Invited by the International festival of contemporary music ISCM World New Music Days, whose 2004 edition took place in Switzerland, Cod.Act created Aérostase, a performance for 150 saxophonists performing in public areas.

The cluster of musicians represents a living organism, a dense and dynamic mass animated by air flows, a kind of respiratory organ. By alternating contractions and expansions, the body progresses slowly, as a procession.

The sounds generated by this body reflect the flow and ebb of the activity of the lungs at work. Sound sources positioned along the trajectory of the body transmit a continuous mineral sound that changes at the approach of the body, illustrating the friction that the organism produces on the buildings as it moves along.


150 saxophonistes à la Chaux-de-Fonds
150 saxophonistes à la Chaux-de-Fonds
150 saxophonistes à la Chaux-de-Fonds

the body

To take full advantage of the sonorous potential of the 200 musicians and their impact on the outdoor public area, Cod.Act chose to group the musicians in the shape of a large, dense, shifting mass, animated by air fluxes. This mass is to be seen as a living body, a respiratory organ where each alveoli corresponds to a saxophonist.

Through alternating contractions and dilatations, the mass moves slowly, procession-wise along the streets, rhythmed by its respiratory metabolism. Sounds from each instrument combine and add themselves creating an organic, sonorous, evolving universe made up of fluxes and refluxes typical of pulmonary activity when solicited by a physical effort.

Street diagram

diagram of aerostase, rue du Petit-Chêne à Lausanne

the street

Space in the street is under heavy strain from the pressure and friction exercised by the mass as it progresses. To illustrate the interaction between the mass and the street, the latter broadcasts sounds through fixed sound sources along the route of the body. The surrounding architecture resounds. It reverberates a continuous sound akin to a concentrate of urban sounds gathered and stored by the walls since they were built. As the mass moves forwards, it infects the surrounding buildings and imprints it with its own sonorities.

In specific locations called stasis, interaction between the mass and the architecture is intense, sounds collide, the mass stops its progression, moans and resumes its movement along the street. Sound vibrate from the buildings for a while, slowly fade until they vanish in the everyday urban sounds.

the sound of the body

Sounds produced by the respiratory activity of a living body are the result of evolution and transformation of internal factors such as muscular impulsions, tension and torsion of tissues. This respiratory activity is the core of a written musical score interpreted by 200 musicians. To preserve a harmonic coherence, it was developed based on the analysis of concrete sounds. The result is the frequencial content of the initial sounds which was used as raw material to create the musical work.

The body is made up of 5 groups of musicians in which the saxophones are distributed according to their range, deep, medium or high-pitched. The live and organic appearance and characteristic behaviour of breathing are rendered by interactions between the different groups. These feed different strengths between the groups that are added, come into equilibrium or oppose each other, creating a constant harmonic tension. These variations in tension also reflect the nervous state of the mass.

In the musical score, these appear in the dynamic and in the way in which the musical elements follow each other, evolve and change. Each musician has a CD player and an earplug type of headphone. The CD players are all synchronised and broadcast all along the performance indications on the play and interpretation specific to the range of the instrument. It is in fact a vocal musical score.

Diagram of sound distribution

diagramme du son d'aérostase

places of exhibition

- ISCM World New Music Days 2004, Lausanne, La Chaux-de-Fonds (CH)

press review

+ L'impartial (pdf)


- Commissioned, Festival International de Musique Contemporaine ISCM, World New Music Days