Les pièces réunies dans ce CD font toutes appel à des instruments accordés en 1/16e de ton : violon, violon- celle, guitare. Mon intérêt pour les microintervalles va de pair avec mon attirance pour les petites différences : les intervalles minimes révèlent les qualités du son, des composantes complexes du timbre à celles du bruit. Ils permettent d’introduire d’infimes variations de temps et de mouvement. Ces légères différences stimulent la conscience des sensations, les variations de vitesses, les degrés de fluidité et d’énergie impliqués dans les transformations dynamiques.
Toutes les pièces sont basées sur des processus gestuels élaborés en étroite collaboration avec les musiciens. Un script de variables en transformation permet au geste de se construire souplement, hors métrique et hauteurs fixes, sous “l’identité” de la note. L’accord microtonal renouvelle la sensibilité expressive des instruments et sollicite une écoute attentive pour contrôler d’infimes variables sonores tout en expéri- mentant les limites de la perception.
Bothsways (2014) pour violon et violoncelle explore traits expressifs et “techniques microtonales éten- dues” (extended microtonal techniques). L’idée générale est liée à l’instabilité, au passage fluide et réciproque entre différents états ou manières de jouer. Both (ensemble, à deux) et Sways (ondulations, oscillations, balancements) est composé de quatre mouvements (solos et duos) de deux minutes, environ : Shift (vlc) ; Coalescent (vl et vlc) ; Impulse (vl) ; Sways (vl et vlc).
Process (2013) pour flûte, trombone, guitare, violon et violoncelle, installe un équilibre de variables flottantes tout d’abord suspensives (mouvement descendant) qui se stabilisent ensuite en une trame de battements.
Steppings (2013) pour flûte, trombone, guitare, violon et violoncelle se tient sur un geste battuto constant. L’accord microtonal des cordes associé aux multi- phoniques des instruments à vent rend possible des variations sonores très fines, à la frontière du timbre, du son et du bruit.
Chaoscaccia (2014), écrit en collaboration avec Deborah Walker, élabore un style propre à l’accord en seizièmes de ton au violoncelle. Voyage du geste instrumental, instable et continuel, le script (dia- gramme) est construit autour de l’idée de changement — shift. Il s’agit de saisir le geste musical dans sa dimension d’événement, d’en rechercher l’idée motrice et processuelle. L’attention se porte davantage sur les vitesses, sur une énergie continuelle, instable. Divers états coexistent, leur tension se maintient, toujours en rupture, le geste lui-même est guide, l’action est “à l’écoute”.
There are ways of carrying on a life in music that don’t involve putting out lots of records. Pascale Criton has been composing microtonal music since the 1980s. While she has published many pieces of music as well as writing about the intersection of philosophy and music, this is only the second CD devoted to her work. Ensemble Dedalus, a French new music ensemble whose repertoire includes work by Jürg Frey, Antoine Beuger and Moondog, fills the breach by recording four recent works that split notes into sixteenths. The settings vary from violin and cello solos to music for five pieces (violin, cello, guitar, flute and trombone). On each the microscopic focus that Criton and the musicians bring to bear on small gestures — an ascending tone, an abrupt scratch, a plucked rhythm — gives the music a paradoxically limitless quality that makes it pretty easy to keep hitting the repeat button. If you’ve warmed to the string sounds of Tony Conrad and Arnold Dreyblatt, Infra is waiting to make your life better.
Bill Meyer l Dusted l January 2018
With an interest in the concept of “continuum” made explicit via microtonal fluctuations, an affiliation with Gilles Deleuze, and an album titled exactly as one of Roland Kayn’s masterpieces, musicologist and composer Pascale Criton could not fail in catching the attention of this rapidly deteriorating reviewer. How knowledgeable the latter is, you might exclaim in amazement. “How does this Ricci guy know so many facts?” The answer is: Wikipedia. In fact, I had never heard of Criton before meeting this record. Bad for me, of course, and for the countless earthborn satellites of a despairing ignorance. This is intriguing music, to say the least.
The pieces are executed in varying partial combinations by Ensemble Dedalus, namely Didier Aschour (guitar), Amélie Berson (flute), Thierry Madiot (trombone), Silvia Tarozzi (violon), Deborah Walker (violoncello). The absorption of the overall vibrational impact is regulated and enhanced by – you guessed it – the tuning of the instruments. Nothing in this universe is capable of connecting a body/mind wholeness to superior levels of apprehension than the theoretically “spurious” resonance of acoustic mechanisms adjusted to the different molecular motility elicited by unusual ratios. Therefore leave the “quantum physics for beginners” bullshit at home, and perceive a fractal divergence that nobody will be able to explicate without sounding like a grandiloquent cretin, or an out-and-out philostopher.
