Migrations Stéphane Roy

  • Canada Council for the Arts • SODEC

Prix Opus 2003-04: Disque de l’année — Finaliste

… two excellent and challenging pieces of work. Funprox, Netherlands

… makes you feel like you’ve been caught up in a suspense film and a microprocessor at the same time. Splendid E-Zine, USA

Stéphane Roy has again demonstrated his virtuosity with Trois petites histoires concrètes… —Le Devoir, Québec

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Migrations

Stéphane Roy

Notices

About Migrations

A quest for happiness, a quest for meaning, the Other and his universe, migration is a strange trail with its share of hopes and illusions. This radical displacement expresses a desire for freedom that transcends territorial and cultural borders. With each stop, the migratory process offers the distance necessary to reevaluate, to stop the clock and dream of this Utopia toward which our hopes take us. The three program pieces making up this album are such stops that have marked my migration through the American Midwest, three “invitations to the voyage,” to the conquest of parallel worlds, that allowed me to transcend the cultural itineration that came with five years spent abroad.

This album begins with the freshest work, Appartenances, which celebrates the homecoming. It also provides an occasion to meditate on the position of the immigrant, where the excitement produced by the change of scenery is accompanied by the painful experience of the uprooting. The second work, Trois petites histoires concrètes, was realized in the course of my first year in St Louis (Missouri, USA). Its central place in this triptych indicates a very different kind of migration: it celebrates the 50th anniversary of the invention of musique concrète through an evocation of its founding processes. In the case of the third and last work, Masques et parades, the American migration also provided an opportunity to dream of new stylistic lands inspired by the circus, its nomadism, its deeply moving and iconoclastic poetry.

Stéphane Roy [x-03]

Some recommended items

In the press

  • MB, Testcard, April 1, 2005
  • TD, Funprox, September 20, 2004
    … two excellent and challenging pieces of work.
  • Justin Kownacki, Splendid E-Zine, July 21, 2004
    … makes you feel like you’ve been caught up in a suspense film and a microprocessor at the same time.
  • Hainey Kevin, Exclaim!, June 23, 2004
    … as fresh and exciting as any… adventurous and uncompromising…
  • Jan Willem Broek, De Subjectivisten, June 8, 2004
  • Gilles Boisclair, SOCAN, Paroles & Musique, no. 11:2, June 1, 2004
    Cette plongée dans l’inouï est absolument étrange et fascinante.
  • Darren Copeland, The WholeNote, no. 9:7, April 1, 2004
    In the years to come, this CD will be vintage Roy.
  • ASB, De:Bug, April 1, 2004
  • Jornal de Letras, March 15, 2004
  • Ingvar Loco Nordin, Sonoloco Record Reviews, March 4, 2004
    … a tremendous, fast electroacoustism, keeps on keeping on, in a flabbergasting, ear catching amassments of splendid ideas! I am impressed!
  • Steven Hearn, Octopus, no. 27, March 1, 2004
    En matière d’innovation électroacoustique, c’est un lieu sûr.
  • Honker, Terz, March 1, 2004
    Sehr spannende Musik…
  • CS, Black, March 1, 2004
  • Massimo Ricci, Touching Extremes, February 15, 2004
    This way of composing is deliberately conflagrative, privileging changes upon changes of scenarios…

Review

TD, Funprox, September 20, 2004

empreintes DIGITALes simply keeps bombarding the world with their high-quality releases of old and new electroacoustic composers. Le contrat by Gilles Gobeil and René Lussier, and Migrations by Stéphane Roy are the latest in an ever-growing series that documents the ever expanding history of mainly French and Canadian compositions in the field of musique concrète.

Le contrat is a work that uses elements from classical music, contemporary electronic music and sampling techniques. Gobeil and Lussier present a CD filled with spooky and often distant soundcapes that are interluded with samples of spoken work, sudden bursts of orchestral music and recurring hints of rock music and noise. This almost ‘punky’ combination is very strange but somehow works quite well, although I must add that this makes this CD not very suitable for a classification such as ‘easy listening’.

