I’ve never seen. There was nothing stopping me.
Electroacoustic music is my medium. Contrary to, or perhaps concordantly with the pure practice of the art, my compositions often contain references to higher harmonics and coded melodic material. It is a technique that is impure and which uses technological exploration to search for the tools to create transparent dramatic expression. The “truth” of acoustic relationships has always seduced me. But it is a risky musical gambit; it becomes a slippery but essential pedlar of brute emotions, a direct conduit of the musical event. As an act of rebellion, I pursue this quest towards a still imprecise mysticism.
Nota Bene: Excerpts from Recitations by George Aperghis performed by Pauline Vaillancourt, and traditional native songs from Île de la Reunion, totalling 15 seconds, were used in the composition of tableau 8. The recorded vocal material was taken from spectral manipulations of Pauline Vaillancourt’s voice and a synthesis of pure vocal sounds.
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