UN COUP DE DÉS For the Hilliard Ensemble
Guy Barry, Un Coup De Dés (, 1994).
Barry Guy
UN COUP DE DÉS For the Hilliard Ensemble,
London: Novello & Co, Ltd, 1994
840 x 590 mm, 2

Extracts of single words and phrases from Mallarmé's UN COUP DE DÉS form a musical score to be performed by four singers. According to the score, the duration should be about 10 minutes.


"The choice of Mallarmé’s Un coup de dés as the basis of the piece came about through studies of the conceptual buildings by the architects Richard Rogers and Peter Eisenmann respectively. Rogers’ project was for the Tomigaya exhibition space in Tokyo where modules and floors would operate like an adjustable shelving system, flexing with the needs of the inhabitants. Eisenmann’s project was the Max-Reinhardt-Haus, Berlin, which manipulates the infinite three-dimensional Moebius strip to arrive at a series of topological surfaces which form the prismatic character of the building. The conceptual link was provided by Mallarmé’s poem which transformed the idea of the ‘module’ and the Möbius strip into a dice twisting in the air.

… One of the surprising elements is Mallarmé’s very radical use of upper and lower case lettering. I set about to distil the upper case words in sequence into a new quasi-abstract text that lent itself to vocalisation. Additionally Mallarmé’s ‘landscape’ layout suggested a graphic representation of the music and its movement. The score is accordingly on one large page and portrays the rolling of the dice associated with the desired pitches, execution and text."

Barry Guy