OPUS prize : Premiere of the year
Starting from "almost nothing", to build a "totality"; by freeing a place of what inhabits it, to reveal its grandeur; by bordering emptiness, to give meaning to it. Using very limited technical means, Jean-François Laporte gives praise, in The plenitude of emptiness , to the grandeur of the "small", the richness of the "simple" : some copper and aluminum tubes, saxophone mouthpieces, latex membranes and two baritone saxophones with all their keys kept closed, all in a continuous discourse where unisons, predominant, are richly coloured with timbres, harmonics and naturally-occurring beatings. Yet, of this extremely rudimentary material, of this melodic, harmonic, rhythmic, instrumental and formal "near-nothing", a large-scale opus takes shape, which gradually and naturally occupies the church in all its grandeur. Could the simplest sound possibly animate a space this vast? Sound-space and architectural space then allow us a glance at a particularity in their relation: sound seems to have the ability to reveal the physical space it occupies, instead of filling it - emptiness stays, but appears surprisingly full...
But what is The plenitude of emptiness made of, if not of pitches and rhythms? Simply of timbres: Jean-François Laporte, here, like in the ensemble of his work, presents a "musique de matière" that lets the sound naturally evolve, sometimes through unsuspected paths, guided by the musicians' attentive breath. As all the instruments have a fixed fundamental, the seeming simplicity of the piece's global discourse is backed by an extreme complexity of timbres and modes of playing: as all the sound material comprised in the piece comes almost exclusively from the generators (reeds and membranes of the different instruments), the performers are faced with a worthy challenge, as they have to put aside the usual physical virtuosity (finger dexterity) in favour of a listening virtuosity - to apprehend and then let themselves be guided by the evolution of sound from the subtleties of breath.
Such a discourse also place the musicians in a very particular relation regarding time: time here isn't counted, fixed by some metric - to the contrary, the basic pulsation of the piece being established by the rhythm of breathing, it's the musical discourse that is here subjected to time, the time necessary for the mutation of timbres. The plenitude of emptiness tries to proceed with a freeing of sound and time, maybe even of thought, this as much for the performers than the listeners: each is being placed in a situation of physical listening rather than intellectual, as all the usual technique or thinking mechanisms give way to the simple natural evolution of timbres. With this liberation, a void is made, a new time/space is created, entirely available to the deployment of sound.
This piece wouldn't have reached its actual form without the great availability of Quasar musicians, who accepted to participate in numerous sound experiments throughout the entire process of its conception.
Jean-François Laporte and Noémie Pascal