Volt Alain Thibault

  • Canada Council for the Arts

If the whole electroacoustic thing seems a little too pointy-headed to you, this is the disc that’ll show you how wrong you are. Splendid E-Zine, USA

… really packs a punch. It positively pounds! Paris Transatlantic, France


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Alain Thibault


Thibault or How do you take the pulse of a cathode ray tube?

If we recognize that each composer tends to privilege one dimension of musical discourse or another (for example: timbre, harmony, or instrumental virtuosity) in his work and thus conjure up a ‘style,’ listening to the music of Alain Thibault is like listening to a game of rhythms but mostly a game of attacks. The constant and abrupt contrast between silence (or an harmonic background serving a similar function) and the sound itself — cutting and incisive, percussive, vigorous and energetic, and resolutely urban — is here the central core from which the dynamic of the work develops. If there are musics to be listened to with your head between your hands, we should ideally listen to this one at full volume, in a sports car, under a radiating sun, in the middle of intertwining expressways. The resultant energy comes from — without apology — the resources of ‘studio pop,’ rock and jazz. Actually, Alain Thibault consciously rejects many positions of the so-called ‘contemporary’ music as early as Varèse or Messiaen. And this is precisely what bothers those who like to clearly divide genres. Some may have been scandalized by that central place that is suddenly occupied by the most distinctive element of ‘pop’ music: the drum solo… But it is in vain that one would look on stage for the amazing rhythm section in OUT, ELVIS (Électro-lux, vertige illimité synthétique) or Volt: the computer, has replaced it, guided however by a hand whose control is impressive.

This duel of will and pure technique seems to have displaced itself from the creative stage to the performance itself. Now the soloists have to juxtapose themselves almost with inhuman precision to an implacable, insensitive and independent tape. The process is similar to those breathtaking ensemble passages, in perfect synchronization, previously found in the music of musician like Frank Zappa who, in turn, probably was influenced by the best American Big Bands. In this respect, the Concerto pour piano MIDI (Concerto for MIDI Piano) is of formidable performance difficulty (imagine a Cybernetic Prokofiev), whereas Le soleil et l’acier (Sun and Steel) might have been subtitled “The Lung and the Machine” or “Breath against Dynamo.” The winner of the event is not necessarily the one we think. At the outset, essentially rhythmic with a frenetic quality, recently the music of Alain Thibault seems to give an evergrowing place to melody. As if emotion had opened a path, a voice…

Jean Boivin [iii-90]

Some recommended items

In the press

  • George Zahora, Splendid E-Zine, March 9, 1998
    If the whole electroacoustic thing seems a little too pointy-headed to you, this is the disc that’ll show you how wrong you are.
  • Christopher Elson, Paris Transatlantic, no. 2:3, September 1, 1995
    … really packs a punch. It positively pounds!
  • Marc Bourreau, Crystal Infos, September 1, 1992
    On pense aux expériences jusqu’au-boutistes de Frank Zappa et à ce que pourrait composer un ordinateur possédé par les esprits de Schönberg et Front 242.
  • Francis Dhomont, Circuit, no. 3:1, March 1, 1992
    … l’efficacité du son et de ses traitements atteste une enviable maîtrise des moyens du studio.
  • Steven McDonald, Online Digital Music Review, June 1, 1991
    Volt is cause for astonishment indeed […] close to baffling…
  • Miguel Santos, Blitz, April 2, 1991
  • Ios Smolders, Vital, no. 19, April 1, 1991
    Thibault combines rock, jazz and “studio-pop”…
  • Stephan Dunkelman, Les Cahiers de l’ACME, no. 112, February 28, 1991
  • R Seth Friedman, Factsheet Five, no. 39, December 12, 1990
    A suspension of time in an electronic bottle.
  • Alan Freeman, Audion, no. 16, October 1, 1990
    Radically different, and totally out-on-a-limb…
  • Mark Vail, Keyboard, no. 16:9, September 1, 1990
  • Kathy Kennedy, Musicworks, no. 48, September 1, 1990
    … an entertaining and stimulating aural event.
  • Philippe Tétreau, MTL, July 1, 1990
    Tout tinte et clignote à la façon des flippers qui offriraient une succession de parties gratuites.
  • Ti-Poue, L’attention, no. 3:6, June 1, 1990
  • Andrew Jones, Montreal Mirror, May 3, 1990
    Volt, the third compact disc to be released on the empreintes DIGITALes label, which has been offering recordings of consistently high quality…
  • Alain Thibault, de Janet Jackson à Stockhausen
    Alain Brunet, La Presse, April 29, 1990
  • Daniel Rolland, SOCAN, Le Compositeur Canadien, March 1, 1990
    La musique contemporaine le fait vivre humblement et Alain Thibault n’a d’autre mission que de la rendre davantage accessible.
  • Daniel Rolland, SOCAN, Canadian Composer, March 1, 1990


George Zahora, Splendid E-Zine, March 9, 1998

Because I don’t have any sort of music-related academic qualifications (unlike some of my Splendid peers), I was a little bit nervous about reviewing something by a founding member of the Canadian Electroacoustic Community. Luckily, my fears about what to do if I didn’t like Volt were mooted by the fact that it’s a wonderful, dynamic album, full of motion and energy and thought and collisions of harmony and dischord that are enjoyable even if you’re not writing a dissertation about them.

