"Beyond ancient frontiers" biographical notes on Jean-Claude Eloy by Ivanka Stoïanova Doctor in Musicology Professor at Paris VIII University (a part of this text was written for the "New Grove dictionary of music" 1998)
Eloy is a French composer born in Mont-Saint-Aignan near Rouen on
the 15th of June, 1938.
Approximately twenty pieces for voice, piano and chambre ensembles, strongly influenced by the "avant-garde" search of the sixties, date from this period.
His first works to be performed in public were "Etude III" for an orchestra and "Equivalences" for 18 musicians, which were outgrowths of the musical waves of the sixties. They were quickly recognized for their outstanding performances conducted by Pierre Boulez, Ernest Bour, Michael Gielen, Bruno Maderna, Arthur Weisberg, etc.
In 1966-68, Eloy was invited as a professor at the University of California in Berkeley. His work then opened up to the more conscious, philosophical and aesthetic influence of Asian cultures, while rejecting nothing from the Western conceptual complexity.
His works from the seventies, "Faisceaux-Diffractions" for 28 instrumentalists and especially "Kâmakalâ" ("The Energy Triangle") for 3 orchestras, 5 choir groups and 3 conductors represent this orientation quite significantly. They were received with starkly divided criticism along with the support of many celebrities, amongst whom was Olivier Messiaen.
1972-73, Eloy was invited by Karlheinz Stockhausen to the Cologne
Radio electronic music studio (WDR) where he was able to liberate
his profound need for tone exploration and experimentation with musical
time: "Shânti" ("Peace") for
electronic and concrete sounds was noticed for the richness of its
sound material and the scope of its dimensions. Some spoke of an explosion
of lyrical abstraction in the context of electronic music, others
noticed the influence of Oriental concepts, such as sound as origin
and source, as celebration, meditation, rite or magic.
for an orchestra sought to achieve a translation of the research and
discoveries about statistic perception made in the studio into orchestral
matter. When first created, the work provoked a scandal as much with
the members of the orchestra as within the audience. They were all
equally unfamiliar with the specificity of the range of tones inspired
by experiments made in the studio.
1977-78 with the support of the NHK Tokyo Radio electronic studio,
Eloy produced "Gaku-no-Michi" ("The Ways of Music"),
a far-reaching sound fresco which lasted nearly 4 hours and alluded
through its form to cinema. It generated a moving architecture from
the dialectic relationships between concrete sounds (from daily Japanese
life) and abstract (electronic) materials.
1978-79, at the invitation of Yannis Xenakis, Eloy worked with the
Cemamu and produced "Etude IV" on the UPIC machine. This work
pushed the possibilities of this technological tool to its extreme
dedicating his time to the creation of a centre for music research
(CIAMI) in collaboration with the French Ministry of Culture (1983-1988),
Eloy broke away from any and all institutional constraints in order
to focus on the composition of the "Libérations" cycle. In
"Butsumyôe" ("The Ceremony of Repentance")
and "Sappho Hilkètis" ("Sappho imploring"),
composed for the Japanese soprano Yumi Nara, and the Spanish vocalist
Fatima Miranda, Eloy explored the possibilities of the female voice
and its extended vocal techniques by rediscovering the accents of
freely reinvented imaginary ethnic musics.
"Erkos" ("Song, Praise") was produced at the Cologne WDR studio. It was composed for Junko Ueda, a young Satsuma-Biwa soloist, mastering the Shômyô vocal techniques, the Javanese "gamelang", as well as Western musical techniques. With this work, he was able to deepen the synthesis he was looking for between multicultural non-standardised sound sources that go beyond the opposition between the ancient and the new and to confront and bring together precious material coming from the most ancient civilizations with those from the latest technologies.
1991-92 Eloy was invited to Berlin by the DAAD, where he has been
residing since, dividing his time between that city and Paris.
published by Heugel, Amphion, Universal Edition (Vienna). Disc LPs
published by Adès, Erato, Harmonia Mundi. Eloy creates "hors
territoires" in 2004, a structure in autoproduction intended
to help his publications of texts, books, and CDs. The catalog of
"hors territoires" includes presently twenty-nine CDs, distributed
in various albums, as well as seven books (in English or in French).
As a musician, Eloy possesses an extremely vast culture and a strong and free spirit. He has always developed his work outside of institutions, cliques and trends.
the sixties, he was Pierre Boulez favourite pupil, but since
then, he has moved away from the influence of the "avant garde"
masters in order to focus on his own research, always seeking to systematically
obliterate distances belonging to historical time and to differences
between cultures. Every one of his works, in its own way, breaks
down and goes beyond ancient boundaries between a fully integrated
Western music and non-European complex musical traditions.
to the first generation of composers who pursues ongoing training,
he possesses a conservatory classical background that he constantly
reniews through the assimilation of all the new technologies useful
to musical practice and composition. In his works, Eloy achieves
a unique synthesis between music belonging to various traditions thus
challenging the pre-established habits. The use of instruments and
techniques that are alien to Western tradition and the often extreme
lengthiness of his works demand a significant change in our listening
Eloy's compositional research always aims for the true creation which differs from any form of imitation or exoticism and lies outside the boundaries of a music confined to Europe or a specific national character.
His works strongly embody a productive synthesis that ignores the limits of space and time and places the elements of voice, instruments, techniques and contributions from foreign cultures together to pursue a powerful and genuine quest in his compositional projects.
There is often a true complementary logic in the progression of Eloy's works : "Kâmakalâ" is conceived as the spreading out of the primal vital force or as the birth of the world. "Shânti" is the manifestation of this contradictory energy within its long metamorphoses through the vastness of the expression of sounds. Shânti is a work conceived on the model of the "Eternal Return". It can statt again and again on its own but also stop when a new "Kâmakalâ" is inserted.
"A l'approche du Feu Méditant" and "Anâhata" have a succession
based on the logic of movement inside of a given galaxy. "Sappho Hikètis",
"Butsumyôe", "Erkos" and "Gaia" are all part of a new open galaxy,
freely exploring the vocal resources and possibilities of the latest
technologies, most particularly the boundless treasure represented
by the culture of "others", in an extremely enriching dialogue.
A solitary composer who has managed one of the most significant syntheses of 20th century music (between electronic and acoustic music but also between Western and non-European traditions), Eloy tackles and convincingly solves an essential problem of our time: the relationship to the other, to the stranger, to what is different not as much as a curiosity, admiration or object of submission, but as a vitalizing source to creative inspiration.
Dr Ivanka Stoïanova
Translation from the French : Olia Lumelsky and Meredith Escudier