At 19 bells, Freiburg’s carillon is one of the largest in Germany. Hearing it in October 2011 inspired Clara Iannotta to compose a loose trilogy of works in response: Glockengiesserei for cello and electronics, Clangs for cello and ensemble, and D’après for ensemble. For the composer the bells’ attraction lay not only in their sound but also in how the memory of that sound might be transformed through acts of recollection and repetition.
Like Virginia Woolf’s description of the sound of Big Ben in Mrs Dalloway – ‘The leaden circles dissolved in the air’ – D’après similarly looks to the aftermath of the bells’ clangorous peal as it melts into its surroundings. Its starting point is the first section of Clangs, and like the dying sounds of the bells themselves, it offers something of the ‘beyond’ of that piece: the muted chimes of Clangs are edited down into leftover hum and resonance. At first these are expressed through musical glasses and muted string harmonics. Slowly, as though catching particles in the breeze, the sounds coalesce into drier, mechanical rhythms, and then finally bell-like metallic percussion sounds. With each step they inscribe a deeper and deeper groove, as though writing and fixing memory itself. Deleuze’s gloss on Hume comes to mind: ‘Repetition changes nothing in the object repeated, but does change something in the mind which contemplates it.’
D’après was written for and first performed by Talea Ensemble with Eduardo Leandro at Harvard University in August 2012. The second performance and European première was given by Kammerensemble Neue Musik Berlin during the Ultraschall Festival in January 2013.
© Tim Rutherford-Johnson, 2018