Music in Par(ad)is(e)

de Liviu Dănceanu, Diary to read while listening to music

Bucharest, Corgal Press, 2009

 

          Before the '90s, composer, conductor and aesthetician Liviu Dănceanu was forced, as most Romanians, to travel mainly within the borders of the country. Only after "the change in political direction" did he experience a true taste of freedom. The opportunity to live for three months in Paris - offered by the Romanian Cultural Institute through the "George Enescu" grant - had, it seems, the relish of a genuine event. A relish that he did not keep only for himself, but as Diary to read while listening to music, he wanted to share with others the experience lived in what he calls "the capital of contemporary music".
           Diary has the appearance of an unusual guide of Paris and music. With every diary entry, the reader is encouraged to listen to a specific musical piece. The invitation advanced by the author is therefore that of a journey through the history of music, through the most diverse genres and styles, in a temporal loop that stretches from Judeea et Jerusalem by Leoninus, all the way to Imagine by John Lennon. A mixture of sounds in harmony with new places and people… In fact, what would better suit a boat ride on Seine with Bateaux-Mouches rather than Gosse de Paris by Charles Aznavour/ Michel Vidalin? But a visit to the Museum of Modern Art? Maybe Pacific 231 by Arthur Honegger?
           Probably any tourist that went to Paris and fought with one's own physical limitations in the desperate attempt to visit as much as possible, can relate to the situations experienced by the author. For instance, at Louvre: "I feel as if the marble is slipping from under my feet. My eyes can no longer see anything. I am increasingly desperate. Sortie! At Louvre, the role of the visitor is an art, and this art is an entire philosophy that primarily entails repetition".
           However, the exploration of environment is generally eclipsed by the voluptuousness that characterizes the musician in his scrutiny of inner, subjective worlds. His ruminations on sonic phenomenons, but also some of his introspections, complement in the most diverse and refined ways the references to the places visited. At Maison de la Radio France, at IRCAM and in different concert halls, cathedrals, the author regularly inspects the fervor of the Parisian concert scene and openly expresses his opinions: "Music, unbridled, flows insipidly, colorless and odorless…, awaiting the second guest - Antoine Hervé - generous in offering us for taste his jazz with bread and butter. Refined jazz, with some frills and pretentiousness, in the fashion of great stall collections".
           Analogies between new music and the contemporary architecture of Paris (La Défence) or between new music and visual arts (Centre Pompidou) confirm the author's obsessions and unrelenting activity of classifying and ordering aspects of contemporary sonic arts. Sometimes, spatial references given as titles act as simple pretexts to sketch portraits of contemporary composers (Aulnay-Sous-Bois: Damien Charron) or bands (Pantin: saxophonists quartet Emphasis). A moment of almost palpable emotion is the "meeting" with Enescu at Père Lachaise: "I went to see Enescu. He seemed somewhat sad and lonely. […] I asked him all sorts of things. He told me that he sometimes meets Chopin for a Bach partita, comments with Cherubini or Bizet on the avatars of the lyrical genre or that he discusses with Poulenc on the faith of contemporary music".
           The self-imposed absence of any "filter or restraint" in the flow of writing this Diary suggest a rare quality, that of honesty, which Liviu Dănceanu doesn't want to abandon even at the risk of compromising himself. And the playful character, present from time to time, maintains the same exercise of spontaneity: "Add three letters to Paris: you get, as Jules Renard said, Paradise!", writes Dănceanu instead of a conclusion.

Florinela Popa
(English Version by Simina Neagu)

 


Guides des Formes de la Musique Occidentale

de Claude Abromont and Eugène de Montalembert

Paris, Fayard-Lemoine, 2010

 

           The domain of organizing musical forms and structures has been investigated ever since ancient times in the field of European music. As in any other cultural segment, researchers have been interested throughout history in discerning the morphology, syntax and stylistic characteristics that define or are at the basis of music pieces. Being a discipline that evolves along with the history of music, theoretical concepts are permanently submitted to a process of re-definition, re-evaluation and re-positioning.
           The renowned publishing house Fayard-Lemoine continues the series of contributions in the field with its series of musical guides. A new volume dedicated to sonic forms originating in Central and West Europe has recently been published, and was authored by Claude Abromont and Eugène de Montalembert. Comprising 236 pages, Guide of Western Musical Forms (Guides des Formes de la Musique Occidentale) presents, in alphabetical order, formal musical structures from the Middles Ages to the contemporary period. From its first pages, one can notice the convincing and complex approach. Detailed theoretical explanations sustain the authors’ opinions from historical, stylistical, aesthetical and analytical points of view.
           Thus, the volume is not limited to a singular point of view on the issues of musical forms, but advances varied perspectives, that provide substance and coherence for the entire material. The practical relevance of each notion is the authors' main priority, systematically exemplifying theoretical information with proper musical references. The present study covers a broad spectrum, such as that of medieval forms, contrapuntal writing, forms of a suite, minuet, scherzo, rondo, lied, variational forms or sonata (analyzed extensively, with all its aspects throughout history - baroque, classic, monothematic, romantic sonata or sonata without development). Special attention is devoted to more recent forms of the twentieth century, forms in process, interpolated forms, arch forms, open or kaleidoscope forms.
           The list of works examined according to formal criteria is as diverse, including names such as Leonin, Stravinsky, Monteverdi, Bach, Bartók, Haydn, Debussy or Beatles. Looking at the list of analyzed composers, one can notice the main criticism that this theoretical contribution could get. Although, as the title suggests, the volume refers to Western musical forms, mentions of American composers who influenced this field are missing  (for instance, Earle Brown played a crucial role in the development of the open form). Should we assume that when the authors use the term "Western music" they mainly consider European music, since the only American composers mentioned are John Cage and George Gershwin?
           With an ample bibliography, that includes figures such as Alban Berg, Hector Berlioz, Diether de la Motte, Pierre Boulez, Ivanka Stoianova, Nicholas Cook, Jean-Jacques Nattiez, Claude Palisca, Paul Griffith or Marie-Claire Mussat, Guide of Western Musical Forms represents a significant contribution in the field of European music. The educational experience of both Claude Abromont and Eugène de Montalembert is felt in their fluent, clear discourse, devoid of unnecessary details or difficult information. In fact, the guide is written especially for students or pupils of music education facilities, but also for specialists and musicians interested in this domain. At the same time, due to the accessible language and clarity of commentary, the volume can be very useful to music lovers.
           Under the authorship of Claude Abromont, professor of music analysis and methodology at the Superior Conservatory of Music and Dance in Paris, Fayard – Lemoine publishing house edited in 2001 the Music Theory Guide. This was also written in collaboration with Eugene de Montalembert (professor of analysis, music history, paleography, counterpoint and ethnomusicology at the Music Conservatory in Dijon) and was very well received by specialists and particularly by the young public, its target audience. In the same vein of research in sonic arts perception, one could include his Brief Treaty on Listening Interpretation (Petit précis du commentaire d’écoute), edited in 2008 by Panama and re-edited last year by Fayard.

Ioana Marghita
(English Version by Simina Neagu)