Georges Aperghis

Récitations for solo voice 1977-1978

1. Récitation 10: Left Part, 1st version

2. Récitation 5

3. Récitation 13

4. Récitation 10: Left Part, 2nd version

5. Récitation 7

6. Récitation 8: central part, vertical version

7. Récitation 10: Right Part

8. Récitation 1

9. Récitation 8: Right Part, vertical version

10. Récitation 11

11. Récitation 10: left part, 3rd version

12. Récitation 9

13. Récitation 8: left part, vertical version

14. Récitation 3

15. Récitation 12

16. Récitation 14

Performed by Martine Viard

From the CD: Récitations for Solo Voice, 1977-1978 (Maontaigne Naïve, MO 783118)

Récitations: A presentation by Daniel Durney

By the time Georges Aperghis was writing Récitations in 1978, he had already commenced experimenting with the unlikely blending of sounds and words and in so doing had discovered that logic more often than not begins to stray in such alchemy.

His previous works, especially those in the domain of music-theatre and opera - De la nature de l'eau [1974] Jacques le Fataliste [1974] Histoires be Loup [1976] - are dotted with snares, double meanings and labyrinths of superposed words and actions which expel rational explanation, cloud the issue, and divert attention. The music seemingly finds its strength as the words gradually fade in meaning, a process which endows these compositions with a haunting beauty.

Récitation for solo voice [1977-1978]

Automatic repetition puts all meaning to flight and is rendered more poetic by the sight of the schoolchild reciting by heart she falters, she catches up, falters again

This utilisation of repetition introduces the concept of accumulative processes which can be observed in later works such as Conversations [1988], Enumerations [1988] H [1992]. Trying to make sentences and small groups of words bend to arbitrary rules and structures recalls the formal language games played by the lettristes, Jacques Roubaud and Georges Perec. However, when both music and words are subjected to this treatment, as in the case of Récitation , (a major work in Aperghis' output), the result is an inimitable amalgam of susceptibility and burlesque, hallmark of the inventiveness and engaging musical personality ofthis composer

Récitation 10: left part

Récitation 5

Récitation 5

Récitation 13

From the outset, certain disruptive procedures are immediately discernible. Récitation 5 employs continuous reiteration techniques and constant permutations of identical notes paired with identical syllables (cf. example no 1, p. 4). In Récitation 13, there is gradual enumeration of the different components until the entire series has been exposed (cf. example no. 2, p. 5).

The hesitant setting forth of novelty by means of repeating what has previously been heard is enhanced by the graphic ordering of the elements which comprise the score of Récitation 10 left part: <<fois / parfois / ej parfois / sa ej parfois ... ),.

Récitation 7

Cumulative repetition procedures in Récitation 7 are applied not only to one but to two alternating sound and speech structures, each one displaying striking differences in timbre. While the first assigns, at regular intervals, rhythmic entities to two neighbouring notes, the second builds in frenetic bursts a mass of unpronounceable, screeching consonants.

Récitation 8

Récitation 10: right part

The mathematical scheme of progressive yet retrograde accumulation can again be found in Récitation 8 & 10. The musical material is relatively straightforward but marked by powerful sound images such as the accen tuated whispering or 'hushing' tones <<SH ... >>, which are clearly perceptible in Récitation 10 right part.

Récitation 1

Formal investigation into the perpetual recompostion of identical notes and their kindred syllables reaches perfection in Récitation 1 - <<tresses / femme / elle / jeune…>>. Initial groups grow or decay, sometimes at the beginning, sometimes at the end [cf. example no. 3 p. 6]. The relentless, whirling reiteration process where single sounds repeat themselves (unlikely subgroups emerge and the score seems to stutter) eventually gives way to a gentle oscillation of two notes, similar to the rocking of a new-born baby, comical transformations of timbre and elocution are obtained by placing resonators in front of the singer's mouth.

Récitation 11

Récitation 9

The two Récitations alternate with one another. The chatterings of Récitation 11 are packed into a formal pyramidal arrangement (possessing a backward and forward motion at once), while in Récitation 9, the tranquil uttering, in reverse, of an intelligible sentence is absorbed by heterogeneous sound material: whispering, Sprechgesang, rhythmic speech, 'chesty', chromaticism (<<donc>>), expiration / inspiration.

Récitation 12

The cumulative and retrograde successions of syllabic groupings whose muted textures and over-articulated modulations are reminiscent of pygmy chant unfold in a slow, unerring progression of swirling arabesques over which two drawling and mournful notes can be heard at regular intervals.

Récitation 14

In the final of the fourteen Récitations, Aperghis achieves perfect pairing of sense and sound and moreover discloses unsuspected relationships between notes. The permuted successions of <<heart / luth / cor / cœur / harp>> are each imbued with the same nostalgia and the same sadness; they ring in our ears like an emotional farewell bordering on tears. The entire sequence Must be taken in a single breath and by the end of the Récitation the singer is literally drained. Her last breath is spent in blowing out the candle.

Martine Viard:

A Conversation with Daniel Durney in April 1992

Daniel Durney: It is generally acknowledged - and Georges Aperghis is the first to agree - that there exists an indissoluble link between the composing of Récitations and the artistic personality of its performer, Who was Martine Viard at the time ?

