updated 2 April 2021
© Danielle Androff

Philippe Leroux

French composer born 24 September 1959 in Boulogne.

Philippe Leroux was born in France in 1959. He began his studies at the Conservatoire de Paris (CNSMDP) in 1978, studying with Ivo Malec, Claude Ballif, Pierre Schaeffer, and Guy Reibel, and earning three premiers prix (highest honors). During this time, he also studied with Olivier Messiaen, Franco Donatoni, Betsy Jolas, Jean-Claude Eloy, and Iannis Xenakis. In 1993, he was a fellow at the Villa Medici, where he stayed until October 1995.

He has composed nearly eighty pieces, including symphonic, acousmatic, vocal, electronic, and chamber music works. He has received commissions from the French Ministry of Culture, the Orchestre philharmonique de Radio-France, the Südwestfunk Baden-Baden, IRCAM, the Percussions de Strasbourg, the Ensemble Intercontemporain, Court-Circuit, 2e2m, the Ensemble Orchestral Contemporain, Sillages, INA-GRM, the Nouvel Ensemble Moderne of Montreal, Sixtrum, Ictus, the Festival Musica, BIT 20, the Koussevitsky Foundation, the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, Athelas, the Orchestre national de Lorraine, the Orchestre philharmonique de Nice, the CIRM, INTEGRA, the Festival Berlioz, and other institutions and organizations in France and abroad.

His works are performed and broadcast in France and beyond, including at festivals such as Donaueschingen, Présences de Radio-France, Agora, the Venice Biennale, the Bath Festial, Festival Musica, the ISCM World Music Days in Stockholm, MNM in Montreal, Musiques en Scènes de Lyon, Manca, Bergen, Ultima in Oslo, and Tage für Neue Musik in Zürich, by groups such as the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Tonhalle Orchester Zürich, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, the Philharmonia Orchestra, the Czech Philharmonic, and the Orchestre Philharmonique de Lorraine.

Major collaborations with IRCAM include Voi(rex), which premiered there in 2003 in a performance by Donatienne Michel-Dansac and Ensemble L’Itinéraire, conducted by Pierre-André Valade, and Apocalypsis, which premiered in 2006 at the Maison de Radio France in another performance by Donatienne Michel-Dansac, Valérie Philippin and BIT20 during the Festival Agora. Apocalypsis was awarded the Prix Francis et Mica Salabert in 2007.

Leroux has received many awards and honors, including the Prix Hervé Dugardin, the 1996 award for best premiere of the year for (d’)Aller, the SACEM Composers Prize, the Prix André Caplet et Nadia et Lili Boulanger of the Académie des Beaux-Arts of the Institut de France, and the Arthur Honegger Prize of the Fondation de France for his entire body of work. In 2015, he was named to the Royal Society of Canada, and the Académie des beaux-arts of the Institut de France awarded him the Fondation Simone et Cino Del Duca Composition Prize. His album Quid sit Musicus was awarded the 2015 Grand Prix du Disque by the Académie Charles Cros.

He has published many articles on contemporary music and given lectures and composition courses at institutions such as the University of California, Berkeley, Harvard University, the Grieg Academy in Bergen, Columbia University, the Royal Conservatory of Copenhagen, the University of Toronto, the Fondation Royaumont, IRCAM, the American Conservatory at Fontainebleau, the Conservatoire de Paris (CNSMDP) and the Conservatoire de Lyon (CNSMDL), Domaine Forget in Québec, and the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta.

From 2001 to 2006, he taught composition for Cursus, IRCAM’s composition and computer music course. In 2005 and 2006, he was the Langlois Foundation visiting professor of music media and technology at McGill University. From 2007 to 2009, he held a residency at the Arsenal de Metz with the Orchestre national de Lorraine, and from 2009 to 2011 was a guest professor at the Université de Montréal (UdeM). Since September 2011, he has taught composition at the Schulich School of Music at McGill University. In 2017, he was a composer in residence for the MEITAR ensemble in Tel-Aviv.


© Ircam-Centre Pompidou, 2016

Sources

Philippe Leroux.

By Wataru Miyakawa

“All becoming is based on movement. […] in the universe, movement is the basis of everything1”. – Paul Klee

Philippe Leroux belongs to a generation of composers whose approach to music is better characterized as a synthesis of the research undertaken by the previous generation than as a break with any given musical style. This idea of synthesis translates directly into Leroux’s approach to composing: “Instead of moving toward the complex starting from the monad, the cell, I begin with a multitude of elements and try to locate what they have in common2”. In a world rich with a vast array of objects discovered or found in recent centuries, and with many cultures, Leroux is convinced that the principle of proliferation from a single motif, which incarnates a certain ideal form for Western composers of the modern era, does not fit our actual perception of sound. Further, he believes that our musical preoccupations no longer fall with the object or with the material, but are to be found the relationship between these diverse elements. As a key representative of spectral music’s second generation, he considers the notion of process, central to spectralism, to be a foundational principle that directly addresses this relationship.

