Over the course of several decades, composer Tom Johnson has developed a style of composition based on rigorous forms derived from numbers games of various kinds. His Rational Melodies of 1982, a set of twenty-one pieces constructed of logical permutations of minimal pitch sets, exemplified the style. It also served as the inspiration for composer Fabrice Villard’s 25 pièces pour saxophone seul, performed by Stéphane Meugé on soprano, alto, tenor, and baritone saxophones. The inspiration was more than academic; as part of the Dedalus ensemble both Villard, who is a clarinetist as well as a composer, and Meugé, participated in the New World Records performance of Rational Melodies.
One of the qualities Johnson was striving toward with the Rational Melodies was a certain structural transparency. Both the pitch sets and their systematic variations were presented in such a way as to be audible in a manner that, for example, serial composition’s pitch sets and their transformations often are not. Such structural audibility also is a feature of Villard’s twenty-five pieces, which Meugé plays with the clarity they demand. Essentially a set of combinatorial variations on limited and well-defined pitch sets, they develop with an almost Baroque inevitability. Although the music is logically organized, listening to it isn’t necessarily an analytical experience; one can often just feel or sense the pieces’ systematic structures through their regular rhythms and simplicity of phrasing. Villard’s decision to realize his elaborate compositional formulas as arpeggiations played solo on a monophonic instrument goes far toward making them intuitively accessible.
In addition to the twenty-five pieces for solo saxophone, Musique Logique includes four similarly mathematically-derived compositions for two, three, and four saxophones, as well as alternate takes of five of the twenty-five solo works.