Lonely Child (1980)

Lonely Child was commissioned in1980 by the CBC Vancouver Chamber Orchestra.  It was premiered by that group in 1981, with Serge Garant conducting and soprano Marie-Danielle Parent singing the solo voice part.  The work was written specifically for Parent.  It was dedicated to her, and to the voice teacher Louise Andree from the University of Montreal, who help prepare the singers in Vivier's opera Kopernikus.

The music is scored for soprano and chamber orchestra.  The chamber orchestra is an unusual combination of piccolo, flute, two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, two english horns, one percussionist, and a string section:  six first violins, five second violins, four violas, three cellos, and two double basses.  The score contains special notations worked out by Vivier to show special effects such as harmonics, tremolos, glissandos, indeterminate pitches, mistunings, and breath marks that phrase the musical line for the entire ensemble.

Lonely Child is Vivier's spiritual and emotional self-portrait.  It is, along with Journal, his most personal work.  It is a work characteristic of his mature style in its themes, and in its music.  Vivier starts with a bare melody at the beginning, and adds colour in more and more complex ways throughout the work.  At the end, Vivier returns to the same bare setting of the melody as the beginning.  There are no actual "chords" in this music, as they would be used in functional harmony-- the tones that are added around the melody are used for their colour, not function.

The influence of Bali on Vivier's musical style can be heard in Lonely Child.  The music, particularly the beginning and end, uses a gong as punctuation to the musical phrases, in the same way that a Balinese gamelan would.  Mistunings of various intervals give the music an Eastern flavour.  Finally, Vivier alternates penatonic scales (such as the ones  used in Balinese gamelan music) with the occasional use of a traditional Western major or minor scale for important points in the music.

When Claude Vivier spoke about how he composed Lonely Child he said, “Musically I had one thing to master, which in a certain way automatically engendered the rest of the music: this great spectrum of colors.”  This can applied not only to the way the music sounds but also to the text.  There are many words relating to color - “striped with zebra-markings”, “magicians splash the glowing sun with gold”, “gardens” (which are full of bright and rich colors), “mauve monks”, “jade”, “blue dawns”, and “green eyes”.

The text is very reassuring.  It assures the child that he will not be alone - during the night “gentle fairies will come”, “swallows will guide thy steps” and someone will hold his hand.  As I mentioned earlier, Vivier was afraid of the dark and of the night time.  The text seems as if it could be what Vivier  told himself many, many times as he lay awake in bed, reassuring himself that nothing bad was going to happen during the night.  The words gentle, tenderly, and love are words that are associated with a mother.  Vivier did not receive a mother’s love or touch as a child and he often longed for it.

His fascination with religion also comes through in the text.  He describes “doors of diamond”, “sumptuous palaces” and “palace of jade” all of which are exceedingly beautiful places just as one might think of heaven.  Vivier also included words such as “eternity”, “forever and ever”, and “hope of time”. All giving reference to the afterlife.

“Tenderly, your green eyes will dip into dregs of outmoded tales to create a real one, yours...” - This is exactly what Vivier does.  He dips into other people’s fantasies (“Merlin”, “magicians”, “acrobats”, “fairy Carabosse”, etc.) and creates his own tale.  His own “real” fantasy.  This can also be seen in his use of language.  Interspersed among the French text are words of Vivier’s own invented language that he derived from all the languages he heard, especially Malaysian.  The text he created is therefore one that has “dipped” into various languages.  The result was Vivier’s own language that he could understand.

Lonely Child (text by Claude Vivier)

Bel enfant de la lumière dors, dors, dors, toujours dors.
Les rêves viendront, les douces fées viendront danser avec toi.
Merveille, les fées et  les elfes te fêteront, la farandole joyeuse t'enivrera.
Dors, mon enfant, ouvrez-vous portes de diamant, palais somptuex,
     mon enfant, les hirondelles guideront tes pas.
Kuré nouyazo na-oudè waki nannoni eudou-a.
Dors, mon enfant.
Dadodi yo rrr-zu-i yo a-e-i dage dage da è-i-ou dage dage ou-a-è dagè dadoudè dagè dagè dagè
     na-ou-è ka jadè-do yanousè mayo rès tè de-i-a wè nanoni nowi i-è ka.
Les étoiles font des bonds prodigieux dans l'espace, temps, dimensions zébréés de couleurs.
Les temps en paraboles discutent de Merlin, les magiciens merveilleux embrassent le soleil d'or,
     les acrobates touchent du nez les étoiles pas trop sages, les jardins font rêver aux moines mauves.
Reves d'enfant, donnez-moi la main et allons voir la fée Carabosse, son palais de jade sis au millieu des
     morceaux de rêves oubliés déjà flotte éternellement.
Oh reine des aubes bleues donne-moi s'il te plaît l'éternité.
Oh Reine.
Koré noy Tazio.
Koré kore Tazio Tazio Tazio.
Koré noy na-ou yasin kè.
L'heliante douce dirige vers les étoiles l'énergie sublime, Tazio, la langue des fées, tu la parleras
     et tu verras l'amour, Tazio, tendrement tes yeux verts, puiseront dans les lambeaux de contes
     surannés pour en créer un vrai le tien, Tazio, donne-moi la main, Tazio, Tazio, et l'espoir
     du temps, du temps.
Hors temps apparaît mon enfant, les étoiles au ciel brillent pour
     toi, Tazio, et t'aiment éternellement.

English Translation

Beauteous child of light sleep, sleep, sleep, forever sleep.
The dreams will come, the gently fairies will come and dance with thee.
Wonder, the fairies and the elves will fête thee and the merry farandole will inebriate thee.
Sleep, my child.  Open up, doors of diamond, sumptuous palaces,
     my child, the swallows will guide thy steps.
Kuré nouyazo na-oudè waki nannoni eudou-a.
Sleep, my child.
Dadodi yo rrr-zu-i yo a-e-i dage dage da è-i-ou dage dage ou-a-è dagè dadoudè dagè dagè dagè
     na-ou-è ka jadè-do yanousè mayo rès tè de-i-a wè nanoni nowi i-è ka.
The stars make prodigious leaps in space, time, dimensions striped with colored zebra-markings.
The times discuss Merlin in parables, the wondrous magicians splash the glowing sun with gold, the
     acrobats touch with their nose the mischievous stars, the gardens make the mauve monks dream.
Children’s dreams, give me your hand and let us go and look up the fairy Carabosse.
Her palace of jade, lying amidst pieces of forgotten dreams, is already floating in eternity.
Oh, queen of blue dawns, give me, please, eternity.
Oh, Queen.
Koré noy Tazio.
Koré kore Tazio Tazio Tazio.
Koré noy na-ou yasin kè.
The gentle helianthus directs the sublime energy towards the stars, Tazio.
The language of the fairies, you will speak it and you will know love, Tazio.
Tenderly, your green eyes will dip into dregs of outmoded tales to create a real one, yours, Tazio.
And the hope of time, of time.
Beyond time, my child appears, the stars n the sky are shining
     for you, Tazio, and will love you forever and ever.

Claude Vivier as a Person
Claude Vivier as a Composer
 The Musical Works of Claude Vivier
 Claude Vivier's Musical Style
 Claude Vivier's Method of Composition
 List of Works
Other Sources