Arturo Parra

… un résultat inattendu et somme toute des plus captivants. JazzoSphère, France

Eine absolute Empfehlung. Skug, Austria

Prix Opus 2001-02: Disque de l’année — Finaliste

A guitarist and composer devoted to contemporary music, Arturo Parra presents here five mixed works created in collaboration with five notorious practitioners of acousmatics, works which have been presented live a few times since their creation. This trajectory full of surprises (one can hear the sounds of Stéphane Roy, Mauricio Bejarano, Francis Dhomont, Gilles Gobeil and Robert Normandeau) is linked by Parra’s guitar playing, highly dextrous and compelling, and with just enough poignancy; a boundless playfulness, mixing latin sonorities and a solid avant-gardist approach which every afficionado of the instrument will enjoy. Style-wise, this might not be the usual empreintes DIGITALes fare; it still provides for as rich and rewarding a listening experience as you may hope for. [dt]

  • Canada Council for the Arts

CD (IMED 0264)

  • Label: empreintes DIGITALes
  • IMED 0264
  • 2002
  • UCC 771028026425
  • Total duration: 53:12
  • OGpak
  • 125 mm × 125 mm × 10 mm
  • 50 g

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Parr(A)cousmatique: Mixed Music for Guitar and Tape

“This project was born out of the wild imagination of the guitarist Arturo Parra. In 1997, he commissioned four different works from four acousmatic composers: Francis Dhomont, Gilles Gobeil, Robert Normandeau and Stéphane Roy. The originality of this project resides in the fact that each of these composers had to create a stand–alone acousmatic piece from which the guitarist composed a mixed piece for guitar and tape.” [Robert Normandeau]

Both versions of these four pieces premiered on May 15, 1998 in the concert Parr(A)cousmatique produced by Réseaux during the Festival international de musique actuelle de Victoriaville (FIMAV). The pieces were composed with the financial support of the Canada Council for the Arts (Commissioning of Canadian Compositions program, electroacoustic parts) and the Colombian Ministry of Culture (composition of guitar parts). This disc contains the definitive versions of these four mixed works as well as a 5th piece created according to the same principles in collaboration with the Colombian composer Mauricio Bejarano.

The instrumental part was recorded in real time and is made of sounds produced without accessories on a non–prepared guitar and vocal expression made by the performer. (Guitar maker: Manuel Contreras, Sr; Madrid, Spain, 1984.)

[English translation: Peter Feldstein, iv-02]

Some recommended items
In the press


Sabine Moig, JazzoSphère, no. 21, May 1, 2004

Le guitariste Arturo Parra nous présente ses explorations au cœur de la musique contemporaine. Ce projet mêle des compositions réalisées à sa demande par quatre auteurs et son travail accompli à cette suite sur ces pièces. Guitare, bruitage, distorsions, les notes sont malmenées pour parvenir à cette musique acousmatique qui nous plonge dans les abîmes les plus inquiétants, tendus et pénétrants. Parr(A)cousmatique regroupe des pièces qui réinventent notre regard sur les espaces et les terres qui peuplent notre imaginaire. Ces lieux s’imprègnent d’une coloration différente, des spectres semblent surgir des entrailles profondes. La musique vagabonde ainsi sur des registres fantasmagoriques qui parviennent à happer l’auditeur et à l’entraîner vers des sphères indomptées et inconnues. Le projet du guitariste pousse les limites de la création jusqu’à ses plus extrêmes retranchements produisant ainsi un résultat inattendu et somme toute des plus captivants.

… un résultat inattendu et somme toute des plus captivants.

Introduction(s) to the Delights of Electroacoustic Music

François Couture, electrocd.com, October 15, 2003

Electroacoustic music is an acquired taste. Like it or not, radio and television have conditioned us from an early age into accepting some musical (tonal and rhythmical) molds as being “normal.” Therefore, electroacoustics, along with other sound-based (in opposition to note-based) forms of musical expression like free improvisation, is perceived as being “abnormal.” That’s why a first exposure to this kind of music often turns into a memorable experience — for better or worse. Many factors come into play, but choosing an album that offers an adequate (i.e. friendly and gentle) introduction to the genre will greatly help in letting the initial esthetic shock turn into an experience of Beauty and mark the beginning of a new adventure in sound.

My goal with this sound path is simply to point out a few titles that I think have the potential to encourage instead of discourage, titles opening a door to a new musical dimension. Of course, this selection can only be subjective. But it might be helpful to new enthusiasts and to aficionados looking for gift ideas that would spread good music around. After all, Christmas is only a few weeks away!


We usually develop new interests from existing interests. What I mean is: we explore music genres that are new to us because a related interest brought us there. That’s why when it comes to electroacoustic music, mixed works (for tape and instrument) or works related to specific topics are often the best place to find a bridge that will gently lead the listener into the new territory. For example, people who enjoy reading travel literature will find in Kristoff K.Roll’s Corazón Road the sublimated narrative of a journey through Central America. Those still young enough to enjoy fairy tales (I’m one of them) will find in Francis Dhomont’s Forêt profonde an in-depth reflection on this literary genre as inspired by the works of psychoanalyst Bruno Bettelheim, in the form of a captivating work with multiple narratives (in many languages) and electroacoustic music of a great evocative strength. Lighter and more fanciful, Libellune by Roxanne Turcotte finds its source in childlike imagination and is in part aimed at children without over-simplifying its artistic process.

