À travers le verre du temps

A piece for clarinet, violin, cello, piano and glass percussions, written in 2016 and premiered at the Easter Festival of Saint-François in Lausanne on March 27, 2016 by Marco Danesi, Jana Ozolina, Christoph Croisé and Oxana Shevchenko.

It is a set of two commentaries on Messiaen’s Quatuor pour la fin du temps. They have been written in the year of the attacks in Paris and Brussels, and aim to be the composer’s criticism to Messiaen’s religious response to another difficult time in human history.
The desire that moved me to revisit “… de cristal” (originally composed in 2011) and write the second commentary is to state that violence and prejudice conceived in the name of religion, in every form, being it a murderous action or the discrimination of other people rights, are no more tolerable.
With the first piece, I invite the audience to a new interpretation of the Quatuor’s world: where the “liturgy” is taken away from it, and all that remains is the charming call of a bird singing within the responsive and ethereal surroundings. The little bird, which takes clear inspiration from the Blackbird presented by Messiaen, soon realises the ability of the crystal environment to dialogue with its song. It starts then a dialectic game, almost suggesting a monotonous suspension of time, until a sudden increase of tension provokes the rupture of the crystals, forcing the bird to leave.

The contrasting second piece focuses on the disappeared liturgy, stating the violence in superimposing religion to the crystal-pure world of nature and reminding men that the end of our time is simply the natural countdown to death. The repeated full chords proper of Messiaen’s language are the primary representation of the liturgy; the musical topos of chords repetition usually refers to death. Here the repetition is gradually transformed into three distinctive elements: clock-ticks (the countdown), church bells (religion’s weight on our perception of life) and coffin nails (the inexorable beats that accompany the end of human time). Bells are the most disruptive element, causing the birds (representative of Nature) to elevate their calls to terrified screams. Once the religious presence is forgotten, the chords repetition becomes more frenetic and anxious, until the last nail has been hammered in the coffin.

However contrasting with the Christian spirit of the Quatuor, these commentaries are not a fatalistic or nihilistic manifesto. Maybe our time finishes with that ideal “last hummered nail” but the music does not: opening the scene to a new, unknown world yet to be understood.