Martine Viard: I was, I am, an actress, but an actress who sings. I studied dramatic art at the Simon Academy and have acted in plays by Arrabal, Goldoni and Shakespeare (a witch in Macbeth). During that time, I continued with piano and singing... However, I didn't want my career to become bogged down by operatic conventions and certainly wanted to retain the natural aspect of my voice together with its wide tessitura.

Daniel Durney: The seventies saw the incursions by many composers into the domain of the human voice. They explored sound material and played endless games with language; their mockery of opera gave rise to fresh ambiguities, marginal elements, intermediate degrees... All this gave me cause to dream.

Martine Viard: The roles I played in Michel Puig's La Chasse au Snark and Claude Prey's La donna è mobile suited me perfectly. This was vocal composition which gave vent to my talents as an actress and where I could invent characters out of the wonderful palette of vocal colour. Basically, what I was doing was to 'east' the feelings and gestures of the actress into the 'mould' of the voice. I felt I could do this.

Daniel Durney: In 1978 came the joint venture of Récitations. Guy Erisman, whose work in the domain of music-theatre at Radio France is well-known, created the circumstances by coming up with the idea of an hour-long broadcast on contemporary vocal composition. Rather than opt for a conventional radio performance, you suggested that Georges Aperghis receive a commission. Why was this?

Martine Viard: Georges Aperghis and I had already worked together for France Culture (Ateliers de Création Radiophonique) and we had collaborated with Antoine Vitez on Les Miracles. I had also premiered Pandémonium. Then, whilst we were touring with Histoires de Loup, he began writing the Récitations, one by one. He really imagined them as thumbnail sketches which the singer would gradually fill out.

Daniel Durney: You must have found an immediate rapport with a composer like Georges Aperghis who by the sheer playing around with phonemes manages to make up, in turns, enthralling, dramatic, tender and comical stories.

Martine Viard: Yes, quite so, because this inventiveness allowed me to slip into the intervening spaces existing between sound and sense and breathe life into my imaginary characters.

Daniel Durney: Would you say how you view your own interpretation of Récitation? Even though the score has reached definitive form, is pre-established at the time of performance, your interpretation is frequently judged to be a co-authorship.

Martine Viard: The case varies from one Récitation to the other. Let's take as an example Récitation 10 and the <<fois / parfois / ej parfois / sa ej parfois>>, which can be heard three times on the record but never in like manner. In this particular passage, there is no indication of note pitch, the rhythm is unvarying, logical sentence structure Is non-existent and it is really only progressively that any kind of meaning begins to emerge. As there is no musical or verbal support, I am able to give free rein to my imagination : one minute I'm an awe-struck, spellbound little girl, the next, I'm bustling and growling. On the other hand, in Récitation 9, we have the gradual building up of a sentence which has a logical meaning - <<Parfois je résiste à mon envie, parfois je lui cède, pourquoi donc ce désir ?>>. The delirious vocal effects come in cascades and the way they are juxtaposed invests them with a dramaturgy of their own. Stage actions are embodied in the music itself and any extra drama of my own would be superfluous.

Daniel Durney: Would you say that you read the score with the eyes and the sensibility of an actress but all the while attempting to unravel the author's intentions?

Martine Viard: More often than not, I rely on what is immediately perceptible, like syllables. In Récitation 1, the resonance of the words << tresse / femme / elle / jeune…>> fixes the colour of my singing. The same applies to Récitation 5 whose singular sweetness stems partly from the positioning of the lips (rounded) when pronouncing the syllables. The mere rounding of the lips causes me to adopt an introspective attitude.

Occasionally, I am more decisive. For instance, in Récitation 13, 1 had difficulty in memorizing the whirling linear scoring, which is a veritable percussion solo! I found my acting experience helped again, and by imagining myself as an energetic rock singer gradually working herself up into a state of ecstasy, I managed to overcome the problem. It was a way of creating artificial divisions in a score which otherwise advances relentlessly It gave me reference points breathing spaces.

Daniel Durney: The dramatic aspect of your interpretation made the staging of Récitations almost inevitable, This is what happened in fact when in 1982 Michel Rostain realised the first stage production at the Festival d'Avignon.

Martine Viard: Certain theatrical gestures are bound to arise from any interpretation. When it comes to the famous rhythmic chatterings in Récitation 11 - <<comme ça / faut pas vous appeler comma qa / va lui c'mander toi >>, quite spontaneously I've always found ways of moving on stage and using the props. Certain gestures are also useful when it comes to following the structure of this Récitation such as highlighting its conspicuous features and bringing out the contrasting elements of the score which is constructed like a large pyramid.

Later on, in 1985, Georges Aperghis decided to stage the work himself. Wishing to divest the composition of any kind of psychological intention - the 'love and life story of a woman' genre - he devised a relatively simple system of stage lighting which brought into play the differences in the vocal timbres (Récitation 7, for example, where the purring legato tones <<ro-au>> alternate incessantly with tones which are either overshrill or muted : <<maha!>>.

All in all, we must have given Récitations hundreds of times, Maurice Fleuret even wanted to buy us a van so that we could play it everywhere.

He said he knew it was a masterpiece.