Category / Instrument
fl / cl / cor / pno / perc / vl / vla / vlc
Commissioned by
Nieuw Ensemble, Amsterdam
Amsterdam (Netherlands), Muziekgebouw
Nieuw Ensemble, Ed Spanjaard (conductor)

La Chambre des cartes


Or the invitation to a journey...
In adventure novels, I have always preferred that moment where the heroes plan their journey, assemble the necessary equipment, consult maps and compasses (cf. Jules Verne: A Journey to the Centre of the Earth). After that, it is only a question of braving a cohort of prehistoric monsters, plunging to the bottom of breathtaking waterfalls, drifting on volcanic lava... nothing but a tedious routine in sum.
And, I have always been fascinated by maps: the large coloured maps in green, yellow and bistre that the teacher hung by their eyehooks over the blackboard, the mythological maps of the Middle Ages, mariners maps of course, or even the very small scale maps used by hikers, where it is almost possible to see every tree depicted.
Many castles or palaces have a room with walls covered by maps, precise or phantasmagorical. One can linger there at length, and perhaps... does that make the journey pointless?
I remember in particular the Gallery of Maps at the Vatican - among many others - but I also imagine Captain Nemo, in his private quarters, consulting his numerous maps, tidily arranged in multiple smoothly sliding drawers not far from the great organ, with the sound of the submarine's powerful engines in the background...

The piece is written for the entire Portulan cycle ensemble, and will probably open it, once the cycle is finished.

Tristan Murail

PS: Google Earth, ViaMichelin and various GPS completely destroy the magic of maps - do not use them!


1 CD Kairos, KAI0015050, Portulan
Seven Lakes Drive - Feuilles à travers les cloches - Dernières nouvelles du vent d'ouest - Les Ruines circulaires - Garrigue - Paludes - La Chambre des cartes
Ensemble Cairn, Guillaume Bourgogne (conductor)