Human - non-human

Human - non-human

Concerto for Anssi Karttunen and Ensemble Variances by Thierry Pécou
Works by Toru Takemitsu, François-Bernard Mâche, John Luther Adams, Karol Szymanowski, Claude Debussy...



We make a traditional distinction between human beings, and non-human creatures. But is it really that black and white? Certain scientists, like anthropologist Philippe Descola, question this strict division between culture and nature. It is more than just a theory; in animist societies, the beings of nature are considered as persons, and we know the growth of a forest can be significantly influenced by human actions. Another scientist, naturalist and bio-acoustician Bernie Krause, is convinced sounds (shouts, songs) of certain animal species may not only have a functional character but also an aesthetic or expressive aspect.

Myself, I am intrigued by the whale song. I want to use those pre-recorded songs as a texture and shape for a concerto for solo cello and small ensemble, while staying as far away from any "new-age" approach as possible. I will focus on analysing the different types of sounds (some of which are beyond the audible spectrum of humanity) with a form of scientific rigor, using sonograms. Sometimes the sounds will get into a dialogue with the soloist, or even merge with the ensemble; what I would like to establish is that the audience starts questioning this strict distinction between humans and non-humans themselves, make them wonder whether these huge mammals of the sea might indeed be doing more than just singing their songs. Perhaps they are even wondering what we human beings are… Who knows?

- Thierry Pécou

Concert during the festival Présences, Radio France, February 21, 2018

Anssi Karttunen


Thierry Pécou

Méditation sur la fin de l’espèce for solo cello, processed whales sounds and instrumental ensemble (Commissioned by the Wigmore Hall London and Radio France)

Different versions of the program with works by
. Toru Takemitsu
. François-Bernard Mâche
. John Luther Adams
. Karol Szymanowski
. Claude Debussy...

Number of people

Guest artist

Anssi Karttunen cello

Ensemble Variances

Flute, clarinet, violin, double bass, electric piano and piano (1 player), guitar (electric and acoustic) and electronics (pre-recorded sequences)


Whale songs recorded by Olivier Adam, edited at Groupe de Recherche Musicale (GRM)


Co-production Wigmore Hall London, Radio France Paris.

The Ensemble Variances receive support from Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication - Drac Normandie, Région Normandie, Spedidam, Sacem, Ville de Rouen, Odia Normandie, Onda. It is member of Fevis, Futurs Composés, Bureau Export and Profedim. It is member of Groupement d'Employeurs Solstice, supported by Région Normandie.