Sud - 1985 - 23'35
was commissioned by the French Ministry of Culture at the request of the
Groupe de Recherches Musicales (GRM) of the lnstitut National de l’Rudiovisuel
(INR) The piece was realized at GRM.
“Sud” is based chiefly on sounds in the Calanques range at
Marseilles. These sounds were processed by computer in Studio 123 at the
GRM INA. I would like to thank Benedict Maillard and Yann Deslin who showed
me how to use their impressive set of computer programs. My thanks also
to Daniel Teruggi for intoducing me to Studio 116 where “Sud”
The mixing elements also included seguences synthesized by computer at
Marseilles using the MUSIC V program (Faculte des Sciences at Luminy and
Mechanics and Acoustics Lab of CNNRS) In the first moments (and from time
to time thereafter), “Sud” presents itself as a a sound photograph
- a phonograph, to borrow François-Bernard Mache’s word -
it alludes to Luc Ferrari, Knut Victor, Michel Redolfi, musician of the
sea, Georges Boef and his abysses. and François Bayle’s “oiseau
The piece uses a small number of sound sequences - recordings of the sea,
insects, birds, wood and metal chimes. brief “gestures” played
on the piano or synthesized by computer which I multiplied by processing
them in various ways (modulating, filtering, coloring. reverberating,
spatializing, mixing and hybridizing). Cezanne wanted to “unite
feminine curves with hilly shoulders”. Similarly, hybrid synthesis
allowed me to work “in the very bone of nature” (Henri Michaux),
to produce chimeras, hybrids merging birds and metal, or wood and sea
sounds. I used this procedure mainly to transpose profiles and flows of
energy. The pulse of recorded sea sounds is thus imprinted on certain
other sounds, whereas at other times sounds reminding of breaking waves
are unrelated to the sea.
A pitch scale (G - B - E - F Sharp — 6 sharp), first presented with
synthetic sounds, is later used to color various sounds of natural origin.
In the last part the scale becomes a genuine harmonic grid which resonates
like an aeolian harp to birds and waves sounds. The
manifold sounds produced by computer can be located on a diagram resmbling
a family tree: their layout in time brings several rhythmic levels into
play and implies what might be called a logic of fluxes.
‘Sud” comprises three sections
9'45 The sea in the morning. The opening profile permeates the entire
piece. Waking birds, from isolated peeps rising to a stretto.
Hybrid sounds emerge from the low frequencies.
Heat. Luminy, at the foot of Mount Puget real and imagined insects and
5'49. A call — like a bell buoy animated by the sea.
Trepidations, drifts, north wind, tempest. telluric fire. or inner storms?
8'00. The sea’s profile becomes increasingly colored : noise turns
into strident pitch.
Composite sounds in motion.
The harmonic grid emerges and vibrates under programmed impulses, birds
raga, sea waves.
Ebb tide: the splash of the surf.
DIALOGUES - 1975— 10'30
Flute : Renaud François
Clarinet : Michel Arrignon
Piano : Carlos Rogue Alsina
Percussions : Jean-Pierre Drouet
Conductor : Michel Decoust
“Dialogues” combines four instruments (flute, clarinet, piano,
percussion) with a tape of sounds synthesized by computer at the University
It was created at the Ircam—Europalia session in 8russels by the
soloists of Musigue Vivante conducted by Michel Decoust.
The composition is based on a nucleus of motives forming pitch and rhythm
rows. The treatment of the motives gradually dissolves the rows and submerges
them in residual harmonies. The piece attempts to bridge the worlds of
instrumental and synthetic sound. The instruments and the tape carry on
a dialogue they answer each other, clash with each other, extend each
other or merge into each other. Thus, in the beginning, the flute and
the clarinet stealthily emerge from the tape’s sounds; at one point
the tape provokes the percussionist to react to its suggestions ; towards
the end, the tape weaves and frays sound structures emanating from instrumental
- 1977 - 14'39
“Inharmonigue” combines a soprano voice with a tape of computer-synthesized
sounds. The tape sounds consist mostly of “inharmonic” components,
whose freguencies do not relate to each other as the numbers 1, 2, 3,
4... Such configurations are rarely found in instrumental and vocal sounds.
The sounds’ internal structure brings out different relations between
The piece opens with noise bands in motion. Pure sounds emerge and gather
in increasingly rich layers. The voice first appars in filigree, but it
eventually breaks through the screen ot artificial sounds ; it elaborates
on the note A. whose harmonics are taken up by the tape. Intervals broaden.
