"The Incantation is the trembling form of Negro refinement, beside which we are sorcerers' apprentices." (André Jolivet)
Incantations marks the beginning of André Jolivet's second productive period and of a long series of flute pieces. It represents his creativity, anguish, sorrow and hope.
In 1936 he composed a suite of five pieces entitled Incantations, first performed by Jan Merry at the Societé Nationale in Paris on the 7th of May 1938. With Yves Baudrier, Daniel Lesur and Olivier Messiaen, he had just founded the Jeune France group. His mother died on the 19th of June 1936, a few weeks before he began to compose Incantations. It is fascinating, magical music, expressive and virtuose, profound and noble, described by the composer as follows:
In 1936 when I wrote Cinq Incantations for solo flute, I wanted to state the prime importance of the monodic element in music, i.e. melody meticulously organised from the point of view both of successive harmony (the sequence of intervals) and of rhythm, volume and pitch. The only purpose, however, of the carefully measured combinations of these different elements is to generate musical feeling and, in the most sensitive (or the "newest") listeners, a feeling similar to the panic impulses of primitive man. It was better to achieve this result that I chose the flute which is the musical instrument par excellence because, endowed with life by the breath, man's deepest emanation, the flute charges sounds with what is both visceral and cosmic in us.
It is never a pastiche of oriental music nor a reference to the music of so-called primitive peoples. Repetition no doubt plays a vital part, as it does in any other operation of a magical kind, particularly in the first and third incantations. In the fifth the repetition, three times, of the introductory figure and the concluding statement has a special feature - in these repetitions added sounds increase the vitality (which speeds up the listener's psycho-physiological impulses). The titles indicate the magical appropriation of each Incantation and their form arises from this appropriation. Pour une communion sereine de l'etre avec le monde (For serene communion of the being with the world), originally called Pour integrer sa joie dans le grouillement vital universal (To integrate one's joy in the universal vital teeming), is one of my essential works, both in its lyrical flow and in the philosophy which it expresses, similar to Teilhard de Chardin's when he says: Matter: matrix of the spirit - Spirit: superior state of master.