Guitar fans can turn to Parr(A)cousmatique, a wonderful project for which classical guitarist Arturo Parra co-wrote pieces with some of Quebec’s best electroacoustic composers: Stéphane Roy, Francis Dhomont (Quebecer at heart, at the very least), Robert Normandeau, and Gilles Gobeil. The latter has just released an album-long piece, Le contrat, written with and featuring avant-garde guitarist René Lussier. Lussier’s followers and people interested in Goethe’s play Faust (and its rich heritage) will find here an essential point of convergence, another bridge.

Essential listens

Those who want to explore further will probably want to venture into more abstract electroacoustic art. I recommend starting with the Quebec composers. Chauvinism? No way. It’s just that the music of composers like Dhomont, Normandeau, Gobeil, Yves Daoust, or Yves Beaupré seems to me to be more accessible than the music of British or French composers. It is more immediate, has a stronger impact (Gobeil, usually hitting hard), a more pleasant form of lyricism (Daoust, Beaupré), more welcoming architectures and themes (Dhomont, Normandeau). If you need places to start, try Normandeau’s Figures, Gobeil’s La mécanique des ruptures, Dhomont’s Cycle du son, and Beaupré’s Humeur de facteur.

That being said, there are hours upon hours of beauty and fascination to be found in the works of Michel Chion (his powerful Requiem), Bernard Parmegiani (La création du monde), Jonty Harrsison (Articles indéfinis), Denis Smalley (Sources/Scènes), and Natasha Barrett (Isostasie), but they may seem more difficult or thankless on first listen. And for those interested in where these music come from, the EMF label offers L’œuvre musicale, the complete works of Pierre Schaeffer, the father of musique concrète and grandfather of electroacoustics.

Tiny ideas

A compilation album has the advantage of offering a large selection of artists and esthetics in a small, affordable format. Available at a budget price, eXcitations proposes a strong sampler of the productions on the label empreintes DIGITALes. The albums Electro clips and Miniatures concrètes, along with the brand new volume of the DISContact! series, cull short pieces (often under three minutes) to trigger interrogations and discoveries in those with a short attention span.

And finally, for those of you who want to take their time and explore in short steps, the Cinéma pour l’oreille collection produced by the French label Métamkine contains many wonderful 3” CDs, 20 minutes in duration each, for a reduced price. The catalog includes titles by renown composers such as Michel Chion, Lionel Marchetti, Michèle Bokanowski, Bernhard Günter, and Éliane Radigue. These tiny albums are perfect for gift exchanges.

Of course, all of the above are only recommendations. The best sound path to discovery is the one you follow by yourself, little by little.

Best listens!


Bart Plantenga, wReck thiS MeSS, July 25, 2003

Arturo Parra is a Bogota Columbia-born composer and guitarist who here interprets the works of 5 contemporary acousmatic composers which he recomposed as pieces for guitar and tape. This piece explores the nature of time: “Time’s linearity has broken up under the impact: It floats, and so do we, contemplating the cities and their unending bustle as if from above.”


Tobias Bolt, Skug, no. 54, June 14, 2003

Der, zumeist im geologischen Zusammenhang verwendete, und einen Gleichgewichtszustand beschreibende Begriff der»Isostasie«ist der Titel von Natasha Barrets drittem Album, auf dem die Komponistin und Sound-Ökologin verschiedene lokale Naturphänomene, wie die Mitternachtssonne oder »Roten Schnee« mittels elektroakustischer Klangforschungen abstrakt umreißt. Die zehn glasklaren, kalten Impressionen aus ihrer Wahlheimat Norwegen, durchwegs spannend und mit einer ausgeprägten Liebe zum Detail gestaltet, fegen wie ein eisiger Nordwind aus den Boxen und kristallisieren zu glitzernden Klangskulpuren voll gespenstischer Schönheit.

Noch ein wenig abstrakter kommt das Album des belgischen Komponisten Stephan Dunkelman daher. Seine nicht nur für Konzerte, sondern auch für Ausstellungen und Tanzaufführungen komponierten Stücke spielen gekonnt mit Musik im Raum/Zeit-Kontext, sowie laut/leise-Kontrasten. Die zu Beginn etwas diffus anmutenden Soundscapes geraten mit zunehmender Spieldauer zu einem durchaus hörenswerten Ganzen, in dem sich die verschiedenen Geräusche tatsächlich wie»Rhizome«(dieser ursprünglich aus der Botanik stammende Begriff wurde von Deleuze und Guattari als Metapher für Hypertextualität verwendet) von den Spitzen weg in verschiedenste Richtungen fortpflanzen.

Der Titel von Arturo Parras Album wiederum weist ganz konkret auf seine Entstehungsweise hin: fünf »acousmatische« Stücke für Tape, von Parra an ebenso viele verschiedene Komponisten in Auftrag gegeben, werden auf»Parr(A)cousmatique«von dem kolumbianischen Gitarristen mit seinem expressiven Spiel auf der akustischen Gitarre konterkariert. Ein atmosphärisch unglaublich dicht geratenes Album, in dem sich ruhige, einfühlsame Passagen mit explosiven Fingerpickings und stakkatoartigen Rhythmusattacken abwechseln. Das in Parras Spiel omnipräsente lebensfreudige Flamencofeeling paart sich hier auf ganz wunderbare, ungewöhnliche Weise mit der Musique Concrète der Tape-Kompositionen. Eine absolute Empfehlung. Alle drei Veröffentlichungen beinhalten in den äußerst ansprechend gestalteten Pappkarton-Schubern umfangreiches Informationsmaterial, darunter Biographien, Details zum Release sowie Kommentare der Künstler zu den einzelnen Stücken in englischer und französischer Sprache.