Process Of Five is a gripping expedition across the organic traits of abysmal nothingness, probably the finest representation of Criton’s intents. “Steppings” may be described as a miniature variation on Tony Conrad and Faust’s Outside The Dream Syndicate hastily performed in absence of electricity. The 17-minute Chaoscaccia (credited to Criton and Walker) appears as a consecutiveness of shorter virtuosic segments linked together, but still puts the brain’s innards in a condition halfway through hopeless incertitude and focused sentience, with several instants of pregnant murmur thrown in for good measure. The four-part suite Bothsways opening the program is shaped up by more concise statements, in a way serviceable as a preamble of sorts to the longer chapters.
All in all, Infra is a classic sleeper for seriously drilled listening specimens. The first, and maybe even the second attempt produce a “mmh, nice” kind of response. Already at the third, that gets turned into “uh-oh, let’s perk our ears up”. At that moment, the volume is cranked louder; the consequences are concrete and immeasurable at once.
Modesty has its own manner of rising and shining. Sometimes.
Massimo Ricci l Touching Extremes l January 2018
Pascale Criton is a composer who has been exploring sound variability, microtunings, multisensory reception, and spatialisation of listening since the 1980s. Her work frequently makes use of specific tunings, and such is the case with the pieces collected on her new album Infra, with violin, cello, and guitar all tuned to 1/16th of a tone — “an interval barely perceptible to the ear, generating effects that alter our perception of timbre, rhythm, and time”. The pieces are performed by Ensemble Dedalus, with Didier Aschour on guitar, Amélie Berson on flute, Thierry Madiot on trombone, Silvia Tarozzi on violin, and Deborah Walker on cello.
The unconventional tunings and the use of microtonal techniques leads to a range of different sound worlds. The multitude of keening, cawing pitches in Process produces a forest of muted tones, strange resonances drifting slowly but steadily like clouds accumulating and dissipating. The piece gains in tension as a rattling low drone becomes insistent, surging. The title of Steppings refers to what sounds like muted strings plucked at a steady, rapid tempo, harmonics shifting as long trombone tones accompany and at times seem to merge with the regular pings. Final piece Chaoscaccia was composed in collaboration with Walker, and her solo cello switches between scuffled shuffle and a low sliding gurgle; sustained hums start off faintly before gradually growing in density and energy as they leap into the high registers and descend into the abyss.
Forest, clouds, abyss: rarely does an album make me more aware that such terms are merely metaphors for something that is ultimately self-sufficient and non-linguistic, the vain striving of a writer to describe a phenomenon that can’t be reduced to language. The music of Infra sounds like nothing except itself, refers to nothing outside itself. Some of the extended techniques, particularly with Walker’s cello, bring to mind the work of Okkyung Lee; but the performances here are more measured and precise than the Korean’s dynamic playing style, and hence perhaps a little less dangerous — horses for courses, one might say. Despite the use of more esoteric tunings and techniques, however, what I hear most strongly in “Infra” is an impressive clarity of form and idea: Criton and her collaborators not only experiment with new approaches, but work them into coherent and compelling new music.
Nathan Thomas l Fluid Radio l October 2017
Although she has been composing for over thirty-five years, Pascale Criton is surprisingly underrepresented on disc. In fact, Infra is only her second album release, following the rarely-seen Territoires Imperceptibles (Assai, 2003), a fact which makes this release particularly welcome. In her compositions, Criton has often used tunings with intervals so small that they have tended towards a continuum. Having used quarter tones and twelfth tones in the past, on Infra her compositions employ sixteenth tone intervals that she has frequently used before. Such intervals are barely perceptible to the ears of most of us, which leads to music that evolves subtly and smoothly without any shocks in store.
The music here is all played by members of Ensemble Dedalus, themselves no strangers to Potlatch, having previously featured on the albums Dedalus (Potlatch, 2013) and Distances Ouïes Dites (Potlatch, 2016). The music consists of the four-part suite Bothsways, performed by the well-established pairing of violinist Silvia Tarozzi and cellist Deborah Walker, followed by two pieces— Process and Steppings ---on which they are joined by guitarist Didier Aschour, trombonist Thierry Madiot and flautist Amélie Berson, before the extended solo cello piece Chaoscaccia. Although the entire album runs for less than forty-one minutes, its music contains sufficient detail and drama to be captivating throughout and to ensure the listener is drawn back to it again and again.
The four parts of Bothsways are all brief—just over the two-minutes each—but their back-and-forth exchanges between violin and cello make it obvious that Tarozzi and Walker know each other's playing well, having first met in 2003, and know Criton's music too, having worked with her since 2008. Together the three have created a soundscape which is full, rich in detail and enthralling throughout. The two quintet tracks are each rather longer than the parts of the duo suite. The five contrasting instruments combine in ways that frequently make it difficult to identify them individually, the whole being a multi-layered collage from which single sounds occasionally bubble to the surface before subsiding again; the total effect is stunning.
The album's closer is its longest track, at seventeen minutes, and its best, the solo cello piece being jointly credited to Criton and Walker. The cellist gives a bravura performance in which she puts her instrument through its paces, amply demonstrating its subtlety and range. As with the rest of the album, it leaves one longing to see the piece performed in concert. Based on this album, we must hope that there is not another extended wait until the appearance of the next album featuring Criton.
John Eyles l All About Jazz l October 2017