Concerto pour piano MIDI mechanizes the classical concerto format, and features a human soloist attempting to keep pace with an electronic ‘performer’ not limited by human constraints like physical speed, finger length, and so on. Le soleil et l’acier (Sun and Steel) combines Asian gamelan-type sounds with undulant keyboards, intermittent electronic percussion and an otherworldly soprano — even at its most random, it’s a thoroughly engrossing piece. OUT builds a futuristic keyboard tale over four parts, using a Ronald Reagan sample and a variety of sharp ‘orchestra-hits’ and percussive melodies. ELVIS (Électro-lux, vertige illimité synthétique), based on Timothy Leary’s eight mutation phases of life, is a faux-orchestral vision of dischordant, seething beauty, and as for the closing piece, Volt… you’ll have to hear it for yourself, on the Boombox. If the whole electroacoustic thing seems a little too pointy-headed to you, this is the disc that’ll show you how wrong you are.

If the whole electroacoustic thing seems a little too pointy-headed to you, this is the disc that’ll show you how wrong you are.

Out of Canada

Christopher Elson, Paris Transatlantic, no. 2:3, September 1, 1995

Some music can be truly characterized as striking. Alain Thibault’s new album Volt, brought to us by Canadian publisher empreintes DIGITALes, really packs a punch. It positively pounds!

The opening piece, Concerto pour piano MIDI, follows the classical concerto schema, but the computer driven synthesizers and sequencers drive us into a decidedly contemporary space. Jacques Drouin does an admirable job of sticking with what Thibault himself describes as “the nightmarish precision of tape.”

E.L.VI.S. (Électro-lux vertige illimité synthétique) harnesses a team of willing saxophonists (Quatuor de saxophones de Montréal) to the synthesized plough and turns over some pretty unexpected ground: texts of songs made famous by Elvis Presley are synthesized and used as a rather touching foil for soundscaping (like landscaping…)

Approximately equidistant between Ian Hammer’s Miami Vice theme and Pierre Boulez’s Le marteau sans maître, Thibault’s work chisels itself into our edgy modern consciousness, leaving a mark deeper than we might feel comfortable with. How many volts in a hammer, anyway?

… really packs a punch. It positively pounds!

Présentation d’empreintes DIGITALes

Marc Bourreau, Crystal Infos, September 1, 1992

Né à Québec en 1956, Alain Thibault a étudié la composition à la Faculté de musique de l’Université de Montréal. Il est lauréat du concours des jeunes compositeurs de Radio Canada en 1982, dans la catégorie électroacoustique.

Sa muslque peut étre qualifiée d’électro-instrumentale, car elle prend sa source dans les musiques pop, Rock et Jazz qu’elle cherche à pousser à l’extrème en utilisant les synthétiseurs, l’échantillonneur et les possibilités de programmation qu’offfent l’ordinateur. Naît une musique syncopée, secouée de rythmes frénétiques, cybernétiques, une musique qui s’écoute à cent à l’heure, agressive et trés séquencée. On pense aux expériences jusqu’au-boutistes de Frank Zappa et à ce que pourrait composer un ordinateur possédé par les esprits de Schönberg et Front 242.

Finalement, ce disque me fait le même effet qu’un chœur d’orchestre classique chantant des Gospels à Moscou. C’est vraiment bizarre et on se demande dans quelle dimension on est tombé.

On pense aux expériences jusqu’au-boutistes de Frank Zappa et à ce que pourrait composer un ordinateur possédé par les esprits de Schönberg et Front 242.

