Alain Bancquart

During the 1960s, I became aware of the need to take the disintegration of the hierarchical systems of the tonal world into account, in a radical manner. Even though an evolution of harmony towards the “pansonority” of Ivan Wyshnegradsky had already shaped the theory of this period, I felt the need for a clean break with a tonal system worn thin by chromaticism. The relative dullness and vagueness of the harmony that resulted from serialism did not seem satisfactory to me. On the other hand, the three microtonal parts in Pierre Boulez’sVisage Nuptial (before the unfortunate revision debased this dazzling music) lead to a discovery. The reading of this score, and the thought that the semitonal scale had been established in order to allow the existence of a modulating tonal harmony, and not the reverse, were decisive. In effect, if tonality is found to be bound in this manner to the semitonal scale, the most direct means to be finished with it obviously is by searching for other scales. Therefore I decided from this period onward to devote my work to the study of microintervallic music. For practical reasons having to do with hearing and performance, the quarter-tone was the most accessible microinterval. Nonetheless, the desire to access other, finer scales always existed for me. After a few years, thanks to a sixteenth-tone piano built by Julian Carrillo, I was able to realize what had until then been just a dream.However, the radical conversion that I was making toward a microtonal universe was not sufficient in and of itself to solve problems. Other questions arose, perhaps more important than those concerning the pitches. It was going to take me a few years (during which solid conceptions of the harmonic and melodic possibilities of microintervals were laid out) to understand that the choice of new scales with new pitches and sounds indicated new temporalscales, if one wanted to obtain coherence in one’s discourse. On this subject, I became aware of the existence of a tonal rhythm, directly related to the vertical organization of the tonal system, just as elsewhere there exists a Gregorian rhythm, which is even more supple. And so I continued to work in this manner, very isolated. The only one who had perceived the existence of these problems, and something of their solutions, was Wyschnegradsky. His major work, La loi de la pansonorité (The Law of Pansonority), was still unpublished, and it was going to take until 1996 for it to be by Pascale Criton. Some fundamental ideas of serial music have remained with me, particularly that of non-repetition. As for the non-doubling of the octave: it’s not a matter of dogma, but of the sense of useless redundancy in a context which is much richer than that of the semitones. It is with regard to other parameters, in particular that of duration, that this idea of “not returning” for me has greater and greater importance. The disappearance of symmetries seems inevitable to me, if one wants to find a flexibility in the organization of phrases comparable to that of Gregorian music—take that of certain Indian music, for example. It is the idea of regular pulse itself that was common practice, just as that of tempo was the standard of the time. I was lead gradually toward a conception of musical time governed by techniques of proliferation that were very strict, but with results that were more and more unpredictable. The object further and further than its original form becomes its own anamorphosis, the venture of form becomes one of time. These ideas are still the ones which guide me in my current work.
(Translated by Julia Werntz)Biography
Born in 1934 in Dieppe, Bancquart completed his studies at the Conservatoire de Paris (violin, viola, chamber music, counterpoint, fugue and composition), and then held the position of third viola solo in the Orchestre National de France, from 1961-1973. He became Musical Director of Orchestras of the Regions of Ortf (1973-1974), then Director of the Orchestre National de France (1975-1976). In 1977 he was named Inspector of Music at the Ministry of Culture. He held this post from 1977 to 1984, and at the same time was producer of Radio France’s “Perspectives du XXieme Siecle.” In 1984 Marc Bleuse selected him to overhaul the composition curriculum at the Conservatoire de Paris and to open a composition course.In 1995 he decided to take leave of institutions. He remains in charge of a seminar in “Nouvelles Intervalles” at the Conservatoire de Paris. Throughout his career Alain Bancquart has never ceased being a composer. Since 1967 he has devoted all of his work to the study of microintervals, using primarily quarter-tones and, more recently, sixth-tones and eighth-tones. His oeuvre consists of, among others, three string quartets, numerous vocal works, five symphonies, a large number of pieces for flute (solo or with orchestra), two chamber operas, etc.
Alain Bancquart website

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