Music with pulsar obligato

Monday, May 21, 2012

Michael Miller writes for The Berkshire Review:

This roughly hour-long work for six percussion players encircling the audience was Grisey’s response to his discovery of the sound of pulsars. Neither Grisey, although he taught at Berkeley  for four years, nor the largely European movement to which he belonged for a while, Spectralism, is very well known in the United States. Last year’s American tour by Les Percussions de Strasbourg in which they played Le Noir de l’Étoile (for a review of their Lincoln Center performance, click here) and the New York Philharmonic residency of Grisey’s pupil, Magnus Lindberg, have done something to correct that. Susanna Mälkki recently conducted Grisey’s 1977 work, Modulations, with the San Francisco Symphony, reviewed here by Steven Kruger.

By the time Grisey came to write Le Noir de l’Étoile, on commission from Les Percussions de Strasbourg in 1989-90, he had moved beyond Spectralism, which was a highly rigorous method for composing music from the nature of sound itself and the way it is received by human perception. For him “music is made with sounds, not with notes.”  In 1986, Grisey began to focus on unpredictability and volatility in music, and the organization of his works became less readily apparent, fractured as they were by abrupt changes and outbursts. In this work he turned to the nature of recently discovered entities in space, pulsars, which exist far outside our solar system, following processes alien to the regularity of the cycles we have come to depend on for life on our planet.

Read the full article