The Cortège

Enfance

Rimbaud’s surreal, romantic / ironic poem about childhood was a text that Kate and I discovered quite early on in the search for material. ‘Enfance’ is a waltz, in two sections: A and B. The A section, with a fairly repetitive melody, most of it based around Db, goes over a sequence of chords, the roots of which move in a sequence of nine notes:

chords

The song is not in fact in the conventional A A B A popular song form, but the B section has the feeling of a “bridge", the B part of an A A B A structure. In the A section the chords tend to change in three-or six-bar groups (dictated by the poem itself). In the B section the chords change in 4s. The B section uses a vamp, three major 7ths, the roots of which are the three notes excluded from the root pattern of the A section, with turn-around at the end, leading back to Bb.

chords

Kate sings the A section of the song, at the beginning, with cello and piano accompaniment. On the B section, "A la lisière de la forêt ...”, a counter melody is played by the cello, and the oboe plays patterns of nine notes in a remote tonality from the song. The feeling, to me, is strange, unreal, dissonant, “wrong”, yet beautiful, like a collage of musics heard from different rooms.

With the words “La Mer”, the piece surges into a lilting double tempo for the flugelhorn solo of Dick Pearce. The chorus structure for the solo is in the A A B A pattern, with chords changing every six bars in the A section, and in 8s in the B section. This tends to create a suspended feeling in the A section, and a release, a flow, in the B section.

When the horn backing starts on the second flugelhorn chorus, the structure is reduced to A B. We return to half tempo (i.e. the original tempo) with tuba and bass guitar playing a line on the A section, against woodwind and muted brass. Kate then reprises the B section “A la lisière de la forêt” in a child-like falsetto, backed by two-part, nine-note patterns for flute and oboe. The piece continues to drift, irresistibly, into an ‘Impressionist’ feeling. When Kate reaches "la mer", the Bbll chord, with rolling bass guitar and shimmering woodwind, exactly evokes for me the delicious sensation of waves flooding over sand on some deserted beach.
“Dames qui tournoient   is the A section again, first with dense brass and woodwind backing, then just cello and piano, and this time the Bb ll chord is the occasion for a short interlude for oboe and cello ("des jardinets dégelés...”)   ‘jeunes mères et grandes soeurs ...” returns to the opening feeling of the song, with cello and piano. Then the waltz accelerates into an ironic coda (“Quel ennui ...”) with brass chords, two nine—note patterns on bass guitar and cello, and a sentimental melody played by Dave Plews on trumpet.

"Enfance" is one of the more densely written parts of The Cortège, an interwoven texture out of which different strands emerge. It integrates a lot of the musical ideas in The Cortège triple time (3/4), triple bar structures, and nine note patterns used both as root progressions and as melodic lines. 


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