Dominique Lawalrée, born in Brussels on 18 November 1954, studied music education at the IMEP (Institut Supérieur de Musique et de Pédagogie) in Namur.He is self-taught as a composer and has never taken part in competitions or festivals. He has established a name mainly through the 20 CDs he has made, his private concerts and his extensive oeuvre (ca. 450 works), performances of which he has given in Belgium, France, Switzerland, England, Spain and the United States. In his private concerts he plays various sorts of synthesizers and digital pianos for a very limited audience. Dominique Lawalrée teaches pedagogy and methodology of music education at the Ecole Normale Catholique du Brabant Wallon in Nivelles (Leonardo da Vinci College).
When Lawalrée began composing in 1973, he was influenced by a wide range of composers, including Satie, Stravinsky, Stockhausen, Cage, Feldman, Riley, Bryars and Messiaen. The artistic and progressive character of rock music in the 1960s and 1970s also influenced his work (The Beatles, Soft Machine and Brian Eno). Lawalrée’s music cannot be grouped with experimental music. Although interested in the new developments in this field, he has no essential problems with the musical language. His work is often situated in the movement of the New Simplicity, in which the elementary music (the style) is intended to express the Essence (the content). His music thus has a clearly spiritual function. Lawalrée attempts to translate the inward-looking into music. The listener should be brought back to himself or herself, in a sort of incantation.
Lawalrée’s musical language is consonant, often tonal or modal. He avoids virtuosity. A typical characteristic is the juxtaposition of chord-blocks, as, for instance, in the fifth movement of Taciturne. These chord progressions are also regularly played broken down into arpeggios, as in Vers une vie nouvelle. In addition, Lawalrée writes many chromatic and diatonic scale figures, for instance at the beginning and the end of the Sonate du temps pascal. Silence and resonance are two very important elements in his work. They give the music the necessary space, allowing the listener to become completely aware of the content and the typical timbre of the music. Highly characteristic is the foreword to the score of Taciturne, in which all the various fermata signs and rhythmic markings are first explained and in which simplicity and rest are advised. His music can sometimes exist as a sort of environment, a ‘recreational décor’ such as the radio. It is left up to the listener to be open to the music or not.
Also characteristic of his music are the many repeated notes, as, for example in the first, fourth and eighth movements of Taciturne. His works are often mini-developments of a repeated motif. Pantomime is, for instance, constructed in this way. The compositions are often worked out in block form. A particular motif/concept is worked out per block, and then followed by another block. This is also the basic structure of many of his “cycles”. These cycles consist of a concatenation of different, separate sub-sections, creating one large whole. Examples of this include Taciturne, Litanies du monde à venir and Vers une vie nouvelle. His longest cycle, De temps en temps, lasts approximately two hours. For this work, he wrote several bars per day over the course of a year, without revising or correcting his work. The cycles (for piano) do not form the largest part of Lawalrée’s music. He has also composed shorter works for piano, such as Blues I and Sonate du temps pascal. In addition, he has written music for organ, harpsichord, synthesiser (the timbre of which he admires), chamber music, songs and orchestral music. These works are all written in the same musical language.
From 1994 there have been major changes in Lawalrée’s oeuvre. Since that time, all his music has had a liturgical/religious function. His cycle Vers une vie nouvelle leads the listener towards a reflection on death. Lawalrée believes that adult listeners are often unconsciously in search of the effect of a lullaby, for example in the hypnotic beat of rock. This explains why he has written berceuses for adults (CD: Nocturnes). In general, his music has become more melodious since 1994. In Vers une vie nouvelle and Nocturnes, clearly melodic and contrapuntal lines are perceptible next to the (chordal) accompaniment. He now writes music intended for performance after the mass in order to offer the listeners a moment of prayer. Examples of such works include the many psalm arrangements. ©MATRIX (Herlind Gerits and Anna Vermeulen)