Les méandres du rêve Serge Arcuri

Cover art: Betty Goodwin, Untitled (Nerves), No 5 (1993), oil sticks, tar, wax on gelatin silver print on mylar, 143 x 207 cm
  • Canada Council for the Arts

Les méandres du rêve is not your average tape music album… AllMusic, USA

… l’occasion de plonger dans des climats insolites mais fertiles en sensations. Guide ressources, Québec

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Les méandres du rêve

Serge Arcuri

Notices

Dear Serge,

I had always thought (without thinking) that musique was concrète when it drew on concrete, extant sounds to build an imaginary world. Now I realize I was missing half the point. Always rooted in the natural sound world, you use your sound-painter’s colourbox to extend the world we know into that dream state you are so fond of naming. Of invoking and evoking. You make imagined sounds concrete.

You lure me into an illusory world, half-glimpsed through sleep-closing eyes. Desert sands; a sandy beach washed with silken waves; an invitation from the Sand-Man (or is it the Pied Piper?) to enter the endless sands of Time… And then, on the edge of dreams, just before I slip into a peaceful rest, I‘m overtaken by lurid rhythms, pulsing signals just beyond comprehension. Words heard, but not absorbed. Inarticulated speech. Sound, not Meaning…

Chronaxie, Toronto, 1985; Lueurs, Montréal, 1987; La porte des sables, Banff, 1989; Murmure, Toronto, 1989; Prélude aux méandres, Montréal, 1990.

These pieces (these places, these occasions) have been mileposts for me on my labyrinthine journey towards a truly inner ear. They loom like spectres on the landscape of my aural memory. The invocation of that horn still haunts me six years after I first heard those ‘glimmers’ and ventured through that beaded curtain into your personal vision of an REM-driven world, toward the exuberant sounds of joyous children, melting into something of a ‘tangerine dream’… I am touched afresh with each listening.

David Olds, Toronto [ix-93]

Dream’s Meanders

Dreams, like myths, express themselves in a symbolic language, communication both an obscure and universal. At the heart of the night, brandished against this apparent death that is sleep, the dream world is more a product of senses and seduction than one of speech.

Following Résurgence, my first piece for tape, my work has moved towards a greater integration of the electroacoustic, instrumental and theatrical pathways. From this quest emerged the idea for Méandres (Meanders), a work in progress since 1984.

It is a mosaic piece dealing with dreams. The production can take many forms: each part can be presented on its own in a concert setting or can be adapted for the stage, as was the case for the version for solo singer, five musicians and two dancers premiered in April, 1990 at the Centaur Theatre as part of ACREQ’s 6th Printemps électroacoustique de Montréal.

Les méandres du rêve (Dream’s Meanders) is a record adaptation which combines the music for tape with the mixed works (instruments and tape) of the original concept, followed by the two initial pieces that gave rise to the project. Since the work is always exploring new directions, the present version is only an attempt to outline the elusive border between dreams and reality.

Serge Arcuri, Montréal [x-93]

Some recommended items

In the press

  • François Couture, AllMusic, August 1, 2001
    Les méandres du rêve is not your average tape music album…
  • François Couture, AllMusic, April 27, 2001
  • Philippe Tétreau, Guide ressources, September 1, 1999
    … l’occasion de plonger dans des climats insolites mais fertiles en sensations.
  • Stephan Dunkelman, Les Cahiers de l’ACME, no. 170, February 1, 1996
  • Denis Dion, Contact!, no. 8:2, March 1, 1995
    … un compositeur en pleine possession de ses moyens.
  • Dominique Olivier, Circuit, no. 5:2, June 1, 1994
    … excelle dans l’art de créer des atmosphères.
  • Christopher Elson, Paris Transatlantic, no. 5, May 1, 1994
  • Andrew Jones, Montreal Mirror, no. 9:29, December 16, 1993
  • Carol Bergeron, Le Devoir, January 23, 1993

Review

François Couture, AllMusic, August 1, 2001

Serge Arcuri’s Les méandres du rêve is an untypical release for the musique concrète label empreintes DIGITALes. Although the composer works with concrete sounds and creates tape music, his approach also includes lots of recorded keyboard parts and performed instruments. The resulting music belongs as much to mixed electroacoustics music as to new-age instrumental music. The first five pieces on this CD form a cycle, Les méandres du rêve (“Dream’s Meanders”), the musical part of a creation which also included choreography and scenography. After a short prelude, the listener dives head first into Arcuri’s dreamy world. La porte des sables, based on Tahar Ben Jelloun’s novel The Sand Child, includes electroacoustic sounds, oboe, English horn, and MIDI percussion. References to Arabic sonorities turn this piece into something a lot more evocative (and engaging) than what could be expected. If Murmure comes closer to a standard tape piece, Errances (for tape, oboe and harp) and Lueurs (for tape, French horn and percussion) cross over many genres, from 20th century classical to synthesizer music, both of them beautiful musical dreams. To complete the program, Arcuri added Résurgence and Chronaxie (for tape and percussion), two earlier pieces. The first one is a traditional tape piece without any distinctive qualities, while the second consists of his first experience in mixed composition. Percussionist Trevor Tureski appears on a total of three tracks, but even when he does not contribute the music remains very rhythmical. Les méandres du rêve is not your average tape music album and will appeal more to synthesizer-based instrumental music lovers than musique concrète purists.