Between figure and material

In the 1980s, at the very beginning of his career, Philippe Leroux wrote two tributes that displayed certain constant and essential features of his musical language. His first opus, Hommage à Ivan Wyschnegradsky (1980) for two guitars, takes up the notion of the sonic continuum explored by the Russian composer, which in this case is based on the non-octave scales created by micro-intervals (the two guitars are tuned in quarter-tones). Later, Leroux expanded this notion of continuity to all sonic dimensions. Hommage à Andreï Roublev (1982), for tape, is a tribute to the Russian icon painter as well as to Andreï Tarkovski, who made a film about Roublev. Leroux’s admiration for Tarkovski stemmed in particular from the filmmaker’s elastic understanding of time, which allowed him to endow films with both contemplative and dynamic moods. The acousmatic composition was written to reflect the relationship between “material and movement”, to use the composer’s own words: Leroux was creating a dialectic between the smooth texture underlying the entire work and the movement sparked by all of the small figures that appear sporadically throughout. This dialectic between movement and material continued to fascinate the composer, notably, in its manifestation in Marguerite Duras’ novel L’Amour, which he used to compose On a crié for solo vocalists, choir, and ensemble in 1991.

Leroux frequently employs terms such as “movement”, “gesture”, and “sonic action”, which he does “in order to focus on the potential and the internal movement [of figures] rather than the making of them3”. This idea dovetails with Gerard Grisey’s definition of sound not as a fixed or unmoving object, but rather as a “transitory” phenomenon4. Similarly, Leroux’s thinking parallels that of Henri Bergson, for whom “[the solidity of change] is infinitely superior to that of a fixity which is only an ephemeral arrangement between mobilities5”. Leroux also believes that the gesture that gives birth to sound, and the energetic variation to which it gives rise – which he calls “gestural surrogacy6 ”, a term borrowed from the composer Denis Smalley – are fundamental and far more important than motivic or melodic work. His thinking can also be traced back to his experiences in electroacoustic music; he was a student of Pierre Schaeffer, Ivo Malec, and Guy Reibel, and wrote several acousmatic works, most of which were performed in the 1980s (Hommage à Andreï Roublev, Intercession, Le vide et le vague, Tournoi). Leroux also is a proponent of “the writing of sound”, attaching particular value to the “dynamic morphologies” that describe “the entire energetic conduct of a sound7”. It is from here that he approaches instrumental and vocal writing, as one hears in early works such as Un corps de louange (1983) for orchestra, Le Jardin ouvert (1985) for wind quartet, or Anima Christi (1985) for vocal quartet. Such pieces are often characterized by tremendous energy produced by identifiable gestures (such as the glissando), or by a sound or chord that is intentionally reiterated.

The significance of gesture in his thinking and writing also explains his interest in Gregorian chant, as “neumes above all highlight the figures, and not the notes; the figure is already a gesture constituted as its own small form8”. He thus adopted a system of writing that resembled Saint Gallen neumes of the 10th century in Je brûle, dit-elle un jour à un camarade (1990) for solo soprano, as well as in On a crié, distinguishing two types of note, thicker and thinner, to avoid uniformity. Gregorian chant is not Leroux’s only passion. He is also interested in other oral traditions, in which he also sees an ideal form of transmission and memorization that has been lost to us today, since “the question of memory is a fundamental one9” for him. In this, he was deeply influenced by Marcel Jousse, whose research largely concerned the psychophysiological laws of oral and gestural style. Thus, despite recognizing the importance of writing, Leroux has expressed a certain mistrust of it, leading him to “remove himself totally from written musical representation and only to listen10”.

Processes, models

In the 1990s, Leroux became interested in the principle of processes of transformation described by spectral composers such as Gérard Grisey and Tristan Murail, which establishes continuity between two distinct sound phenomena by gradually transforming one of them into the other. This interest grew from the composer’s desire to handle the relationship between movement and material in a more continuous manner. The idea of process had partially entered his work in the preceding decade, at the end of the third movement of Fleuve (1988) for ensemble, in which the ascending glissando is only subtly present at the beginning and slowly invades the sound space. It was only in the 1990s, though, with works written for smaller formations (Ial for harp and guitar, Phonie douce for oboe, saxophone, viola, and cello, Air-Ré for violin and marimba/vibraphone) that this interest in process became more systematic, as a way of establishing continuity in a tight relationship between the local (figure) and the global (form).

Leroux considers rhythm to be an intermediary dimension between figure and material, in which the process of transformation can occur. The rhythmic character of works written during this period are therefore more marked, as one hears in AAA (1996) for ensemble. While the piece, which is a revisited instrumental version of Image à Rameau (1995) for four MIDI wind controllers, does open with a quotation from Rameau’s La Poule, it is above all the regular pulse of Rameau’s motif that interest Leroux. Starting from this motif, the work unfolds in a “playground” that is constantly made new using the known – initial motif and variations – and the unknown, using different procedures (rhythmic or motivic work, frequent changes in tempo or register, play with dynamics or articulations, shifting orchestration with a broad sonic palette, etc.). The idea of the “playground” is a cornerstone in Leroux’s works, in some ways akin to the “transitional space” defined by Donald Winnicott as an intermediate area that allows for the transition and an interplay between the internal reality of an individual and external reality11. AAA seems to embody Leroux’s desire to strike a perfect balance between the two essential features of play as defined by Roger Caillois: ludus (rules, rigor) and paidia (spontaneity, “uncontrolled fantasy12”). This playful dimension gives the work a somewhat jovial aspect, which helps to explain the choice of title: according to the composer, it is intended to express a “burst of laughter13”. Leroux believes that the humorous is just as important as the serious or the tragic. This conviction shines through in “3 bis, rue d’insister” (2000) for quintet, probably his most “humorous” work, which mixes stylistic elements of Pérotin (organum), Ernest Chausson (theme and cadence) and “Leroux” (“an omnipresent, pulsing, constantly moving ‘big note’14)”, adding in theatrical gestures.