L’électroacoustique sur orbite

Francis Dhomont, Circuit, no. 3:1, March 1, 1992

Alain Thibault Volt: Concerto pour piano MIDI, Jacques Drouin, piano;Le soleil et l’acier, Pauline Vaillancourt, soprano; OUT; ELVIS (Électro-lux, vertige illimité synthétique) Quatuor de saxophones de Montéal, arrangement de Walter Boudreau

La réponse nord-américaine aux deux disques précédents, qui s’inscrivent plutôt dans la mouvance électrocacoustique européenne, est apportée par Volt, le disque compact d’Alain Thibault. Avec ces œuvres, nous nous tournons résolument vers les musiques mixtes, multi-média et/ou pour instruments MIDI. Certes, je me sens moins à l’aise ici, le domaine de Thibault étant mitoyen de l’esthétique rock qui n’entre pas précisément dans le champ de mes compétences. Je me garderai donc de porter un jugement sur ces pièces en les considérant du point de vue des musiques populaires. En revanche, je m’interroge sur la validité de tels métissages dont je ne suis pas sûr, en dépit d’une mythologie très en vogue, qu’ils apportent à la musique contemporaine en crise d’identité la panacée qu’elle recherche. Mais d’autres ne partagent pas ce doute et pensent que le salut viendra de la «pèriphèrie». Réponse dans quelques décennies.

Des cinq œuvres proposées, OUT, la plus juvénile, reste à mon sens la plus inventive et la plus audacieuse. Est-ce parce qu’elle choisit sans fausse pudeur l’univers populaire du «space opera» dans lequel le compositeur se sent, de toute évidence comme un poisson dans l’eau? Ou parce que l’efficacité du son et de ses traitements atteste une enviable maîtrise des moyens du studio? Qu’importe, le courant passe. Je n’en dirai pas autant des autres pièces, bien que le Concerto pour piano MIDI, œuvre inégale, contienne des moments assez prometteurs. Il n’en demeure pas moins qu’Alain Thibault est un compositeur doué et très professionnel; il lui reste à occuper un terrain qui soit vraiment le sien.

… l’efficacité du son et de ses traitements atteste une enviable maîtrise des moyens du studio.


Steven McDonald, Online Digital Music Review, June 1, 1991

One of a series of discs from Canada’s DIFFUSION i MéDIA, the organization behind the empreintes DIGITALes label. The basic thrust of the two recent series is the continued exploration of sound via electronics, and an effort to bring real electronic music into the present day. Which means, of course, that everything from MIDI to the kitchen sink gets involved, with sometimes astonishing results.

Volt is cause for astonishment indeed, partly in its immediacy and listenability. The latter effect is close to baffling when you consider that the opening piece is the thirteen minute Concerto pour piano MIDI in which pianist Jacques Drouin is faced with the task of keeping pace with a wildly programmed array of synthesizers and samplers — it’s a piece that takes the tack Frank Zappa has taken with his Synclavier work on albums such as Jazz From Hell, but with a slight but important difference: here there’s a live performer working in response to the programming. As the liner notes mention, that introduces an element of danger and an element of tension. Fortunately, Drouin is up to the challenge involved.

In Le soleil et l’acier soprano Pauline Vaillancourt is the human element balanced in a desolate vocal balance against the electronic instruments and racketing percussion. The piece suggests narrative, strangely enough, possessing the resonances of a good movie score for a thriller. Instruments float in and out of the mix, swirling about the pinned voice and dissipating again. It’s an oddly exciting piece, all tension and danger, remarkable, immediate and clever.

OUT, on the other hand, an abbreviated version of a video opera exploring the idea of virtual reality as a way of life, is somewhat less successful. Much of the piece is dependent upon Fairlight sampling and trickery, so that the sections of the piece often sound like Art Of Noise run amok, particularly in the opening section, built around a quote from Ronald Reagan. There are some interesting sounds and ideas, but it doesn’t quite get all the way through, the piece falling prey to its own facility for flexing in any given direction.

ELVIS (Électro-lux, vertige illimité synthétique)> on the other hand is structured for electronic instruments and saxophone quartet and has an air of deep dark mystery about it, rather in the way of jazz turned on its head and then warped out to some other place. Here Thibault takes to long tones, electronic vocals, staccato overlays from the saxes, galloping percussive sections that seems almost normal at moments, before whirling off to some other time, space and meter. As much of a pun as the title is, the music also manages a few puns here and there, ricocheting from musical ideas that are comfortably familiar. It’s a very dynamic piece.

Volt manages tc conjure up the image of electricity, though in the context of a mad scientist’s lab (the synthesized harpsichord voice and the Simmons tom tom samples may be responsible for this image). It spends most of its ime leaping about between ideas and variations on those ideas; often with a sense of computers out of control as pieces of the music suddenly speed up, slow down, speed up, slam to a stop. At first it seems as though it is never going to connect the dots… and then, one by one, the dots start to blend out and together, making a coherent sense. It’s musical illumination by machine, of course, hung on a popping, growling bass and tinkly, flashing marimba sounds, sort of a dance mix from hell. There’s more than a little of that Zappa connection again — there are sections of this piece that have the same sort of clean-edger lunatic avant-jazz sense to them, especially with the marimba going full tilt.

