Conductor, artist-in-residence in Juilliard’s Historical Performance Program
Musical Director and Founder, Les Arts Florissants
“LISTENING TO THIS MUSIC,
TO THESE CASCADES
OF SONOROUS VIBRATION,
GENERATED LONG LINES
OF RHYTHM IN ME.”
With William Christie, the work began with Handel’s Resurrection oratorio. During his master classes, I observed how the codes and constraints of this music allow a new freedom and virtuosity to break out. Fascinated, I watched William Christie reveal the depth and vitality of this music to the young orchestra. After such an experience, how could I not feel a certain incomprehension faced with Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s definition of Baroque music in his Dictionary of Music as music “whose harmony is confusing, filled as it is with modulation and dissonance, the singing is harsh and unnatural, the intonation difficult, and the movement constrained” ? How could one not feel the ardor, the passion, and the impetuosity of this oratorio ? How could one not feel one’s body set into motion faced with the intensity of the rhythm, its modulations ?
“Listening to this music, to these cascades of sonorous vibration, generated long lines of rhythm in me, synonyms for emerging lines of landscape, at once terrestrial, fluid, and ethereal.“
I realized that the hand captures and perceives things more quickly than the mind can reason. While working with this orchestra, I abandoned static perception, and allowed myself to be guided by a more dynamic intuition toward spontaneous expression. The changing character of the chords gave the impression of a continual flux of information and of an outpouring of images. This music exercises real power over one’s whole being. I thus came to understand William Christie’s demand for the simultaneous interplay of taking and releasing, and for great emotional freedom of the heart, despite the most intense precision, which gives rise to these moments of audacity in improvisation. He succeeds in “deinstitutionalizing” the orchestra so as to make it come to life and reject all that is routine. I was deeply moved by his commitment, his persistent desire to surprise, in a euphoria of sound, by his reliance on the spirituality and poetry of the score. This chasm between extreme codification and intense elevation led me to the notion of creating a series of sketches generated by rhythms, voices, and chords, created in the real time of the music as it was played. Of its own accord, this took the shape of a landscape. We had succeeded in entering, inhabiting, and experiencing simultaneity between music and drawing.