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Victor Segalen is undoubtedly a fine poet, and a great traveler too, who set off from the depths of his native Brittany to discover China, to search for it as an archaeologist, and to tell its story through his musical words. The words of Stèles, his most famous collection, immediately spoke to me, and, as is often the case, inspired me to write a work of chamber music, without voices, but derived directly from the text, its colors and rhythms.
I chose four Stèles by this poet, who dreamed of translating the inscriptions engraved on these ancient Chinese stones, to structure the work: Pierre Musicale, Mon amante a les vertus de l’eau, On me dit… and Conseils au bon voyageur. The poems can be read between the movements of the work, before or after them, as the case may be, to comment on them or precede them. I’ve opted for a classical four-movement structure: the third can be likened to a scherzo, the second to an adagio.
Stèles was premiered by the four members of Ensemble Gustave on August 10, 2017, during the Autour du Ventoux festival. It’s an invitation to travel, an invisible link between the music of words and sounds, a bridge between two granite and open cultures.