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An introduction to the music of André Jolivet

From his earliest youth André Jolivet regarded his music as a strong affirmation of non-conformism "It’s an attitude I’ve held to, come what may, one that will perhaps allow me in the future to express, in a way no less independently, but I hope, more perfectly, the new relationships in sound which I am aware of and which I see are going to emerge" (André Jolivet, 1993).

It has to be said that throughout his life Jolivet remained faithful to this belief, which is clearly borne out in the wide range of his output, comprising more than 200 works. Another firmly-held belief of his, from the time of Mana (1935) to La Flèche du temps (1974), was the need to give back to music its original ancient meaning, when it was the magical, incantatory expression of the religious beliefs of human groups. Although Jolivet had no desire to found a school, he felt the need to write a kind of music that addressed itself to mankind in general. He wanted to combine humanism and universalism.

To this end he took on board all musical genres, from works for solo instrument to opera (even though Bolgomilé ou le Lieutenant Perdu remained sadly incomplete), encompassing all possible combinations of chamber music, song, concerto, symphony, cantata, oratorio, dramatic music and music for commercial purposes… One could equally say that he multiplied musical styles, setting them off against each other from one work to the next or even creating a synthesis of styles within one and the same piece. His inspiration could as well derive from sources of traditional non-European music as from jazz, dodecaphony, a certain kind of classicism, from electronic instruments, but there was always the same concern to elevate the music and to grant it a universal dimension In this sense his œuvre remains a powerful testimony in the history of 20th-century French music.

Lucie Kayas

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