Winter Fragments


Written in 2000 and premiered during the Concerts d'hiver et d'aujourd'hui series, the Winter Fragments is for the small chamber music ensemble of flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano, MIDI keyboard.

In these sound fragments, Murail shows us snapshots of winter, static instants depicting the frozen character of snow-covered landscapes. One cannot help but think of some of Bruegel's paintings (Hunters in the Snow, Winter Landscape) with their sober tones - white, black, grey - in which the painter skilfully expressed the muffled universe of the dead season.  The cracking of dead wood and the breaking up of ice give the music its fragile character.   Made up of five large sections, the work begins with a piano attack doubled by a resonance of microtonal strings. Silences alternating with echoing cries make for a disturbing sound space. The flute, in the distance, hurls its first moan. The insistent repetition of these elements throughout the whole first section contributes to accentuating the static, mysterious aspect of the musical discourse.  The second section, at odds with the smooth time of the beginning, enhances the pizzicato strings in the resonant space of the piano. In section 3, the relations between the instrumental timbres and the re-synthesized sounds controlled by the keyboard are very close.  Thereafter, through cascades of homorhythmic runs, perfect synchronization between the piano, flute, clarinet and synthesis, there results the illusion of a single timbre. The section following sounds like a summary of the two previous sections.  The opening flute motif, like a call, makes sporadic appearances all throughout the piece -- the work would seem to be built according to the concept of reminiscence.  Accordingly, the coda brings together all the previously heard material, in the idea of a fractal object.

Tristan Murail FR

Born in 1947 in Le Havre, France, Tristan Murail received degrees in classical and North African Arabic (at the National School of Oriental Languages) and in economics (at the Paris Institute of Political Sciences) before turning to composition. A student of Olivier Messiaen, he won the Prix de Rome in 1971 and spent two years at the Villa Médicis. Upon his return to Paris in 1973, he founded Ensemble Itinéraire with a group of young composers and performers. The group became widely renowned for its ground-breaking explorations of the relationship between instrumental performance and many aspects of electronics. In the 80’s, Tristan Murail began using computer technology to further his research into acoustic phenomena. This led him to years of collaboration with the IRCAM, where he taught composition from 1991to 1997 and helped develop the Patchwork composition software. Tristan Murail has also taught at numerous schools and festivals worldwide, including the Darmstadt Ferienkurse, l’Abbaye de Royaumont, and the Centre Acanthes. He is currently professor of composition at Columbia University, New York.

For more information about Tristan Murail, click here.