Migrations by Stéphane Roy is a lot less eclectic and focuses more on orchestral manipulations and concrete recordings. Layers of processed ‘classical’ instruments build up to a dramatic intensity that reminds me of the works of Francis Dhomont. Roy also uses spoken word, in a way that is very atmospheric and subtle. Constant drifting soundscapes are used to create an exciting piece of work that begs for your attention.

Again empreintes DIGITALes delivers two excellent and challenging pieces of work.

… two excellent and challenging pieces of work.

Review

Justin Kownacki, Splendid E-Zine, July 21, 2004

The minimalist electronica movement probably appeals to the deep thinkers and armchair existentialists of the world, the ones who claim to find patterns in raindrops or, more precisely, who claim that such patterns could be found by anyone willing to take the time. Stéphane Roy, who has made a career of studying and teaching in the fields of electroacoustics and audio perception, might take that time. A Montréal native who’s spent an extended period in St. Louis, Roy seems as unlikely to provide a backing track for an audio book on chaos theory as he is to score a David Fincher movie, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t qualified. Methodical yet unpredictable, his challenging and sometimes semi-sonic Migrations enchants as it evolves, becoming something new with each passing reflection, adapting to its environment and seeming to say something different each time, while using the same set of notes.

Of course, notes is a broad description. Roy’s controlled cacophony of feedback, found noises, sequencers and abstract percussion aren’t notes, per se, but they amount to something far more expressive than simple (or even complex) melodies can usually achieve: a quasi-intellectual reaction that’s half analytical and half primal. Why else would Appartenances’ middle stanza (Roy’s compositions come in three-part movements) appeal to my inner paranoiac, suggesting the possibility of danger behind every dormant car on the parking ramp? During the third stanza, the same holographic twinge used to signify the unreality of The Matrix blinks in and out of the background as a woman speaks gravely in French, like an airline stewardess on a nonstop flight to the afterlife.

Then we’re off to the Orient Express as driven through a dolls’ house (Trois petites histoires concrètes) and a carnival in a house of flies (Masques et parades). Granted, these are my sonic descriptions, not Roy’s (his liner notes are far more acoustically explanatory), but the truth of Migrations is that everyone who hears it is likely to take away their own impression. There’s a lot of fun to be had in a disc that makes you feel like you’ve been caught up in a suspense film and a microprocessor at the same time.

… makes you feel like you’ve been caught up in a suspense film and a microprocessor at the same time.

Review

Hainey Kevin, Exclaim!, June 23, 2004

One of Canada’s leaders in innovative compositional music, Stéphane Roy’s blend of musique concrète and electroacoustic composition is as fresh and exciting as any of either genre’s best names. Migrations compiles three lengthy sonic triptychs recorded between 1998 and last year. 2003’s Appartenances studies the tendencies of Celtic, Latin and Oriental musics through a veiled sensibility on par with the riveting dynamic structures and tape-splice techniques Karlheinz Stockhausen demonstrated on ground-breaking works such as Kontakte and Gesang der Jünglinge. Trois petites histoires concrètes is just that: three small pieces that commemorate the history of musique concrète, and Masques et parades is a study of the tragic-comic nature of the circus. Migrations wins not only because Roy’s concepts and theories are adventurous and uncompromising, but because his final product, the music, is so damned engrossing. But don’t try to use this album at your dinner party or while you read — Migrations is music for the intellectual mind that’s willing to concentrate on its complexity and details.

