Voyage dans l’espace is based on a text by Edgard Varèse, in which he describes an experience that he had while listening to a performance of the Seventh Symphony by Ludwig van Beethoven in an over-resonant concert hall (the Salle Pleyel in Paris). During the symphonies trio of the third movement, the prolongation of the sounds as it was caused by the resonance of the hall made Varèse aware of a new dimension in music: that of a physical materialization of sounds that are projected into space.
In its original design, Voyage dans l’espace consisted of four main parts, each of which could be performed on their own, and three shorter, untransformed voice parts, to be used to connect the four main parts when they would be performed as a cycle. Although the four main parts are indeed still available for performance separately, the large form of Voyage dans l’espace has been redesigned considerably. Sections from the main parts or layers of them are used and integrated with the voice parts to create a new continuous piece of 32 minutes.
The first part, Un phénomène acoustique, is entirely based on the processed voice of Varèse, while reading the mentioned text for French radio in 1955. Eleven processed phrases were each transformed a further ten times, resulting in a matrix of 121 sound blocs. These blocs where combined in a large form by using a rule-based selection method. In the integrated version of Voyage dans l’espace, the first voice part appears in the end of the first section, and continues on its own.
The material for the second part, Surrésonance, differs from the material for the first part, only in the sense that the eleven phrases by Varèse were replaced by eleven phrases from the trio of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, after which the complete series of sound transformations was executed once more. The form is based on the same selection rule. In the integrated large form, only some layers from Surrésonance have been used.
For the third part, Rayons de son, short fragments from the sound blocs of the previous two parts were cut out and reverberated. The reverberation tails are between five and twenty seconds long, and each tail appears on a single channel only, while every next tail is placed on another speaker according to a diagram. Half the amount of tails is reversed in time, resulting in crescending sounds that occur ahead of the sounds that they were derived from. In the integrated version of Voyage dans l’espace, only the end of part three is used as a coda, just before the piece ends with the third voice part.
The fourth part, Blocs de son, is based exclusively on the reverb-tails from part three. Now, the reverb-tails themselves are further processed, and re-combined into sound blocs that have articulated beginnings and endings, with very soft parts in the middle. The spatial quality of each bloc is entirely based on the superposition of different tails with different lengths, one on each speaker and without any panning. For the integrated version of Voyage dans l’espace, part four was split into smaller parts that were then used to connect certain parts and intervene with others.
The three interpolating voice parts consist of excerpts from the Varèse text, but now set to pitches that were derived from the score of Varèse’s Déserts. The voice material was recorded in collaboration with the singer Marie Guilleray.
Surrésonance was premiered in May 2013 at cheLA in Buenos Aires.
Rayons de son was dedicated to Dick Raaijmakers at the occasion of his eightieth birthday on 1 September 2010. It was premiered on 10 September 2010 in the former buildings of the Philips Research Laboratories in Eindhoven.
The sound material of Rayons de son was rearranged in 2016 to adapt the work to the Asimuth experimental loudspeaker setup in Studio LOOS. This led to a completely revised version for 16-channel playback, in which the reverb tails can be played back from a separate ring of loudspeakers.
The integrated version of Voyage dans l’espace was premiered in March 2011 at the BEAST Festival, Birmingham University.
Un phénomène acoustique
Rayons de son
tracks: 8 / 16
Blocs de son
Voyage dans l’espace
An abridged version (10:00) of Rayons de son is available on the CD Panels: An Inquiry into the Spatial, the Sonic and the Public (NAiM / Bureau Europa, 2010).
The complete version of Rayons de son is available on the 3-CD set Post Scriptum: Music from the Institute of Sonology (PS 001).