• Category / Instrument
    Piano and instrumental ensemble
    cl / bn / cor / vl / vla / vlc
  • Duration
  • Commissioned by
    Ministère de la Culture (France)
  • Published
  • Premiere
    Festival Musica, Strasbourg
    Claude Helffer (pno)
    Ensemble Contrechamps
    Arturo Tamayo (conductor)


Michael Jarrell's works are published by Editions Henry Lemoine :

27, boulevard Beaumarchais
75004 PARIS
Tel. : +33 (0)1 56 68 86 74




Modifications was written for the Ensemble Contrechamps and Claude Helffer. The score is a direct reference to the eponymous novel by Michel Butor, and is inspired by some of its principles, namely the modification of different times, modification of a situation in relation to a given constant (and "its" modification), and modification of the very path of the soloist, whose music is gradually transformed until it blends with that of the ensemble.

Michael Jarrell

When I compose, I am confronted with a number of choices which will affect the immediate chain of events or force the eventual tailing-off of the form, and once the choice has been made, there is no turning back. In this respect composition can be said to resemble a tree, for a motif, a "Gestalt" can develop in one of many ways. Certain elements of one work may serve as cells for another. The pieces recorded here are closely linked in this way: Trei I, Trace-Ecart and Modifications. [...] This idea of repeated notes implied different types of evolution, which I decided to bring up to date with Modifications. In this work I set up a sort of development cycle based on two contrary elements which shared a common axis of repeated notes. The listener can thus follow the transformations ranging from the held note to the group of appoggiaturas, including the trill and different kinds of rapid figuration. These elements are superimposed right at the start of the piece. They also act as "signals", serving to hinge together the various sections of the work. Such work is not so much a compositional exercise as part of a psychoacoustic phenomenon, of a search for a musical language, that aims for ideas that the listener can grasp, as well as a satisfactory balance between language and the perception based on the use of identifiable elements such as motifs, fixed pitches and musical gestures. I have no intention of wiping the board clean of the past, of building every piece up from nothing. On the contrary, what is important is to work with elements over which I feel I have an increasing mastery in order to attain an easy flow, a continuous thread of meaning running through the works. Artists such as Giacometti or Varèse who work unceasingly at the same idea fascinate me, and I thus come to see my own development as a sort of self-analysis.

Michael Jarrell


1 CD Accord, 461 764-2
Trei II - Modifications - Eco - Trace-Ecart
Ensemble Contrechamps, G. Bernasconi

Modifications wurde für Claude Helffer und das Ensemble Contrechamps komponiert und von ihnen unter der Leitung von Arturo Tamayo am 1. Oktober 1987 in Straßburg uraufgeführt. Es handelt sich um einen Auftrag des französischen Kulturministeriums. Diese Partitur steht in direkter Beziehung zu dem gleichnamigen Roman von Michel Butor und einnige seiner Prinzipien dienten zur Angregung: "Modification" (Veränderung) der verschiedenen Zeiten, "Modification" einer Situation im Verhältnis zu einer Konstante, "Modification" dieser Konstante, "Modification" des Verlaufes der Solistenstimme, die sich nach und nach verändert, um sich mehr und mehr in das Ensemble einzugliedern.

Michael Jarrell

Works index
© Michael Jarrell