L'envie de rire

L'envie de rire

for soprano and orchestra

dur. ca. 9'

Premiered July 13, 2019

Grande Auditório da Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisboa

Orquestra Gulbenkian, cond. Pedro Neves

Lara Martins, sop

In Greek the act of love is a mingling (mignumi) and desire melts the limbs (lusimelēs [...]). Boundaries of body, categories of thought, are confounded.

Anne Carson, Eros the bittersweet

É ir buscar à irracionalidade do corpo, do inconsciente e do desconhecido a intensidade do sentido que torna inteligível um acontecimento, um comportamento, uma ideia. A intensidade não é extrínseca ao pensamento, pelo contrário, pensar é pensar excessivamente, intensamente.

José Gil, Caos e ritmo

J’ai consulté hier un dictionnaire voulant connaître la hauteur de la atmosphère: la colonne d’air dont nous devons supporter le poids ne serait pas inférieure à dix-sept tonnes.

Georges Bataille, Le coupable

Le coupable — guilty”, as well as cut” or cut­table”, from the French couper — is a self-por­trait of the French writer Georges Bataille.

One could call it a por­trait because, unlike in auto­bi­og­ra­phy, no life sto­ry pre­dat­ing the act of writ­ing unfolds in its pages. The book was penned between Sep­tem­ber 5th 1939 and Octo­ber 1943. On Sep­tem­ber 1st, Ger­many had invad­ed Poland, for­mal­ly sig­nal­ing the start of the Sec­ond World War. La date à laque­lle que je com­mence d’écrire (…) n’est pas une coïn­ci­dence.”, writes the author. Je com­mence en rai­son des événe­ments, mais ce n’est pas pour en par­ler.” In it, the author inscribes not so much mem­o­ries, but rather thoughts that pro­cure him in his coun­try­side refuge, hav­ing fled Paris. But these writ­ings do not take the form of a diary or an epis­to­lary nov­el: any nar­ra­tive or chrono­log­i­cal con­ti­nu­ity is dis­re­gard­ed in favor of a col­lage-like assem­bly of themes, with mys­ti­cal reflec­tions flar­ing up between descrip­tions of his day-to-day — and vice ver­sa —, in an edi­fice not unlike Fer­nan­do Pes­soa’s Livro do desas­sossego (The Book of Dis­qui­et).

Over the course of the text, bat­tles are fought between the sub­ject and lan­guage, as well as between the lim­its — in the sense of extremes, but also regard­ing their edges and lim­i­nal spaces — of both, which blur and lac­er­ate as much as the war­ring world beyond Bataille’s iso­la­tion. Writ­ten while in pro­found soli­tude, we can­not even be sure that Le coupable is tru­ly a book: although lat­er pub­lished, the neg­li­gence in the pro­duc­tion of the man­u­script incurred by Bataille seems to point instead towards a more urgent kind of project, one of more vital impor­tance than sim­ply pro­duc­ing a book, in the most pro­sa­ic mean­ing of the word.

In the words of Denis Hol­lier, Le coupable is simul­ta­ne­ous­ly dis­tract­ed and rig­or­ous tran­scrip­tion, com­mu­ni­ca­tion, and recog­ni­tion of what isn’t rec­og­niz­able. The unim­por­tance, the insignif­i­cance of what is rec­og­niz­able. The expe­ri­ence of what’s lost in com­mu­ni­cat­ing”. Bataille him­self — albeit a pro­lif­ic author at that point — admits being fear­ful of the moment in which those lines can be read by some­one who knows him. For those who know Bataille’s remain­ing pro­duc­tion – par­tic­u­lar­ly the works of fic­tion –, that fear of let­ting one­self be rec­og­nized as a sub­ject in such com­par­a­tive­ly pro­sa­ic lines of text seems, at first sight, laugh­able. But the writ­ing con­tained in this book is per­haps espe­cial­ly diaphanous, on account of show­ing no will­ing­ness what­so­ev­er towards inter­act­ing with the styl­is­tic or for­mal tropes from fic­tion or essay. Thus, per­haps, it points direct­ly towards the sub­ject that wrote it.

Through­out the text — naked­ly per­son­al and writ­ten under such ter­ri­bly dif­fi­cult con­di­tions; this is a book vio­lent­ly dom­i­nat­ed by tears (…), vio­lent­ly dom­i­nat­ed by death” — runs a ques­tion­ing and somber under­cur­rent. Bataille, how­ev­er, does not forego laugh­ter. Rire de l’univers libérait ma vie. J’échappe à la pesan­teur en riant. Je me refuse à la tra­duc­tion int­electuelle de ce rire: l’esclavage recom­mencerait à par­tir de là”. Laugh­ter is, in fact, priv­i­leged, even in a ter­ri­ble time in the course of the author’s life as well as the world’s. Every­thing else is ques­tioned and peered — and Bataille is naught but a ques­tion­ing being: Le développe­ment ultime de la con­nais­sance est celui de la mise en ques­tion“.


Laugh­ter, how­ev­er, stands alone beyond the lim­its of this fun­da­men­tal ques­tion­ing act. And it is, indeed, a dif­fi­cult philo­soph­i­cal ques­tion, laugh­ter. Few tried to inter­ro­gate it, and for good mea­sure: accord­ing to Adri­ana Cavarero (in For More than One Voice: toward a phi­los­o­phy of vocal expres­sion), Phi­los­o­phy har­bors the affin­i­ty towards an abstract and incor­po­re­al uni­ver­sal­i­ty, and by the domin­ion of a Word that does not leave any throat made of flesh.” Laugh­ter, being itself a vocal emis­sion that, by def­i­n­i­tion, escapes seman­tic artic­u­la­tion, imme­di­ate­ly affirms the sin­gu­lar­i­ty of the voice — of a voice, in a spe­cif­ic body, like the con­tents of Le coupable seem to point direct­ly towards the inner­most of its author.

Because it escapes lan­guage, and because it leans on an embod­ied acoustic sig­nal, we can eas­i­ly trace a line between laugh­ter and music. From the age-old melis­mat­ic enun­ci­a­tion (orna­men­tal, in oral music, then made struc­tur­al, in writ­ten music) up to the more recent frag­men­ta­tion of text in its pho­net­ic com­po­nents, vocal music — from our tra­di­tion or oth­er­wise — has always thrived on the insur­rec­tion of the voice against its seem­ing­ly nat­ur­al con­di­tion as the remain­der or neu­tral car­ri­er of speech. The ide­al voice of song thus acts not so much as a means of oral com­mu­ni­ca­tion and trans­mis­sion, but as the reg­is­ter of an econ­o­my of impuls­es con­nect­ed to the rhythm of the body, desta­bi­liz­ing the ratio­nal reg­is­ter in which the sys­tem of speech depends” (Cavarero).

A batail­lian vocal and musi­cal expres­sion would then be one where the sen­sa­tion of body sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly per­vades the lin­guis­tic (in its broad­est mean­ing: the sig­ni­fy­ing struc­ture, the sym­bol­ic, writ­ing, the prac­tice of cul­tur­al codes of genre or style), open­ing up spaces for the artic­u­la­tion of ephemer­al struc­tures that are not (con­ven­tion­al­ly) signifying.