Jean-Louis Florentz and spectralism

Sholl, Robert (2019) Jean-Louis Florentz and spectralism. In: The Oxford Handbook to Spectralism. Th Oxford Handbooks to Music. Oxford University Press, New York.

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This chapter uses unpublished written and radiophonic sources to create the first extended piece of writing in English on the French spectralist composer Jean-Louis Florentz’s (1947–2004). It examines Florentz’s inspiration in the natural world (especially birdsong), the relationship between his voyages, and his music. It reveals that his sense of the sacred, his translation of Ethiopian liturgical chant (through mode) extended Messiaen’s apocalyptic language of revelation. It examines his output through the spectral resources of the organ, his thinking about musical materiality, and connects these to ideals of beauty and mysticism, alterity, and the liminal that empowered his use of spectralism.
This study, the first major study in English, addresses Florentz’s inculcation of spectralism through his ideal of the organ with examples drawn from movements of his seven-movement cycle for organ, Laudes (1985). I demonstrate how spectralism is an ingredient of Florentz’s hospitality in his modes, and how Florentz derives his system of 31 pentaphonic modes from Ethiopian music with reference to the natural resonance of the harmonic spectrum. To do this I will show some ways in which Florentz’s approach to the harmonic spectrum is complementary to that of Messiaen. I examine how Florentz’s spectral thinking employs the technology of the organ to promote fantasy harmonics, and inculcate what he calls ‘harmonic vibratos’ and the harmonics produced by airplane reactors into Laudes, an idea that can be thought of as Florentz’s own method of introducing spectral inharmonicism into his work.
Throughout the study I demonstrate many different ways in which Florentz inculcates spectralism into his thought. This reveals how spectralism and modal thinking are hinges that enable Florentz’s ideal of ‘hospitality’, which he describes as a ’mask, through which I can envisage a first “contact” with the other mode … and of which the transcription in our occidental notation [solfège] gives the sensibility of the same face … he who makes contact, makes exchange….’. In conclusion Florentz, I explore the resonance of spectralism in later works by the composer, and the way in Florentzian hospitality and spectralism create an aesthetics of the ineffeable or transcendent that fulfills his desire for a religious/ethnographic ‘ecumenical’ synthesis.

Item Type: Book Section
Subjects: Music
Music > Musicology
Depositing User: Robert Sholl
Date Deposited: 13 Jun 2018 08:36
Last Modified: 06 Dec 2023 15:35

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