Eine absolute Empfehlung.


Jeremy Keens, Ampersand Etcetera, no. 2003_e, May 1, 2003

Another guitar based album from empreintes DIGITALes, not only that but the guitar is dramatically obvious! This is quite an surprising and unusual album - Parra is a classically trained guitarist who has become interested in “performance, creation and composition of contemporary pieces,” and electroacoustic music. He commissioned five well known composers to create tape pieces for him (largely from his own playing, I think) and then has played a live guitar solo over the top. The result is astonishing in its beautiful combination of the chopped microscopic drama of the tape with the skilled guitar playing; unusual in both its conception and its label - this is one of the more melodic works released through empreintes DIGITALes. A fiery skittery opening to La basilique fantome with Stéphane Roy a cloud of tiny fragments, the guitar is slick and smooth in comparison playing a strong rhythmic melody; another crescendo before an extended guitar solo over a density of notes that sounds like an organ; another climax before some rapid picking and improv playing over a little noisey tape before returning to the opening melody. Throughout there are occasional vocalisations. Another big electroacoustic in-yer-face opening after which Mauricio Bejarano’s D’or et de lumière becomes a more settled array of clicky creaks echoed stretched and hisses (including some notes) with spanish guitar. A lovely solo over soft cracking and clicking emphasises that these composers have considered the pieces not only as stand alone, but also taken in to account the requirements of a duet. A restrained climax includes some short string picking. A more obvious tape backing to Sol y sombra… L’espace des spectres from Francis Dhomont swirls and slides skitters and scintillates with a rapid strumming guitar; a melodic solo over scraping electro-environment, and there is a confusion between tape and guitar as they seem to trade improv licks to a rapid guitar and string scrape conclusion. A slow burning development opens Soledad droning and thudding with rapid soft scrape guitar, then rapid extended sounds from Gilles Gobeil that builds to a couple of very noisy climaxes with dramatic guitar, with whispering and breathing that creates a dramatic contrast to the opening. L’envers du temps with Robert Normandeau lays creaking taps spiralling smallnesses as a cloud against rapid guitar, both easing, then developing again in parallel with strange whizzing and guitar to a chittering scrape end. The premiere performance appears to have featured both the acousmatic pieces and the duets, and this would have made an interesting double release with the taped pieces alone on a separate disk. However, as it stands it is a remarkable performance by all concerned and represents a powerful introduction to acousmatic (and all the synonyms) music. A complex album and wonderful, while maintaining the genre’s intensity.

A complex album and wonderful, while maintaining the genre’s intensity.


Andrea Ferraris, Sodapop, April 20, 2003

La confezione di questo CD è splendida: digipack con inlay card stampata su cartoncino, veste grafica super-lusso che ricorda molto le confezioni della Ambiances Magnétiques o delle uscite distribuite dalla DAME. No, non è un caso, infatti la empreintes DIGITALes è canadese e con buona probabilità Arturo Parra fa parte dello stesso roster sperimental-classico-contemporaneo (qualcuno dice sperimentzione “erudita”?) al quale appartengono anche molti musicisti delle altre due etichette canadesi. Parr(A)cousmatique è concepito come un lavoro per chitarra e nastro magnetico, la cui composizione e realizzazione si è sviluppata nell’arco di alcuni anni. Il risultato è davero sorprendente, la chitarra di Parra varia tecnica e gusto nel corso delle diverse composizioni, passando dalle sonorità latine di Sol y sombra… L’espace des spectres e La basilique fantôme alle atmosfere avanguardistiche di Soledad. Il risltato finale potrebbe ricordare vagamente un CD di studi chitarristici contemporanei, sporcato da dei fondi di musica “concreta” (il disco è distribuito da ReR, Staalplaat e Metamkine mica per nulla). Nonostante i dieci minuti abbondanti che rappresentano la durata media delle composizioni potrebbero far pensare tutt’altro, Parr(A)cousmatique non annoia, fa invece venir voglia di avventurarsi in ulteriori ascolti, la capacità di Parra di sacrificare il suo “mostruoso” (i virtuosismi su questo disco pur essendo contenuti, si sprecano) bagaglio tecnico a favore della qualità di ogni singola traccia ed il gusto con cui sono state composte alcune delle basi (soprattutto quelle di Francis Dhomont e Stephane Roy) sono molto elevate. Se avete voglia di “tradizionale-non troppo tradizionale”, Parra potrebbe essere il vostro uomo.

La confezione di questo CD è splendida…


SH, Octopus, no. 21, March 1, 2003

De la guitare comme vous n’en avez jamais entendu, juré. Croisement magnifique d’avant-garde et d’acousmatique, la dextérité d’Arturo Parra laisse sans voix. Parr(A)cousmatique est plein de surprises, de trouvailles sonores et sautillantes. Il n’en demeure pas moins poignant. Libéré de toutes les contraintes et empruntant sans complexe aux sonorités latines, Parra explore avec style et retenu les possibilités de la guitare. Un disque inattendu chez empreintes DIGITALes, aux arrières goûts de western métaphysique.