… as fresh and exciting as any… adventurous and uncompromising…

Caleidoscoop

Jan Willem Broek, De Subjectivisten, June 8, 2004

Van releases op het Canadese empreintes DIGITALes label hoef je nooit bang te zijn voor een saai of gewoon album. Dat de labelgenoten veel overeenkomsten vertonen is - als je echt iets moet verzinnen - misschien het enige manco. Toch is de invulling van de elektro-akoestische of musique concrète artiesten telkens anders. Stéphane Roy is daar een goed voorbeeld van met zijn tweede album Migrations. Ook hij maakt die typische elektro-akoestische muziek met die onverwachte wendingen, maar hij bouwt er een zekere regelmaat in door de sterke ritmes (of het nou metaalklanken, mensenstemmen of elektronische geluiden zijn). Daarnaast is het spelen met ritmes ook hetgeen waarmee Roy zich onderscheidt. Zijn muziek klinkt soms als een klassiek orkest in galop en op een andere moment juist weer als de slowmotion versie ervan. De vertraging en versnelling weet hij ook met stemmen, elektronica en organische geluiden te bewerkstelligen. Het is een dynamische machine vol verandering, overgang en spannend luistergenot. Op Le contrat krijg je zelfs twee voor de prijs van 1. Niet twee cd’s, maar twee artiesten: de elektro-akoestische specialist Gilles Gobeil en René Lussier, de man van de gitaarimprovisaties en artrock. Ze besloten een werk te maken geïnspireerd door Goethe’s Faust. Een kniesoor die zegt dat dit besluit zeven jaar geleden is genomen. Gobeil heeft niet alleen het concept bedacht, hij is de onderzoeker die geluiden maakt, manipuleert, monteert en transformeert. Hij zorgt voor de abrupte wendingen. Lussier monteert ook, maar hanteert ook de gitaren, daxofoon, stem, noise en percussie. Benoit Fauteux en Antonin Billard lezen de spaarzame teksten voor. De unieke combinatie van deze twee verschillende musici schuiven moeiteloos in elkaar. De stijlen wervelen om elkaar alsof het zo hoort. Van grommende monsters, geslepen metaal, gitaarriffs tot aan bombastische orkestraties, gevonden en gejatte geluiden en spookachtige stiltes, alles grijpt je beet om niet meer los te laten. Een elektro-akoestische soundtrack vol improvisaties, die mij geen moment aan Faust doet denken. Of het moet zijn dat ze je beiden van je stuk brengen.

Lancements

Gilles Boisclair, SOCAN, Paroles & Musique, no. 11:2, June 1, 2004

Résultant d’un séjour de cinq ans dans le Midwest américain, les Migrations de Stéphane Roy sont une invitation au voyage. Utilisant des photos sonores de la mosaïque montréalaise, recueillies durant des promenades urbaines, Roy les transforme en studio pour émariciper la sonorité, pour en dégager la poésie abstraite. Même ses titres sont des chefs d’œuvre de poésie (Micro-confidences, Pythaghorizons). Cette plongée dans l’inouï est absolument étrange et fascinante.

Cette plongée dans l’inouï est absolument étrange et fascinante.

Review

Darren Copeland, The WholeNote, no. 9:7, April 1, 2004

There is always a tricky balance between being open to external influence and maintaining an independent voice. Stéphane Roy shows that he does not have to sacrifice his originality in order to draw from new influences. The range of mustical sources emerging through his richly sifted electroacoustic textures vary, from bagpipes to Chinese music to Latin electronic grooves to circus music. This opens up the language of his work from what he has composed in the past. Rhythms and harmonies that were not there in his previous works have now come into the fold. Yet there are still those defining qualities - the wistful tones, the kaleidoscope of unfolding colours, the jagged changes, the overarching story and poetic sensibility - that have distinguished his music over the years.

Stéphane Roy is like a documentary maker who is not measured by the volume of his/her coverage over a specific subject (in the way that Roy portrays the multi-cultural mosaic of Montréal in Appartenances), but rather by the ability to chisel out the essence of something by zeroing in on the essential few bits. As Roy visits the diverse cultural musics on the streets of Montréal he does not include everything, but he does meld the essence of his subject with his lyrical sensibility, to create a very personalized portrait of life in a community that he is discovering anew. In the years to come, this CD will be vintage Roy.

In the years to come, this CD will be vintage Roy.

