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NALUAN(Opus 27)
January 197418'40Chamber music , Mixed music


Introductory text written in 1974 for the presentation of the work at the first Itinéraire concert:

The movement of History, as they say, has now accelerated to such an extent that neither revolutions nor even successions of modes are to be found in music. Not only have all the boundaries been transgressed (those of tonality, temperament, noise, the work, etc.), musical history no longer follows any lines, but even the Brownian motion of trends, fashions and traditions escapes all perception. The whirlwind comes to a standstill as a result of speed. The “naturalist” enterprise to which Naluan belongs thus proposes the deciphering of sonic reality as a liberating and inexhaustible task, after the veritable “degree zero” marked by the sort of end of musical history that occurred between 1960 and 1970.

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Although listening to reality is itself a historical attitude, illustrated by Monteverdi, Beethoven, Debussy and Messiaen, the new fact of the availability of this reality in the form of a recording gives it a completely different scope. It is no longer a question of transposing sounds musically; it is a question of revealing the music that is already present, always-already there, as the philosophers say, in the world we live in. The composer is content to discover it, and his inventiveness can be reduced to the technical means best suited to underlining this musical evidence. Eventually, the music latent in ‘natural’ sounds will be perceptible to everyone. Everyone will be a poet and a musician, and there will be no need for composers.
Having long imitated different sound models by transposition or transcription (for example, spoken texts in the form of instrumental ‘phonemes’ in Safous Mélè, 1959, La peau du silence, 1962, Le son d’une voix, 1964), I inaugurated an approach that was both complementary and opposed in 1969 with Rituel d’oubli, combining the model itself and its instrumental imitation. Since 1971, with Korwar, Temes Nevinbür and Rambaramb, three works for instruments and a single magnetic tape treated as a kind of Cantus firmus, I have continued this practice comparable to that of the Oceanian peoples from whom the titles are borrowed (this is the name given to human skulls which, once coated with clay and painted, are both sculptures and natural objects). In Naluan (a word originating from Malekula in the New Hebrides), I use a similar instrumental veneer to confuse the conventional categories of the raw and the musical. The birds, insects and amphibians that I have recorded, transcribed and orchestrated are integrated into a whole without themselves undergoing any metamorphosis other than that brought about by the recording; and I have done this in such a way as to situate them in a partially abstract space, as far removed from traditional impressionism as from the symbolism of Messiaen. In other works I can no doubt make do with raw recordings, what I called phonographies in 1960, but here the presence of the instrumentalists has a double meaning: firstly, to affirm the profound identity of human and animal music, because music – that is to say, the encounter between thought and sound – seems ultimately to respond to a biological function common to man and several animal species; and secondly, to prolong with new means the primitive gesture that created man, when he determined his relationship to the world by outlining the outline of the rock to decipher his dream, and when he affixed his hand to fix that dream.


1 fl., 1 clar., 1 or 2 perc., 1 piano, 1vl., 1 vla., 1 vc., 1 db., fixed sounds

First performance

02/28/74 Baden-Baden, Sudwestfunk, (Ensemble XXème siècle, dir. P.Burwik)


Amphion (Durand)

Commissioned by

Dedicated to

Peter Burwik et l'ensemble XXème siècle


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