Croisement magnifique d’avant-garde et d’acousmatique, la dextérité d’Arturo Parra laisse sans voix.


Pierre Durr, Revue & Corrigée, no. 55, March 1, 2003

Natasha Barrett est une jeune acousmaticienne britannique installée à Oslo, Arturo Parra est, lui, un Colombien résidant au Québec. Les associer dans cette chronique relève ici d’une forte subjectivité, leurs univers sonores respectifs étant totalement différents, au-delà bien sûr de certaines techniques communes à toutes les musiques électroacoustiques.

La première pratique une forme de juxtaposition de couches sonores en interaction mutuelle, les unes provenant de l’environnement direct (donc naturelles et parfois reconnaissables), les autres étant transformées. Arturo Parra superpose le travail d’un instrument acoustique, la guitare (un jeu profondément volubile et chaleureux qui caractérise le style latino-américain) et les bandes magnétiques. Tour à tour Gilles Gobeil, Robert Normandeau, Stéphane Roy, Francis Dhomont, piliers d’empreintes DIGITALes, l’assistent.

L’association des deux créateurs peut se justifier par une partie de la thématique de certaines œuvres. Natasha Barrett s’attache à décrire des paysages naturels, avec sa sensibilité. Red Snow évoque les tourbillons de neige de sa patrie d’adoption. D’autres pièces font référence à cet environnement (Outside Snow Falls, Midnight Sun: Midday Moon… ); elle pratique en somme une météorologie sonore (Replaced). Son intérêt pour les paysages naturalistes se retrouve aussi dans Viva la Silva, évocation de la forêt vierge de Costa Rica a travers les grouillements, piaillements, de la faune (les oiseaux surtout) mais aussi les transformations de la voix humaine.

Avec Arturo Parra, on retrouve un peu de cette thématique paysagère. Mais la sienne est plus axée sur des paysages dans lesquels il ressent une présence - voire une absence - humaine. La forêt vierge semble encore garder les traces des peuples anciens (La basilique fantôme), abriter un voyageur/aventurier (D’or et de lumière) ou être tout simplement la cadre d’une impression de solitude humaine (Soledad). Le résultat sonore chez lui est très emphatique, volontaire, dynamique, tandis que sa consœur réalise un travail d’une approche plus introspective.

Le résultat sonore chez lui est très emphatique, volontaire, dynamique, tandis que sa consœur réalise un travail d’une approche plus introspective.


Ios Smolders, Vital, no. 357, January 30, 2003

Next Arturo Parra: this is a guitarist’s view on acousmatic music. I really think that this is the most adventurous of the three releases. The cooperation between musical instrument and tape/computer is difficult because you can identify the instrument from the other sounds, which so easily results in a relation instrument-backdrop. And in a live setting there is the discrepancy between the sound source of the acoustic instrument and the sound from the speakers which separates the two even more. Parra somehow managed to create a very nice balance, though. Parra commissioned works from five composers: Gobeil, Roy, Dhomont, Mauricio Bejarano and Normandeau. These compositions were each the basis for a composition of Parra. So the acousmatic composers didn’t know what Parra was going to do with their piece and Parra composed the guitar on top of what was already there. That is interesting because the guitar is the least versatile instrument here and yet it has to interact with the most versatile abstract noises. Also interesting to know is that the guitar was recorded without any overdubs. In some cases the guitar is tormented and played in extraordinary way but you can also hear melodies, which is quite unusual in an empreintes DIGITALes release. The result is a very dynamic and intense cooperation, very much worth listening to. I most liked the Dhomont cooperation. This “éminence grise” of the acousmatic society never misses a beat.

… a very dynamic and intense cooperation…


Andrew Magilow, Splendid E-Zine, January 20, 2003

Unless you have a ridiculously expensive stereo system, there’s no way to grasp the breadth of the dynamic material that comprises these five compositions. What’s shrouded by your crummy computer speakers or sub-par jambox is magically unearthed when you wrap a padded pair of speakers around your head. So, don your favorite set of headphones and prepare for a most unusual meeting of guitar virtuosity and electroacoustic improvisation!

Colombian-Canadian guitarist Arturo Parra commissioned several well-known electroacoustic composers to create stand-alone tape pieces. In turn, the wildly imaginative Parra took each composer’s portion, wrote complementary guitar parts and mixed it all into several dramatically transformed compositions. The result is Parr(A)cousmatique — a CD that delicately balances the six-string with magnetic tape.

Stéphane Roy, Francis Dhomont, Gilles Gobeil, Mauricio Bejarano and Robert Normandeau each fashion elegant works that fuse synthetic melodies with noisy electrical excursions. It’s important to note that when each composer wrote his respective piece, it was unclear as to how Parra would incorporate it into his own work. While it’s difficult to separate the electroacoustic parts from the guitar in the final product, it’s reasonable to believe that each composition was created with enough power and depth to stand on its own. Consequently, each composer plays a critical supporting role in Parra’s work instead of becoming an anonymous background studio musician.

After carefully studying each submission, Parra weaved his skillful and innovative guitar-work into the taped material to create the final product, switching effortlessly from Latin-influenced tonalities to frenetic runs to astonishing climaxes. When tape and guitar convene, an incredible reaction occurs. The two melt into a dense concoction of warm, melodic chords and expressive movements that oozes into your ear canals and coils around your grey matter like that creepy brain eating parasite from The Wrath of Khan.

