Notes sur (de)fragmentations on Bob Dylan :

A travers cette pièce qui met à l’honneur l’oeuvre et le monde de Bob Dylan, l’auditeur est convié a convoquer la mémoire comme on le ferait à travers un chant folk traditionnel.  Convoquer la mémoire, c’est aussi la rassembler, littéralement comme on le fait avec des données informatiques quand on défragmente un disque dur.

Un disque dur comme l’histoire ou les cycles du temps. Un disque dur comme une oeuvre…
Cette pièce pour soprano, petit orchestre de chambre et électronique, nous plonge donc dans la « brèche Dylan » : cette figure de la musique populaire américaine qui a cristallisé les formes musicales les plus archaïques (blues, country-blues, chants de marins, folk des immigrants, chants des Appalaches, chants syndicaux, gospel etc), tout en ayant été l’accoucheur du rock et de la pop modernes, ouvrant la voie à plus de 40 ans de formes musicales et poétiques renouvelées.

La pièce, au-delà de la figure de Dylan, se veut moins un hommage qu’une plongée au coeur de l’imagerie du XXe siècle, utilisant le chanteur au carrefour de deux routes : celle de la  tradition-oralité-mémoire et celle de la modernité-écriture-archivage. Parmi tout un lot de citations tant musicales que textuelles, brassées dans cette oeuvre-disque dur à défragmenter, nous croiserons des figures aussi diverses que Blind Lemon Jefferson et Rimbaud, Churchill et Cummings, Kurt Weill et Lord Byron, Guthrie, les Beatles, Ginsberg et Leadbelly…Un métissage de mémoires et d’histoires passées…

Notes on (de)fragmentations on Bob Dylan :

(de)fragmentations on Bob Dylan locates Dylan’s figure, songs and influences at the crossroad of tradition and modernity.
More than a plain tribute from a so-called young french contemporary composer to a so called folk singer-songwriter, it is mostly, via the various forms of entries that Bob Dylan’s music and poetry offers, it is a reflexion on the cyclic changes in time.

Hence is the idea of defragmentation, a word used to repack computer hard drives’ data, « bringing it all back » together. But also pointing the circular symbol of the wheel of fortune, the twelve quarters forming the whole circle etc.
All those are geometrical fundamentals commonly in use both in traditionnal cultures throughout the world, ut also in Dylan’s music.

Dylan spoke once of his music as mathematical to answer a not so witty journalist’s question, well yes, that’s  it : to grasp the geomatrical figures or fragments evolving in the air, and translate them into music. Dylan’s songs have been in the atmosphère for five décades, and my own personal air for twenty years now.

 So : cycling and recycling was the purpose…
Also, to consider Dylan’s work as a whole circle, a whole opus turning and tuning again (as Bob himself, like a dervish, tours and tours on !)
Just like Bach who in his days was representative of 2 centuries of musical ancestors before him (Geuslado to Palestrina and so on, other mathematics indeed) but also being considered to be the father of modern classical music, Dylan first sums up old musical traditions and speaks of past behaviours and idioms, digging into references from Villon to the automatic poetical prose, from the sea shanties to fifties soul or r n’ b music and rock n’roll.
Dylan is also of course, the one to have taken this older material to new art forms,
accompanying a world slowly going modern with anticipation while going electric (with « Like a rolling Stone » being maybe the « PassOver » from an hostile land to the promised one of the new generation…)

Always reinventing the past and suddenly being part of avant garde.
Making new with the old.

A word from John Corigliano :

Dear Jonathan,
I have just listened to your piece and enjoyed both its exuberance and variety.

Your approach couldn’t be more different than mine – and I think that is great. You took the music and delivery of Dylan and re-thought it, coming out with a sonic portrait of your view of the man.  I took only the words (omitting his presentation and the music itself), and organized his songs into a prelude (to set the time of the ’60’s), five songs tracking his awareness of the political world around him, and a postlude (a kind of benediction), and set them all without having heard his music at all.  I know most people don’t believe that I never heard the music to the songs I set, but it is the truth.
And so we have two views of a fascinating man – your rollercoaster-like journey, and my torpedo-like vision of his growth as a political creature.  Both valid and interesting.
Your performers (particularly your soprano) are amazing, as is the recording.  Your instructions to the singer about how to handle a microphone are important. I didn’t do that, just amplified it, and found that concert sopranos don’t know how to « play the mike », so I had to ride levels a lot.
I congratulate you on a real achievement.  It’s a wonderful piece.
And all best wishes,


(de)fragmentations on Bob Dylan (2007)

Release Date : 14 juin 2007
Artists : Claron Mc Fadden, Ensemble Intercontemporain
Genre : ,

Ensemble Intercontemporain, directed by Susanna Mällki

Claren Mc Fadden, Mezzo-Soprano

Emmanuelle Ophèle, Flute
Alain Billard, Bass Clarinet
Benny Sluchin, Trombone
Eric-Maria Couturier, Cello
Fréderique Cambreling, Harp
Jonathan Pontier, Live Electronics

Sebastien Naves, Mix
Festival Manifetse, IRCAM, june 2007

(De)fragmentations on Bob Dylan

Defragmentation #1

…everything is…bro…ken
…hey bro !

…should have…

…should have done this before
nobody’s gonna be dyin’ in no hospital no more

…as I walk in …the contemporary mud…
for you

I would’nt be allowed to do this nowadays
No time no time for initiatic ways
…no time…


seeking the blades and the cups of tea
The ring then the heart of the city
Ain’t liberal when you’re thirty
Ain’t liberal when you’re thirsty…

Got no heart left for me
for-given (it is)
but that’s where it’s at
mad driven
mad driven


Ain’t got no brains too !
better for you better for you

Defragmentation #2

broken chords…
broken music
…broken languages….

…swang it thru the rock of ages…

cummings was Der Dichter
Matisse Der Mahler
Blind Lemon Jefferson
living the blues and a taste of citrus
meeting Robert Johnson at a crossroaded soul
he’s a tellin’ Lord Byron that he’s so far from « Howl »
but the poet feels : the ruckus
and he knows about his fate
he’s drinkin’ a whola Petrus
and eating parrot cake…
he asks :
« Where’s Pirate Jenny ?
Woody guthrie ?

Groucho ? Rimbaud ? Artaud ? »

And who is you Robert ?
(K)nowhere expected…