The concept of continuity remains a preoccupation for Leroux, who noted that, as exemplified in the work of Grisey or Murail, sound is a continuous phenomenon, and that our listening can be defined as a “perceptive continuum”. This does away with distinctions amongst parameters such as pitch, duration, timbre, or space, as a great deal of research has already shown. For example, the Doppler effect occurs due to the tight relationship between movement through space and pitch perception. In the same vein, Stockhausen showed in his experiments with electronics (notably in Kontakte), that “musical time can be seen as a unique and continuous field of frequencies, in which form, rhythm, and pitch are three organically homogenous categories15”. From this point, Leroux affirmed that any element could be continuously transformed into any other element. To do so, the notion of “phrasing” – defined by the composer as “the mental representation of movement16” – between two distinct objects emerged as “essential to a vision of music as a dynamic process and of the work as a dynamic whole17”. The process of transformation fits neatly into this concept of “phrasing”.

The triptych Continuo(ns), (d’)Aller, and Plus loin, written between 1994 and 2000 for increasingly large ensembles (respectively: quintet, violin and ensemble, large orchestra), whose interconnected titles illustrate the composer’s aesthetic and ethical convictions, was the concrete result of the research he had undertaken in the 1990s. Continuo(ns) borrows its title from Baroque writing, above all in “the idea of uninterrupted and obstinate pulse18”, as a way to direct the sonic continuum throughout the work. The same is true of (d’)Aller, which continues to move down the path forged by spectralism in another key way: biomorphic and technomorphic models are taken as the basis for the composition, from which the composer builds his material (harmony, rhythm, etc.), analyzing this material with the help of technology. For example, at the beginning of Partiels, an emblematic work of spectral music, Grisey used an electronic sonogram analysis of a low E played on a trombone to then reconstitute its harmonic spectrum using other instruments. Leroux compares this approach to the experience of intussusception described by Marcel Jousse in which an external object or action is assimilated in a way that enriches it with new behaviors19. It was for this reason that the composer began using computer-assisted composition tools at this time (particularly the AutoSculpt program to analyze sound models and OpenMusic, along with its predecessor, PatchWork, to build musical material, often starting with these analyses). For (d’)Aller, the composer used sine as a model: not the sound corresponding to a sine wave, but the basic imagery of the sinusoidal curve, from which he derived an ascending-descending melodic profile that he used throughout the concerto. Leroux has acknowledged the influence of Iannis Xenakis in this approach, and, more specifically, of the UPIC system (an early computer-based graphic controller for digital music) that Xenakis designed, which allows the composer to work by drawing waveforms and volume envelopes on a digitizing tablet. These are then processed by the computer to produce sound. As the linear development of a single musical idea runs the risk of becoming monotonous, or at the very least predictable, one of the composer’s major concerns was to weave “surprises” into the transformation process by contrasting the predictable and the unpredictable. Often, passages in the piece show that once a figure has been embedded in our memory by reiteration, Leroux puts in a rather unexpected “detour” (such as, for example, the toms played in measure 35, which one associates with the ascending staccato scale obstinately repeated by other instruments, despite the fact that these two sonic elements have, at root, very little in common).

While Leroux drew inspiration from the work of other spectral composers, notably in the way he sought to establish continuity through process or the way his inspiration was anchored in physical models, it is doubtless his search for movement that best expresses the uniqueness of his musical language. While the works of the first composers in the spectral movement tended toward slow metamorphosis, Leroux was constantly adding movement to the musical discourse by introducing contrasts and rapid changes in perspective. In this, he bears a certain resemblance to composers such as Philippe Hurel or Magnus Lindberg, in spite of their very different aesthetics. For Leroux, “running, crawling, diving, falling, balancing, throwing, striking, pushing rolling, turning, sliding, grabbing, wild yelling, stunning, freezing, surprising, dashing down a slope, rescuing, climbing up, climbing down, catapulting, gathering momentum, gliding […], are all things that naturally find their application in music20”.

After the first two parts of his triptych, (Continuo(ns) and (d’)Aller), Leroux made the processes of transformation more complex in order to break their deterministic aspect, which was at times too strong. Thus, the final part, Plus loin, is written so that the processes that activate the more-or-less constant oscillation between figure and material are less perceptible. It is with this goal in mind that De la vitesse (2001) for six percussions is organized following a “braid” topology21 that, instead of structuring the process in a linear fashion, makes it discontinuous by punching “ellipses” into it. In the piece, Leroux gives silence a structural role. Until then, he had generally used silence to highlight a figure or a “phrasing” – here, it is placed between the different sections as an autonomous element. Weaving silence so deeply into the structure of the work intensifies the sense of antagonism between continuity and discontinuity felt when listening to the piece.

