for french horn and real-time synthesis (2023)

commissioned by Radio France

duration: 10 minutes

The five Émissions for french horn and real-time synthesis borrow from the radio medium formal principles and sounds to which the history of the twentieth century has given particular significance. Each program – with the exception of the last – follows the rule of a generic, a designator, which it treats differently according to its nature. Thus, the initial motif of the scherzo from Mahler’s Fifth Symphony is dissolved into slowness; the melody of the BBC’s German jamming during the Second World War is repeated as an ostinato; the sound of a telephone modem from the 1990s becomes a short piece.

In a composition in which the machine and the human performer compete for control of duration and seem to be on an equal footing, tension controls the sound form, at the risk of losing its musicality. The succession of pieces is governed by processes of accumulation and acceleration that bring together, through the mediations of analysis and synthesis, the horn’s modes of emission and the sonic artifacts of technology. The third Émission, for example, ends with an electronic cadenza that replays the piece from the beginning, in the manner of a tape recorder whose tempo compounds the acceleration of the recorded material. There’s nothing left but noise when the fourth program begins, with timbres perhaps reminiscent of those of early musique concrète at the Maison de la Radio.

One could almost hear these Émissions as music with a program, adorning itself with the aesthetic trappings inherited from past decades, in an attempt to foil them in their profoundly undesirable aspects. The final program frees both performer and listener: instead of a time constraint, the horn unexpectedly runs through a catalog of ocean sounds and cetacean songs that could go on indefinitely. Radio and music have already disappeared: a broadcast is, by definition, what you let go.


April 12, 2023 by Manon Souchard at the Radio France Auditorium

Photo credit: Manon Souchard