Christophe Bertrand – Satka

This series on the music of Christophe Bertrand has been very enjoyable so far. I am nearing the end of the chronological catalogue of his pieces, so there are probably only a couple more posts to be made. Today’s piece is an extremely virtuosic sextet for flute, clarinet, percussion, piano, violin, and cello called Satka, Sanskrit for “Group of Six.” The entire ensemble is cooking for almost the entire duration of this piece which must make this thing a bear to take on as a performer. Bertrand frequently used mathematical principles to inform his writing. The structure of this piece uses the Fibonacci Sequence to divide itself into 17 sections of lengths from 10″ to 87″.

Specific Comments:

  • The way that individual rising scale like figures proliferate from singular voices that overlap into one almost homogenous texture from 0’00” to 0’40” is a very interesting process.
  • The ephemeral downward scale like figures that emerge around 1’10” are have this great ephemeral quality because of their soft dynamic.
  • The unison rhythmic downward lines around 1’40” really groove. The irregular lengths of the gesture creates a lot of interesting syncopations.
  • The music around 3’30” sounds so cool! I love how slowing down the frantic music from around 2’30” creates an entirely new texture and can even segue into longer, thicker textures.
  • Intense sonorities at 6’26”! The sustained quality of them is a nice diversion from the constant motion of the piece otherwise
  • Such a beautiful, fragile texture at 7’13”. Extraordinarily soft and fleeting with fantastic intrusions from loud accents from all members of the ensemble periodically.
  • I love how Bertrand takes ascending lines that crescendo continuously from very soft to very loud and somehow, almost magically so, is able to cleanly segue into an arrestingly breath-taking texture at 10’16”. It feels so right and yet just seems to appear from nowhere simultaneously.
  • The end of this piece is a nice bookend for the music. He reverses the direction of the lines from the beginning and then slowly removes them to reveal individual voices from the previously united texture. Essentially, the whole set of processes and characteristics of the first section are reversed which generates a satisfying conclusion.

General Comments:

  • The economy of Bertrand’s musical language is admirable. There is almost no excess in his music which brings his ideas to the forefront of the music instead of burying them. Much like the music of Donatoni, Casale, and many other of my favorite writers, the general effect of the music is easily heard, but unearthing exactly what processes are governing them is an extraordinarily difficult task.
  • It is intriguing to hear his orchestration work because he does so much intricate weaving of timbre throughout the piece.
  • The late works of Bertrand have been pretty extraordinary so far–I’m excited to hear more.

What did you think of the piece? Feel free to comment with your thoughts below. Hope you enjoy the music!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s