If exploring modern electronic music is something you want to do, I can recommend this album as an excellent starting place — it’s out far enough that it’s fascinating and fresh, but connected enough to the real world at odd points that it will not drive away the curious looking to see what all the noise is about.

Volt is cause for astonishment indeed […] close to baffling…

Uma fuga mais ou menos temperada

Miguel Santos, Blitz, April 2, 1991

Volt, do compositor Alain Thibault, è um trabalho provocador no modo como mistura o Piano, o quarteto de sopros e as gravações. Um contraste abrupto e constante entre o silencio e o som sendo este cortante e incisivo, de forte pendo; percussivo. São audiveis as influências do rock’n’roll no modo energético e urbano com que Thibault aborda as estruturas das suas composições.

Existe um mundo inteiro à espera de ser descoberto. Aqui falou-se apenas de uma meia dúzia de nomes, que podem até nsm ser os mais representativos, pois o conhecimento da divulgação destes trabalhos acaba sempre por ser bastante limitado, devido a uma certa marginalidade que este tipo de música enfrenta nos meios de divulgação «oficiais». O interesse deve ser despertado — peio menos e esse o objectivo deste texto. O resto fica ao vosso critério.


Ios Smolders, Vital, no. 19, April 1, 1991

It was a surprise to listen to Thibault’s cd. Whereas the music of the other cd’s was based on soundscape, on Volt we hear something quite different. Structure and tempo are most important. Thibault has written for MIDI-piano, saxophone, soprano and tape. There is a lot of persussion, obviuosly digital, with very fast and intricate rhythm patterns. Thibault combines rock, jazz and “studio-pop” in compositions with names like ELVIS (Électro-lux, vertige illimité synthétique).

Thibault combines rock, jazz and “studio-pop”…


Stephan Dunkelman, Les Cahiers de l’ACME, no. 112, February 28, 1991

Lauréat du concours de jeunes compositeurs de Radio-Canada en 82, il remporte le concours «Sound Page Competition» organisé par le magazine américain Keyboard en 86. Travail tout à fait différent de celui des deux compositeurs précèdents, sa musique possède des attaches beaucoup plus franches avec la musique traditionnelle (proche du jazz) et se caractérise par un jeu sur les rythmes et les différences d’attaques. Sa musique plaira sûrement à ceux qui aiment l’électroacoustique — pas trop — expérimentale et à ceux qui en ont un peu assez de la sclérose de la musique contemporaine instrumentale… voir même ou aux deux.

Audio Review

R Seth Friedman, Factsheet Five, no. 39, December 12, 1990

Flighty fast-paced instrumental pieces for MIDI-assisted piano. Thibault explores such territory as life in the future and the eight circuits of consciousness as outlined by Tim Leary. Some pieces bring in real instruments (a sax quartet for the title cut), others altered vocals, tape loop, and further etectronic… It’s a whirlwind performance, stunning and over much faster than one would expect. A suspension of time in an electronic bottle.

A suspension of time in an electronic bottle.


Alan Freeman, Audion, no. 16, October 1, 1990

Radically different, and totally out-on-a-limb, this is a very surprising release indeed. A very complex melodic music, both stochastic and rhythmic, often jumping from one to the other. This is computer music of a very innovative kind, it could both be described as a stop on from Peter Frohmader’s Homunculus as well as Morton Subotnick’s Return; elements of both are present, yet this is far more intensive and demanding. The experience is one of frantic rhythms juxtaposed with angular melodies, a music that flies off at tangents in all expected and unexpected directions. Not easy to get into, but ultimately rewarding.

Radically different, and totally out-on-a-limb…


Mark Vail, Keyboard, no. 16:9, September 1, 1990

Alain Thibault: If the name doesn’t ring a bell, it should. Co-winner of Keyboards first Reader Tape Contest (Feb ’86), Thibault focuses on a more rhythmic ancl accessible, less haughty musical feeling. His tones resemble similiar instruments (he uses drum-like timbres much of the time), but they’re played in a mechanically inhuman, fast, precise way. Le soleil et l’acier features a lovely soprano voice singing “aah,” enveloped by a sometimes subdued, sometimes frenzied and sinister sequence. Included on the CD is Thibault’s award-winning God’s Greatest Gift — complete with the sliced and diced Ronald Reagan quote, “God’s greatest gift is human life” — alone worth the price of admission.

Extra-musical CDs

Kathy Kennedy, Musicworks, no. 48, September 1, 1990

A new compact-disc label called empreintes DIGITALes has come to the forefront of the “musique actuelle” scene in Quebec. The three most recently launched CDs: Volt by Alain Thibault, Lieux inouïs by Robert Normandeau, and Ligne de vie: récits électriques by Christian Calon are now being distributed throughout Canada.

