Legal mentions - EN |​FR
Cercles Réfléchissants / Reflecting Circles


This work is characterized by the presence of numerous reflecting modes and chords. These techniques extend the perfectly symmetric nature of the tempered chromatic scale.
In the chromatic scale, the unique interval of a semi-tone is exactly and indefinitely reproduced (repetitive symmetry). Besides, the octave - which gives rise to the scale and to modes - is divided into two by a center of symmetry which reflects each note with respect to another (reflecting symmetry).
There exist only four scales which possess these two chromatic qualities (« perfect » chromatic modes) and there exist 35 modes with one of these two qualities (the sub-chromatic modes).
One can distinguish two types of sub-chromatic modes : those that reproduce symmetric groups (there are 12 altogether) and those having symmetric centers (23 altogether).
We call the first category the « Repetitive symmetric modes » and the second « Reflecting modes ». Some reflecting modes are constructed from a real symmetric center (a precise note), whilst others come from a virtual center (thus inaudible). The properties of these modes can give rise to a mind-boggling number of symmetric chords.
The musical, poetic, philosophical and symbolic impact of these compositional techniques is vast. They are the foundation of the present work, which constantly employs such resources.

A detailed presentation of four chromatic modes and thirty-five sub-chromatic modes is provided in the work « Modes et accords symétriques, nouvelles resources de la gamme chromatique » 108p., unpublished.


This work revolves round a central piece entitled Reflecting Circles, the nucleus of the work, which employs a compositional technique of almost absolute rigor as regards the pitch of the notes. Each note is linked to another via melodic symmetry, either modal or harmonic.
Six other movements are arranged in symmetry around this piece, each being linked to another, using the « reflecting » compositional technique in a more suggestive manner.
One can furthermore distinguish three recurring elements in the set of seven pieces. The first two are: melodic circles (A) and a lyrical theme characterized by a major sixth interval (B). The third element is a refrain (C) made up of strictly reflecting chords with the second theme outlined in the soprano voice. This refrain (C) appears for the first time in the Cercles de Danses, bar 122.

1. Cercles de Danses (« Circles of Dances ») (8 mn 45 s)

This piece made up of four parts reveals motifs which will be found throughout the work. It evokes more or less the style of a toccata.
After the impact of a flurry of « reflecting thirds », mysterious repeated notes gradually emerge, surrounded by melodies A and B.
The musical discourse stops suddenly and becomes calm harmonic swinging with an imaginary exotic flavor, bathed in circular melodies. This section leads to a luminous statement of the refrain C.
Veiled by distant harmonies and snippets of thematic melodies, concluding hesitant repeated notes affirm the beginning of the whole work. These different elements combine and superimpose until they form a final whirlwind of circles.

2. Cercles de Vent (« Circles of Wind ») (4 mn 10 s)

A lamento inspired by the lyrical theme (B) becomes increasingly tortured. It is a long lead up (anacrusis) of 77 bars leading to the affirmation of the majestic refrain (C) on the tutti.
The work is dominated by enveloping chords and a rising succession of reflecting modes.

3. Trait d'union 1 (« Hyphen 1 ») (1 mn 40 s)

This brief movement alternates the two themes A and B. A is singled out in the soprano line via very fast fleeting arpeggiated chords, and B is slowly enunciated using delicately shrill harmonics. Its re-statement is marked by increasingly luminous harmonies.

4. Cercles Réfléchissants (« Reflecting Circles ») (4 mn 10 s)

The free-form character of this movement masks an extremely restrictive compositional technique, in a reflecting style. Circles occur in succession, and the symmetric chords reach eleven voices.
A free-style coda allows the composition to regain its liberty.

5. Trait d'union 2 (« Hyphen 2 ») (1 mn 25 s)

Recalling Hyphen 1, this short movement alternates and superimposes A and B. Circles (A) in 6-part harmony keep returning, as if in a refrain, reinforcing the twirling impression.

6. Cercles Harmoniques (« Harmonic Circles ») (6 mn 20 s)

This piece is structured in three sections. DIALOGUE : B in canon leads to a flood of high-pitched harmonics. HARMONIQUES : this flood recalls Cercles de vent and intensifies into huge luminous waves. CERCLES : theme A reverberates and concludes the piece.

7. Cercles Lointains (« Distant Circles ») (5 mn 10 s)

In this 2-part work, motifs found throughout the work gradually disappear. It recalls more or less distinctly the Cercles de Danses.
Circles open the work with force and end up by collapsing, leaving C to respond softly. Then follows a powerful ascension which recalls the toccata style of the Cercles de Danses. The circles grow, and the thematic elements are superimposed. After a flamboyant tutti, the music fades away rapidly, giving way to references reminiscent of previous movements. The circles progressively extinguish and the work dies away into a faraway, low E.

(Total duration of the work: approx. 32 mn)
Jean-Baptiste ROBIN