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Philippe Manoury: The Book of Keyboards

by Third Coast Percussion

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Métal 22:16


Grammy winning ensemble Third Coast Percussion releases their newest recording of two landmark works by acclaimed French composer Philippe Manoury. Manoury’s work is aligned with the modernist French tradition as articulated by Pierre Boulez; his music is imbued with values shared with the world of research and marked by ambitious instrumental challenges. His work has been particularly informed by his expertise in electro-acoustic composition and real-time interaction between acoustic instruments and computer generated sounds. In these two remarkable acoustic pieces, Le Livre des Claviers and Metal, Manoury explores the rich world of tuned keyboard percussion instruments, a category he broadens to include low pitched Thai gongs and a fascinating set of six homemade instruments called sixxen, originally imagined by pioneer Iannis Xenakis. Xenakis specified some sonic parameters for sixxen, but gave no specific instrument designs. Notably, pitch is not a fixed parameter in the design specifications for sixxen, so it is up to the performers to build instruments that create an engaging pitch landscape. The sixxen works, therefore, are shaped by Manoury’s compelling rhythmic writing and elegant sense of contour, and a listener might be tempted to muse on ways the piece would sound different, or the same, with another set of sixxen. While Xenakis’ use of these instruments was somewhat brutal, in Manoury’s hands, they also display a ritualistic, ethereal side, sounding occasionally like clanging church bells from the worship house of an exotic theology. Two movements for thai gongs and marimbas, a marimba duo, and a vibraphone solo represent the rest of Le Livre des Claviers, containing precise, demanding music that nevertheless avoids the kind of dramatic resistance often associated with writing of this complexity. The dynamic between the rigors of the mallet percussion movements of Le Livre des Claviers and the sixxen movements amounts to a kind of refraction of Manoury’s vision through a distorting lens, particularly as it pertains to pitch. Present throughout all of these movements and in Metal (his expansion on the potential of sixxen after writing Le Livre) is a natural, unencumbered flow underlying Manoury’s phrases, even in the most virtuosic passages. This is, of course, a testament to Third Coast’s well documented expertise, but also suggests that an affect of detached effortlessness may be shared with or influenced by his work in the realm of computer music. Perhaps it is consistent with Manoury’s role as a researcher — he observes and creates phenomena with a carefully cultivated balance of detachment and wonder.


released August 4, 2017

Produced by Third Coast Percussion
Session Producers: Robert Dillon (track 4), Peter Martin (track 2), Michael Lewanski (tracks 1, 3, 5, 6, 7)
Engineer: Dan Nichols
Assistant Engineer: Jim Schram
Editing, Mixing, and Mastering: Dan Nichols
Third Coast Percussion is: Sean Connors, Robert Dillon, Peter Martin, David Skidmore
Addtional guest performers on this recording: Owen Clayton Condon, Gregory Beyer, Ross Karre
Recording Location and dates: Northern Illinois University Recital Hall, January 5, 2011 (track 4); January 10, 2011 (track 2); January 26-27, 2011 (tracks 1, 3, 5, 6); January 13-14, 2013 (track 7)
Edited and Mixed at Aphorism Audio
Art and Design: Sonnenzimmer LLC
Liner Notes: Robert Dillon
Publishers: Le Livre des Claviers AMPHION Éditions Musicales 1988 (ASCAP); Métal Editions DURAND 1995 (ASCAP)
This album is made possible in part by a grant from The French-American Fund for Contemporary Music, a program of FACE with major support from the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, SACEM, Cultures Frances, and the Florence Gould Foundation. Additional support comes from a VCUarts Faculty Research Grant.




New Focus Recordings New York, New York

New Focus Recordings is an artist led collective label featuring releases in contemporary music of many stripes, as well as new approaches to older repertoire. The label was founded by guitarist Daniel Lippel (who is the current director), composer engineer Ryan Streber, and composer Peter Gilbert in 2003-4, and features releases from many of new music's most active performers and composers. ... more

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