The three CDs share a rich breadth of digitaliy sampled sonic language, virtuosic technical production, and a preponderance for extra-musical references (visual, spatial, or litterary elements). This is perhaps indicative of the thriving dance/theatre scene in Quebec that is so eager to integrate new and original music.

The most accessible (and already heard) of these three is Volt, which includes a work called Le soleil et l’acier (Sun and steel) featuring classical singer Pauline Vaillancourt. It was used in a theatre piece last February by the internationally acclaimed Carbone 14 company. Surprisingly traditional, the piece uses expressionistic tonalities, a meandering operatic voice through chamber textures (sampled in actuality), and the words of the German poet Heinrich Müller. It is unavoidably reminiscent of Schönberg’s Verklärte Nachte, Mahler’s 2nd and 4th symphonies, and others who have drawn upon poetry and literature for their inspiration. In fact, this piece was presented at the Montréal Musée d’art contemporain and the Goethe Institute’s Blickpunte (German cultural) event.

OUT is part of a video opera of the same name, and ELVIS (Électro-lux, vertige illimité synthétique) is a multimedia work with computer controlled visual support including a saxophone arrangement by Walter Boudreau. Concerto pour piano MIDI, however, is purely a musical piece that has very little to separate it from its traditional lineage apart from the use of electronics.

The Thibault CD often feels like a digital reproduction of more traditional sounds, sometimes relying on such steadfast elements as regular rhythm and diatonic harmony. However, there is a wholesome pleasure taken in the mastery of these sounds into an entertaining and stimulating aural event.

Robert Normandeau views the electroacoustic genre as an opportunity to express certain manifestations of the soul that would otherwise have been muted. He achieves this by exploring innovative sound colour and texture in what he calls “sonic landscapes” The sounds are truly appropriate to the CD’s title: Lieux inouïs (Unheard-of places). This kind of sound painting makes use of the listener’s set of acquired perceptual references, creating, along with the sound, a kind of spatial, texturai imagery whkh is, again, extra-musical.

Normandeau acknowledges this in his descriptbn of the piece Jeu as a kind of “cinema for the ear.” Matrechka is divided into sections thatd are entitled by colour: steel grey, cobalt blue… His link with visual imagery is longstanding: in 1985 he composed accompanying sound for an exhibition of holosculptures (sculptures with holograms) by George Dyens. Each piece contained a different soundtrack in continuous playback.

The Christian Calon CD also relies on visual metaphor but the execution is more cryptic and less facile. The 40’ piece Minuit employs a text throughout, which varies in its voice, functioning as narrator, actor, etc. The writings by the composer are inspired by, among others, Beaudelaire, Joyce and Artaud. Great care is taken on the CD jacket to explain the diverse functions of the voice and the textual and sonic writing.

It is to the credit of the empreintes DIGITALes label that the entire text has been skillfully translated. In fact, each piece on all three CDs comes with an ample description as well as a note on the composer, all fully translated. Unlike some other, more established labels, this new company represents the artist with as much detail and precision as possible.

… an entertaining and stimulating aural event.

Lignes à haute tension

Philippe Tétreau, MTL, July 1, 1990

Rien de semblable avec Thibault. Ici, tout est plus direct. Tout tinte et clignote à la façon des flippers qui offriraient une succession de parties gratuites. Une techno-pop omniprésente et soumise aux rythmes strobascopiques qui nient toute espèce de tentative mélodique. Prosaïsme? Dérision? Sans doute, mais pas seulement, car pareille robotisation du langage musical est l’occasion pour Thibault de faire montre d’une absurde virtuosité technique. Virtuosité bien agressive, qui vous propulse là, droit devant, sans qu’aucun garde-fou puisse vous garantir de l’intensité des chocs.

Tout tinte et clignote à la façon des flippers qui offriraient une succession de parties gratuites.


Ti-Poue, L’attention, no. 3:6, June 1, 1990

Troisième de la série de productions électroacoustiques, Volt présente des pièces bien différentes de celles de Calon et Normandeau. Alain Thibault travaille beaucoup avec le visuel et cela peut, parfois, dérouter l’auditeur qui n’a pas «vu.» Tel est le cas de God’s Greatest Gift. Quand on n’a pas vu la bande visuelle, il est bien difficle de comprendre le paradoxe entre la parole de Reagan: «God’s greatest gift is human life» et ses actions (guerres, bombes, etc.). La deuxième pièce, Le soleil et l’acier, de Pauline Vaillancourt (soprano) a été utilisée pour Rivages à l’abandon de Carbone 14. Le mélange voix et musique est sublime. Également à souligner, la pièce ELVIS (Électro-lux, vertige illimité synthétique) avec le quatuor de saxophones de Montréal.

The Impossible Orchestra

Andrew Jones, Montreal Mirror, May 3, 1990

Think of the fun Mozart would have had with a harpsichord retrofitted with MIDI ports. The musical instrument digital interface, with which one can score, arrange, and play any number of instruments from a lone trigger instrument — keyboard, drums, guitar — would have freed Mozart’s lightning-fast mind to compose works that would make complex and brilliant operas like Cosi Fan Tutte seem like child’s play.

Today, MIDI has become an inexpensive way to get an impossible orchestra sound from just a single instrument. Just ask Alain Thibault. A founding member of the Canadian Electroacoustic Community, the 34-year old Montréaler composes with a Macintosh mouse and music software rather than quill and quire. Thibault, who taught electroacoustic music at Université de Montréal for four years in the late ‘80s, has heard his music performed by the SMCQ, the Nouvelle Ensemble Moderne, Synthèse in France, and New Music Concerts in Toronto.

“While the syntesizers are programmed to play sounds which are familiar to orchestral ears — a harpsichord or a trumpet — the articulation is something that we couldn’t accomplish with real musicians,” says Thibault of his 1989 work Concerto a For MIDI Piano, which pits pianist Jacques Drouin against a MIDI-fied orchestra that he can control with his 88 keys.

“The advantage for Jacques is that he has the touch and feel of a real piano, and he can control an entire orchestra in real time. He doesn’t play against or inside the computer, it’s more like a dialogue between them.

“But it’s not like performing with other musicians. When you perform a concerto with a symphonic orchestra, the conductor will adjust for individual tempos. Because the orchestra was generated with a computer, the tempo is unbelievably rigid. If you miss, you’re finished.”

Concerto For MIDI Piano appears on Thibault’s new recording, Volt, the third compact disc to be released on the empreintes DIGITALes label, which has been offering recordings of consistently high quality by local composers working in the champs magnetiques of electroacoustic music.

The first release, Christian Calon’s Ligne de Vie: Récits Électriques (Lifeline: Electric Stories) are gossamer sound sculptures with silence as perhaps the most important element. Although Calon thanks Bataille, Joyce, Baudelaire, and Artaud, the corruscating prose hallucinations of those famous literary pioneers are merely the inspiration for dreamy and terrifying sonic landscapes that sound like a possessed version of Brian Eno’s ambient series.

Robert Normandeau’s Lieux inouïs, (Unheard-of-Places), on the other hand, combines the playfulness of Carl Stone and the layered sound of Zoviet France. His brilliant Jeu begins with a chant that’s split, phased, and processed until it’s completely unrecognizable. Thematically working with metaphors of game and chance, Normandeau takes pure sounds, shifting and shaping them until a juke box resembles a shower of cobalt, and wobbly fragments of sound trigger deep memories.

Thibault parts company with his label mates is in his dynamic sensibility. While many electroacoustic composers steep their work in overlapping ambience and extended atmospheres, Thibault is more interested in rhythm, something he gotfrom growing up with the devil’s music, rock’n’roll. It’s no mistake that Concerto For MIDI Piano sounds like a cyberpunk Prokofiev.

“I come from the electroacoustic boom of the ‘70s,” explains Thibault. “I was interested in the richness of the sounds I could get from tapes and synthesizers. The aesthetic at the time was to not use any parameters familiar to instrumental music, like notes or rhythm. But in the ‘80s I broke away from that, and went back to notes and rhythms. Rhythm is the most important parameter for me. I need rhythm, the propulsion of time.”

Thibault’s rhythmic arsenal is best heard in two multi-media works also found on Volt. E.L.V.I.S. (Electro-lux Vertige Illimité Synthétique) is a deliciously sly work that has the Montréal Saxophone Quartet exploring Timothy Leary’s headspace and finding The King in a Henry Cow groove.

OUT, a science-fiction video opera composed on the Fairlight CMI, won Keyboard’s Sound Page Competition for 1986. Taking place in the year 2084, OUT tells the story of hapless souls lost in the “psychic immigration spaces” of a world governed by a computer-generated simulacra of Ronald Reagan. “I was reading a lot of Philip K Dick books, and Reagan was still president at the time,“ confesses Thibault.

