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Program note: Paul Moulatlet's "The Flowers"

  • © Paul Moulatlet
  • Source: Produced for and provided by Melbourne Composer's League

Paul Moulatlet is a Melbourne-based composer and music educator who has taught at
primary, secondary and tertiary levels. He completed a Master of Arts in composition
at Monash University under the supervision of Thomas Reiner and his music has been
performed in Europe, the USA and numerous local events, including the Melbourne
Fringe Festival, the Melbourne International Festival of the Arts, and Federation Music
Week: Contemporary Music of Australia and the Asia Pacific.

His music has been released on several CDs including the Melbourne Composers’ League’s Mosaics, Hoy!and Rear Vision. Paul is also a member of the Melbourne-based contemporary music
ensemble re-sound and has compositions recorded on re-sound CDs re-sound,
ephemeral densities and Quiet on the Bridge. Paul is currently classroom music
teacher and coordinator of music at Merri Creek Primary School.

The Flowers, three short songs for mezzo-soprano and guitar, is the musical result of
several transformations, all based on the poem Les Fleurs by the 19th-Century French
modernist poet Stephane Mallarmé. The first transformation was linguistic, whereby the
original French poem was translated into English by Mallarme’s biographer, Henry
Weinfield. The next transformation, by the composer, involved using Weinfield’s
translation to devise a system that employed the poem’s words and syllables to
generate both the pitch materials and rhythmic surface of the music. A further
transformation involved using actual words and their meanings to develop both
articulations and dynamics within the songs. Subsequent transformations occurred
when the original version, for voice and piano, was re-scored for piano and
saxophone and performed in a 2002 Melbourne concert by Robert Chamberlain and
Catherine Hocking. The original version was performed in Haines, Alaska USA, in 2006
by Cathy Pashigian (voice) and Nancy Nash (piano). In the version heard today, an
additional transformation involves the re-arrangement of the piano part into guitar
lines. Finally, the most significant transformation occurs with the actual performance, in
which score-based information is transformed, by the performing artists, into the
physical reality of musical sound.

From golden showers of the ancient skies
On the first day, and the eternal snow of stars,
You once unfastened giant calyxes
For the young earth still innocent of scars:
Wild gladioli with the necks of swans,
Laurels divine, of exiled souls the dream,
Vermilion as the modesty of dawns
Trod by the footsteps of the seraphim;
The hyacinth, the myrtle gleaming bright,
And, like the flesh of woman, the cruel rose,
Hérodiade blooming in the garden light,
She that from wild and radiant blood arose!
And made the sobbing whiteness of the lily
That skims a sea of sighs, and as it wends
Through the blue incense of horizons, palely
Toward the weeping moon in dreams ascends!
Hosanna on the lute and in the censers,
Lady, and of our purgatorial groves!
Through heavenly evenings let the echoes answer,
Sparkling haloes, glances of rapturous love!
Mother, who in your strong and righteous bosom,
Formed calyxes balancing the future flask,
Capacious flowers with the deadly balsam
For the weary poet withering on the husk.

By Stephane Mallarmé. Translated by Henry Weinfield.


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