Georges Aperghis – The Dong with a luminous nose (2019)
for Helen Bledsoe
Commissioned by Ensemble Musikfabrik supported by Ministerium für Kultur und Wissenscaft des Landes NRW
Helen Bledsoe, piccolo
Janet Sinica, video/editing
Hendrik Manook, recording producer/editing
Text by Guido Fischer
The author of the poem “The Dong with a luminous nose” is the Englishman Edward Lear. And he was to go down in literary history above all with his limericks, which he diligently forged and published from 1846 onwards. The Dong with a luminous nose” is about a boy/man called “Dong” who falls in love with a strange jumbly girl who washes up on the shore. When she disappears, Dong sticks a luminous nose on his face in the hope that he will eventually be reunited with his love.
Now Helen Bledsoe, the flutist from Ensemble Musikfabrik, has always been a huge Edward Lear fan. And when she once told the Greek-French composer Georges Aperghis about her literary passion, the idea for a piece for Bledsoe was born almost immediately. After all, in his countless music-theatrical instrumental and vocal pieces, Aperghis has always dealt with the somewhat different, surreal narrative forms. And what kind of stories of an almost existential immediacy can emerge from this, Aperghis has shown not least with his legendary “Récitations”, in which a solo voice stammers, stutters, breathes in and out in a seemingly nonsensical, yet oppressive to amusing manner.
The merging of text and music into something phonetically new third can also be found in Aperghis’ “The Dong with a luminous nose”, which he composed in 2019 for Helen Bledsoe and her piccolo. In 2021, it was she who premiered the piece at the Darmstadt Summer Courses for New Music. “I knew that she loves to play the flute chanté/parlé and that she uses her voice in different registers,” says Aperghis. “She also told me that she loves stories and the texts of Edvard Lear, who, like Lewis Carroll, works with nonsense. This text allows me to show different colours of chanté/parlé with the piccolo and move from vocal percussion to the intelligible text. When I wrote this piece, I was thinking of stories told by children, and thanks to Helen, I’ve become a child again.”
But whether “The Dong with a luminous nose” is really PG will now become clear. For the dedicatee will not only let Lear’s humours speak with instrumental sounds as well, but will tell of the “obvious phallic symbolism”. “And maybe I’ll even play it from the perspective of a jumbly girl…”