Kritik

ASB, De:Bug, April 1, 2004

Elektroakustik und Lautsprechermusik sind die Bereiche, in denen sich der Kanadier Stéphane Roy bewegt. Seine Kompositionen sind also am Computer entstanden und nicht von einem Orchester zu spielen. Er verarbeitet mit abstrakten, kühlen Kombinationen aus bearbeiteten Naturklängen und rein digitalen Elementen zu àußerst stimmungsvollen Soundbildern und dynamischen Klangcollagen. Kopfhörer auf und los geht’s! 3/5

Critica

Jornal de Letras, March 15, 2004

A atenção do ouvinte deste Migrations centra-se, com naturalidade, em Trois petites histoires concrètes, criada por Stéphane Roy para celebrar o 50º aniversário da invenção da música concreta por Pierre Schaeffer e Pierre Henry. São as duas outras peças integradas no álbum, contudo, que melhor aplicam o tema escolhido, as “migrações”. Acontece que este compositor acusmático de Montréal passou cinco anos em St. Louis, nos Estados Unidos, um país feito por e de imigrantes, e a ideia de viagem a Ítaca, aquela em que o percurso é mais importante do que o destino, em que a busca de felicidade, de sentido, da prossecução de uma utopia valem mais do que a própria felicidade, o sentido inquirido ou a realização utópica, está bem expressa em Appartenances e Masques et parades, concebidas nesse período de emigração de Roy, apresentando-nos a América que fica por trás da verdadeira América, o sonho americano de Tocqueville e de todos e cada um dos emigrantes que partem para a Terra da Liberdade, antes de descobrirem que a realidade é bem diferente e até o oposto do que procuram. É clara a preferência de Roy pelos sons instrumentais, umas vezes reconhecíveis e outras não, e torna-se evidente que muito do material utilizado provém de discos do circuito musical, mais uma vez revelando a influência que os novos concretistas e compositores electroacústicos receberam de DJs, “plunderfónicos” e “plagiaristas”. As novas gerações de académicos já se vão abrindo às práticas populares experimentais e considerando que para fazer esta música não é necessário um estúdio “state of the art” nem caução/protecção institucional…

Review

Ingvar Loco Nordin, Sonoloco Record Reviews, March 4, 2004

Stéphane Roy (1959) is a well-educated man, with a doctorate degree in electroacoustic composition and a PhD in musicology – but he sounds good anyway! He has spent some years in the US Midwest, but now resides in Montréal.

The idea and concept of immigration, of migrations, of peoples and people journeying for better lives, traveling the roads of hope, have inspired the title – and the content – of this CD. Roy says that “this radical displacement expresses a desire for freedom that transcends territorial and cultural borders.”

Yes, we all should know and remember; remember how a few individuals crossed the Bering Straits to Alaska many thousands of years ago, to seep down into the continent, slowly expanding into all the different Indian tribes across the Americas (a theory lately supported by DNA analysis), and I, for one, remember well the third of all Swedes that emigrated to the U.S.A. in the 19th century and early 20th century; a fact that I think all these racists of late in Sweden ought to ponder some on.

The first work on the CD is Appartenances (Belongings). A vibrating spinning-top, dancing in the gutter, disposed-off newspapers flickering in the wind that blows up the avenue… a loud, richly timbralled thud – and a maddening spinning-top vibrato…

A number of street-vise vexations embellish Roy’s first piece on the CD, and – perhaps – some sampled and disfigured car horns get caught in the whirlwind of the cityscape, the soundscape – but Roy has really – as he also indicated – taken the sounds off of the streets into a formidable manipulative catharsis, so that only your utmost imagination can detect any connection whatsoever, to a street scene of the northern city of Leonard Cohen and the Lady of the Harbor… Voices blend in, towards the end, but they’re mostly indiscernible as to intelligible content, and, I think, of different lingual descent. Formidable!

The transformation into part 2 of Appartenances isn’t smooth or nice, but I suppose Roy wanted it that way. What follows, though, is incredibly intricate and detailed, sometimes just hinted, electroacoustics. There a sweeping, elastic insect motions as well as watery trickles and thin, hardly audible folk orchestras deep inside the theories, as the likeness of voices, forlorn and disguised and probably just remembered or hallucinated, staccato by, smoothed and withheld. Fast, rock n’ rollish rhythms in the soundscape move easily in and out of earshot, until the tempo falls drastically, into some meditation on a city and its secret thoughts. Beautiful! The music touches you like warm summer gusts out of asphalt streets, your body walking by itself down the sidewalks of Quebec!