Unlike many acousmatic releases, there is an amazing amount of poise and grace in the interplay between participants. Neither tape nor guitar is relegated to a secondary role; instead, a unique synthesis of moving melodies and swarming solos occurs, with each artist taking turns developing the mood or rabidly following a particular improvisational idea. La basilique fantôme begins with flamenco guitar that’s readily juxtaposed with Stéphane Roy’s trickling electronics and intense atonal rumblings. Eventually a friendly sonic fight of sorts develops between Parra’s thrilling abilities and Roy’s processed mechanical bleeps, and it remains unresolved until the tune’s final minute.

The most characteristic piece of the batch is the collaboration with Francis Dhomont, Sol y sombra… L’espace des spectres. Parra’s baroque style creates varying dispositions, ranging from romantic to frantic. While each artist takes turns being the aural focal point, neither is ever overshadowed by the other. You may assume that the electroacoustics would be sonically overpowering, but Parra holds his ground, attacking the fretboard with dazzling dexterity.

While chaotic in theory, this unusual coupling of electroacoustic tape rendering and intricate guitar works amazingly well; Parra and his collaborators are not only brazen musical explorers, but also quite conscious that melody and structure can work well in an avant-garde setting. Could this be the beginning of a new collaborative genre? Parra has certainly started off with a brilliant release. Let’s hope there’s more to come.

… prepare for a most unusual meeting of guitar virtuosity and electroacoustic improvisation!


Rigobert Dittmann, Bad Alchemy, January 17, 2003

Seit 1989 lebt der 1958 in Bogotá geborene Gitarrist und Komponist Arturo Parra in Kanada. Parr(A)cousmatique (IMED 0264) ist ein Kollaborationsprojekt speziell für Arbeiten mit Gitarre und Tonband. Die Tapezuspielungen stammen von Stéphane Roy (La basilique fantôme), Mauricio Bejarano (D’or et de lumière), Francis Dhomont (Sol y sombra… L’espace des spectres) und Robert Normandeau (L’envers du temps). Parra übermalt die bruitistisch-programmatischen Folien mit starkem spanischen Akzent zu Stimmungsbildern, in denen sich Archaik und Hypermoderne durchdringen. Parras selbstbewusste, virtuos-avancierte Handschrift versteht es, sich auch in konfliktreicher und geräuschvoller Umklammerung zu behaupten, als subversives, flinkes Graffiti, als phantasievolles Ornament, als stoische Patina, als überlegener Lichtschimmer. Der Gipfel an Intensität wird erreicht zusammen mit Gilles Gobeil bei der schroffen Klangwüste Soledad. Aber gerade wenn man sich mit der Gitarre im Tal des Todes verscharren lassen will, öffnet Normandeau die Schleusen der Zeit und die Sekunden peitschen die Haut wie gemahlenes Glas, während Parra die Saiten rührt wie Urvater Chronos persönlich.


Massimo Ricci, Touching Extremes, January 6, 2003

I’d say that Arturo Parra is a visionary in the best sense of this definition. Mixing classical guitar with shadows and lights evocated by some of the “acousmatic big names” (Stéphane Roy, Mauricio Bejarano, Francis Dhomont, Gilles Gobeil, Robert Normandeau) the Colombian composer - who plays a mean guitar, by the way - created five beautiful pieces about lucid dreams and fantastic imagery, involving us with a kind of music that I really could not even remotely compare with anything else that I know. While some of the final results fuse highly skilled technique and electroacoustic refractions bringing lots of fantastic colours to the mix, the dark/grey - almost spectral - sounds of Soledad, with the guitar body parts singled and transformed into a condition of human desolation and desperate thoughts, stand out among the rest to make us feel frozen to the ground.

I’d say that Arturo Parra is a visionary in the best sense of this definition.


Stéphane Possamai, Clarknova, January 1, 2003

Suite à un travail d’une décennie autour de la guitare et de la musique contemporaine, Arturo Parra se consacre aujourd’hui principalement à la composition d’œuvres originales. Il travaille notamment en collaboration avec des électroacousticiens avec qui il crée des œuvres pour guitare et bandes magnétiques.

Sur cet album, à la superbe pochette riche en informations sur l’artiste et ses œuvres, Arturo Parra s’adjoint donc la complicité de Stéphane Roy, Mauricio Bejarano, Francis Dhomont, Gilles Gobeil et Robert Normandeau.

La basilique fantôme nous entraîne en un lieu qui n’existe pas - ou plus? - et dans lequel la guitare s’essaie à devenir un orgue. Ou tout au moins à le recréer. Des esprits chaotiques, des cordes enfouies dans la réverbération sacrée, des voix désincarnées viennent hanter ce lieu, viennent psalmodier leurs dernières et interminables prières.

D’or et de lumière: l’auteur nous parle d’une vallée aux arbres impénétrables, d’un lac d’émeraude, d’un homme nu au milieu. Et la guitare nous en apporte le côté dramatique et éperdu. On sent une fuite vers un inconnu. On découvre la perte de soi et l’impossibilité de résister à l’environnement. Les sonorités stridentes alentours renforcent ce sentiment. Les forces du destin et celles dites divines entrent en jeu.

