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The Story of ZAB...

ZAB ou la passion selon st. Nectaire, composed in 1981 by Philippe Boivin, is a quite unique oeuvre in the double bass repertoire. Unfortunately, it is also a piece that has, until recently, been almost entirely unknown. One of the reasons might be that Boivin himself is not a very widely noted composer even in his native France. Another, that Jean-Pierre Robert, the bass player who worked on this piece with Boivin, premiered it and was, until now, its sole performer, almost completely disappeared from the musical stage many years ago.

With this project I hope to evoke some interest for this dormant beauty of musical art and to endeavour into the world of instrumental theatre and sonic discoveries. Parallel to the musical study of ZAB I have tried to find answers to many of the mysteries surrounding the piece: Mapping the background of the composer and the composed and revealing their original intentions, discussing interpretative challenges, digging into the score trying to find my way through a labyrinth of unconventional signs, presenting the many novel playing techniques, their sounds and relation to the visual aspects of the piece, tracing the percussive sounds back to traditional Eastern music and so forth. This textual reflection benefits from the many conversations and days of musical rehearsals I have spent with Philippe Boivin. The composer has kindly shared his thoughts with me, and I wish to respectfully share my own impressions through this presentation.

This presentation is divided into three main parts, called The Story of ZAB, The Sound Complexes and Gesture and Theatre. The sections in each part are named after one of the elemental rows of numbers used in the formal structure of the piece: 2-1-3, 1-3-2 and 3-2-1. Part 1 seeks to unwind the events surrounding the creation of ZAB by giving a short insight into the composer's life and the structural concepts in ZAB, and sketching a retrospective on instrumental theatre in general. Parts 2 and 3 contain reflections on interpretative challenges and comments on technical and musical issues in general. Part 2 deals with the different complexes of sound that constitute all sounds in ZAB, and Part 3 focuses on elements of gesture and theatre.