The idea of "achieving imperfection" seems like a rather glaring oxymoron. But, as the composer outlines in the score for his work "and each clear change/process tipped without breaks/a little of/in it," which was recently recorded by the Royal College of Music Woodwind Ensemble, the piece is meant to re-evaluate the "distinction between 'detritus' and 'music'," i.e., what we commonly aim to avoid and where the line between those events and what we consider to be the goal in performance lies. Rather cleverly, Mr. d'Heudieres has derived much of his musical material from "famous pieces of classical music." The purpose being to create "a series of false recognitions [and] occasional impressions that what is being played [or] heard is somewhat familiar, even though it is not."
Reading this bit of trickery on the composer's part reminded me of the time during undergrad, when I sat down to take my final exam in score reading class. The exam was to sight-read an open score of fifteen to twenty staves at the piano, condensing the whole mess into a paraphrased interpretation at the keyboard. I am by no means a keyboardist, and was dismayed to discover that not only was every line of the score notated in a unique clef—some parts transposing—and in the mind-boggling key of E-flat Major, but it was a rather famous work by J. S. Bach called "Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme," a work with which I was intimately familiar. My teacher's agenda, of course, was to distinguish those students who could actually read what was before them and channel it into the keyboard from those who attempted to sloppily pull the tune out of their ears and play it as correctly as possible as though they were reading it. In my case, the ensuing disaster actually motivated another of my teachers (who had sadistically come to observe) to remark that she was embarrassed to know me, though I did manage to pass the exam.
No, I don't think Mr. d'Heudieres would have found my performance to be terribly inspiring. Nonetheless, I am captivated by his interest and ability in organizing what we commonly try to avoid as performers into very personal and honest compositions. True, the idea of using the element of chance as a snare to capture unforeseeable events is nothing new. As the composer points out in his program notes, this type of music is strongly associated with the work of John Cage and his disciples.
That said, I find d'Heudieres's work to be a unique evolution on this family tree, quite relevant to the present. The homo ergaster to Cage's habilis, the ritual to Cage's epiphany, and presented with a relentless courage and patience that is hard to find within our age's underdeveloped attention span.
You'll need a few hours to get through all of his material. Why not start with the most recent: