From 11 November and the burial of Maurice Genevoix in the Pantheon, visitors of the Parisian temple will be welcomed by a musical creation by Pascal Dusapin, commissioned by the French Republic. An event presented to us Irina Kaiserman:
The Pantheon watches over Paris from the top of the mountain Sainte Geneviève, a church commissioned by a king and, following the French Revolution, devoted to the memory of remarkable personalities who elevated the nation through their art and their actions. During the different political regimes, the monument became a church yet again before becoming once and for all the secular Pantheon following the funeral of Victor Hugo in 1885.
The President of the Republic Emmanuel Macron called upon two artists to accompany the “pantheonisation” of the writer Maurice Genevoix and the centenary of the burial of the Unknown Soldier: Anselm Kiefer and Pascal Dusapin. A German and a Frenchman side by side to greet the soldiers of the Great War, 1914-1918.
Pascal Dusapin took his time when exploring the monument, somewhat deserted. He visited Anselm Kiefer's workshops, where they spoke of their undying love for their respective disciplines, for Paris, of one’s path overlapping that of the other throughout this unique and highly prestigious commission, of the perennial visual and musical works in the Pantheon.
How else can one inhabit this enormous space, overlooking a cemetery crypt, to honour the dead and welcome, for a moment of remembrance, the living?
In honour of Genevoix and the soldiers of 1914, the composer has imagined an enormous living lung within the 18th-century walls, as if to make it sing. An entity of voices call upon our spirituality, where everyone can hear different echoes of their past, of their history. The sound of the monument, in which all sounds produce a long echo, seven seconds, dissuaded him from using instruments. The voice reigns supreme.
During the lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic, he composed approximately fifteen chorales, choral modules, all recorded by the Accentus choir, with seventeen singers conducted by Richard Wilberforce.
Then came the challenge of an enormous game of sound-building : he used the modules as a form of grammar, composing new sentences with all those new vibrant words, this time mixing them directly on his computer.
This exercise is as much inspired by Molière from Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme (the variation of "Belle Marquise, vos beaux yeux me font mourir d’amour”) as it is by Beethoven from the Diabelli variations...
He superimposes, mixes, separates, chooses, and defines an infinity of vocal sculptures, passing through all of the ranges, whether combined or not.
To bring his dreams to life, he designed with his faithful electro-acoustic engineer, Thierry Coduys, an installation using 70 specially-calibrated speakers constructed by the company Amadeus that will broadcast the music throughout the building; a planner and a "spatialiser" with the composer at the helm, thanks to a computer program specially developed by his collaborator, will distribute the voices throughout the hall with extreme precision, multiplying them, changing perceptions of the same musical instant, restating them with various intensities and propagation speeds.
Several times an hour, every day, songs in the tradition of an immaterial elevation will populate the monument’s sound space of the monument, reminding visitors of the manes of the illustrious resident architects of French grandeur. The texts are in Latin, taken from Ecclesiastes, Virgil and funerary declarations from Ancient Rome.
The sequences of combinations are countless, and several years will elapse before finding once again a similarity.
Dusapin composes and presents his variations by wishing to reintroduce spirituality to this secular building so unique and emblematic of the French heritage. He hopes to punctuate time with voices of great purity, recorded without any filter or electronic manipulation, in order to think of those who have been silenced, to breathe differently by remembering the breath of those absent and their traces, to continue the conversations.
It is for him the possibility to extend the lyrical experience of opera without a written dramaturgy, this extraordinary setting and its vocation already telling a very strong story.
The polyphonic freedom that he explores acts in harmony with the freedom of the passer-by who walks and listens.
The Unknown Soldier was to be originally buried in the Pantheon.
A child from Alsace-Lorraine will pay tribute to him by filling this sanctuary with singing shadows, so that the monument may once again become the link between those who died for the homeland, and those of us who live there.
Pascal Dusapin - In Nomine Lucis
World premiere: 11 November 2020
Watch the entry ceremony to the Pantheon of writer Maurice Genevoix accompanied by Pascal Dusapin's music:
Listen Pascal Dusapin and Anselm Kiefer interview by Léa Salamé on France Inter on 11 November 2020
Click here to read Le Point article published on 8 November 2020.
Click here to read Le Monde article published on 9 November 2020.
Click here to read Libération article published on 9 November 2020.
Click here to read Télérama article published on 9 November 2020.
Find below Journal du Dimanche article published on 8 November 2020:
Pascal Dusapin © Pascal Gontier
Anselm Kiefer © AFP
Maurice Genevoix © Micheline Pelletier / Gamma-Rapho - Getty