“I think Dick was one of the greatest writers in science fiction. His conception of the future was determined by the drugs he experimented with, the music he listened to, the religion and culture of the times he lived in. That’s not science fiction that’s reality.“

Volt, the third compact disc to be released on the empreintes DIGITALes label, which has been offering recordings of consistently high quality…

Alain Thibault, de Janet Jackson à Stockhausen

Alain Brunet, La Presse, April 29, 1990

«Ça fait du bien de mettre ça à jour», lance Alain Thibault, compositeur électroacoustique. Bien qu’il n’eût pas encore endisqué depuis le début de sa carrière, son travail a toutefois été suivi par les médias. Le caractère spectaculaire et punché de ses œuvres y est pour quelque chose.

Lancé sur la nouvelle étiquette empreintes DIGITALes, le disque Volt est en quelque sorte le résumé de cette demi-décennie de création.

Disséquons rapidement. Dans la pièce E.L.V.I.S., le Quatuor de saxophones de Montréal (dont les arrangements sont signés Walter Boudreau) peut se juxtaposer à un amalgame hautement technologique. D’autre part, la soprano Pauline Vaillancourt bien connue dans les milieux institutionnels, combine ses talents vocaux à l’œuvre Le soleil et l’acier. Par ailleurs, le pianiste Jacques Drouin s’exécute dans trois mouvements d’une pièce intitulée Concerto pour piano MIDI; ce nouveau concept de liaison entre un piano de concert et des synthétiseurs sophistiqués semble très séduisant. Outre cette «bi-énergie» (humaine et technologique), des œuvres comme Volt et Out révèlent les facettes exclusivement synthétiques de Thibault. On sait qu’une portion de ces œuvres ont été crées pour des événements multimédia. Sans les images, on peut maintenant évaluer leur autonomie.

«En début de carrière, je ne jurais que par les machines. Mon souci était d’abord de faire une création avec les nouvelles technologies de studio. Maintenant, je mise aussi sur l’élément humain. Les musiciens participent à mes compositions, j’aime sentir leur présence», soutient le créateur, qui s’associe dorénavant aux instrumentistes classiques pour étoffer son travail.

Thibault a aussi collaboraé avec des créateurs en art visuel, en danse et en théâtre. Il a récemment signé des musiques pour la troupe Carbone 14.

D’entrée de jeu, le compositeur se démarquait des autres électroacousticiens, surtout par le caractère rythmique de son travail. Les références en musique pop trouvaient une niche dans une approche pourtant soutenue par les milieux institutionnels de la musique dite sérieuse.

Thibault fait partie de cette nouvelle génération de compositeurs qui n’ont aucun scrupule à mêler les enseignèments de Pierre Boulez, György Ligeti, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Frank Zappa, Jimi Hendrix, Yes ou Miles Davis. L’artiste de 32 ans apprécie même le travail compositionnel de Janet Jackson!

Alain Thibault: une passion à faire partager

Daniel Rolland, SOCAN, Le Compositeur Canadien, March 1, 1990

Alain Thibault est venu à la musique contemporaine comme d’autres parviennent à la musique classique tonale, c’est-à-dire naturellement. Comme son tempérament l’amène à aller à contre-courant de tout, la musique d’avant-garde ou post-moderne se devait d’être pour lui un créneau d’expression fait sur mesure.

Natif de Québec, Alain Thibault commence des études en musique à l’Ecole de musique de l’Université Laval, formation qu’il complète à Montréal aux facultés de musique des universités de Montréal et McGill. S’il a eu Serge Garant comme professeur, c’est à Marcelle Deschênes qu’il doit une partie de son parcours théorique en musique électroacoustique.

En 1982, il remporte un prix dans la catégorie musique électroacoustique lors du Concours national des jeunes compositeurs de Radio-Canada pour sa pièce Sonergie. Ses œuvres ont été présentées notamment en France (Festival des musiques expérimentales de Bourges), à Montréal (concerts de la SMCQ), à Toronto (Ontario Science Centre), et à Vancouver (Conférence sur les arts par ordinateurs et sur la créativité, “Digicon’85”). Depuis 1984, il enseigne les techniques de la musique électroacoustique à la faculté de musique de l’Université de Montréal.

«À la maison, j’écoute bien sûr tout ce qui se fait en musique contemporaine mais aussi la musique pop. Pour une raison très simple, c’est que l’industrie de la musique populaire a les moyens financiers de s’accaparer tous les nouveaux instruments électroniques, et pour moi, c’est une façon de suivre l’évolution de la technologie,» de raconter le compositeur.

En février dernier, Rivage à l’abandon, une pièce composée par Thibault, fut présentée au Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal par la troupe de théâtre Carbone 14. Cette pièce, écrite par l’auteur allemand Heiner Müller, s’inscrivait dans le cadre de l’exposition Blickpunkte, événement co-produit par le Musée d’art contemporain et le Gœthe-lnstitut de Montréal. Si le pouvoir des mots a frappé, la musique cette fois a réussi tout autant.