Sol y sombra… l’espace des spectres: forme de corrida sonore. Duel entre instrument acoustique et bandes magnétiques. La chaleur des combats hispaniques imprègne tout le morceau. La lutte est féroce. La poussière, magnétique, acoustique, vole sans répit. On sent un combat dans une arène immense, infinie. Vidée de ses spectateurs, où le temps n’a plus de valeur. Où l’affrontement n’aura de cesse que lorsque l’univers s’effondrera.

Soledad: La solitude. Incarnée par un instrument. Où l’on ressent chaque instant, chaque pulsation de soi. Où l’on se découvre par petits bouts. De plus en plus petits. De plus en plus présents. De façon infinie. La guitare est constamment arrêtée dans ses épanchements. Non pas mutilée mais maîtrisée et isolée de tout. Elle se met à s’exprimer, mais reste seule pour s’écouter. Elle n’existe pas sans les mains. L’environnement sonore l’empêche de vivre. L’étouffe. La fait taire par plus de bruit qu’elle ne peut en faire. Il lui faut alors apprendre à exister différemment de sa façon naturelle d’expression. Un jeu hors des limites des accords et de l’harmonie. Un jeu en osmose avec le reste du monde.

L’envers du temps: On pourrait penser qu’il suffit d’entrer à reculons dans le temps pour en voir l’envers mais c’est compter sans sa force d’inertie qui nous entraîne avec lui. Les forces s’affrontent, frictionnent, se heurtent. On voudrait les contrer mais on s’y bute. On tourne en rond. On revient au même point de départ encore. Et chaque fois le choc est plus violent. Et puis soudain on entre, on est de l’autre côté. Le temps n’a plus la même saveur. Il change les lois. Il change notre vision du monde. Il nous ouvre à des références jusque là inconnues. La guitare et les sons se heurtent ainsi sans cesse. Dansent ensemble. Avancent et reculent à l’unissons. Ou bien s’affrontent. Ou s’opposent et s’inversent. Le morceau se finit comme le temps a du commencer: instantanément.

Un album à découvrir longuement.

Un album à découvrir longuement.


Tom Schulte, Outsight, December 15, 2002

This is a CD of musical compositions for acoustic guitar and magnetic tape. In 1997 Parra commissioned four electroacoustic performers to create compositions for him. These artists are Francis Dhomont, Gilles Gobeil, Robert Normandeau and Stéphane Roy. Parra took these compositions as a basis for a mixed work by adding his own acoustic guitar parts. These make for international collaboration between the four Canadian artists and the Colombian Parra. A fifth piece is done along the same principles between Parra and a fellow-Colombian composer Mauricio Bejarano. In a style similar to Michael Hedges, Parra performs unexpected acoustic acrobatics on a normal (unprepared) instrument and adds some vocalizations. His additions never overcrowd the work. (4.5/5)

… unexpected acoustic acrobatics…


Ingvar Loco Nordin, Sonoloco Record Reviews, November 25, 2002

Arturo Parra (1958), born in Colombia, has been living in Canada since 1989. For the last ten years he has been busy composing and performing contemporary pieces, often with the guitar in different contexts. He is interested in sonic exploration, as well as development of new playing techniques and the stretching of the possibilities for the guitar in modern art music. Parra has also been active in the spoken word idiom.

This CD has an interesting background. It all stems from Arturo Parra’s idea back in 1997 to commission works for electroacoustics from several well-known composers. They were Francis Dhomont, Gilles Gobeil, Robert Normandeau and Stéphane Roy; all very successful in their fields. The commission was for pure electroacoustic works, which Parra then would use to compose other works for guitar and electroacoustics. In 1998 both versions of each of the then four works were heard in concert in Canada. Another peculiarity of this project was that the financing was a shared commitment by The Canada Council for the Arts and The Colombian Ministry of Culture.

This CD contains the final mixed results, i.e. the versions that Arturo Parra achieved with the compositions delivered by the four composers mentioned above plus an extra entry managed in the same way, electroacoustically composed by Colombian composer Mauricio Bejarano.

The guitar parts were played by Arturo Parra without the use of any manipulative means, recorded in realtime on an instrument built by Manuel Contreras in Madrid, Spain in 1984.

La basilique fantôme (The Phantom Basilica) begins the selection. Its electroacoustic part is composed by Stéphane Roy. The atmosphere here is that of a remembrance of the souls that have prayed in the basilica, and one has the feeling of centuries of shadowy figures out of the past coming to life once more. A dark breath of air comes at you at the very beginning, but the guitar fingers swiftly along a gallant figure, which gets rhythmic and even very melodious, tenderly touching upon a simple melody, however darkly mirrored and shadowed in the electroacoustics. The rustling movements of long skirts or gowns in an electroacoustic string section sounds like the silent voices of a sea of people, swaying back and forth in time, receding back in the ages and emerging out of the darkness of death; a pale, shy battalion of ghastly shapes, conjured up out of their beyond by intruding visitors. The fabric of this cumbersome piece is dark, with a somber hue, almost not visible in the dusky corners of the basilica, and soon everything will pass, the forlorn shapes unable to retain the energy that keeps them visible or semi-visible for this short duration.