The third part of Appartenances opens in droning thoughtfulnesses, coats and layers on coats and layers, like varnish on hardwood, thoughts and dreams and fleeing moments caught in the glare… A tender and very close female voice soars about your senses, without Eros but full of Agape, the relief on un-body lifting your unselfish thoughts on high, where they sail about like seagulls on the wind, free of guilt and rebirth.

The voice comes down with a scrubbing harshness of gently applied delay and chorus, until it begins to mimic a young school girl trio all by itself; a daydream of sidewalks of Canada, picturing street-side gardens of lilac arbors and Om Kalsoum addicts sipping refreshing fluids in the afternoons, legs outstretched, dreams among the leaves.

The second piece (tracks 4 – 6) is Trois petites histoires concrètes dedicated to Pierre Schaeffer

A signal haze, a mist of electric calls, a submarine or shortwave matter, taken seriously… and the piece is on its way, but be careful when listening through earphones, for loud, albeit nicely polished spheres do appear, quickly and without warning – with the exception of this warning of mine. Roy’s magic hand is a work here in all its mastery, because I can testify to the beauty and glare of this, the intricacy and the tightly knitted patterns of sometimes infinitesimal specks of audio, which, praise be, grow into magically swelling barrels of sound, tumbling down the alleys of North America like fat French immigrants, high on red wine and lovemaking!

The wood incision makes things even nicer, opening a space between high-rise trees where the songbirds fly in electrocardiogram motions, from hideout to needle hideout. Stéphane Roy does not leave this idyllic atmosphere be, for he brings in the whole industry of forestry, blanking out those birdies in the fumes of heavy machinery…

The last piece is Masques et parades. The tragic-comic nature of the circus is the lifeblood of this work. The circus provides a marvelous metaphor to bring together irrationality and drama, jubilation and self-control: a show spiced up with extreme moments and paradoxical quests where celebration and tragedy hold hands. Following this example, Masques et parades stages the opposite dimensions of introspection and mask, sides hidden and revealed, darkness and light, drama and derision. The work consists of three sections. The lively, euphoric, even brotherly mood of the first, Exultation, contrasts sharply with the grotesque feel and irrational, iconoclastic nature of the second, Burlesque. Noir silence, the last section, draws its inspiration from the art of trapeze, metaphor of the compensatory work done by our psychological mechanisms in answer to the destabilizing assaults of a troubling world out of which one must make sense.

This begins very differently, compared to other get-goings on this CD; a bumpy rhythm, almost comical, later picking up some orchestral residue while hopping down the path, grabbing some atmospheres along the way, of spacious premises, allowing for little bells and prickly tinies too… 0It’s a quick, fun, electroacoustic show-off that leaves no mouth unsmiled! It’s a detailed and extremely varied piece of music, enjoyable and surprising, touching and fun, transparent but sometimes tight and dense, with interspersed reminiscences from 19th century Russian avenues in the snow (thinking about a poem by Lawrence Ferlinghetti).

It’s hard to keep cool hearing this. I’d like to play this loud for those ignorant buddies of mine who will have nothing to do with electroacoustics, those dance band swingers and women chasers in their upper, divorced and aging middle-ages. I’d bang this piece in their somnambulistic heads, to make colors and motions appear behind their eyelids.

The second section of this last piece mangles and cuts and shreds sounds into flying flakes of some kind of reality, an impossible puzzle of existential parts that eventually will come to rest in the most outrageous patterns; a kind of essence of humanism across this bluish sphere of ours. Laughter is suddenly thrown in as just another ingredient, but Roy manages to make this completely maddening progression of shortcuts really work in an over-arching flow, a curvature of thorny bliss that encompasses one and all and everything! Right on! Great!

