Hector Berlioz compared the orchestra with machines capable of intelligence and needful of guidance. Arthur Honegger turns it into the suggestion of a machine. He professed to have planned purely musical experiments in his Mouvement symphonique, trials of rhythm, acceleration, reversals of basic pulses and perceived movement. But all this was suited to the burgeoning pathos of the machine cult, this mixture of futurism and New Objectivity. There are parallels to the fact that a short film was produced to go with Pacific 231: In 1930, Fedor Ozep choreographed the motor action of a locomotive in the opening sequence of his Karamazov-film to match Karol Rathaus’ music; in the Pacific-year of 1923, Honegger wrote the music for Abel Gance’s film La Roue, in which the railway plays a central role.
The response to this exploration of the world of machines is a look at the movements of nature as a conductor of musical imagination and creative power. With his composition La Mer, Claude Debussy liberated himself from the concepts of material form: Form is a process, just like nature is a process. A young Bartók profited from this spirit of new departures, which perceived sound as music’s driving force, in works which he used to free himself from Brahms and Strauss and other bearers of German names. He no longer called his four orchestra pieces a symphony, even though, together, that is what they constitute. His First Violin Concerto, written for his great love at the time, became a portrait which included his own emotions in the entire range of their pendulum-like swings – music that resembles Transparence by Francis Picabia. And so, the entire programme, not just its parentheses, is a part of Musikfest’s French theme.