An Approach to Grisey’s Les Espaces Acoustiques
through a Documentation of “Music as Act”:
Some Analytical Propositions

Nathalie Hérold
Associate Professor (Maîtresse de conférences)
Sorbonne University, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Music and Musicology Department
Research Institute in Musicology (IReMus, UMR 8223)

In early 2016, a project was initiated by a team of researchers from the University of Strasbourg’s GREAM Research Centre (Experimental Research Group on Music as Act – Groupe de Recherches Expérimentales sur l’Acte Musical) [1] relating to a reflection developed as part of a working group on the theme of “Orchestras and Ensembles” [2]. Closely based on the concept of “music as act”, the research project focused on the performance issues surrounding a contemporary piece of spectral music. This involved collaboration with the conductor Pierre-André Valade and an ensemble of instrumentalists from the Zürcher Hochschule der Künste (ZHdK, Zürich University of the Arts) in the context of the production of a live concert of Gérard Grisey’s cycle Les Espaces Acoustiques. Our research team had in fact the opportunity to attend a number of rehearsals in preparation for the concert and to talk with the musicians in the form of interviews.

This fieldwork resulted in a rich collection of documentation consisting of rehearsal videos, videos of interviews, as well as photos of the conductor’s personal scores with his annotations [3]. Apart from the interest of this material in itself, as a source or research data, it also seemed essential to examine its use as an object of study, particularly from an analytical point of view, as well as its contribution to the understanding of Grisey’s cycle – and more generally of spectral music – and its performance. After a few theoretical and methodological considerations, this article will outline a few analytical propositions based on the linking of documents in the collection around two specific performance issues: firstly, the playing of the horn using a reed, and secondly, the idea of sound fusion.