M (1997) for two pianos, two percussions (only keyboard instruments: two vibraphones, two marimbas, a glockenspiel), and electronics illustrates another field of research Leroux was exploring in the 1990s: mixed music. This desire to combine two different universes, or to move from one universe to another, notably through transcription, as in AAA or M’M (the orchestral version of M, written in 2003), is also evidently a part of his search to establish continuity between heterogeneous elements. Although his first experiment with mixed music dates from 1984 with La pourpre et l’écarlate for tuba and tape, Leroux began seriously exploring the interactive relationship between instruments and electronics with M. Electronics play a dual role in the work, which is built mainly around resonance modeling of the piano. First, electronics are used to fuse the instruments (for example, though cross-synthesis) as well as being used in the continuous transformation of different sonic elements, notably chords through interpolation. Second, they are used to develop musical dimensions that cannot be achieved or deepened using these instruments alone (resonance, spatialization, micro-intervals, “noise” elements in sound that appear in analyses, etc.). In addition to the features cited above, such as the dialectic between movement and material or the continuity established by the process of transformation, M highlights Leroux’s work on harmony, whose goal is to “structure the musical discourse through its progression and through its capacity to create and resolve tension, and to generate colors and sonic textures22”. Here, he positions himself wholly within the French tradition (Debussy, Messiaen, Murail…), sharing the preoccupations of other contemporary French composers, such as Philippe Hurel and Jean-Luc Hervé.

From *Voi(*rex)toApocalypsis

Leroux composed Voi(Rex) (2002) for voice, six instruments, and electronics in the early 2000s. The piece is a crystallization of the composer’s wish to combine contrasting elements. One sees this already in the instrumentation he chose for it, which for the first time combines the three genres for which he has been composing since the beginning of his career (instrumental, vocal, electronics). The voice, which holds an important place in his musical output, is one of the three dimensions to which the title alludes: the vocal writing (voix in French) is meticulous, with extremely precise directions (six degrees of noise, four vocal mechanisms, etc.); the visuals (voir in French), such as the scenography, which is largely focused on the singer (moving off and on stage, theatrical gestures of writing and punctuation made to the audience, etc.); and the graphic representation of writing as a model; finally, the composer’s desire to trace his own path (voie in French). With five movements preceded by a brief introduction, the goal of the piece is not to call the ritual of the concert into question, but rather to engage in a kind of double-pronged expansion. First, the composer seeks to expand the musical space by using the wings of the stage and through spatialization (eight loudspeakers are arranged throughout the hall and in the wings). Second, the composer seeks to expand “the semantics of the instrumental and vocal gestures through the addition of scenic elements linked to the text’s structure23”. The use of different types of models serves the same purpose: for example, a recording of poems read by the singer (placed near the gongs and a tom-tom made resonant with her voice) provides both a harmonic substrate and a rhythmic structure (the “taleas,” or rhythmic themes) for the entire work. To cite another example, the calligraphy of the poem was used as a “generator of rhythmic-melodic models and of spatial trajectories24”. Other models, with no direct link to the text, are added in to the previous ones: these include acoustic models (improvisation using certain vocal techniques) or technomorphic ones (frequency-shifting, Doppler effect, etc.), as well as waveforms similar to the ones used in (d’)Aller (“flat,” “stairstep,” “sinusoidal,” etc.). This “confrontation of different types of models25” is indeed one of the major compositional focuses of the work.

The miscellaneous nature of the materials used in Voi(Rex) is paired with a formal diversity that owes its existence to the piece’s design, which assigns each movement a specific personality. Unity is established among these different elements in different ways: the text is used as a central thread, and the movements have certain constituent features in common (harmony, for example). In addition, the fifth movement serves as a kind of recapitulation of the first four. Beyond these unifying factors, Leroux considers it essential to place a “single brushstroke” – a favored expression of his, and one he would use later as a title for his concerto for saxophone and orchestra (2008-2009) – in relief. This brushstroke defines itself as the unifying formal gesture, as described by the Chinese painter Shitao: “line is both form and movement, volume and ink tone26”. Here again the concepts of gesture and movement emerge – recurrent themes for Leroux. For the composer, only “active inner listening” makes it possible to locate this unifying formal gesture. His careful attention to a concept that seems to be shared with many other composers stems from the fact that this phase is, for him, a critical one in the compositional process. The study of the origins of Voi(Rex) carried out by musicologist Nicolas Donin and anthropologist Jacques Theureau from 2003 to 2006 shows the long “trial and error”, the many “detours”, and the “wandering27” that were features of Leroux’s process from the moment he conceived of the piece to its completion. These would appear to have been caused largely by his particular approach, in which the pre-compositional phases (planning, selecting/creating material) serve less to anticipate the details of the final appearance of the work than they do to prepare “situations” for the writing phase, in which invention is guided and stimulated by a set of constraints that are reevaluated in light of the definitive state of the already-written pages.

