Pesson, Gérard: Wunderblock (Nebenstück II) (accordion and orchestra) 21′
An attempt at the erasure of the Majestoso from Anton Bruckner’s Sixth Symphony
In 1953, Robert Rauschenberg erased a drawing by Willem De Kooning then exhibited the result, with De Kooning’s consent.
In undertaking my Nebenstücke – what I called ‘propedeutic monarchaeology’ -, it was a question of proceeding to a sort of ‘autopsy of the referent’. Regarding Brahms’s Ballade no4, Op.10, which provided the matter for Nebenstück l, I had used the metaphor of an object that had fallen into the sea and which, oxidised and covered with coral, is both emphasised by the additive wear and concealed from one’s gaze. In this paradoxical apparition of what is quickly concealed lies a feature of some of our attempts, which show that there is sometimes a terrible concomitance between our ideas (or what are naïvely believed to be) and any pre-existing idea.
In Wunderblock, I apply this unwriting, practiced in my own music and also used in indexing found ideas (the marginalia effect in Rescousse), to one of the musics that has meant most to me these past few years: that of Bruckner (whom I had already quoted in an ‘insert’ in Mes béatitudes). A certain aspect of unwriting would come from what Lachenmann denounced in my music as ‘magic by the void’, magic that generates its own loss: we are then between honey and venom. It is that danger that is uttered in the orchestration of Wunderblock – the struggle between the paraphernalia of the child’s fantastic element (the bird-organs, the toy piano, the glockenspiel, celesta and even the tuned glasses as if for a party table), but on the other hand, the nobility, transcendence and resistance of the Brucknerian material. Moreover, this struggle is again found, symbolically, between the harmonium, a poor declination of the sacred, and the secular accordion, which ‘puts on’ melodies or chords written for God and sometimes improvised on the Saint-Florian organ, here sounding like a carnival hurdy-gurdy. The timbric fragmentation of Wunderblock participates in this glittering and semantic vibration that carry to the point of disintegration the way in which Bruckner composed his large forms with small pointed units.
The ‘Wunderblock’ was described by Sigmund Freud in 1924 as a system of writing allowing, by a sheet of celluloid called ‘parastimulus’ and a sheet of translucent waxed paper both applied to a resin tablet, to write with a stiletto and erase in the same gesture. With this small, imperfect apparatus, Freud, who distrusted the memory, tried to find an analogy with the false-bottom system of perception which does not preserve the stimulus in lasting fashion, even though registering it, another way of describing the subconscious, by this encoded inscription.
In Wunderblock, the unfolding of the original score of the Majestoso from Bruckner’s Sixth Symphony (second Leopold Nowak edition – Vienna, Eulenburg, 1990) is strictly respected, bar number by bar number. Certain repetitive passages of the original are sometimes stretched here (iteration also being a form of obliteration, suspension of time). Nonetheless, two foreign objects invite themselves: the second theme from the second movement of the same symphony (in place of bars 340-351) then a serial motif and a chord, derived from the name of the dedicatee, composer Mathieu Bonilla, he too a great admirer of Helmut Lachenmann.
Gérard Pesson, October 2005
translated by John Tyler
soliste : 1 accordéon, 12/12/10/8/6, 2 flûte, 2 hautbois, 2 clarinette (aussi 1 clarinette basse), 1 saxophone baryton, 2 cor, 2 trompette, 2 trombone, 1 tuba, 4 percussionniste, 1 harpe [aussi harpe celtique] , 1 piano