Martin Matalon -

Martin Matalon - "Las siete vidas de un gato"

Musical counterpoint to Un Chien andalou, the legendary film by the Spanish filmmaker Luis Buñuel, Las siete vidas de un gato (‘A Cat’s Seven Lives’) is, after Metropolis, Martin Matalon’s second ‘cinema counterpoint’.

The absence of any narrative element in Buñuel’s film permitted the composer a very free relationship with the image, and the score follows its own logic. Nonetheless, in spite of its autonomy as regards what is happening on the screen, there are a certain number of conjunctions between it and the film: the adding to the extreme density of this very brief film of equivalent musical density; the overall tone of the work, suggested by crudity, irony and the irrationality of the images; finally, the music’s adoption of the very rapid editing, most of the shots lasting no more than three or four seconds.

The score begins with a sort of cortège that files past, jolting on polyrhythms. Punctuated by the side drum and in the swarming of the percussion, it is led by a violin articulating the march with glissandi, a croaking trumpet and a cello repeating a diminished fifth with the obstinacy of a scratched disc. Isolated in the polyrhythmic frame, the protagonists appear deaf to one another and set in some elementary, obsessive gesture. Only the piano, which crosses the cortège diagonally, is free of all constraint, thereby acquiring a wild, irrational character.

This generalised autism is quite soon resolved in its opposite. The acoustic space suddenly opens up, the instruments giving themselves over to imitations, circular plays of echo that reveal the full measure and which constantly reflect the same musical object, to the point of confusion and bedazzlement.

The work’s forward march knows no respite. The rhythmic flux is now harnessed by a ‘suite’ of dances instrumental solos. A caustic tango and a tart waltz give themselves over to a show of one-upmanship, both in the forms, submitted to considerable collective activity, as well as in the expression, which reaches saturation. Buñuel’s characters are timeless, beyond psychology and narration. By contrast, Matalon’s seem to be ‘hurried’: violin overturned, histrionic trumpet, verbose clarinet… the scansion and rhythmic hustle and bustle go as far as overheating. After a brief intervention from the resonating instruments, the piece ends, deflating in an abrupt drop in tension.

Pascal Ianco

Translated by John Tyler Tuttle

Martin Matalon - Las siete vidas de un gato
For 8 instruments and electronic
World premiere: 1996
Centro de Cultura Contemporanea de Barcelona
Ensemble Barcelona 216
Ernest Martnez-Izquierdo, conductor

Date to come: 

Martin Matalon - Las siete vidas de un gato - Cancelled
For 8 instruments and electronic
5 March 2021
Philharmonie de Paris (Cité de la Musique)
Ensemble intercontemporain
Mariano Chiacchiarini, conductor

Consult the score by clicking here: 

Listen to an excerpt from the work: 


Listen to an interview conducted by IRCAM in 1999 with Martin Matalon about this work: