Horizons du silence

Martin Leclerc

Au travers de ces pièces […] transparaît un remarquable sens de l’espace, rehaussé d’un appréciable sens de la narration… Mouvement, France

… great art amply expresses the core of life and existence… Sonoloco Record Reviews, Sweden

  • Canada Council for the Arts • SODEC

DVD-Audio — Surround (IMED 0786)

  • Label: empreintes DIGITALes
  • IMED 0786
  • 2007
  • UCC 771028078691
  • Total duration: 81:51
  • OGplus
  • 142 mm × 125 mm × 10 mm
  • 55 g

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En bref

Mouvement, no. 47, April 1, 2008

Repère important dans le domaine des musiques électroacoustiques, le label québécois empreintes DIGITALes a comme particularité de publier — depuis 2005 — ses disques sous forme de DVD-Audio afin de leur faire bénéficier d’une qualité sonore optimale. Ce parti pris trouve sa pleine justification avec l’album Horizons du silence, qui regroupe six pièces du jeune compositeur Martin Leclerc et dénote une approche très cinématographique du matériau sonore. Au travers de ces pièces aux recoins multiples, fourmillant de détails (voix, instruments et autres bruits) et de trouvailles, transparaît un remarquable sens de l’espace, rehaussé d’un appréciable sens de la narration et d’un moins appréciable sens de l’humour.

Au travers de ces pièces […] transparaît un remarquable sens de l’espace, rehaussé d’un appréciable sens de la narration…


Ingvar Loco Nordin, Sonoloco Record Reviews, March 12, 2008

Martin Leclerc was born in Québec City in 1976. He studied classical guitar at the Conservatoire de musique de Québec, and finished his Master’s with Yves Daoust at the Conservatoire de musique de Montréal. He keeps appearing as a guitarist in various groups, but mostly devotes his efforts to electroacoustic composition. When asked to categorize his artistic direction he replies: “My main interest in sound is to extrapolate concrete matter into musical objects while toying with semantic relations. Film parameters in electroacoustic music question me a lot. Poetry is one of my main sources of inspiration”.

Track 1. … et le ça (2000) [12:58]

Martin Leclerc adopts a very personal attitude towards his music. However, I don’t understand a single view he airs around the first piece on this CD. That doesn’t matter. His words are brief, and the music develops in interesting and perhaps somewhat scary ways, from grainy filterings of subcutaneous motions to elastic, candy-mist drones across the skies of past or future tenses. I feel a distant past long before the emergence of mammals, or, why not, a distant — or not so distant… — future way past the extinction of mammals… Track 1 makes me anticipate existence turning out any way at all; security just a grand illusion. Sounds of humans and the peaceful pouring of water like audible traces etched on flakes of steel turning in space, on an Aniara journey into the constellation of the Lyre; recorded voices the only voices left in a dehumanized world, like in the movie On the Beach.

Tracks 2 — 8. À l’horizon du silence (2001) [17:16]
Une journée comme les autres; Solo de trompette 1; Femme hystérique dans la ville; Solo de trompette 2; Écroulement; Solo de trompette 3; Désert — Éclaircie de soleil
B-flat trumpet and tape
Pascal Leprohon [trumpet]

Leclerc touches upon a number of worldly parameters in connection with À l’horizon du silence. Maybe Leclerc’s French subtitles can guide your notions a little, if need be… A female French-speaking voice relates the tale from the Hebrew Scriptures about Jericho and the fateful trumpets, while brief incisions of a soprano and a romantic piano bewilder and delude. “Regarde!” The female voice continues the story, and one reflection that a basically non-French-speaking Scandinavian like I make, is how beautiful the voice and the language function together; a perfect match of lingo and timbre! This aspect is in itself extremely musical; a natural sound art, which is duly noted! A strong, electroacoustic ambience takes hold and offers you dizzying views inside your mind and inside the constellations of the void, while the romantic — or perhaps wiener classic — piano figure recurs, like a late Beethoven decoration or ornament, making a desolate journey astray in space more of a cozy pastime…

Brief, completely silent breaks stress the significance of what emerges.

Pascal Leprohon’s trumpet spreads its gold through vibrating exclamations, in serpentines of a sense of uproar, until it is let alone in a magnificent peace that calms all around it, Leprohon’s extended cadenza moving upwards through light in the solitary magnificence of a hovering skylark that pinpoints the essence of space and time. To a large extent, this work is a contemporary, soloist art music trumpet piece, delivered by a virtuoso on the instrument. For the longest time, you forget the electroacoustic backdrop, and enjoy the glory of instrumental finesse and refinement — BUT suddenly a madman shouts violently in your ear, scaring the wits out of your art music cool. It is no nice surprise. The continuation is a jagged and noisy pain, which does contain some drone-like aperture in there, but most of it is a kind of hen house pain… again losing itself in a peace and cadenza-like trumpet reasoning. It’s hard to find any rest or serious continuity here, but then again, I’m sure the composer didn’t look for that. I do find it unusually hard to come to artistic grips with À l’horizon du silence — but perhaps this irritation was what Leclerc sought — and found!

Tracks 9 — 13. L’Odyssée (2002) [12:13]
Souvenirs; Respiration 1; Sommeil — Réveil; Respiration 2; Affrontemente, folie
“… since then, he has long tried to forget these abominable memories…” (Enki Bilal)

Before even listening I read the composer’s description, where he explains the quite interesting and picturesque fact that the piece draws some inspiration from the comic story La chose à venir by Yugoslavian [Serbian?] cartoonist Enki Bilal. I have sometimes associated to cartoons in certain particularly wild, uninhibited Spike Jones electroacoustic expressivity, so this draws my closer attention, I do admit. As I think about my shattered impressions of the earlier piece on here, I feel some apprehension, though, when Martin Leclerc talks about the affects he benefited from Bilal’s story: “coldness, anxiety, horror and madness”. I respect that the composer maintains his artistic freedom and makes use of his inklings and compositional predispositions, but this again prepares me for abruptness and incoherence. Let’s listen!

On the contrary, L’Odyssée starts in a most charming, persuasive and enchanted mood, trickling water running down the hull of a piano through breaths of melancholy chords, as a rusty gate slowly swings on the hinges of time in the back of your mind… and a sudden series of squeaks — shoe-like, fender-like — open a breathless moment; a halting-place of halation, your heart expanding through your innermost silence. A worried body — your body; heavy with flesh and gravity — twists and turns, caught in an unpleasant moment of space-time. Loose shreds of world stuff, like flaking words of children and high-spun creaking through the stratosphere, spiral your inward existence, as if your eyes are closed and your mind wide open.

Deep respiration follows, but not associating primarily to human bodies, but to large, silent machine halls by the Baltic Coast; gigantic rolling-mills left to recession; heavy machinery silently resting, close to the surface of the planet: industrialization gasping for air, its kaldo furnace lungs hardly inflating, barely moving, like the last bulging throat motions of a frog in a pond. This is something that happens everybody unawares, when nobody sticks around, when everyone has tried to save themselves, and either succeeded or not. In dreamy, hallucinatory desperation, the congested, melancholy piano is returned, smeared back and forth across the mental terrain, in beauty and malignance, thinned out into soap bubble brittle reflectivity, transparent layers of metal giving off the most gentle virulence that grazes off the surface of your cornea. The sounds merge into one high pitch of blindness.

War-Of-The-World rumbles prepare you for a scenery of bloody climes, and Martin Leclerc’s music makes you sense the existence of alien evil… while a worried heart cramps like a spounge in the fist of a catatonic psychotic… The disguised piano chords return like dark wings out of blind castles in Fairytale Mountains. The music passes through layers of membranes of existence, deep down in planetary atmospheres that hide obscure thoughts, vile dreams. You feel like dead walk, dead breathe — an empty, purely gestural breath — as Leclerc’s electroacoustic respiration episodes continue, now paired and accompanied by deep, bouncing steel hull percussion, from lonely quays in deserted harbor areas of the Western world, where human life has withdrawn like cephalopod tentacles into underwater caves. Mariners trapped inside sunken submarines of World War II tap away at the hulls in a peculiar, jolly ragtime of death and decay. Shoals of fish stand listening, billowing like one single organism in time with the rhythm of the enclosed human death. Oxygen is a scarce commodity. Perhaps present life has already ceased when violins — in soaring caresses and tiptoe pizzicati — begin a Central European tune from the clan societies of villages. The music swirls along in elegance and hypnotic body awareness, in the colors red and black, women on high heels, stilt-walking sex and death through Romanic romances of lush Hungarian gardens.

More seriously electroacoustic and musique concrète sections breeze by; shreds of a voice, a door on rusty hinges and a heartbeat — all compositionally cleverly placed, spatially and in time, and at different levels of consciousness, in recollections or anticipations; beautifully arranged! Life/existence itself is focused, for a while, in a vibrating plane through the audible realm, concentrated, refined — in essence. This music makes you feel that your body is a mere hindrance; something in your way, providing you with needless cares and lots of pain, and you’d really need a way out, a method into Deliverance, which the Buddhists call Enlightenment. I read one of Dalai Lama’s books and try to merge, harder and harder, with the insight that personal existence is but an illusion; that clinging to this illusion is the root of all evil, of lousy karma — and right this moment my perception of the vividness of Martin Leclerc’s L’Odyssée provides an aural, audible backdrop that is quite effective! Our spirits are on an odyssey through the illusion of space/time, while all places are here; all times now! Faint echoes of craws seep through the membrane of the music. Occasional coleoptera rustle across dried leaves on the forest floor. The piano comes back in on the swirl of a whirlwind, serpentine chords through the gusts of your memory while harsh respiration raucously rub through the scarecrow Bardo between your lives, as the mood of the dreamscape pianism grows into the distant thunder of a romantic Rachmaninov concerto!

You end up observing your body heave beneath you like the ocean at night; organic matter clothed on a white skeleton on a bed, its lungs mechanically breathing; slowly, heavily; in, out… in, out… slowly… heavily…

Wow! If ever I was hesitant and undecided about Martin Leclerc’s two first works on this DVD-Audio, this third one — L’Odyssée — made up for that in great measures! It’s a true masterwork; one of the kind that you only very seldom hear, and that can bring your own imagination very far. I can only congratulate Leclerc to this wonderful electroacoustic work of art! So far in my listening (I have three works left to hear!) it stands out as the top-of-the-line audicity here; real state of the art art!

Track 14. Sauf dans la brume (2005) [12:33]
“Everything was basking in oppressive calm” (Pablo Neruda: Memoirs)
“I have never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude. We are for the most part more lonely when we go abroad among men than when we stay in our chambers” (Henry David Thoreau: Walden)

The composer says that this work was induced by solitude, that of the two literary works cited, and by his own sense of solitude. He also explains that the work is “a musical transposition of various states of solitude feeding on the literary discourse and soundscape evoked by these works”.

This work also makes high quality dreamstate statements, in gloriously beautiful sonic clothing; veil after veil of satin and velvet sewn in Northern Lights; dancing poetic stanzas of emotions in soaring magnetic fields; shreds of messages out of the void lost in crackling dispersion over celestial fields.

Leclerc manages his difficult task of actually achieving his programmatic goal of composing loneliness and its wider aspect solitude. He also, in the process — which isn’t bad! — goes through with sonic beauty and brilliance — and excitement! This is the loneliness of a deity, enormous, all encompassing, its only remedy to eavesdrop on the lower existences and their cruel wars.

Sauf dans le brume delivers a soaring, shimmering auditive beauty of a kind you may recognize in times of utter tiredness, as I recall one time hiking the lonely valley of Stuor Reaiddávággi in Northern Lapland of Sweden, when I was so exhausted from moving through the tough terrain of the rock deserts beneath the towering glaciers that I wasn’t even able to get myself together enough to tie my boot string! At that time my mind sort of rose up through strange, shamanistic layers of consciousness, in soundworlds related to Leclerc’s Sauf dans le brume, while my body was just an unconnected machine below me, staggering across the rocks.

Sauf dans le brume equals dizzying, venomous beauty! Quite wonderful!

Tracks 15 — 19. Pièce pour petites oreilles (2003) [14:30]
Berceuse; Balbutiements; «Koa le fermier»; Pulsations; Colère — Réconfort

Leclerc’s introduction to this Piece for Small Ears deals with just that; the incredible sensitivity of small children’s auditory organs. However, you don’t have to go that far. I distinctly recall how I heard Bernard Parmegiani’s Lumière noire and Signe de vie, as well as François Bayle’s Motion-émotion and Les couleurs de la nuit when those CDs on INA and Groupe de Recherches Musicales hit the streets in 1986. The sharp and distinct treble was a bit sharper and more distinctive, as I recall it…

Again, the music moves in beauty and dreams, here touching upon music boxes and enchanted soundworlds of fairytales, making me think of both Donovan Leitch and Karlheinz Stockhausen. In this dreamy state Leclerc, incredibly, inserts cut-ups of prattle and crowing, and the winding-up of music boxes. The saliva-dripping close-ups of babies are quite naturalistic, and I can recall always having a wet shoulder when my son was a toddler…

Leclerc paints the environment in sturdy, vigorous and forceful drone-like sonorities at times, in which baby markers are spread like grainy and gritty sprays of rejected porridge — or if you’re American speaking: oat meal (By the way, I once passed a town in Texas called… Oat Meal! Are there any Sonoloco readers in Oat Meal, Texas?)

Pièce pour petites oreilles is a fun and good-natured piece of electroacoustics, and not without beauty either, though it doesn’t measure up to the former two works. When the composer gathers a whole day nursery into his compositional spree, it gets very enjoyable! Most people have an built-in, automatic reaction to babies’ cries, though, so it may be a little hard to stay relaxed at all these calls for assistance — but Leclerc handles it well; doesn’t overstate anything. Fun!

Track 20. Il y a… il y avait des fleurs (2000) [12:00]

This last piece — dedicated by the composer to his mother — is “a dramatic programmatic work in which the main character is humankind represented in its modern form”… Martin Leclerc includes his own text Les enrobés, dealing with losing control.

Beginning at Leclerc’s usual dream assemblage factory, things soon get wild and vile, mixing extremely disparate sonic sources, the way only the electroacoustician can. After a synthetic inhalation which is extended into a breathless drone of thinning air, rumble gets ominous, eventually close and thin, enclosed instead of spacious, and a toddler babbles happily. A motor vehicle blares by in speed through a rainy street, a door swings open to a sawmill with sawdust flying; you’re pushed inside, watching for the sharp circular saws, trying to keep your limbs attached. A woman gasps as in the act of intercourse, a baby cries left, a circular saw cuts right, sound-poetic permutations of bits and pieces of conversations or monologues fly up like dry leaves in gusts of wind, and a viola is heard playing, close and dry like in Paul Zukofsky’s rendering of Morton Feldman’s Spring of Chosroes on a 1991 recording on Musical Observations (though he plays the violin; not the viola).

Martin Leclerc builds this unlikely simultaneity in brilliance and wit, amazing me with the sonic results, which I keep making helpless sense of in my head. I like being treated like this, at least when I’m in a harmonious and self-assured mood! He even brings me back into the wondrous mood of my first revolutionary discoveries of the breathtaking gargantuan works of the French masters at Groupe de Recherches Musicales in the 1980s.

Respiration is a recurring aspect of Leclerc’s art, but it is always associated with soundworlds of mesmerizing poignancy, and well distributed over large distances. The sense of forceful, yet transparent motion at high velocities continues when important cultural markers in the shape of church bells high up in the jackdaw flight suggest associations down to the times of the Church Fathers, dispersing a sense of the transitoriness of existence almost to the degree of the Tibetan Buddhists of the Kumbum stupa of Gyangtse. Deep, invasive whispers climb up your shoulders, wheezing directly into your ears, while the crowd of innumerable human beings talk all at once, nobody listening — and perhaps the loud whispering scraping at your mind like a raven’s wing is the left side of your brain talking to your right side, as maintained in Julian Jaynes’ remarkable study The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind (ISBN 0-395-56352-6) by Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston 1976 / 1990.

Angelic voices singing wordless stanzas in back of the real deliver Stockhausenesque convictions about the spiritual core of existence in Il y a… il y avait des fleurs — and for some reason; perhaps the compelling beauty and naked honesty about these sounds, I recall some scenes from yesterday’s exercise ride on my racing bike, the 8th of March, because not only did I watch a sea eagle sail diagonally across my path with its giant wingspan rustling soundlessly, but also did I see — and stop to smell — my first coltsfoots for the spring of 2008, in a ditch by the road.

As Martin Leclerc’s final work on the DVD-Audio pulls to its close, I feel all these magical sounds, so charged with spiritual and existential significance, attune me in ways I can only approve of, proving once again that great art amply expresses the core of life and existence, vouching for art as the true essence of this elusive soaring on the transparence of being.

… great art amply expresses the core of life and existence…


Marco Castagnetto, Music Club, no. 182, March 1, 2008

Maneggiare le releases di casa empreintes DIGITALes significa confrontarsi con alcune tra le più interessanti proposte della musica concreta contemporanea, con tutte le difficoltà del caso, e la prova specifica del francofono Martin Leclerc rientra pienamente in quest’ottica: un piatto ricco, questo Horizons du Silence, che se certamente non rivoluziona le sorti e le mire di un settore complesso ed esplorato riesce ad interessare ed a funzionare egregiamente per la varietà di elementi che il nostro incorpora nella matrice originale. Formato lussuoso, audio in stereo o in una più seducente veste 5.1, ed una palette espressiva decisamente varia, che permette di focalizzare sia momenti più espressamente digitali (si ascoltino i frammenti minimali di “et le ca”) come vaste panoramiche in cui è la materia elettroacustica ad emergere, grazie all’utilizzo del pianoforte o della tromba, strumento protagonista del lavoro. Il merito migliore dell’album (evidenziato in particolar modo in quelle tracce dove Leclerc mantiene una composizione più descrittiva e meno astratta) è quello di riuscire attraverso un collage sonoro magistralmente progettato a suggerire contesti umani, visioni e immagini, come se ci trovassimo di fronte ad una piece teatrale cieca. Un album che gioca con una certa compiacenza con la propria difficile fruibilità, ma che sa regalare attimi intensi e molti particolari da scoprire ascolto dopo ascolto.

More texts

  • Massimo Ricci, Touching Extremes, September 1, 2008
  • Frans De Waard, Vital, no. 613, February 4, 2008
  • Thursday, November 29, 2007 / New releases

    empreintes DIGITALes is releasing the DVD-Audio in “Surround 5.1” by: Martin Leclerc (Québec): Horizons du silence Jonty Harrison (England, UK): Environs More

  • Thursday, November 22, 2007 / New releases

    empreintes DIGITALes is announcing the upcoming release of 5 new discs (including 4 DVD-Audio with “Surround 5.1”) available on pre-order with a 20% discount. Elsa Justel (Argentina / France): Mâts (CD-Audio) Martin Leclerc (Québec): Horizo… More