The American author Edmund White describes the flâneur as ‘a stroller, a loiterer, someone who ambles through a city without apparent purpose but is secretly attuned to the history of the place and in covert search of adventure, aesthetic or erotic.’ White’s book ‘The Flâneur’, subtitled ‘A Stroll through the Paradoxes of Paris’, is a collection of wanderings through the city, its history and the thoughts of the some of the people that have helped define what it is – touching on, amongst many other things, the buildings of the Île St Louis, the controversial and colourful life of writer Colette, the history (and current status) of French royalists, the habit of gay Parisian writers not to admit they’re gay writers, and so on.
My piece Flâneur is a stroll through a musical Paris populated by Debussy, Ravel, Messaien, Stravinsky, Takemitsu and Edith Piaf. Along the way, connections between those musical citizens and my own journey are made through quotation, transformation and allusion. I set out to compose Flâneur with no preordained ideas about its form, and instead allowed myself to write the piece that could be written with the time I had – to stroll through the French-hued sketches I had created. Heard at the centre point of the work, is a melody taken from Edith Piaf’s ballad ‘Les Amants de Paris’, and heard as a duet between flute and clarinet.
Lovers of Paris sleep on my song,
In Paris, lovers love their way.
Every moment I tell them,
It’s more beautiful than sun-filled days.
Edith Piaf, ‘Les Amants de Paris’
Flâneur was composed February 2011