This piece for orchestra is in three parts, played without a break, and entitled respectively "colonnes brisées (broken columns)", "moulin de dieu (mills of god)" and "dernier homme debout (last man standing)". The title refers to an explanation of the usage of the French defective verb "gésir" found in the conjugation manual "Le nouveau Bescherelle (Hatier 1996), p. 56, which states that this verb is hardly ever used nowadays except to speak of the ill or the dead, or of things knocked down by time or destruction.
In the first part, a Bach prelude played on the harpsichord is constantly interrupted, and ultimately broken, by a threatening motif on the brass. As this dies away, we hear the mills of god grinding at first slowly, then with gathering speed to reveal an impassioned line on the cellos. Tension is built up as the music seems to congeal in a passage for high cellos and oscillating cor anglais, underpinned by on a roll on the bass drum. The close of this section reveals the mill wheels spinning across the full orchestra in a great wall of sound, abruptly cut off.
The final part is a slow rondo in 3/4 time, alternating passages of great violence with others (tuba, clarinet, cor anglais) seemingly evocative of sorrow, regret or resignation. A recapitulation starts to form, but is knocked out by the introduction of a piece of musical anti-matter in the shape of a rock ryththm. In the wake of this disaster, the harspichord from the first part returns, now reduced to playing an accompaniement to all that the last man standing has to offer: a vulgar waltz tune. Even this is interrupted by fallout that drifts down through the orchestra, forcing the music into the depths where it dies, fouled up by junk
© Copyright Steve Elcock 2016