The tape introduces imaginary bells. composed like chords, which later
break up into fluid textures (this is obtained by transforming the temporal
profile of its components without modifying their frequencies). The voice
becomes sparse but increasingly dramatic. The tape distantly echoes the
voice (recorded and modified on the computer). The singer’s breath
is submerged by surging bands of noise.
The tape was synthesized by computer at IRCAM. “Inharmonique”
is dedicated to Irene Jarsky, who inspired it and whose own research enriched
the vocal part. Irene Jarsky premiered the piece in a concert of IRCAM’s
“Passage du XXe siecle” series.
MUTATIONS - 1969 — 10'26
Commissioned by the GRM, Mutations’ comprises only computer-synthesized
“Mutations” attempts to capitalize harmonically on the possibility
offered by the computer to compose at the very level of sound, Thus the
broken chord of the beginning is followed by a gonglike sound which is
the chord’s shadow: harmony mutates into timbre. The title refers
to the transformations taking place in the piece, as well as to sonic
developments akin to the mutation stops of the organ. The computer unfolds
a sound texture based on a chord the texture consists of harmonics of
the notes of the chord, which wax and wane. The textures which thus emerge
from harmonic structures exhibit increasingly close-knit frequencies the
upper scale gradually dissolves into a continuous flux. A serial soon
gets blurred tone pitches fluctuate, then split into components: the pitch
moves continuously between low and high while remaining on the same note.
then it begins to rotate and rise in an endless spiral. The upward spiral
is initially pale, then more brilliant. After a bridge using John Chowning’s
frequency modulation for the first time in a music work, the spiral resumes
with a choral quality, and it is scanned by recalls of earlier elements,
which converge to a final point where the high and low components of the
initial chords are released. (Cf. “Mutations, interview with Jean-
Claude Risset”, in Barry Schrader, Introduction to Electronic Music,
Prentice Hall, New Jersey 1992, pp. 19W/201).
Realized at Bell Laboratories, “Mutations” was honored at
the Darmouth Electroacoustic Music Competition (19701. It inspired a film
by Lillian Schwartz using lasers and computer animation (Golden Cine Eagle
About the Artist
RISSET 1938. Le Puy [France]
studies piano, composition with Andre Jolivetl. Scientific studies at
the Ecole Normale Superieure, During the sixties, worked with Max Mathews
in the United States to develop the resources of computer sound synthesis,
imitation of instrumental timbres, sonic composition, pitch paradoxes,
catalog of computer-synthesized sounds, composition of mixed works for
instruments and computer. Implements computer sound synthesis systems
at Orsay [1970-71], Marseilles-Luminy [1974-81] and IRCAM, Paris. as head
of the computer department between 1975 and 1979. Presently researcher
in Marseilles [Laboratoire de Mecanigue et d’Acoustique]. Music
works for instruments. voice and computer. Scientitic and musicological
articles. Received since 1963 numerous distinctions. among which the Ars
Electronica Prize , the Grand Prix National de Ia Musigue of France
. the first prize for digital music  the Euphonie d’Or
 and the Magisterium prize at the international Bourges competition,
the gold medal of CNRS .
Euvres principales / Main Works
1966 Instantanes, pour piano
1968 Musigue pour Ia piece de Pierre
Halet Little Boy, pour voix. instruments et bande*
1976 Dialogues, pour 4instruments et bande
1977 lnharmonique, pour soprano et bande - Moments Newtoniens pour 7 instruments
1962 Passages, pour -I instruments et bande* - Aventure de lignes. pour
1983 Contours*** * — L’autre face**** pour soprano et bands
196L1 Filtres, pour deux pianos
1986 FiItres II, pour flute et piano I - 5ud
1987 Voilements***, pour saxophone et bande
1988 Attracteurs stranges, pour clarinette et bande**** - Phases, pour
1989 Duo pour on pianiste, pour piano Disklavier interactif****
1991 Lurai. pour harpe celtigue et bande** Trois etudes en duo, pour piano
Disklavier interactif** 1995 Invisible Irene”
1996 Invisible, pour soprano et bande****
1996 Mokee, pour voix, piano et bande* * * *
1997 FIvel **
2001 Escalas pour orchestre
* sur CD Wergo 2013-50
** sur CD INA-GRM en preparation
CD INA C2000