À l’entendre parler de sa passion pour la musique contemporaine, on serait porté à croire qu’il est du genre à prôner qu’hors de celle-ci il n’y a point de salut. Au contraire, et le sourire en coin, il reconnaît qu’à côté de véritables chefs-d’œuvres voisinent des compositions carrément indigestes. «Pour aimer la musique contemporaine, dit-il, il faut le désir d’écouter des choses nouvelles. Je veux que la musique moderne m’atteigne tant au niveau physique que cérébral.» Sous cet angle, il a bien démontré au plan sonore ce qu’il veut dire. Gilles Maheu, le fondateur et la tête dirigeante de Carbone 14, a tout de suite compris que c’est l’homme qu il lui fallait après avoir entendu Le soleil et l’acier, pour soprano et bande sonore. La compréhension a été mutuelle entre eux deux, c’est que chacun est d’accord à ce que la musique au théâtre ne soit plus une chose fonctionnelle, un décor sonore mais qu’elle participe pleinement à la mise en scène.

Alain Thibault n’a pas fini de faire parler de lui. Son disque compact, dont la sortie est prévue pour fin avril sur étiquette empreintes DIGITALes, regroupe cinq de ses compositions: Le soleil et l’acier, Le Concerto pour piano MIDI, E.L.V.I.S. (en compagnie de Walter Boudreau), quatre extraits de son opéra-vidéo Out, et un extrait de God’s Greatest Gift. Il entame la création d’une pièce pour le violoncelliste Claude Lamothe, et Gilles Maheu laisse planer des associations pour le futur. La musique contemporaine le fait vivre humblement et Alain Thibault n’a d’autre mission que de la rendre davantage accessible.

La musique contemporaine le fait vivre humblement et Alain Thibault n’a d’autre mission que de la rendre davantage accessible.

Alain Thibault: Music That Works Physically and Cerebrally

Daniel Rolland, SOCAN, Canadian Composer, March 1, 1990

Alain Thibault found his niche in contemporary music as others have in traditional classical music: That is to say, in a sincere and entirely natural way. Since his temperament generally leads him in a counter-current to others, the post-modern or avant garde school of composition is, for him, a comfortable mode of expression.

Thibault, 33, completed a Master’s degree at the Université de Montréal, with further studies at the same city’s McGill University. Although his principal composition instructor was Serge Garant, he attributes most of his experience in electroacoustic music to studies with Marcelle Deschênes. Thibault, whose works have been performed here and abroad, has been teaching electroacoustic music techniques at the Université de Montréal since 1984.

“At home, I naturally listen to a great deal of contemporary concert music, but also to popular music,” says Thibault. “For a simple reason: the pop music industry has the financial means to explore new electronic instruments and for me that is a way to keep up with the evolution of technology.” In his home in downtown Montréal, he has established a private studio replete with computers and synthesizers.

Last February, Thibault composed music for Rivage à l’abandon, a stunning theater piece staged in Montréal’s Musée d’art contemporain, by the company Carbone 14, this year celebrating its tenth anniversary. A setting of a text by German author Heiner Müller, the work formed part “Blickpunkte,” an event co-produced by the Musée d’art contemporain and the Gœthe Institute in Montréal. The words exert a striking power but the music, in this case, proves equally fascinating.

Listening to Thibault speak of his passion for contemporary music might give the impression that he is blindly dedicated to the genre. On the contrary, he recognizes the existence of weaker works alongside masterpieces. “The love of contemporary music,” Thibault feels, “is satisfied by a passionate need to seek out new things. For me, contemporary music should work on a physical as well as a cerebral level.”

With that viewpoint, it seems he has demonstrated well the path he intends to follow. Gilles Maheu, founder and artistic director of Carbone 14, knew that Thibault was the appropriate composer for his project from the time he heard Le Soleil et l’acier, for soprano and tape. The understanding between the two has been mutual, with each agreeing that music for the theater shouldn’t necessarily be limited to a functional role, as background, but that it should participate fully in the overall staging.

A compact disc of music by Alain Thibault, which was scheduled for release at the end of April on the new Montréal-based label empreintes DIGITALes, includes Le Soleil et l’acier (featuring soprano Pauline Vaillancourt), Concerto pour piano MIDI, his multi-media composition E.L.V.I.S. (in collaboration with Walter Boudreau), four extracts from the video opera Out, and a portion of God’s Greatest Gift. He is now starting work on a composition for cellist Claude Lamothe and stage director Maheu. Alain Thibault makes a modest living composing conteporary music and claims that his only mission is to make his art more widely accessible.

More texts

Ear no. 16:1, Le Devoir