Trois songes

Gilles Gobeil

Trois songes is an evocatively gorgeous work. Avant Music News

Gobeil plants his flag squarely in that electroacoustic continent where poetic dreams reside. La Folia, USA

Ombres, espaces, silences…: Prix Ars Electronica 2005 — Mention d’honneur

Prix Opus 2007-08: Disque de l’année — Finaliste

  • Canada Council for the Arts • SODEC

DVD-Audio — Surround (IMED 0892)

  • Label: empreintes DIGITALes
  • IMED 0892
  • 2008
  • UCC 771028089291
  • Total duration: 54:59
  • OGplus
  • 142 mm × 125 mm × 10 mm
  • 55 g

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About Trois songes

The pieces included on this disc are related in at least three ways.

First, they were all realized at the same location: the Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie (ZKM) in Karlsruhe (Germany), where I had the opportunity to complete four residencies (for a total of almost 11 months) between January 2005 and August 2007.

Second, they all share the same musical intention. These three pieces could be classified as ‘program music,’ since they are all based on a literary argument. Ombres, espaces, silences… came from Jacques Lacarrière’s 1975 book Men Possessed by God, which I read with fascination almost 30 years ago. This book tells, with detachment and ethnographic flair, of the quest for the absolute of the first monks of the Christian era. Entre les deux rives du printemps is an attempt at setting to music my impressions while reading Part Three of Dante’s great poem The Divine Comedy. As for Le miroir triste, it is kind of a ‘cinema for the ear,’ based on an unshot scenario by Andrey Tarkovsky entitled Hoffmanniana (1975), from which I have tried to evoke a few scenes.

Their third connection is found in their sound materials. I found inspiration in (and taken liberties with) the marvelous heritage of past music, an extraordinary source of colours that allowed me to borrow from the strong and still fresh poetry of various pieces, some of them ancient. Also, all three works contain materials generated by René Lussier on his stunning and rather frightening daxophone.

I would like to express my gratitude to the manager of the Institut für Musik & Akustik of the ZKM, Ludger Brümmer, and the whole technical and administrative crew, for their quality services and unfailing support during my stays at the ZKM. This album is also partly theirs. Thanks also go to René Lussier, François Gauthier, Mario Rodrigue, and Dominique Bassal.

Gilles Gobeil, Montréal [English translation: François Couture, x-07]

Some recommended items
In the press

AMN Review

Mike Eisenberg, Avant Music News, May 16, 2021

I recently revisited the six albums I have from Gilles Gobeil and for the life of me, couldn’t decide which one to single out for a write-up. I consider all of them excellent with a few of them reaching the “beyond excellence” level for me. So instead of agonizing about it, I decided to spout some words about the three in the “beyond” category.

Gobeil was influenced by (among others) Francis Dhomont and works primarily in the Acousmatic sphere. His music fits the cinéma pour l’oreille (cinema for the ear) genre, a phrase coined by Dhomont which encourages the attentive listener to visualize their own personal virtual environment or mood from the sounds they are hearing, irrespective of the tools and gestures used to create those sounds. Gobeil’s style is instantly recognizable because he frequently revisits sound objects and events that include (and this is not an exhaustive list)… jarringly loud, explosive passages lasting only moments and coming from seemingly out of nowhere, automated heavy machine-like sounds, huge dynamic build-ups providing at times unbearable tension (sometimes without release), sweeping sonic drone vistas that range from the beautiful to the downright sinister and… an occasional element of humor. (Although that last one is few and far between.) Gobeil’s skill at organizing the patchwork of sounds at his disposal is exemplary, making the final result a tactile listening experience that beckons many repeat visits.

Trois songes, the 2008 release is available in stereo and also 5.1 surround. As per empreintes DIGITALes standards, both sound sonically pristine and quite excellent. The surround version is mixed conservatively, i.e. there isn’t a constant swirl of sounds flowing through the room. This subtle use of 5.1 compliments the music perfectly… it’s there at the “right” time, and when it does become noticeable, it adds a very satisfying aural dimension to the music. To be clear, the stereo version sounds phenomenal as well, in fact the rest of these comments will be based on a stereo listening using my preferred earbud rig.

Trois songes stands apart from the rest of his catalog as its much more drone based. For the most part, the three pieces give us more of an introspective, nature based look at the big blue sphere we live on. A look that is untethered from the mechanical automations of everyday urban life.

On Trois songes, Gobeil paints a vast and sweeping portrait of barren, earthly landscapes, rocky vistas, white sands. Places untouched by the trappings of modern living… mostly devoid of life other than the occasional nomadic wanderer. We are witness to the sacred liturgical chanting of now shallow praises from a long forgotten religion. The devout believers confined to a walled garden, crying out to an unhearing demiurge. An earth that time has left behind. A dying earth perhaps?

This celebration of nature’s grandeur is soon disrupted… like a velvet curtain, night falls and Gaia departs, leaving us to grope our way through an alien desert. The crawling, unsightly sound of the Daxophone (a recurring appearance throughout many of Gobeil’s pieces thanks to his association with René Lussier) worms its way into our listening space. An ugly, dying, but at the same time beautiful sound… perhaps giving us a window into our eventual end. All the while, the greater gods churn and seethe above us… uncaring.

Trois songes is an evocatively gorgeous work. A work that beautifully demonstrates Gobeil’s singular style of cinéma pour l’oreille and one that I revisit often.

Trois songes is an evocatively gorgeous work.


Grant Chu Covell, La Folia, April 1, 2010

Gobeil plants his flag squarely in that electroacoustic continent where poetic dreams reside. The four-part Ombres, espaces, silences… commemorates the early Christian hermits who chose to live in deserts and other inhospitable venues. The work also visits music from the Ars Antiqua and Ars Nova. Be warned: Listeners anticipating transcendent choruses are likely to be frightened. Entre les deux rives du printemps, playing as it does with lines from the Paradise of Dante’s Divine Comedy, seems an appropriate successor to Ombres, notwithstanding its modernist mechanistical noises. Le miroir triste explores untreated scenes by Tarkovsky (Hoffmanniana) wherein E.T.A. Hoffmann (of Tales of Hoffmann fame) converses with Mozart’s Donna Anna. The Don Giovanni quotation is bound to surprise. Imaginative and resourceful, yes, but reassuring or calming? Seek elsewhere.

Gobeil plants his flag squarely in that electroacoustic continent where poetic dreams reside.


Massimo Ricci, Touching Extremes, October 9, 2008

“Cinema for the ear” is a much exploited expression in the acousmatic field — including the description of Gilles Gobeil’s work on the liner notes of this DVD — yet there is no doubt that few artists are able to challenge the Quebecoise’s visionary aptitude when it comes to assembling materials that fuse concrete matters and ethereal essences in such a masterful fashion. Trois songes was entirely realized in Karlsruhe, Germany over the course of four residencies between 2005 and 2007, the designer of these complex, often breathtaking architectures inspired both by literature (Jacques Lacarrière, Dante Alighieri) and an unemployed scenario by mythical movie director Andrey Tarkovsky. The most graceful piece on offer is Entre les deux rives du printemps, an impressive consecutiveness of events characterized by large quantities of nocturnal ambiences, crickets underlining unfathomable secluded reverberations, and a magnificent recurrence of echoing ghosts of early polyphonic music. The latter element is indeed a foundation for various circumstances in the record, whose aura is repeatedly wounded by distressed utterances (usually equalized until they become unrecognizable), natural elements — an example being the storm at the beginning of the splendidly exciting Le miroir triste, complete with different species of birds, bells and additional voices — and, last but not least, the surprising presence of René Lussier’s daxophone, a disembodied timbre sounding at times like a voice from the netherworld (the composer describes the instrument as “stunning and rather frightening”). The initial Ombres, espaces, silences… is more or less self-explanatory while trying to sonically describe the life of the “Desert Fathers” at the beginning of the Christian age, strikingly dramatic for the large part with a disquieting closing chorale that might give you the urge to cry. Needless to say, sacred music is again an essential tool in Gobeil’s compositional method for this chapter, but it’s the whole album that deserves to be eulogized for poignant substance and sheer brilliance of the overall result. The best of 2008 for the Canadian label, together with John Young’s Lieu-temps.

The best of 2008 for the Canadian label, together with John Young’s Lieu-temps.


Sabine Moig, JazzoSphère, no. 35, October 1, 2008

Décrites volontiers comme du «cinéma pour l’oreille», les compositions de Gilles Gobeil nous ouvrent à des univers singuliers touchant à l’ésotérique et au mystique. Les trois pièces ou songes de cet album, écrites lors de résidences au Zemtrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie (ZKM) à Karlsruhe en Allemagne, présentent la particularité, comme nombre de ses compositions, de prendre leur source et leur inspiration dans des œuvres littéraires. Donnant vie au livre de Jacques Lacarrière Les hommes ivres de Dieu, proposant une musique à la troisième partie de La divine comédie de Dante ou bien invoquant des scènes du scénario Hoffmanniana d’Andreï Tarkovsky, les pièces possèdent une trame unique, convient aux découvertes, suggèrent des paysages ou des contrées ou nous attirent vers un univers fait de songes. La musique de Gilles Gobeil surprend par ses qualités de suggestion, ses évocations réussies et ses interpellations fécondes. Nourries des musiques du passé qu’il réinvestit, ses pièces possèdent un réel pouvoir hypnotique. Entre spiritualité, terreurs diaboliques, doutes existentiels, erreurs ou errances humaines, le tableau dépeint par Gilles Gobeil imprime nos sens comme par magie.

… les pièces possèdent une trame unique, convient aux découvertes, suggèrent des paysages ou des contrées ou nous attirent vers un univers fait de songes.


Ingvar Loco Nordin, Sonoloco Record Reviews, September 28, 2008

Gilles Gobeil (1954) is one of the most well-known composers in the realm of modern acousmatique; a term which nowadays might indicate a more sophisticated and artistic/intellectual form of sound art than, say, the term musique concrète or the even more general terms electronic or electroacoustic music. In my mind, Gilles Gobeil’s acousmatique has a lot in common with modern abstract visual art, and he is one of the foremost representatives of the cinéma-pour-l’oreille strand of contemporary sound art. In short, his music is a highly developed and refined form of electroacoustic music, and he is widely acknowledged for this, through numerous awards in different parts of the world. Not only is his sonic art deeply interwoven with modern visual art, but also with written such, since literary works have inspired him on several compositional occasions.

Given Gobeil’s great fame throughout the electroacoustic society, I’ll head right into the music of this DVD, cutting the biographic background info short.

Track 1 — 4. Ombres, espaces, silences… / Vol de rêve / Descente au tombeau / La nuit / Vision (2005) [23:00]

The history behind this composition — or this set of compositions — is rather original. Gobeil states in his introduction in the booklet that he aimed at revisiting early polyphonic music, merging the universe of intervals and chords with the greater universe of noises, with the intention of letting modified fragments of early Western music appear in this noise. Gobeil also names the so-called Desert Fathers; hermits from the first centuries after Christ, who believed that the human destiny could only be figured out outside society. Gobeil explains that he has attempted to describe the life of these hermits through a number of tableaux sonore.

The four parts are presented in one, seamless stretch.

The music starts ever so slightly, like the stirring vibrations of dawn through the first bleak light hovering in the east, while a slight, short murmur hiding like an ominous warning below the horizon introduces a serious atmosphere.

Small sounds in the immediate vicinity startles your perception, as if you are lying in a tent in a beach forest as the new day rustles through the dry leaves of the forest floor, insects moving erratically and fast through their miniature worlds.

The wind picks up, and I feel like I’m not far from the ocean, the gray-white sounds of wind transforming into the gray-black might of oceanic force against a rocky shore. A sudden scream from pre-history — I glimpse some sort of lizard — opens up a wilder sonic space, out of which a flock of birds flap violently, while time dips in a downward glissandi of a Jean-Claude Risset kind, the seconds extending into a gluey halt, the way you sometimes feel in your dreams that you cannot move, cannot move your legs, precisely when you have to flee…

Gilles Gobeil paints semi-transparent sonorities in wide, faint nuances around a lofty realm, in which shutters and hatches are closed and opened, shifting the feeling of atmospheric pressure and ambience, from large, all but endless spaces to small, enclosed, claustrophobic enclosures and back again to vertiginous voids. Even though you can’t define the motion, there is a violent sense of speed built into this music. I get reminded of one time in 1972 when I was riding a car with a friend of mine from Damascus in Syria to Baghdad in Iraq, 900 kilometers across the empty desert, sometimes feeling that the car stood perfectly still, though we proceeded at high speed, or sensing that we shot right up into the sky, though the road was level. I get these distorted sensations right inside Gobeil’s music in this piece. The dynamics are staggering, as is the scope of pitches, from the darkest murmur, almost experienced more like infrasound; like vibrations through your body, than as audible sound, up to sharp, wheezing treble layers that rise above the hearing of humans, reflecting back as peculiar interferences through the audible bands.

Grainy, percussive ingredients are strewn through this eternity, like a mixture of gray gravel and tiny bronze spheres, emitting sonorities the likes of atomic jitter watched through scanning electron microscopes. Heavy forces are at play, riddled with nuances and sonic details that flash by in whirlwinds of quantum mechanic contradictions. Orchestra tuttis extend through this process engineering recasting, like reminders of the social life of reality’s physical musicians; now ghostly reminiscences in the back of some read-only-memory stashed away among rusty left-overs in an abandoned 20th century factory on the Baltic coast.

Later I feel the vibrancy of early 20th century concertos through the filter of time, more hinted at through glimmering drones than actually identified, as if being heard and watched through thick, uneven glass, or through an aquarium; that odd feeling of familiar unreality that permeates some dreams. The correct components are there, flickering in and out of view, but they come in a reordered guise, just remotely reminiscent of their composed origins, though still familiar in this worrying way.

The grainiest growl of monks’ chants soars like sandpaper audio, extended beyond the aptitude of man, and far into the soundspace, like those unwanted vibrations from an engine showing the first signs of mechanical failure while you’re speeding steadily down a highway in West Texas, the heat of day about to shift into the chill of night.

As faint barrels roll around a desolate and flat space under a wide sky (like, in a more myopic perspective, empty, opened tin cans through a dark back alley), an orchestral drone appears like a streak of light across a valley, as the combined movements of Sun and Earth open a crack between the summits for the rays to shoot through. The moment grows, only to dissipate and dissolve into the general fabric of sound, just like individual lives sink into life in general and life as a principle, as enough time goes by. Vestiges of a large number of murmuring voices dance like shadows on the brink of perception, deep inside the fabric, on the edge of time. A thundering magnificence of tonal colors wash over you, as from the holy spaces of a thousand domes at dusk, the way God may perceive the essence of piety from his Everywhere.

Gilles Gobeil achieves delicate drones that soar past, winding and unwinding before your perception, seemingly containing vague elements from chanting Tibetan monks and Gregorian chant, as well as fragrances of sound from undefined Western ensembles throughout the history of composed music — but in no obvious way, only perceived through the imagination and the frames of reference of the listener. This is the great thing about this wonderful music: it’s utterly suggestive!

The forces slowly grow into a mangling, star-crushing time machine, which lets no fragment of matter escape its transmutation, in an Einsteinean matter-energy-matter flip-flop through space-time, talley-ho! The original question mark is still firmly attached to existence, and no answer is even remotely available, as the interstellar and intrastellar forces slowly recede into themselves, back into that whimper of energy, that faint vibration at the core of everything. Gobeil opens his hands like a deity of sorts and lets the most magnificent and pure chords hover like purple evening light above a restless world of weary souls. We’re about 9 minutes and 40 seconds into the composition. Beauty is allowed complete dominance for a while. It feels like a simple, introverted musical gesture of trust and confidence, rising out of a lonely organ somewhere deep inside a huge space; perhaps an empty cathedral with only a few candles burning.

However, even this soaring beauty is but a passing moment, as echoes of vicious friction are heard from inside the musical darkness of some huge construction; perhaps a brooding, crenellated fairytale castle wherein giant wheels of stone grind against each other, emitting this unpleasant sound. This is precisely the moment when voices are heard without any reservation; real voices, perhaps some kind of plainchant choir — and we’ve never gotten this close to apparent humanity in this, up till now, very abstract composition, but the voices are heard from a good distance. Bells from a tower make the moment even more real — but as you are lulled into relaxation and a sense of familiarity and cultural security, a large whammo scares you out of your wits! This is almost not fair, Mr. Gobeil! It’s like Maxwell’s silver hammer across your head! Chaos breaks out. I hear large masses of people in a rage rushing across a field, and the music becomes very cinematic; a mass scene from one of those mega movies, for example Ben Hur (Charlton Heston) (1959), or The Ten Commandments (Charlton Heston, Yul Brynner) (1956). Thousands of hooves!

Close snippets of dry insect wings and ghost movie echoes of werewolves enhance the cinematic atmosphere — but these creepy factors seem more comic than ominous, as if Gobeil makes squirmish comments on horror traditions!

The composer clamps horror sounds together into tight and dense slabs of ill will, as time rushes past at an unnatural velocity. Whole mountainsides of karmic debris come off and completely fill the valleys with consequences.

Once again the human factor arises, as footsteps occur and approach, in a sharp, piercing cricket concertino.

This does not last, for dark, murmuring sounds come at you, on a backdrop of squeaky, jingling metal audio and forlorn distress calls from out of the likeness of Stockhausen’s most formidable ring modulators. A natural environment is mimicked with birdcalls and rustling wind flurries, soon to give way to pure imagination, dispersed on glowing brass synthesis and the honey dew essences of many centuries of ecclesiastical choral art. As the piece draws to its conclusion, it soars slowly and gradually into an enchanted liturgical realm of small brass bells and jingle jangle New Age sonorities, star shine across endless fields of glittering snow, the cold air biting your cheeks, and then… silence.

Track 5. Entre les deux rives du printemps (2006) [18:08]

This is a free adaptation — as Gobeil has it — of Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy, part III.

And I with vision new rekindled me,
Such that no light whatever is so pure
But that mine eyes were fortified against it.
And light I saw in fashion of a river
Fulvid with its effulgence, ‘twixt two banks
Depicted with an admirable Spring

(Paradise, XXX-58)

I’ll be darned if I don’t recognize the fluttering of birds’ wings from the previous piece, right at the outset of this Danteism! A slow, calm breath moves like an oceanic swell, punctuated by sturdy combination beats, shiny, varnished hardwood and bicycle bells involved: loud with rounded corners — very tidy but forceful, annual rings to be counted. Sweet, pleasant sounds, high up in the pitches, move in complicated patterns through the listening space, while a child calls for someone through the breeze of events. An engine kicks in with covered-up howling of cables, perhaps hoisting an elevator or managing some factory machinery. The haze of environmental sounds functions like a mist that hides the origin of much of what is happening and heard. This could be some kind of automated process, perhaps conveyor belts at an airport, transporting bags and suitcases and the odd guitar or cello, well packed into their covers. Not much here, however, direct my associations towards Paradise, Dante’s or anybody’s…

The horn — or so it first seems — from a car or a truck, which blasts away surprisingly — or is it an Indian oboe (shehnai)? — is immediately followed by a thump and a heavy weight dropping right through the floor of this sonic dimension, in turn cushioned by a resonant afterglow of the most pleasant, fondling kind, soft as satin, forgiving like the green moss of a spruce forest in Scandinavia. Yes, deep inside this forest in the music, in a hidden-away meadow where sunlight reaches, I see/hear a shimmer of elves dancing lightly around a moss-laden rock that the inland ice left ten thousand years ago: the most brittle and transparent paired with the heavy and distinct. With a little imagination I can hear the timbres of elves’ voices mixing with the sunlight in transcendental song from a realm of light and good intentions. Gilles Gobeil shows here that he is a master of beauty, while also evoking a sense of mystery in the listener. The gradual appearance of water sounds, as if from a small rivulet, enhances the sense of short, blinding reflections throughout this otherworldliness, while also, through its naturalistic potency, bringing you into this secret fairytale realm in a concrete sense; opening this world up to you: allowing you to step into the world of The Others…

All of a sudden the scenery changes; the atmosphere shifts, as the wind picks up and the sky in the music darkens, perhaps even making a change of seasons, into fall. The sounds evoke reminiscences in me, from late fall canoeing trips in the Swedish District of Sodermanland, on the Lake Baven water system, biding my time on a shore littered with pine cones, whitecaps on the waves, the wind battering my face. Of course Gobeil pushes the envelope, pulls this whole scene into an extension that slowly but surely transforms the scenery into its unreal successor, by way of a creaking pine tree that just continues to creak and creak louder by the second. This must be Creak Creek!

Right off this stops, as you continue your path by sheer inertia, finding yourself in a singing bowl timbre that involves dark nuances as well as the winding, multi-faceted high pitch drone of the singing bowl type…

A dramatic rise of intensity loses itself in a crash and a bang — which allows for a silence in which church bells toll, in the finest of French electroacoustic traditions, instituted by the likes of Jean-Claude Risset and Luc Ferrari, indicating small, Mediterranean towns with sunny, cobbled town squares and red roses climbing the espaliers: the milieu of writers like J M G le Clézio.

Reality soars in a thermal for a while in Entre les deux rives du printemps, talking in the shape of sea gulls rising in spirals over the terrain like unselfish thoughts, in a pure state of absentmindedness, like a song of painlessness and freedom from gravity. Stockhausen smiles in a hand-written letter and tells me about Bardo Thödol.

A new atmosphere opens with an increasing, indefinable truckload of audio, presenting speed and fast motion, like the trailing white fumes of a jetliner across the sky, past those thin, high veils of summer clouds. Thunderous incidents distress this scenery, time after time, but in the background an angelic choir sings beyond matters of life and death. Things slow down and dissipate for a few seconds, in which pigeons speak in muffled pigeon matters. The pigeons, however, are obliterated by a whole year of steel business noise packed into a few seconds of unendurable noise; looping mill, steel works and blast furnace in one venomous breath!

Follows a most peculiar section with a low-pitched murmur, on which the voices of playing school children dance like sunlight across the sea. The time-filtered glare of a Dutch barrel-organ — remotely like the dreamy organ of Gilius van Bergeijk’s Over de Dood en de Tijd — seeps into the sound space, like the light of a candle through a town in ruins at the close of a war which still rumbles in the distance.

The chorale property of this organ(ic) sonority grows in volume and intensity, eventually dominating the space, albeit soon dissipating into the fairytale realm again, with small, prickly and rustling sounds appearing up close and a thumping, dark resonance of the Heart of the Matter rising out of clay and soil.

Yet another utterly strange — but pleasant! — stretch of sounds appear; the rhythmic hammering of the steel rail as a train travels through time, faintly detected through a whimpering, velvety electronic hum seasoned with the barks of distant dogs.

The high-pitch friction of crickets fill the air, until one of those Gobeil bangs — like a violently banged-shut hatch — cuts things short, only to introduce something else, this time with ingredients like modulated and permuted plain-chant and a most beautiful, winding, soaring blend of pleasant electronic overtones assembled into a gluey, rubbery drone. The music — especially those hazy vocals — sound as if they come from distantly placed loudspeakers up in the corners under the ceiling in some huge, dusty factory hall. There are many veiling distances in this music.

