Composed over a two year period, from 1994 to ’96, Francis Dhomont’s Forêt profonde constitutes the second part of a series of his works dubbed the Cycle des profondeurs, or “Cycle of Depths”, inspired by psychoanalytical thought, following on from Sous le regard d’un soleil noir (Beneath the Glare of a Black Sun) of 1979-81, ’83. (The world continues to await the arrival of a third part.)
Francis Dhomont himself describes his works as showing “an interest in morphological interplay and sense / sound ambiguities.” These preoccupations certainly come to the fore in this large-scale (58-minute) acousmatic melodrama, based on Bruno Bettelheim’s essay The Uses of Enchantment. The work is, in fact, a veritable masterpiece in the acousmatic idiom, using readings from academic texts, as well as fairy stories recounted by both children’s and adults’ voices in many languages, coupled with recognisable real-world sound recordings, all designed to invoke images from nightmares and from folk and fairytales. The whole is presented over a bed of processed and synthetic sound — at times little more than chaotic assemblages of noise — which is never anything but deeply penetrating and disturbing and yet profoundly engaging, for all that. As an added touch, tantalising threads from Robert Schumann’s Op. 15 Kinderscenen (Scenes from Childhood) are woven through the fabric of Forêt profonde. Some straight, some warped, the very incongruity of these additions adds greatly to the work’s twilit nether-world nature.
The half-understood texts combine with the sounds of rushing wind and water, forest birds and other creatures, as well as dense electronic sonorities, to make this disc a challenging musical experience, overall. Those listeners with the courage and fortitude to persevere, however, will be treated to a quite magical (and I use that word advisedly) and intoxicating “guided tour of the childhood soul,” which truly offers a chance to awaken the “magic intuition of childhood, that always sleeps in us with one eye open.” And to benefit from the experience, too.
A comprehensive 40-page booklet (in French and English) accompanies the disc, providing full details of the texts used in the work, as well as an analysis of the thinking behind its composition. This makes for a fascinating read of itself. All in all, I would say that no-one can afford to be without this release. So, then, what are you waiting for?
A work of great profundity indeed! 5/5