Temporal frameworks, musical memory, and personal logic: an analysis of Henri Dutilleux’s Ainsi la nuit
LE3 .A278 2019
Bachelor of Arts
Completed in 1976, Henri Dutilleux’s string quartet Ainsi la nuit provides one of the clearest examples of the composer’s hard sought-after personal voice. Undeniably, Dutilleux’s core aim is to compose with the upmost sincerity and conviction, in which musical and philosophical devices, traditional and modern, coalesce into a united musical identity and coherent language. Dutilleux’s “progressive growth” is the manifestation of his coherent personal language and is most simply defined as a process of evolution and manipulation of musical material, such that complex relationships and associations are created throughout the music. Specifically, the fundamental goal of “progressive growth” is to affect the listener’s perception of the music by manipulating memory and time. Thus, the musical material in Ainsi la nuit holds its meaning within time and fundamentally through its ability to create a formal framework of associations realized through the process of recollection and perception. Consisting of twelve continuous formal sections – seven movements, four “parentheses”, and an untitled introduction – the approximately 18-minute long Ainsi la nuit establishes a complex and self-referential structure devoted to manipulating time and memory. This analysis argues for a multitude of distinct musical objects that combine, separate, and associate across the piece in methodical formal and temporal placements. I argue that the placement and duration of musical objects and formal sections within a temporal plane creates certain patterns, symmetries, and cyclicities, and this temporal structure is what endows the otherwise multifarious and tumultuous musical material within Ainsi la nuit with logic and formal structure. For Dutilleux, the enigmatic process of association and evolution throughout Ainsi la nuit fulfilled his desire for freedom and mystery in expression, while the methodical temporal patterning and placement supplied the resolute coherence and logic he valued so highly.
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