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UBC Theses and Dissertations

An investigation of the Jeux de timbres in Claude Vivier’s Orion and his other instrumental works of 1979-80 Braes, Ross


In 1979-80 Claude Vivier wrote four essentially instrumental works which comprise an important phase in his compositional oeuvre—after completion of his only opera Kopernikus (14 May 1979), and before his trip to Europe in November 1980. During these 18 months Vivier strove to devise a new musical language of chord-colours ("couleurs"), based on a compositional substratum ("jeux de timbres") in three wholly instrumental works: Orion (6 October 1979) for orchestra; Zipangu (13 August 1980) for string orchestra; and Cinq chansons pour percussion (26 September 1980) for percussion group. In contrast, Lonely Child (5 March 1980) for soprano and orchestra introduces a modified version of frequency modulation (which I call additive synthesis) to produce couleurs, eliminating the jeux de timbres stage entirely. After his return to Montreal in early 1981, Vivier's musical language embraced additive synthesis as a way of producing chord-colours, beginning with Prologue pour un Marco Polo (1 March 1981). The /<?wx de timbres (Vivier's highly idiosyncratic interpretation of Klangfarbenmelodie) forms a crucial pre-compositional stage for the "couleurs" of the instrumental works in question. In Orion chord-colours are achieved through imaginative orchestral settings of thejeux. Two subsequent works use extra-notational techniques to produce chordcolours from their jeux: avant-garde techniques with crushed string sounds or sul ponticello effects in Zipangu, and performance-based outcomes of specified pitches with Balinese and Chinese gongs in Cinq chansons pour percussion. I examine sketch materials for the three pieces to extrapolate their various musical processes, especially the jeux de timbres, and to show that Orion presents the most intricate, yet clearest theoretical design.

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