J'aime encore mieux le silence

for three voices (2023, 3')

The French philosopher and socio-political activist Simone Weil (1909-1943) involved herself with the dilemmas, in particular the inhuman character, of early 20th century factory work. To gain the deepest possible insights, she became a factory worker herself in the mid 1930s, and an agricultural labourer as well. Her uncompromising dedication took a heavy toll on her frail health. During the Second World War, aged 34, she died from cardiac failure, apparently in relation with a self-imposed regime of starvation.
Simone Weil wrote extensively about her concerns, and her visions around the future of factory work, in articles and essays, and in correspondence with friends and associates, as well as with some factory directors. While her writings are generally entirely focused on her socio-political engagement, in her letters, deep personal involvement with the addressee sometimes seeps through.
J'aime encore mieux le silence, for soprano, mezzo-soprano and tenor, makes part of a cycle of works by Marinissen, around Simone Weil's writings. While the compositions for solo percussion, flute & electronics, vibraphone & electronics, and cembalo, percussion & electronics focus on her involvement with factory work, this vocal trio is based on a personal side note from a letter that Weil wrote in January 1936 to Boris Souvarine, who shared Weil's activist interests, but must also have been a close friend, and went through a personal crisis at the time.
In her letter, Weil begs Souvarine to write not only about their mutual interests, but to also say a few words about the essential things that concern him. She states that "nothing embitters me more than receiving letters from you that leave such uncertainty about yourself, as silence. I would much prefer silence". In
J'aime encore mieux le silence, the soprano and mezzo-soprano sing the last few lines from Weil's letter, while the tenor's text is based on the opening lines from the letter, in which Weil quotes Souvarine's earlier question about a book on factory work, which he had recommended to her. Souvarine doesn't reveal his inner turmoil, despite Weil's urging.

J’espère que si vous me répondez,
ce ne sera pas sans me dire en quelques mots
l’essentiel de ce qui vous concerne.
Rien ne m’exaspère comme de recevoir de vous
des lettres qui me laissent à votre sujet
autant d’incertitudes que le silence.
J’aime encore mieux le silence.

Le bouquin sur la science des machines, de Lafitte,
que tu as fait venir à Noël sur mon indication,
qu’est-ce que tu en penses?
© Arnold Marinissen 2021

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