War is kind
Dedicated to Robert Fouchet


War is kind is a commission by Les Amis de St. Victor. Robert Fouchet, the artistic director, wanted this new piece to be written for a soloist and ensemble.
Compared to the acoustics of the Abbey of Saint-Victor, the request of Robert Fouchet directed me towards the voice and the choir. I then thought of cello, an instrument that could mix but also contrast with a women choir.

For this piece, I once again wanted to compose music on Stephen Crane’s poems. Previously, I composed “Make me a dream” for women’s choir. Initially, my choice was based on a single poem: “War is kind”. Then, throughout the writing of the music, and a rereading of Crane’s poems, several other texts have appeared interesting to set to music. It was then that I felt the need to compose a more consistent work, a cycle of seven pieces.

In these poems, Stephen Crane tells us about war, death, loss. Men go proud to the war to save their homeland, to “save their lady” but without knowing that they go to the scene of carnage!
An apparent naivety emerges from the reading of the poems, and this “freshness” makes the subject more strong and profound. The contrast is striking between the recklessness of these young men who go to war and the reality of battlefields. The desire to fight and to serve one’s country becomes ridiculous face to the bestiality, blood, tears, pain …
Stephen Crane reinforce in these poems that in all wars the only things that remain are: the wound, the loss, the tears of a father, a mother, a brother, a sister … is not the victory that we retain. And in the face of love, the homeland is very little because it allows us to die in indifference.

In choosing these seven poems I wanted to put my own perspective on wars.

In War is kind cycle we have seven poems, seven musics, seven colors, seven sound treatments that are united by this same subject, in a single compositional gesture. The cello is sometimes solo, sometimes accompanying. The music always seeks to put in sound the words, the dramaturgy of the poetic images of Stephen Crane. Both naivety and injury are present in my writing. I worked on a distance of emotions to talk about that subject.

1. War is kind. A kind of complaint carried by voices of angels that spread in a halo of music, with resonance. Voices come from nowhere and everywhere at once. These voices contrast with a more raw, choppy music that describes the reality of war and the battlefield.

2. Littel Shell. It is the request of a child to a shell to know where has passed his brother. The request is homorhythmic, static, naive… And the response of the shell is at first flexible, undulating, then at the insistence of the child, it becomes more distant, cold, bitter.

3. Fast rode the knight. It is the leap of the horse, intrepid, who goes to war his rider on the back. He avoids blows, he leaps into the battlefield… The music is moving, regular with soubressauts, accidents…

4. A flower. The cry of anger of a mother who loses her son to war. This cry rises gradually throughout the room, very sweet at first, “describing” us his son, his ambition, his duty, his loyalty. Then the voice stretches little by little in the music until the anger that explodes when the mother screams her pain. I use here the high range of the voices for the cries, but also the spoken voice, the screamed voice, glissandi, notes that rub… The poetic image of Stephen Crane at the end of the poem is a flower, flower given by the nation to decorate the dead son… and the mother placed this flower on the breast of her son.

5. The chatter of a death-demon. Image of a mechanical raven that cackles endlessly the death of the hunter. It has inexorably the same regular movement of the body. This is a nightmare… Music where the cello endorses the skin of this automaton. The incessant movement of eighths and sixteenth notes shows the cackling of the bird. Nothing seems to be stopped…

6. A lad and a maid. It’s a parenthesis. A boy and a girl by the creek, two lovers loving each other before going to the battle, maybe… Music that is like the flow of a stream, flowing, calm, fluid but also with its eddies, its whirlpools.

7. The battle Hymn. It’s a long monodic phrase that goes from one voice to the other. Sometimes sung by one voice, sometimes sung in unison by all voices. From time to time, to complete this homorythmie, comes to be superimposed rhythmic counterpoints or some holding modal colors . It is the image of an antique choir where all the voices challenge us on the same subject, in unison, without disagreement.

War is kind confirms (if it need be!) that we have in the region one of the most talented French composers of his generation: Lionel Ginoux.



Contemporary signatures

Once is not custom, it is a concert of nowadays’ music that we went to listen to : a program proposed by Les amis de Saint-Victor around the three composers of Marseille : Lionel Ginoux, Régis Campo and Nicolas Mazmanian. It is in the underground crypt of the Marseille abbey that the public gathered, around the artists, such as ancient faithful … Since then, an alchemy has occurred: the old stones, rich of a millennial past, have come into resonance with today’s harmonies. It must be said that an exceptional musician had been invited! Emmanuelle Bertrand, radiant, took the concert to rare artistic and emotional heights. From her first murmurings to the cello (After a dream of Fauré, only “classic” opus on the program), seconded by Nora Lamoureux on the harp, the bar was placed high … and it did not fall! Omnipresent, Emmanuelle Bertrand defended in solo and with a great generosity of playing, the scores of Pascal Amoyel (Itinerance, 2003) as the vibrant tribute to Henri Dutilleux signed Regis Campo (To be alive in power, 2016). It is also the feminine vocal ensemble Hymnis (conducted with talent by Bénédicte Pereira) that we heard in the « Cinq rondels by Charles d’Orléans » (1998) by Jean-Michel Damase. The balance of voices, the correctness of tone, the artistic commitment make this vocal ensemble one of the spearheads of choral music in the region. And it is in the company of these ten voices that we have discovered two unpublished works. War is kind (2017) confirms (if it need be!) that we have in the region one of the most talented French composers of his generation: Lionel Ginoux. In his operas (Medea Kali or Vanda, see Zib ‘117), his cycles of melodies, the young creator draws from sharp poetic sources a semantic material that gives free rein to a very personal imagination. He develops a sound material, a language and a lyricism that found a real signature. To another extent, more formal and harmonic, Nicolas Mazmanian has his own style: his Five Miniatures (2017) oscillate between world music (Komitas Armenia) and jazzy arrangements that make his score immediately accessible.
Jacques Freschel – Zibeline


1 cello
2 sopranos 1
2 sopranos 2
2 altos


duration 33′

premiere 12 april 2018, Abbaye de Saint Victor, Emmanuelle Bertrand cello, Choeur Hymnis, cond. Bénédicte Pereira

commissioned by Les Amis de Saint Victor


last performance
12 april 2018, Abbaye de Saint Victor, Marseille