Mario Lorenzo

CICM /Laboratoire MUSIDANSE: Paris VIII University

What does “figure” mean today ?

In the paper “Horacio Vaggione: vers une syntaxe du sonore” (Towards a Sound Syntax), Jean-Claude Risset highlights that the sound is not given, however it must be articulated, that is to say “to organize it in figures” (Risset 2007). What does this organization consist of? What do we mean when we say “figure” in the context of computer music composition, and more precisely, what is its role in a multiscale approach (Vaggione 1998)? Following the musical tradition, as we know, the concept of figure appears in multiple ways, between a concrete application to a metaphor. The notion of figure, which Vaggione uses, is summarized by Anne Sedes: “ it is close to the notion of object (…) not far from the notion of theme (…) approaching the thesis of Adorno ( Sedes 2007).
Facing the difficulty of finding a definition of the figure in the context of contemporary music, must we accept, as Brian Ferneyhough suggests it, that each adds their own? (Ferneyhough 1984)
In order to clarify where we stand today, in the first part of this lecture, I want to display and open the question in its global complexity.
By taking certain tools of the philosophy of language (Wittgenstein 1956), we can find some satisfactory answers to the meaning of figure by analyzing the effective practices. If a rule is defined by the practice which consists “to do the same thing”(Bouveresse 2001), it is by observing our shared ways of making music that we will find the correct definition of the figure.
In the second part, I will show some figures composed with an oriented object language to illustrate my way “to do the same thing”.


Mario Lorenzo is a compositor. His writings are related to a multi-scale approach. His compositions are organized in a large number of figures of different sizes, independant and interrelated. From a university background, he wrote a PHD thesis on the subject of the choice in musical composition, with regard to the philosophy of language. Among his compositions, we can include Richter – a chamber opera ; pieces with instrumental ensemble, like La obra tiene al sembrador, Brouillamini, ESC, or the Pièces pour quintette à vents ; mixed compositions like Ty (bassoon, flute and electronic), Alt, (oboe and electronic), Craa (ensemble and electronic) ; as well as electroacoustic music, like Se bifurca en otro, Erre, YV or Figures sur la corde. Currently, he is an associated researcher at the CICM /Laboratoire MUSIDANSE of Paris VIII University.