D’or et de lumière (Gold and Light) is composed – its electroacoustic layer – by Mauricio Bejarano. The vision of the composer was a dense forest with a lake, into which a man dives, offering himself up to the God or perhaps the gods. Around the lake – still in the composer’s vision – thousands of bodies (he say “bodies”, not “people”) are lost in a trance dance. The music is grainy at first, fragments of audio shimmering like grains of sand in the sun and between teeth. It strikes me that this project as such is a strange bird at empreintes DIGITALes. The mixed form – especially with the tightly curbed prerequisites of this set - is very hard to do something very good with, as it oftentimes comes out superficial or forced. This release is not totally free of this malice, but I do declare that the result is unusually successful anyway, with this little remark in mind. The electroacoustics of track 2 are delicate, minuscule, tempting, and the guitar remains much a lone elf in this gleaming electroacoustic environment. I wouldn’t mind hearing a developed version of the electroacoustic of this piece by itself.

Sol y sombra… L’espace des spectres (Sun and Shadow… Ghosts Over the Ring), was composed in its acousmatic part by Seigneur Francis Dhomont. In this composition Parra has had the bullring in mind, having the guitar and the tape part confront each other like the matador and the bull. Parra even mentions Manuel de Falla in his introductory text. Without a doubt, this entry is the most exciting so far on the CD, with a richness of sounding material, more equal with the guitar than in the former pieces, in a web of ingenious sounds in which the guitar just adds a peculiar glance, a certain flair, from the so-called real, analog, realtime (explain that word to Einstein!), daily life. This hint at everyday strife is however delivered by Dhomont in a dreamy, mirrored kind of way, and he even uses, figuratively speaking, brass mirrors of The Old Testament, which do not deliver sharp-edged reflections, but hazy approximations of life, and the string theorists of today would say that this is more to the point, since nothing, no matter, no energy, is absolutely certain, but rather a little elusive, floating, evasive… no matter how practical and empiric we believe that we are… These almost twelve minutes of Dhomont-Parra turns out to be a masterpiece, and with Francis Dhomont involved – a man with only masterworks in his catalog – this is no surprise… but it makes me happy anyway, as I was just losing some hope for the mixed form.

Soledad (Solitude) is Gilles Gobeil’s go at this project. Parra says that he aimed the guitar at the expressions of solitude, separating each of the guitar sounds from each other, stripping the instrument of its harmonic properties. A slow atmosphere, a murmur deep down, a long sigh, followed by yet another sigh, spaced far apart, opens a transparency, an openness beneath bridges, at zero-points, in areas with lots of cargo in harbors when no one is at work, a Sunday afternoon at the docks, occasional ants passing over cracks in the cement, cranes resting with bowed necks along the wharf. This is another masterpiece, slightly contoured around a thin-aired space with lots of empty time, lots of un-sounding sounds, a wide gesture over vast areas, water trickling like in a movie by Andrei Tarkovsky; Stalker… and we’re in the Zone, treading it in rubber boots and gas masks, just to make sure… These eerie illusions are skillfully instigated by Gilles Gobeil, and Arturo Parra has followed suite and managed a perfect match. Nothing here feels “mixed”. This is a coherent audio poem in subdued, withheld post-war shreds of darkness, flying up like silent ravens around are hopes…

L’envers du temps (The Other Side of Time) closes the album. Robert Normandeau is the electroacoustician. Parra’s text on the piece takes us into the timelessness beyond time, into a state of mind which is, in fact, in my view, much more true than the daily, frantic dealings with time, because in a universal aspect everything is happening simultaneously, or rather without the hindrance of linear time. Everything that has happened is in the same state, in the same place, as is everything that has not yet happened – and try to define a NOW! Impossible. It’s just a theoretical interface of past and future. Alas, like I like to say: All times are now; all places are here! The initial sounds are like fenders rubbing against the quay-edge as a gentle swell rolls in, from died-down storms far below the horizon. I also get the feeling of crickets measuring time in a hypnotic beating of very short durations, so short and close that they turn into a pitch, a cicada pitch of illusionary time, producing gravity as it curves, having us rest like plummets through the space-time continuum. The music is very gentle, the fender sounds of the guitar mingling with pianistic guitar sounds, in a simmering, vibrating atmosphere which grows denser only to thin out, in a breathing motion, myriads of cockroaches and silver-fish welling up out of planetary cracks in the moonlight outside a coastline steelworks on the Baltic Sea… but in this vision the guitar provides a prayer bead of tones to hold on to in a consoling message from benign spirits in the timelessness…


François Couture, AllMusic, November 1, 2002

Simply put, this is a great project, well conceived and marvelously concretized. Arturo Parra, an excellent classical guitarist specialized in the modern repertoire, has commissioned electroacoustic pieces from four of Quebec’s most renown acousmatic composers: Stéphane Roy, Francis Dhomont, Gilles Gobeil and Robert Normandeau. Each work had to stand on its own (and some have been released on other CDs), but Parra also composed four pieces for guitar and tape using them. The eight pieces (tape only and mixed) were premiered at FIMAV 1998 as the program Parr(A)cousmatique. Four years later the label empreintes DIGITALes released Parra’s four mixed works plus a fifth piece composed with Mauricio Bejarano following the same method. The guitarist has managed to respect the spirit and idiosyncrasies of each composer while giving the cycle its own identity. The pure, untreated sound of the classical guitar could have felt like it was just pasted over the tape part. On the contrary, Parra’s playing creates a fully-integrated contrast with the electroacoustics. He uses extended techniques without banning the instrument’s (and his own) Spanish heritage. La basilique fantôme (with Roy) opens with flashes of typical guitar virtuosity that establish the setting of the whole cycle. That piece and L’envers du temps (with Normandeau) provide the best moments. In the latter, the guitarist elaborates a stunning discourse, a song that parallels a rich tape drone. Highly recommended to enthusiasts of electroacoustic music and contemporary acoustic guitar alike.

