PAVILLONS EN L' AIR for tuba, percussion and tape. 1989. Commissioned by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) for Scott Irvine and Beverley Johnston. 13 minutes.

PAVILLONS EN L' AIR for double bass and tape. 1989. 13 minutes. Score/parts and DAT tape available through PROMETHEAN EDITIONS.



Although in musical parlance this is an instruction of French horn players to raise the bell of the instrument, it is the surrealist imagery of the literal rendering of the term which has inspired the composition of this piece. Pavillons En l' Air is a sequence of "floating" sound structures dissolving into one another, re-emerging and dissolving again. Two version of the piece exist: the original one for tuba and percussion and a subsequent for double bass and percussion. In both versions the percussion and tape parts are identical, whereas the tuba and double bass parts differ considerably.

More often than not the tuba and double bass are stereotyped as sluggish, unpoetic, mainly support-role instruments. In Pavillons En l' Air, however, both instruments constantly explore their individual identity, in the case of the tuba with the use of multiple sonorities (singing and playing at the same time) and in the case of the double bass with the extensive use of an array of special effects (harmonics and other non-conventional sounds). They are pitted against high shakuhachi and Japanese percussion sounds in the tape part. The tape represents an idealized sound world which the live instruments try to reach and in so doing they are constantly engaged in pushing their upper register to the limit. In sections of the piece in which the rhythmic element is particularly pronounced, I have returned to a compositional technique which I have not used for almost ten years consisting of mapping harmonic rations onto rhythm and thus creating phasing rhythmic patterns. Pavillons En l' Air is the first piece of an electroacoustic tetralogy called Quaternio (also see: The Birth of Venus, From the Vanishing Gardens of Eden and Of Threads and Labyrinths).

Premiere performances: May 12, 1989 by Scott Irvine, tuba and Beverley Johnston, percussion. Arraymusic concert, Premiere Dance Theatre, Harbourfront, Toronto.

July 29, 1989 by Roberto Occhipinti, double bass and Beverley Johnston, percussion. Athens Festival '89, Theater of Lycabettus, Athens, Greece.


I was thrilled to hear the tape. Your music sounds fresh, original, with lots of attention to detail, but at the same time easy flowing. I was especially impressed with Pavillons En l' Air.

Saul Bitran, Cuarteto Latinoamericano (USA/Mexico)

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