The commotion at the level of the factory floor intensifies, until cut short with a Gobeil hatch, where after the sole significance rests with the very distant roar of some kind of aircraft, long ago and far away. A softspun electronic drone, pitched semi-high, fills the area with a rising, purple mist, in which a child calls for Mama, and other children are appearing like dots of spirit in empty space.

Towards the end of this piece, in a receding rumble, the sounds all die down and dissolve pleasantly and gradually into their end state; that of silence…

Track 6. Le miror triste (2007) [13:42]

Gilles Gobeil states that this music is freely adapted from “a few scenes from an unshot scenario” by Andrey Tarkovsky (1932 — 1986). What does this mean? Has Gobeil read a screenplay that became nothing of, or is this published somewhere for anyone to read? Tarkovsky is one of my favorite film directors, and just his name in this introduction by Gobeil raises my eyebrow and my interest! I find the answer searching the web, where information has it that Tarkovsky’s last — and unfinished — project was Hoffmanniana, based on a screenplay he published in 1976, dealing with the hard life of composer and writer E T A Hoffmann (1776 — 1822).

I’m getting used to this behavior now; a distant sound growing in volume and closeness, eventually exploding in your face, followed by serenity. This is the opening of Gobeil’s last entry on this Audio DVD. I sort of wake up into an environment. It rains hard, and the sky is thundering. The call of a roebuck imitates the bloody insanity of a werewolf. Metallic electronic sonorities fall like garlands around you, promising something else than this unpleasant place in the rain of the 19th century.

A whirlwind — a worldwind! — of stormy air and indigenous sounds sweep through the streets of Gilles Gobeil’s score, store signs squeaking, as he sits by his desk in Canada, his head in his hand, the leather-bound volumes in the bookshelves ‘round the room humming inwardly.

After all hell breaks loose and dissipates, the weak-minded humming of a man lost in time is heard. Supposedly this man is Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann. Growling noises, like sniffling wild boars, grub around the feet of the lonely man, or it could be that he came upon a sleeping and snoring giant in a beech forest in a novel he planned to write.

A crescendo involving children and some kind of carriage carries over into a beach scenery with wading birds calling, as electronic strangeness fills in the cracks of perception with pure imagination, the wader calls transforming into embroidered birds forever locked in a tapestry above the sofa bed in a rural kitchen of the 19th century.

Gobeil successfully mixes natural, naturalistic sounds with his electronic weaving. Somebody’s footsteps — Hoffmann’s? — through gravel and wheezing, humming electronics picture a man at the brink, his head charged with the electricity of his persistent thoughts.

A thin bell tolls twice, in all peacefulness, until the most brutal whammo hits your head again, this time with the inclusion of a mad werewolf scream. The period is indicated quite clearly by some Beethovenish bars (Hoffmann was born six years after Beethoven, and died five years before him).

Fresh water sounds, as if someone cups his hand and drinks out of a stream, are heard very close, while electronic hum permeates the surroundings, the totality of the sound picture eventually wringed and bent out of shape, only to be let loose in another sonic direction, after a while assembled into a brownish drone speckled with tolling bells and flurries of birds and the century’s paraphernalia, all vaguely exposed. Hoffmann wraps his dark coat tighter around himself; the stooping figure against the wind, like the man pictured in Rune Lindblad’s erasure Vandring i regn (Walk in Rain) (1962).

No solution is in view, but the life of E T A Hoffmann continues in Gilles Gobeil’s glimmering sequences, which extend and contract down the duration of the score. Supersensual tonalities hover in some kind of liturgical setting; swifts diving in kamikaze calligraphy around the church tower. Velvet hope resounds in a soaring and light-hearted drone that counteracts distress, as waves roll in across the shore under a white lighthouse up on a cliff. The last sonic surprise is a small bird that flies up in front of you out of the dry leaves of the beech forest.

