Program Notes (Nighttime Revelations)

Variations sur «Garagonia…», tiré du Cycle des territoires (Maurice-Gaston Du Berger) 

Microcosmes d’un microcosme, les trois variations sur Garagonia…  s’inspirent d’éléments, de motifs et de rythmes de l’œuvre éponyme qui a été créée ici même à l’église Saint-Jean-Baptiste en juin 2021. Garagonia… fait partie d’un cycle de neuf pièces intitulé «Cycle des territoires», et est librement inspirée d’un poème de Claude Gauvreau*. Allant au-delà de la variation où un thème unique est enjolivé par couches successives, ces trois miniatures explorent chacune un microélément de l’œuvre originale, l’extirpent de son contexte et lui donnent une nouvelle vie. Cet élément qui n’était que fraction devient alors un petit univers autonome, complet et d’une certaine façon, indépendant de sa matrice. Comme un microscope, ces trois variations sur Garagonia…  explorent l’univers en se tournant vers l’infiniment petit. 

*«2» extrait de Jappements à la lune dans Œuvres créatrices complètes. Claude Gauvreau, Montréal, Éditions de l’Hexagone, 1991, p. 1492. 

Trois pièces pour orgue (Louis-Michel Tougas)

Deux fils conducteurs ont motivé la composition de mes Trois pièces pour orgue. Le premier consiste en l’emploi de « motifs de timbre », où l’identité des différents motifs — et leur variation éventuelle — est fondée sur le paramètre du timbre plutôt qu’uniquement sur ceux des hauteurs et des durées. En ce sens, l’orgue constitue un espace d’exploration privilégié, tant ses possibilités de variations de couleurs sonores sont riches et variées.

Le second fil relève de l’usage de divers types de structures poly-temporelles. Une inspiration majeure pour cette stratégie d’écriture me vient de l’étude de recueils de composition manuscrits de la fin du Moyen Âge et de la Renaissance, période où la notation musicale a connu des développements majeurs relatifs à la complexité rythmique. Dans mes pièces, j’emprunte — en les modernisant — des techniques telles que le canon de prolation, où plusieurs voix font entendre différents tempi, et ce simultanément.

Prélude et fugue (Laurence Jobidon)

The prelude and fugue is probably one of the most emblematic musical forms of the organ repertoire. Not knowing if I would manage to approach it in a truly personal way, I had carefully avoided writing one… until now. In this work, the prelude is slow and contemplative, and unfolds tentatively around a melodic line, given to the pedalboard. Initially, the pedal is thus introduced nearly as a soloist within an ensemble, with the manuals merely commenting and coloring the pedal part. As the music unfolds, the manuals progressively bring in more ideas of their own, thus creating a more balanced texture. By which point the quicker-paced fugue can start. 

Stille und Sein (Joel Peters)

Dedication for “Stille und Sein”   

“The whole world awoke to a grim new reality with the advent of 2020. While the human condition was already beset by innumerable vexing issues, the Covid pandemic utterly changed daily life for everyone. In December of that year, a friend shared a recording of a men’s choir – of which he was a part – made in South America some 16 years previous. As we contemplated its words of longing for a quieted soul, my wife and I were struck by the relevance of the hymn for those struggling with Covid life. We seized on the idea of commissioning an organ meditation as a way of sharing this message with a wider audience. We’re delighted that Joel took on this project, especially as we had watched his growth from young organ scholar to accomplished church organist and composer. His grounding in the Mennonite tradition (from which this hymn arose) and his deep spiritual connection with German literature served him ideally for this task.   

We dedicate this work to all who have struggled with spiritual disquiet and turmoil for the past few years – and especially to those like my mother, who lived their last years in relative isolation brought on by pandemic-related health precautions.” – Gordon & Ruth Peters   

Notes from the Composer   

When Gordon Peters (whom I have always addressed as ‘Sir’) approached me (who has always addressed me as ‘Young Sir’) with this commission, I took on the challenge with a joyful reverence. I anticipated that finding the right sound for this project would be difficult. Moreover, it came at a moment when I, too, was desperately looking for my own sense of reprieve from the chaos of the world and the chaos within myself. At the time, I wanted nothing more than to be gently carried off to a place where the losses of love and losses of life would no longer be. And so I searched for that sound of reprieve, as a weary traveler searches for nourishment and rest.   

I went down many paths to find it: paths inspired by Bach’s Chorale Partitas, Scriabin’s Preludes, my past work, even nearly forgotten radio signals, transmitting from places, people and homes that no longer exist. These paths held great promise. I believe following them to their conclusion would have yielded good and decent organ compositions. However, to write an organ meditation inspired by the longing for stillness called forth by the human voice required a different approach, an approach that would extract the essence of the breath and vibrations of a human voice and re-invent it with the sound of the organ’s own breath and speech. And so finally, after further experimentation and further research, a sound spoke to me, a sound that gave me a comfort not unlike that of a lullaby, resulting in a severe reduction of the number of notes and a multiplication of the colors of pitch, while holding fast to the chorale melody, which remained fully intact. The seventh note, ‘sein’, however, I altered. The generating principles of the composition seemed to demand it; doing so, grounded the tonality, and incidentally brought relief, a release of tension that would have arisen had I been entirely faithful to the original melody. And so I continued and gradually Stille und Sein came into being.   

On the philosophical, poetic line, this composition is a work that investigates stillness and being in a manner not dissimilar to that of the investigations done through words: Being and Time, Being and Nothingness, Being and Event, and so forth. It is a way of investigating one component without losing sight of the other, moving to and fro among the two terms, gradually accumulating, and dissolving more. On hand, I could be convinced that the chorale melody is the call for stillness; the accompaniment, the temporal, incompleteness of being. But this doesn’t work. Neither of these are what they are without the other, and neither came to be without the other. This incompleteness, its transitory nature, illusion of completeness is not a deficiency in stillness, nor a fortiori in being, but rather the very definition of it, as Merleau-Ponty puts it.   

In the end, this became a piece which humbly searches for a stillness of being, rather than presuming to have found the stillness of being, which the poet longs for. And still, my selfish hope is that this music does qualify to grant reprieve, that it does indeed touch upon the stillness of being and that maybe, just maybe, someone, somewhere may feel the burden lighten in a quiet moment of reflection, a period of loss, aching alone or in time of chaos. Or, at the very least accomplish what Robert Frost said of poetry; that it can offer a momentary stay against the confusion of this world.