Tout progresse



Programme note

In this ‘mini-opera’, a short fragment (in fact a footnote) from the fourth canto of Raymond Roussel's text Nouvelles Impressions d'Afrique (1915-1928) is read several times and put in different contexts as to evoke new meanings. In the course of this, interactions occur between text and voice on the one hand (sometimes the text is emphasized, at other times the voice), and between voice and instruments on the other hand (the voice is sometimes treated instrumentally, the instruments occasionally as "text carriers"). This creates a network of connections and categories beneath the sounding surface, layering the work into multiple perspectives. Tout progresse is dedicated to Brian Ferneyhough (on the occasion of his 50th birthday) who made me aware of this text a few years ago.

Ivo van Emmerik, 1992

scored for voice and ensemble:

  • violin
  • percussion (1 player)
  • bass clarinet in B flat
  • harp


ca. 4 minutes

First performance:

16 January 1993, IJsbreker Amsterdam, by Romain Bischoff, baritone, and the Nieuw Ensemble, Ed Spanjaard conducting

score example

Page 5 of the score

Brian Ferneyhough at the concert at the IJsbreker, 16 January 1993; photo by Co Broerse



au moment où,        Le soleil plonge à l’ouest,

On portait l’allumette à la mèche jadis,

Geste qu’a fait vieillir l’éclairage électrique;

at the moment when,       The sun sinks in the west,

Carried, in the old days, a match to a candle stick,

An act which electric lighting has rendered obsolete;


Tout progresse;      même riche (l’argent      le privilège;

Le cancre chic

L’aigle     la promesse;     )

On portait l’allumette

All things progress;    even the rich (money   privilege

The chic dunce

The genius      promise)

Carried     a match


Tout progresse;       l’éclairage électrique;

All things progress;        electric lighting


les poules,    ( sûr d’éclipser      ((on reconnaît

Comme: - sa provenance     l’âge     d’arbre;

l’an où naquit     ))  D’un proche percement    )

Geste qu’a fait vieillir

hens,     (   sure to eclipse    ((     One can recognize

As one can: - its provenance      the age       of a tree

the year that … was born;     ))    a forthcoming breakthrough    )

An act which … has rendered obsolete;


l   Ces sages     s    couche-tôt     p

l       s      son     p    suspect      ng     ou      t      franc

l’     g      sur      d       un        b        marbre

t    p    r    A    s     sa   cl    g    striation    t

l   Those wise    s    early-retirers    p

l       s      sound     p    suspicious    ng   or   t     clear

l’     g     sure      d     a     b      marble

t    p    r    A     s     his   cl    g     rings     t

[adapted from: Raymond Roussel: Nouvelles Impressions d'Afrique IV n.1; English translation: Mark Ford]

From the press:

“(...) Ivo of Emmerik surprised with a delicate piece of music (Tout progresse) in which the text is becoming increasingly fragmented, so that at the end voice and instruments are completely interchangeable, a typical technique of this composer."

NRC Handelsblad, 18 January 1993

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