Gilles Gobeil has once again cast light on the noble art of acousmatique. Merci, Maestro!

Gilles Gobeil has once again cast light on the noble art of acousmatique. Merci, Maestro!


Solénoïde, no. 122, June 24, 2008

Trois songes mis en sons par un expert de la discipline acousmatique, voilà qui a de quoi éveiller au plus haut point notre soif d’étrangetés oniriques. Sur cet enregistrement, Gilles Gobeil puise son inspiration au cœur de sa culture littéraire et cinématographique. L’espace de trois titres, le québécois traverse, esquisse ou symbolise le monde poétique de certains de ses écrivains ou réalisateurs fétiches (se référant notamment à certaines scènes d’un film de Tarkovsky resté à l’état de scénario). Entre angoisse et fascination, de belles images sonores parcourent cette œuvre conçue pour tester et régénérer notre acuité «radiovisuelle».

… voilà qui a de quoi éveiller au plus haut point notre soif d’étrangetés oniriques.


Andrea Ferraris, Chain DLK, April 28, 2008

It took me a while to review this DVD, but as you can imagine it’s one of those releases you need to “understand” and that needs to be listened to really carefully and ma’am, I swear I did it! Don’t misinterpret me thinking it’s too weird, for even those who are not deeply into contemporary music and into modern electronic compositions can give it a listen quite easily. In some way the music is really close to some ambient pieces, but that’s quite obvious since ambient music has its origin right there in modern classical music. The first composition Ombres espace, silence (2005) offers four movements, the opening is quite soft and evocative and I’d add relaxing, but it’s right with the second section of the work the “musique concrète” nature of the effort really makes the difference with the average and becomes explicit: sudden and unexpected sounds will make your heart stop while you were waiting for a gradual tension-building, the third “act” of this “drama” is nothing but crepuscular, but Gobeil while remaining deeply suggestive closes this suite in a soft and oniric way. While the first part of the work is close to something many ambient listener my dig, with Entre les deux rives du printemps (2006) the classical training of Gobeil is much more overt; I’m probably saying something he may disagree with but even if I can’t say exactly why this one reminded me of some late compositions of Steve Reich, just brought to their extreme consequences, not necessarily odd or depressive since the music has its relaxing moments, but when Gobeil goes for creating a “hole in the scene” take for granted you won’t find ground to walk upon. Every once in a while the composer changes suddenly everything by breaking the continuity of music with some really violent and high volume explosions that made me jump on the chair while my headphones blew apart the few neurons I had left. The closing composition is not that far from the previous two in a sense you don’t have to consider this as one of those DVD featuring different works by the same composer where the style is considerably different, this Canadian composer works with a clearly distinguishable method thanks to which the music is homogenous. The sound definition is great, that’s why this label puts out such releases on DVD and obviously I suggest you to give it a try playing it in your home-theater.

… I suggest you to give it a try playing it in your home-theater.

Tapage nocturne

Éric Serva, France Musique, February 27, 2008

«Sur le même principe et dans le même format vous pouvez également vous procurer un DVD-Audio de Gilles Gobeil. Intitulé Trois songes il regroupe trois créations sonores écrites et interprétées lors d’une résidence au Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie à Karlsruhe entre 2005 et 2007. Chacun de ces songes est inspiré par une œuvre littéraire la première par un ouvrage de Jacques Lacarrière, la seconde par un poème de Dante et la troisième par un scénario non réalisé de Tarkovsky. Gilles Gobeil utilise des sources sonores puisées dans les musiques du passé ainsi que le fameux Daxophone [interprété par] René Lussier, un instrument avant-gardiste inventé par Hans Reichel fabriqué en bois précieux et joué avec un archet et qui produit des sonorités proches des sons émis par l’homme ou l’animal.»

… des sources sonores puisées dans les musiques du passé ainsi que le fameux Daxophone…