Originally commissioned and performed by the Ensemble intercontemporain in Paris in 2011, Johannes Maria Staud expanded and revised his ensemble piece Par ici! on commission from the Mozarteum Foundation for the 2013 Mozartwoche. It is preceded by one and a half verses from Beaudelaire’s poem Le voyage (1859), from his compilation Les fleurs du mal:
“Nous nous embarquerons sur la mer des Ténèbres
Avec le cœur joyeux d’un jeune passager.
Entendez-vous ces voix, charmantes et funèbres,
Qui chantent: ‘Par ici vous qui voulez manger
Le Lotus parfumé! c’est ici qu’on vendange
Les fruits miraculeux dont votre cœur a faim;...’”
We shall embark on the sea of Darkness
With the glad heart of a young traveller.
Do you hear those charming, melancholy voices
Singing: “Come this way! You who wish to eat
The perfumed Lotus!
It's here you gather
The miraculous fruits for which your heart hungers …”
Walter Benjamin writes: “The special beauty of so many beginnings of Beaudelaire’s poems is their emergence from the abyss.”
One needs to listen closely to these verses and their gentleness in fading away. Staud followed up on Beaudelaire’s enticing voices and his “poésie violente,” “permeated with moments of intimacy and fragility, in Par ici! and the monodrama Le Voyage (2011/12, for actor, 6-part vocal ensemble, four instruments and electronics; first performance Paris 2012).
Staud’s musical map is full of minute notations on sonics, which instructions on playing manner and detailed explanations of playing technique follow. The score features constantly changing tempo and metre relations “notated in a way to introduce a new gestus to the playing” (Daniel Ender).
Intensive involvement with microtonality and the harmonic effect of retuning (stimulated at the IRCAM research institute in Paris) led to a “departure for a harmonic world” to which Staud “had never ventured before” in such a way. The scoring for Par ici! calls for a piano on which a total of 12 pitches are detuned microtonally a quarter-tone upward. Alternatively, the piano can be replaced by a MIDI piano, programmed specifically for the piece by Robin Meier at IRCAM for this work. The inspiration came from the type of piano tuning used in Gérard Grisey’s Vortex temporum. Microtonal retuning applies “throughout the entire work to all the other instruments except the vibraphone and the glockenspiel.” In this connection, the composer found it intriguing how chord rasters can entail different sonic results, depending on their transposition. “Retuned pitches are not perceived as ‘wrong notes,’ but as integral components of a microtonal conception of harmony.” (Johannes Maria Staud)
Par ici! begins with a notated pause, held “until absolute quiet is achieved,” before the ensemble enters “tenderly and enticingly” with the finest nuances of gradation. In two parts, the piece is fit together by a number of internal sections; their metre ratios less symmetrically laid out in the revised and enlarged new version than in the original one (where the first part A-J was predominantly held together by five-bar sections). The second part breaks down into two levels: the internal sections (K-Z) and the playing manner (initially alternating between “wild and choleric” and “sonorous and restrained”), before the work dies away, the metre symmetrically “ghostly, harkening back to the events” after a “hard and uncompromising” episode.
© Therese Muxeneder
Translated by Grant Chorley