“de tinieblas” for choir and live electronics - premiere in 2020
Work notes
As the Spanish poet José Ángel Valente (1929-2000) writes as a postface to his collection of poems dating from 1980,  «the texts of the Three Lessons of Tenebrae drew their origin from music. Firstly, and above all, from the lessons of Couperin. Then from those of Victoria, of Thomas Tallis, of Charpentier, of Delalande. From the slow assimilation of these compositions a single basic principle gradually emerged, an original gesture, the gesture that underpins every harmonic progression and has quite rightly been called Ursatz.» 
From music to poetry, then back to music, Valente delineates an itinerary for the composer to follow among the fourteen texts of this collection, conceived as «fourteen variations on the original gesture which liberate the first fourteen letters (which are, of course, both letters and numbers) of the Hebrew alphabet.» He adds: «The act of creation should depend on the way in which the composer is able to make his own energy (through attempts and experience) converge with the Ursatz. What in music is called variation would, from this point of view, be a way of reflecting creatively on the original gesture, on a universal form.»
 
The piece I would like to write after the texts of Tres Lecciones de Tinieblas is therefore linked to the history of this liturgical musical genre created in France in the 17th century and destined for the first of the three nocturns that accompany each office of the Tenebrae; disappearing in the first half of the 18th century, it provides a lyrical theme often evoked in literature until modern times.

This composition is for symphonic choir (at least 24 elements, better 32) integrated with real-time and offline electronic treatment.
A real choir (organized in 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 real parts) with the addition (insinuation) of a virtual choir created by the electronics, which acts:
1- in the same space as the real choir (harmonic-polyphonic densification/saturation or rather spectral filtering);
2- in a different space to the real choir (response, mirror, echo, illusion).

In the first case, the electronics will work in real time on the basis of sound capture in sections (S-Ms-A-T-Bar-B), plus a soloist for each family, plus a general capture of the choir as a whole; and in simulated real-time, (triggering of a fair number of pre-recorded samples of the same groupings). Aim: the multiplication of the solo voices, of the sections, possibly of the whole choir.
In the second case, the electronics will work in real time on the basis of general capture, and of capture in sections. Aim: the spatialization and filtering of the choir and of the multiplied choir.
The results of this treatment will have repercussions on a sort of virtual instrumental ensemble, created by electronics by developing synthetic sound structures, which will act as a receiving environment conditioned by all the choral masses (real and virtual) interacting. More specifically, this "synthetic orchestra" will also be entrusted with the "traditional" role of voice support, accompaniment or dialogical interlocutor of the choir in responsorial sections that can intersect the musical flow and which will be based on a cappella treatment of the voices.

The duration of the piece is about 35 minutes.
The partners of this project are SWR Vokalensemble Stuttgart and IRCAM (Thomas Goepfer, as computer sound-designer).


Texts: José Ángel Valente (1929-2000), Tres Lecciones de Tinieblas, 1980.

Stefano Gervasoni 3.11.2018