Composer Profile: Sophie Lacaze

Sophie Lacaze
Sophie Lacaze

Website | Mezzo Compo Feature

Unsubdued but attentive to musical trends and schools, French composer Sophie Lacaze has developed an original aesthetics that takes into account the current research on sound while looking to restore music its primary functions, i.e. ritual, incantation, dance, and its links with nature.

Sophie Lacaze studied music at the Conservatoire National de Region de Toulouse, and she went on to further studies at the Ecole Normale de Musique de Paris where she received the Composition Prize. Afterwards, she studied with Allain Gaussin, Antoine Tisne and Philippe Manoury in France, and with Franco Donatoni and Ennio Morricone at the Accademia Musicale Chigiana di Siena (Italy). She also engaged in music theatre with Georges Aperghis at the Centre Acanthes and attended Pierre Boulez’s courses in College de France.

She has been developing a partnership with several music ensembles and soloists in France and abroad for more than 15 years. In 2009, she was awarded the Grand Prix Lyceen des Compositeurs for “les quatre elements”, concerto for flute, children choir and small percussion instruments, and in 2010 she received the Claude Arrieu Prize of the SACEM for her body of work. In 2012, she is laureate of the association Beaumarchais ‐ SACD.

Her compositions, which range from works for solo instruments to chamber and orchestral music, with also two operas and works with tape, are regularly performed in more than 20 countries in leading festivals by distinguished soloists, ensembles and orchestras. Her works are published by Alphonse Leduc / Notissimo, Billaudot, Delatour and Svitzer Editions, and appears on 10 CDs (France, Germany, Australia, Romania, USA).

Sophie is regularly invited to give master‐classes or conferences (IUFM in Tarbes, CNR in Versailles, CRR in Rouen, CRR in Montpellier ‐ France; Sydney Conservatorium of Music, Barossa Music Festival ‐ Australia; Conservatoire Royal in Brussels and Conservatoire Royal in Liege ‐ Belgium). She is Artistic Director of Turbulences Sonores Festival in Montpellier and Associate Professor at Montpellier University where she teaches composition and orchestration.



What is your earliest musical memory that, in looking back, has proved to be significant regarding your career as a composer?

I studied piano when I was a child, but I stopped quickly and turned to scientific studies. After graduation, I started working, like any young engineer I was. But music has always attracted me, and I started musical studies again, in parallel with my job. 

At this time I met Paul Tortelier during a conference at the conservatoire. He was a great cellist and he had written several works for cello, especially a concerto for cello and orchestra. He spoke about composing with great passion. I’d liked composition for a while, but I was making a good living as an engineer, and I was not sure of what to do. I think it was Paul Tortelier who reinforced my decision to become a composer.

Are there composers who have been influential or relevant regarding your own work?  Has this changed over time?

Many composers influence or inspire my music : Guillaume de Machaut and some Polyphonists of the Renaissance, such as Josquin Desprez for example, then Erik Satie, Claude Debussy, Béla Bartok, György Ligeti, Luciano Berio, Meredith Monk ….  But my works are also influenced by the music of the Troubadours (musicians from the South of France, 12th century) and Aboriginal music from Australia.

Would you mind speaking a little concerning your working process, i.e., do you have a regular schedule for writing; do you use a computer for composing (either for creating pre-composition materials or notation), if so, do you find that it inhibits your process?  What other technology, if any, do you use?

My works are often inspired by things outside music, texts and poems, pictures (paintings or photography), tales … 

I compose for musicians, I mean specific persons, so I always take into account their personality, the way they play their instrument, their own sound, their expectations. Unlike artists such as painters, sculptors, filmmakers, poets, whose works are immediately accessible by the public, we, composers, must entrust our works to musicians who perform them for the public. That’s why I write for musicians, not for the public. They are my audience.  So, for each new piece, I work closely with the musicians who will premiere it. We work especially on tone and sound, those are the favorite fields of my writing. 

Before writing, I just put the general project, some ideas and the planned form and material of the piece on a paper. Then, I compose directly on my computer with Finale. It is convenient, and Finale is used by my publisher, so we can exchange files easily.

Please describe one of your recent compositions and provide a link to an audio clip.

One of my recent compositions is a work for 4 women voices: “O Sapientia”. I composed it for the ensemble “Mora Vocis – voix solistes au feminin”,  that has a specific program of medieval and contemporary music, around music and texts by Hildegard von Bingen. 

In this work, spoken texts (excerpts of the 6th Vision by Hildegard von Bingen) introduce musical parts that are inspired by this vision and another text she wrote, “O virtus Sapientiae”, is sung in Latin, its original language.


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