Donin and Theureau’s work pushed Leroux to create a new composition that was based on the explorations for Voi(Rex). Titled Apocalypsis (2005-2006), it was written for voice, sixteen instruments, and electronics (an expanded version, Extended Apocalypsis, was completed in 2011). Its form charts the creation of the previous work chronologically: the musical “model” here is not sonic or graphic, but rather the successive steps in a creative process. This desire to expand the concept of the model to include the birth of a piece of music is probably not far removed from the approach described earlier in this essay, in which older pieces are used to create new ones. Apocalypsis stands in contrast to such work, however, in that it is not in any way a textual transcription of the elements of Voi(Rex). The composition was driven by two key goals. The first was to continue certain explorations that had not been completed in the first piece (for example, work that had been planned for movements of Voi(Rex) but not realized), and even to improve certain aspects of it that he deemed unsatisfying (notably the “central silence” of the “nesting form” – Donin and Theureau’s work pushed Leroux to critically reevaluate its supposed importance in the 4th movement of Voi(Rex)). The second goal was to place elements of Voi(Rex) in another context (for example, the spatialization of its first movement is converted into a melodic movement in the fifth part of Apocalypsis). This approach, as we mentioned in the introduction, does not seek to create a new material or a new object, but rather to establish new relationships among preexisting elements. This “ecological” principle, as the composer describes it, begins to be distinctly expressed in his work starting with this piece.

New horizons

After Apocalypsis, Philippe Leroux employed processes that at first glance seem to be quite simple, such as juxtaposition, reversal, or repetition. In De la Disposition (2009) for orchestra, whose title recalls the art of dispositio in rhetoric, the composer constantly arranges and rearranges some thirty “formulae”, most of which are taken from (d’)Aller. The musical goal here is simply to juxtapose or overlay them, with no intention to develop them. Envers Symphonie (2010) for orchestra premiered at the Berlioz Festival, a festival dedicated mainly to symphonic music that is held each year in La Côte-Saint-André, Berlioz’s birthplace. In it, the orchestra follows the program of the Symphonie fantastique “backwards”. Leroux was inspired by the fifth movement’s famous Dies Irae to create the first movement in Envers Symphonie (somber, menacing tone, melodic patterns, etc.). Another major feature of this work is its reuse of numerous passages from Plus loin, which are juxtaposed, repeated, or reversed. From this perspective, Envers Symphonie can be located on a continuum with De la Disposition. Using this “ecological” approach, the composer has highlighted the constantly renewed relationships between known objects, which arise from simple operations, and which constantly act on our memory. This intentionally “basic” approach is evidence of his deep desire to reexamine the perceptual dimension of music, which he has always found to be especially important. His interest in this question can also be felt in his relationship with repetition, which is in fact one of the main procedures used in Envers Symphonie. Leroux saw the discovery of sound recording as a major and somewhat violent turning point, which made it possible to achieve almost perfect repetition: it “change[d] our relationship with memory28” and caused a loss of bearings. Thus, repetition is opposed, as Gilles Deleuze has argued, to the “particularities of memory29”. If, as in other pieces, the composer tends in Envers Symphonie to repeat objects to excess, it is because he seeks to inspire us to perceive, not an identically reproduced phenomenon, but “variations in our perception30”.

In parallel, Philippe Leroux has undertaken other explorations in the spirit of the aforementioned work. Ever attached to the concept of process, at the beginning of L’unique trait de pinceau, he sets out the “topological” principle of the “four-strand braid31”. In other words, he is braiding together four processes, each of which evolves independently from the others. Silence, assigned by the composer to one of these strands, plays a more and more wide-ranging role, as we have seen. …Ami … Chemin … Oser … Vie… (2011) for ensemble, composed on the occasion of the death of his brother, was also organized following this principle. In this work, which is deeply marked by a certain figuralism, the composer opposes two processes, one monodic and the other polyphonic. The first plays a dominant role in the beginning of the work, and “little by little the polyphony takes over, in order to suggest the density and the vital saturation mobilized by a being who does not wish to die32”. Ailes (2012) for baritone and ensemble adds a vocal part to the preceding piece. Leroux wrote the text himself, and it is perhaps his most dramatic work. The piece, also dedicated to his brother, seems to manifest the composer’s desire to expand his musical language. Starting in the 2000s, vocal writing began to feature in a growing number of Leroux’s compositions (Voi(Rex) and Apocalypsis, of course, but also L, Pour que les êtres ne soient pas traité comme des marchandises, Pour…, Pourquoi, and Cinq poèmes de Jean Grosjean). This certainly grew from the composer’s search, “through structural or gestural figuralism33”, for a way to enrich form, which was and continues to be his central focus.

*

Leroux believes strongly that composers have a vital role to play in our society, and, in parallel to his composing career, he is an active teacher (at IRCAM, Université de Montréal, McGill University, and other institutions). Aware, too, of his “teaching responsibility34” as a composer, he has written works such as Vingt études progressives (1996) for percussion or a series of short pieces for solo instruments (such as Histoire cyclopéenne, Histoire de pas, and Histoire de si). He often mentions “teaching” and “training35”, even as a part of his own approach to composition, expressing in this way his desire “to know precisely what [he] is working with36”. Leroux considers himself to be a “rationalist”, and is convinced that “poetry can only emerge from conceptual or sonic material that one masters and that can be described37”. Several works, such as De la Vitesse,Du souffle, De l’épaisseur, De la texture, De l’itération, and De la Disposition – whose subjects, as their titles express, all seek to explore a specific dimension of music – were written with this idea in mind. Transcription, which “[places] instrumental writing and the use of electro-acoustic elements in perspective” in order “to access a type of musical writing he [would not have] come up with [himself]38”, also contains an element of “self-teaching”.