Highly recommended to enthusiasts of electroacoustic music and contemporary acoustic guitar alike.


Matthew McFarlane, Where’s the CD Review?, October 27, 2002

I’ve been waiting a long time to get the new string of empreintes DIGITALes CD’s, but it’s been worth the wait. Holy smokes. Arturo Parra is the guitarist on this CD of mixed electroacoustics. This is not the mixed (and oh so!) EA you’ve heard at your local university, this is exciting and fervent music by some big names in the EA scene and some lesser ones all working in collaboration with the guitarist Arturo Parra. The first offering, Stéphane Roy’s La basilique fantôme, is one of the most impressive mixes I’ve ever heard. Perfectly superb. The guitar is never hidden, never outdone by the electronics. Roy and Parra create a wonderful symmetry between the ancient baroque origins of the guitar and contemporary EA. Mauricio Bejarano follows with a quieter but equally strong offering in D’or et de lumière. Parra and Bejerano offer some truly breathtaking and serene moments, which I find is always a shocking in EA. The EA legend, Francis Dhomont follows with Sol Y sombra… L’espace des spectres. Signature Dhomont sounds here which I was a bit worried about, but needn’t have been. Temporally, Dhomont has such control of his material. Dhomont is very aggressive with his sounds. Parra’s not afraid of allowing Dhomont’s music to overpower the guitar, and it’s very effective. In Gilles Gobeil’s Soledad Parra uses a lot of percussive guitar sounds and it’s very enjoyable. Huge, loud sweeping textures, reminiscent of the music if Francisco Lopez are juxtaposed with quiet, minimalist sections. Parra’s collaboration with Robert Normandeau in L’envers du temps, is the one weak track on the disc. There’s something about the sound in his work that I’m not as convinced about. Perhaps it’s the emphasis on tonal centres that I couldn’t get into. The press release states that “style wise, this may not be your usual empreintes DIGITALes fair.” Indeed not, and thank heavens for it. I thought the label was in a bit of a funky rut. I see they are not. A great disc.

Holy smokes… this is exciting and fervent music… A great disc.

Cordes sur disques

Réjean Beaucage, Voir, October 3, 2002

Le guitariste Arturo Parra a lancé il y a déjà quelque temps le disque Parr(A)cousmatique (Empreintes Digitales) où il se livre à un exercice inusité qui consiste à composer une partie de guitare sur des musiques pour bandes pouvant être écoutées de façon indépendante. Les bandes sont de Stéphane Roy, Mauricio Bejarano, Francis Dhomont, Gilles Gobeil et Robert Normandeau. On a ici le meilleur de ce que peut offrir la musique mixte: une partie électroacoustique réalisée par quelques-uns des meilleurs compositeurs du genre et une partie instrumentale composée par un virtuose qui connaît toutes les possibilités de son instrument. Du grand art.

Du grand art.


Darren Copeland, The WholeNote, no. 8:2, October 1, 2002

There is a recent trend in electroacoustic music where instrumentalists with improvisational or compositional skills are collaborating with studio-based electroacoustic composers in the creation of works. Lori Freedman, Randy Raine-Reusch, and Abbie Conant are a few of names that come to mind. Another example is Colombian-Canadian guitarist Arturo Parra who collaborates on this recording with a choice group of Montréal acousmatic composers - Francis Dhomont, Stéphane Roy, Gilles Gobeil, Robert Normandeau, and from Colombia, Mauricio Bejarano.

The most successful of these collaborations in my opinion are those with Dhomont, Normandeau and Gobeil. The intense energy of Parra’s playing is well supported by those artists’ sensitive control of tension and release. They also work because the guitar and the studio parts find frequent points of intersection and dialogue. The Roy piece felt to me that the studio component was on a different plane than the guitar, although to his credit, I found the sounds Roy created to be the most original.

Cooperative efforts such as the one lead here by Parra are long overdue - the synthesis of the two encroaches on old habits and gives acousmatic music a new zest. It is nice to hear a melodic line weaving in and out of voluminous washes and thick stabs, for instance, or hearing the acousmatic component hold the main pitch interest while the guitar screeches and grinds around it. In short, a bold spark on my radar screen. I look forward to similar explorations in the years ahead instigated by Parra and others.

The intense energy of Parra’s playing is well supported by those artists’ sensitive control of tension and release.

More texts

  • Alan Freeman, Audion, no. 48, June 1, 2003
  • Nick Reynolds, BBC Music Reviews, January 1, 2003
  • Wednesday, July 6, 2005 / In concert

    Sol y sombra… L’espace des spectres, a composition by Francis Dhomont and Arturo Parra, was selected for the next edition of the ICMC (International Computer Music Conference), to be held in Barcelona (Spain) from September 5 to 9, 2… More

  • Tuesday, November 5, 2002 / General

    Nominated for “Album of the year — actuelle, contemporary and electroacoustic music,” Parr(A)cousmatique by guitarist and composer Arturo Parra and Parasites by Diane Labrosse and Martin Tétreault. More

  • Wednesday, April 17, 2002 / New releases

    Arturo Parra is a Colombian composer and guitar player living in Québec for the past ten years. With his new release Parr(A)cousmatique, we are treated with a splendid bouquet of works for guitar and tape. Five acousmatic works, five passionat… More