The Connective Role of the Parentheses in Dutilleux’s Ainsi la Nuit

2017 Music Theory Society of New York State 46th Annual Meeting

Geneva, New York | 1 April 2017

In conversation with Roger Nichols, Henri Dutilleux described the method of composition that produced his lone string quartet, Ainsi la Nuit: “there are small cells which develop bit by bit. This may perhaps show the influence of literature, of Proust and his notions about memory” (Nichols 1994, 89). While Delcambre-Monpoel, Hesketh, Chendler, and others have analyzed the piece rather traditionally, focusing on thematic and motivic details of primarily the quartet’s main movements, none has sufficiently examined the compositional fallout of the influence of Proustian memory. Proust’s conception of memory consists of both an unconscious and a conscious faculty, involuntary and voluntary memory, respectively. In order to appeal to these two forms of memory, this analysis will examine the deployment of implicit and explicit references in Ainsi la Nuit. Implicit references, which derive from involuntary memory, will be shown to occur 1) as the reiteration of pitch-domain motives that are altered in secondary domains such as timbre, register, or presentation in time and 2) as manipulations of certain inherent properties of some pitch-domain element in order to generate novel pitch motives. Explicit references, which are consciously apprehended by voluntary memory, will present as exact or readily identifiable repetitions that establish referential chords, certain salient motives, regularities of rhythm, and other features that the listener can immediately access upon first impression. I will show that these critical projected references are generated in the Introduction and Parenthèses sections, rather than the main movements.