The last part of the last piece begins with a consoling or just all-knowing female uttering the words “l’immobilité”, at first just like an all-knowing female would, and then chorused and birdied, sounding like a bunch of colibris trembling in the air in front of you, slowly hovering up, down, left, right, in a minuscule motion. A male voice also enters, and later the voices whisper and chew the words, while the electroacoustics amplify or subdue the morphemes in brilliant auditory applications, making everything stick, come together in a wondrous web of sounds. Thins start getting faster and more relentless, but a safe female voice cuts down like an ax, stopping the force of sounds. This exchange between voices, one at a time, male or female, and a tremendous, fast electroacoustism, keeps on keeping on, in a flabbergasting, ear catching amassments of splendid ideas! I am impressed!

… a tremendous, fast electroacoustism, keeps on keeping on, in a flabbergasting, ear catching amassments of splendid ideas! I am impressed!

Critique

Steven Hearn, Octopus, no. 27, March 1, 2004

Une fois de plus, le label montréalais empreintes DIGITALes n’est pas en reste. En matière d’innovation électroacoustique, c’est un lieu sûr. Y faire son marché n’est jamais vain. Aussi, dans le panier, deux disques dont les projets diffèrent en apparence, mais qui tout deux continuent de tisser la vaste toile d’une musique abstraite et de recherche. Le contrat de Gobeil (compositeur acousmate et électroacoustique) et Lussier (guitariste prolifique et éclectique) est d’abord un agrément de gentlemen. Amis de longue date, leur collaboration a toujours été fiévreuse. Le projet (une commande [d’empreintes DIGITALes avec l’aide] du Conseil des Arts du Canada): composer une œuvre inspirée du Faust de Goethe , respectueuse de sa structure poétique. Si Goethe a mis trente ans à écrire son chef d’œuvre, ce n’est pas moins de 7 années qu’il leur faudra pour venir à bout de leur version! Le résultat est certes étonnant, réjouissant et la guitare de Lussier ne passe pas inaperçue.

Quant aux Migrations de Stéphane Roy, elles méritent que l’on s’attarde sur le compositeur. Celui-ci est l’auteur d’un ouvrage sur l’analyse de la musique électroacoustique, docteur en composition électroacoustique et détenteur d’un PhD en musicologie. Aujourd’hui, il enseigne les techniques électroacoustiques et la perception auditive. Aussi, la pérégrination sonore est parsemée de d’illusions (redécouverte de la ville, plaisir du promeneur, sentiment d’être étranger…) et de références (Pierre Schaeffer, le cirque, l’urbain…). Son travail proclame un désir de liberté qui transcende les frontières territoriales et culturelles. Les trois œuvres sous contrainte qui composent ce disque sont autant d’escales qui ont jalonné sa migration dans le Midwest amèricain. Tentez, vous n’avez rien à perdre!

En matière d’innovation électroacoustique, c’est un lieu sûr.

Made My Day

Honker, Terz, March 1, 2004

Drei sehr komplexe digitale Stücke des Komponisten aus Montréal, entstanden nach 5jähriger Arbeit als Lehrer in den USA. Thema ist die Migration, die Distanz zwischen Traum-Utopia, Notwendigkeit und Realität. Sehr spannende Musik, jedoch keine Schärfung des Themas im politischen Sinne.

Sehr spannende Musik…

Review

Massimo Ricci, Touching Extremes, February 15, 2004

Stéphane Roy’s new work is an evident homage to the history of concrete/electroacoustic music; at the same time the author uses his own past, remembering sounds and colours from the places where he’s been to adapt them in interesting webs of textures. Roy appears equally fond of instrumental and vocal sources; it’s not rare catching a “regular” human voice speaking or quoting literary segments amidst the torrential mass of timbral sleights of hand contained in Migrations. This way of composing is deliberately conflagrative, privileging changes upon changes of scenarios to the focused analysis of a single aspect. That’s not a defect—nay it’s probably the main feature of this Canadian artist’s aim, particularly evident in the last piece, the excellent Masques et parades where the contrast among many traits plays a major role in a perfect rendition of circus’ many moods and perspectives, as applied in everyday’s behavior.

This way of composing is deliberately conflagrative, privileging changes upon changes of scenarios…

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