No 5 Chant Negatif (1995)

for high soprano, string orchestra and percussion

Commissioned by:
First Performance: Netherlands Ballet Orchestra, Beurs van Berlage, Amsterdam. Cond. Stefan Asbury. Soprano Elena Vink
Instrumentation: High Soprano, large String Orchestra & 6 Percussion
Duration: 40’

Score can be obtained through Donemus
Score samples

Info/Program note:
Still one of my favorite early pieces, Chant Négatif was written while I was still a student, in 1994/1995, and should properly be interpreted as a ‘Song of Denial’. The work is part of a cycle of pieces I was writing at the time, scored for sopranos and different instrumental setups, which also include the works Chant Ascendant and Chant Descendant and are all set to enumerative texts by the French poet Jacques Prévert.

Based on a single, six-note motive which permeates the entire piece in various guises, Chant Négatif proceeds through a long sequence of ‘affirmations’ and ‘denials’ – each new ‘denial’ corrupting the original music more and more as the piece progresses and denying the human voice its entrance for well over 30 minutes.

When the music seems to have reached a point of no return, it suddenly flourishes however and the singer embarks on an exalted ode to the birds. As the string orchestra disappears one by one, her appeal is gradually taken over by a percussion ‘machine’, consisting of artificial bird sounds and other noise makers – thereby returning the music once again to its ‘natural’ state of chaos.

Chant Négatif (excerpt)

Chant Négatif (full recording)

Jacques Prévert Les oiseaux du souci

Pluie de plumes plumes de pluie
Celle qui vous aimait n’est plus
Que me voulez-vous oiseaux
Plumes de pluie pluie de plumes
Depuis que tu n’es plus je ne sais plus
Je ne sais plus ou j’en suis
Pluies de plumes plumes de pluie
Je ne sais plus que faire
Suaire de pluie pluie de suie
Est-ce possible que jamais plus
Plumes de suie… Allez ouste dehors hirondelles
Quittez vos nids… Hein? Quoi? Ce n’est pas la saison des voyages?…
Je m’en moque sortez de cette chambre hirondelles du matin
Hirondelles du soir partez… Ou? Hein? Alors restez
c’est moi qui m’en irai…
Plumes de suie suie de plumes je m’en irai nulle part
et puis un peu partout
Restez ici oiseaux du désespoir
Restex ici… Faites comme chez vous.