In the late 1980s, Tristan Murail remarked that the second generation of spectral composers would arrive at new and very different results from those of the first generation, all while carrying forward basic principles such as process, interpolations, or spectral sound analysis39. Since that time, the approaches adopted by different composers have become so diverse that it would be difficult today to speak of a single defining aesthetic for this second generation. For Theo Hirsbrunner, “composing the sound itself” rather than “composing with sounds40” nevertheless remains a trait shared by composers such as Marc-André Dalbavie, Philippe Hurel, Kaija Saariaho, and Philippe Leroux, although it appears in different forms for the different composers. For Leroux, “writing sound” is characterized by the particular importance accorded to the gestures that create sound and movement, and also that organically secure the relationship among diverse elements. It is in this preoccupation that the singularity of his work seems most evident. A metaphysical dimension is achieved through this approach in Leroux’s music, as the gesture he seeks is the gesture that “phrases the world”, like a “unifying breath41”. In this way, he sees it as necessary to redefine the very idea of the musical work: the listener is no longer a mere “consumer”, but rather an actor who “replays” gestures “set in motion” by the composer and “produced42” by the performer.


  1. Paul Klee’s Notebooks Vol. 1: The Thinking Eye, transl. Ralph Manheim, London: Lund Humphries, 1961, p. 77 (available online here: https://archive.org/stream/PaulKleeNotebooksVol1TheThinkingEye/Paul_Klee_Notebooks_Vol_1_The_Thinking_Eye_djvu.txt, consulted 10 February 2022).
  2. Philippe Leroux, Musique, une aire de jeux – Entretiens avec Elvio Cipollone, Paris, MF, “Paroles” collection, 2009, p. 67. Unless otherwise noted, all translations are by the translator of the present text.
  3. Philippe Leroux, “De Voi(rex) à Apocalypsis : essai sur les interactions entre composition et analyse,” L’Inouï, N. 2, 2006, p. 52.
  4. Gérard Grisey, Écrits ou l’invention de la musique spectrale, edited by Guy Lelong in collaboration with Anne-Marie Réby, Paris, MF, “Répercussions” collection, 2008, p. 79.
  5. . Henri Bergson, The Creative Mind, transl. by Mabelle L. Andison, New York, Citadel Press, 1992 (originally published in 1946), p. 150.
  6. Philippe Leroux, “…Phraser le monde : continuité, geste et énergie dans l’œuvre musicale,” Circuit, Musiques contemporaines, vol. 21, N. 2, 2011, p. 33.
  7. Philippe Leroux, Musique, une aire de jeux, op. cit., p. 57.
  8. Ibid., p. 54.
  9. Ibid., p. 46.
  10. Ibid., p. 52.
  11. Ibid., p. 113.
  12. Philippe Leroux, “La composition : jouer ou mourir. Quel sont les rapports que peuvent entretenir le jeu et la composition musicale ?”, Dissonanz/Dissonance, n° 82, August 2003, p. 20; Roger Caillois, Man, Play and Games, transl. Meyer Barash, Urbana and Chicago, University of Illinois Press, 2001, p. 13.
  13. Philippe Leroux, Musique, une aire de jeux, op. cit., p. 106.
  14. Philippe Leroux, preface to 3bis, rue d’insister, Paris, Gérard Billaudot Éditeur, 2001.
  15. François Decarsin, “Karlheinz Stockhausen,” in Théorie de la composition musicale au XXe siècle, vol. 2, (Nicolas Donin and Laurent Feneyrou, eds.), Lyon, Symétrie, 2013, p. 1035.
  16. Philippe Leroux, “De Voi(rex) à Apocalypsis: essai sur les interactions entre composition et analyse,” op. cit., p. 53.
  17. Ibid., p. 53.
  18. Dominique Druhen, in the liner notes of “Philippe Leroux – Continuo(ns), Fleuve, Air-Ré, PPP, Phonie douce,” Ensemble Court-Circuit, dir. Pierre-André Valade, CD MFA, 1995, p. 1.
  19. Philippe Leroux, “La composition : jouer ou mourir. Quel sont les rapports que peuvent entretenir le jeu et la composition musicale ?,” op. cit., p. 24.
  20. Ibid., p. 22.
  21. Philippe Leroux, Musique, une aire de jeux, op. cit., p. 85.
  22. Ibid., p. 80.
  23. Philippe Leroux, “The Model of the Model in Voi(rex),” in The OM Composer’s Book 2, Paris, Ircam, 2008, p. 149.
  24. Philippe Leroux, program notes for Voi(rex).
  25. Ibid.
  26. Philippe Leroux, “Question de faire. La génétique musicale in vivo vue du côté du créateur,” Genesis. Manuscrits, recherche, invention, N. 31, Paris, Presses de l’Université Paris-Sorbonne, 2010, p. 60.
  27. Nicolas Donin and Jacques Theureau, “La composition d’un mouvement de Voi(rex), de son idée formelle à sa structure,” L’Inouï, N. 2, 2006, p. 62-85.
  28. Philippe Leroux, “…Phraser le monde : continuité, geste et énergie dans l’œuvre musicale,” op. cit., p. 45.
  29. Gilles Deleuze, Différence et répétition, Paris, Presses Universitaires de France, 1968, p. 15.
  30. Philippe Leroux, “…Phraser le monde : continuité, geste et énergie dans l’œuvre musicale,” op. cit., p. 46.
  31. Expressed to the author on 10 August 2013. Leroux also uses this expression in the program notes of …Ami…Chemin…Oser…Vie…
  32. Philippe Leroux, program notes for …Ami…Chemin…Oser…Vie…
  33. Philippe Leroux, Musique, une aire de jeux, op. cit., p. 108.
  34. Ibid., p. 100.
  35. Ibid., p. 74, p. 86, p. 93.
  36. Ibid., p. 95.
  37. Ibid., p. 95.
  38. Philippe Leroux, “Question de faire. La génétique musicale in vivo vue du côté du créateur,” op. cit., p. 58.
  39. Tristan Murail, Modèles et artifices, collected texts, edited by Pierre Michel, Strasbourg, Presses Universitaires de Strasbourg, 2004, p. 49-50.
  40. Theo Hirsbrunner, “Autour du spectralisme : prolongements, critiques, voies parallèles,” in Théorie de la composition musicale au XXe siècle, vol. 2, op. cit., p. 1604.
  41. Philippe Leroux, Musique, une aire de jeux, op. cit., p. 38.
  42. Philippe Leroux, “…Phraser le monde : continuité, geste et énergie dans l’œuvre musicale,” op. cit., p. 46.

