In the simplest terms, Aperghis’ Le corps à corps can be described as a schizophrenic melodrama in which the percussionist recounts the events of an intense race, including details about the participants’ wounds, heroic leaps, clouds of dust flying and spectators erupting in cheer.
Avant dix heures, autour du cadavre, ils étaient déjà répartis tout le long de la course, des deux côtés, au corps à corps. Les seules actions visibles avaient lieu à la ligne Départ-Arrivée, où de temps à autre un chariot surgissait – saisissant le casque étincelant, faisant un bond, se blessant au bras – à toute blinde du nuage de poussière, et descendait en titubant de sa meule, que l’équipe d’entretien s’empressait d’emplir d’essence et de relancer sur la piste, avec un motard tout frais dessus. De sa blessure fraîche, à son bras le sang coule. D’immenses cris s’élèvent.
[Before ten o’clock, around the body, they were already dispersed all along the track, on both sides, packed shoulder to shoulder. The only visible actions occurred at the finish line, from which from time to time a chariot emerged – seizing the shining helmet, leaping up, injuring his arm – blasting out of the cloud of dust, and staggering down from his motorcycle, which the maintenance team rushed to refuel and launch back onto the track, with a brand new rider on it. From the fresh wound on his arm the blood flows. Immense cries arise.]
However, in my opinion, to state that Le corps à corps is simply the narration of a race does not really do it justice. The title of the piece is literally translated as “the body to body,” but perhaps it would be deciphered less elegantly as “the struggle of two elements,” or “the battle.” Aperghis’ text is not actually about a race, but rather about the psychological state of someone involved in a race, or perhaps being chased; there is no coherent narrative, but rather, a series of poetic images linked to the intensity of physical competition (at some points archaic and others futuristic) at the limits of physical exhaustion. I find the text to evoke a dream, complete with imagery both vivid and disorienting, from which one would wake up sweating, out of breath, with heart pounding.— Jonathan Hepfer, 2013