© Ircam-Centre Pompidou, 2014

Bibliographie

  • Christophe BRUNO, « La part de l’inouï - Entretien avec Philippe Leroux », BARCA Poésie Politique Psychanalyse, vol.10, Paris, 1998, p. 125-146.
  • Nicolas DONIN, « Genetic Criticism and Cognitive Anthropology: A Reconstruction of Philippe Leroux’s Compositional Process for Voi(rex) », Genetic Criticism and the Creative Process: Essays from Music, Literature, and Theater, William Kinderman & Joseph E. Jones, éditeurs), Rochester, University of Rochester Press, 2009, p. 192-215.
  • Nicolas DONIN, « Enquête sur l’atelier d’un compositeur contemporain », Revue de synthèse, 129, 6e série, n° 3, 2008, p. 401-420.
  • Nicolas DONIN, Jacques THEUREAU, « Voi(rex) de Philippe Leroux, éléments d’une genèse. Reconstitution analytique du processus créateur d’une œuvre récemment créée », Dissonanz / Dissonance, n° 90, juin 2005, p. 4-13.
  • Nicolas DONIN, Jacques THEUREAU, « La coproduction des œuvres et de l’atelier par leur compositeur. (À partir d’une étude de l’activité créatrice de Philippe Leroux entre 2001 et 2006) », Circuit, Musiques contemporaines, vol. 18, n° 1, 2008.
  • Nicolas DONIN, Jacques THEUREAU, « L’activité de composition musicale comme exploitation et construction de situations de composition. Une anthropologie cognitive du travail de Philippe Leroux », Intellectica, vol. 48, n° 1-2, 2008.
  • Nicolas DONIN, Jacques THEUREAU, « La composition d’un mouvement de Voi(rex), de son idée formelle à sa structure », L’inouï - revue de l’Ircam, n° 2, 2006, p. 62-85.
  • Nicolas DONIN, Jacques THEUREAU, « Theoretical and Methodological Issues Related to Long Term Creative Cognition: the Case of Musical Composition », Cognition Technology & Work, vol. 9, n° 4, octobre 2007, p. 233-251.
  • Nicolas DONIN, Jacques THEUREAU, « Music composition in the wild: from the horizon of creative cognition to the time & situation of inquiry », dans ACM International Conference Proceeding Series - Proceedings of the 2005 annual conference on European association of cognitive ergonomics, Athènes, 2005, p. 57-64.
  • Philippe LEROUX, «  …Phraser le monde : continuité, geste et énergie dans l’œuvre musicale », Circuit, Musiques contemporaines, vol. 21, n° 2, 2011.
  • Philippe LEROUX, «  Question de faire. La génétique musicale in vivo vue du côté du créateur », GENESIS Revue internationale de critique génétique, n° 31, 2010, p. 55-63.
  • Philippe LEROUX, Musique, une aire de jeux, Entretiens avec Elvio Cipollone,Paris, éditions MF, 2009.
  • Philippe LEROUX, « Ensayo sobre las interacciones entre la composicion y el analysis », VOXes, n°1, Lanús Provincia de Buenos Aires, Ediciones de la UNLa, 2008, p. 16-34.
  • Philippe LEROUX, « De Voi(rex) à Apocalypsis : essai sur les interactions entre composition et analyse », dans L’Inouï, revue de l’Ircam, n°2, 2006, p. 43-61.
  • Philippe LEROUX, Christophe BRUNO, « Musique contemporaine : une solution de continuité », dans La création après la musique contemporaine, Paris, L’Harmattan, 1999, p. 23-40
  • Philippe LEROUX, « Brèves », dans Revue de la Villa Medicis, Rome, Fratelli Palombi, 1995, p. 90-98
  • Philippe LEROUX, « Analyse des Intégrations opus 49 », dans Premier cahier Ivan Wyschnegradsky, Paris, Association Ivan Wyschnegradsky, 1985
  • Philippe LEROUX, « La composition : jouer ou mourir. Quels sont les rapports que peuvent entretenir le jeu et la composition musicale ? », dans Dissonanz / Dissonance, n° 82, août 2003, p. 20-25
  • Philippe LEROUX, « Le modèle du modèle dans Voi(rex)», dans OM Composer’s Book 2, Paris, Ircam 2007
  • Philippe LEROUX, « Intégrer la surprise : les processus dans Partiels de Gérard Grisey », dans Le Temps de l’écoute, Paris, L’Harmattan, 2004, p. 37-50.
  • Sophie STÉVANCE, « Être compositeur aujourd’hui, entretien avec Philippe Leroux », Composer au XXIe siècle : pratiques, philosophies, langages et analyses, Paris, Librairie philosophique J. Vrin, 2010, p. 170-180.
  • Jacques THEUREAU, Nicolas DONIN, « Comprendre une activité de composition musicale : les relations entre sujet, activité créatrice, environnement et conscience préréflexive », dans Sujets, activités, environnements. Approches transverses, sous la direction de Jean-Marie Barbier et Marc Durand, Paris, Presses Universitaires de France, 2006, p. 221-251.
  • Yiorgos VASSILANDONAKIS, « An Interview with Philippe Leroux », Computer Music Journal, vol. 32, n° 3, 2008, p. 11-24.
  • Michel VILELLA, Processus et invention dans Continuo(ns) de Philippe Leroux, Paris L’Harmattan, 1999.

Cd-roms, dvds

  • Nicolas DONIN, Samuel GOLDSZMIDT, Jacques THEUREAU, « De Voi(rex) à Apocalypsis, fragments d’une genèse. Exploration multimédia du travail de composition de Philippe Leroux », DVD-Rom joint à L’Inouï - revue de l’Ircam, n° 2, 2006.
  • Nicolas DONIN, Samuel GOLDSZMIDT, Jacques THEUREAU, Un parcours interactif dans Voi(rex) de Philippe Leroux, DVD-Rom pédagogique Ircam/Région PACA, 2007.

Discographie sélective

  • Philippe LEROUX, M.É ; La guerre du faire ; Objets trouvés…Posés, dans « 9 trajectoires », 1 CD INA-GRM, 2018.
  • Philippe LEROUX, Postlude à l’épais ; Ailes ; De la texture ; Continuo(ns) ; Dense… Englouti, dans « Ailes », 1 CD Soupir Éditions, 2017, S244.
  • Philippe LEROUX, De l’Itération ; Les uns ; De la vitesse, Ensemble Sixtrum, dans « De la percussion », 1 CD Soupir Éditions, 2017, S232.
  • Philippe LEROUX, Quid sit Musicus ; Cinq poèmes de Jean Grosjean, dans « Ailes », 1 CD Soupir Éditions, 2015, MFA 216005.
  • Philippe LEROUX, Voi(rex) ; Plus Loin ; M, Donnatienne Michel-Dansac : soprano, Christophe Bredeloup : percussion, Isabelle Cornelis : percussion, David Chevalier : piano, Fuminori Tanada : piano, Orchestre philharmonique de Radio France, ensemble L’Itinéraire, direction : Pierre-André Valade, 1 cd Nocturne, 2004, NTCD 358.
  • Philippe LEROUX, (D’)Aller ; AAA ; Souffles ; Ial, Annick Roussin : violon, Christophe Saunière : harpe celtique, Caroline Delume : guitare, Orchestre Poitou-Charente, direction : Pascal Verrot, Ensemble Court-Circuit, direction : Pierre-André Valade, ensemble Le Concert impromptu, 1 cd Grave, GRCD13.
  • Philippe LEROUX, Continuo(ns) ; Fleuve ; Air-Ré ; PPP ; Phonie douce, ensemble Court-Circuit, direction : Pierre-André Valade, 1 cd MFA, 1995, MFA 216005.
  • Philippe LEROUX, Air, dans « Ensemble SIC » (comprenant également des œuvres de Taïra, Birkenkötter, Kurtag, Giner, Ensemble S:I.C., 1 cd Vand’œuvre, 9508.
  • Philippe LEROUX, Histoires anciennes, dans « L’art de la guitare contemporaine », Caroline Delume : guitare, 1 cd Arion, 1998, ARN 60439 [également enregistré sur un cd de la Société internationale pour la musique contemporaine et interprété par Tristan Manoukian].
  • Philippe LEROUX, Je brûle, dit-elle un jour à un camarade, dans « Feu dévorant », avec des œuvres de Stéphane Bortoli, Bertrand Dubedout et Bruno Giner, Dominique Thibaudat : soprano, 1 cd Harmonia Mundi, 1993, ED 13019.
  • Philippe LEROUX, PPP, dans « L’Air du large – œuvres contemporaines pour flûte et piano », avec des œuvres de Bertrand Dubedout, Denis Dufour, Bruno Giner, Philippe Leroux et Daniel Tosi, Annie Ploquin-Rigniol : flûte, François-Michel Rigniol : piano, 1 cd Motus, 1998, M298004.

Liens Internet

(liens vérifiés en avril 2021).