Les méandres du rêve is not your average tape music album…

Review

François Couture, AllMusic, April 27, 2001

Serge Arcuri’s Les méandres du rêve is an untypical release for the musique concrète label empreintes DIGITALes. Although the composer works with concrete sounds and creates tape music, his approach also includes lots of recorded keyboard parts and performed instruments. The resulting music belongs as much to mixed electroacoustics music as to new-age instrumental music. The first five pieces on this CD form a cycle, Les méandres du rêve (Dream’s Meanders), the musical part of a creation which also included choreography and scenography. After a short prelude, the listener dives head first into Arcuri’s dreamy world. La porte des sables, based on Tahar Ben Jelloun’s novel The Sand Child, includes electroacoustic sounds, oboe, English horn, and MIDI percussion. References to Arabic sonorities turn this piece into something a lot more evocative (and engaging) than what could be expected. If Murmure comes closer to a standard tape piece, Errances (for tape, oboe and harp) and Lueurs (for tape, French horn and percussion) cross over many genres, from 20th century classical to synthesizer music, both of them beautiful musical dreams. To complete the program, Arcuri added Résurgence and Chronaxie for tape and percussion), two earlier pieces. The first one is a traditional tape piece without any distinctive qualities, while the second consists of his first experience in mixed composition. Percussionist Trevor Tureski appears on a total of three tracks, but even when he does not contribute the music remains very rhythmical. Les méandres du rêve is not your average tape music album and will appeal more to synthesizer-based instrumental music lovers than musique concrète purists.

Critique

Philippe Tétreau, Guide ressources, September 1, 1999

L’électroacoustique conçue par Serge Arcuri se laisse aisément apprivoiser. Nous avons là l’occasion de plonger dans des climats insolites mais fertiles en sensations. Les séquences réunies sur ce disque contiennent quantité d’images sonores que l’on croirait tirées de films portant sur les grandes régions désertiques. D’ailleurs, Arcuri a signé la trame musicale de documentaires et de films (dont Liste noire). Différents instruments (hautbois, cor anglais, harpe, cor français, percussions) soliloquent sur la trame des sons ambiants.

… l’occasion de plonger dans des climats insolites mais fertiles en sensations.

Review

Denis Dion, Contact!, no. 8:2, March 1, 1995

Serge Arcuri has some new work out on empreintes DIGITALes. In Les méandres du rêve, the Montréal composer selected seven titles from his already very impressive collecion of works. The album’s title, roughly translated as ‘dream meanders,’ is representative of the works within. There is an interesting blend of pieces composed for tape which explore the genre of tape and live electronics. The works on the disc are: Prélude aux méandres (1985); La porte des sables (1989) for oboe or English horn, MIDI percussion and tape; Murmure (1989); Errances (1992) for oboe d’amore, harp and tape; Lueurs (1987) for horn, percussion and tape; Résurgence (1982); and Chronaxie (1984) for multiple percussion and tape.

There is an inate sense of sonic poetry in Arcuri’s work. The musical journey often begins delicately, and subtly offers the listener a wealth of discoveries. This record is a good example of work by a composer who is in full command of his abilities. Arcuri’s journey is an adventure in technological innovation — in other words, the music comes first!

I must also mention the other musicians involved: Lawrence Cherney on oboe, oboe d’amore and English horn, Trevor Tureski on percussion and MIDI percussion, Erica Goodman on harp, and the talented Francis Ouellet on [French] horn. The unique combination of instruments and tape testifies to the strong complicity that exists among these four great musicians. This type of writing is a study of the coming together of the instrument and electroacoustics, and these musicians do it beautifully. There is no hint of conflict or struggle between the genres, only a respect for the natural instrument and a desire to realize its full potential. It’s a successful union and leaves the listener with the pure pleasure of listening.

Like all works from empreintes DIGITALes, this CD conforms to the labels’s policy of quality over quantity. Congratulations to the whole group!

… un compositeur en pleine possession de ses moyens.

Chronique de disques

Dominique Olivier, Circuit, no. 5:2, June 1, 1994

La musique de Serge Arcuri, si elle est manifestement «inspirée», reste cependant à cheval entre deux tendances, apparemment contradictoires. L’exigence de qualité propre à la musique électroacoustique (lire plutôt «acousmatique») québécoise, qui fait maintenant école, et une approche plus commerciale tendant à donner à cette musique un caractère de divertissement, telle qu’on la rencontre associées au théâtre ou au cinéma, par exemple. Cela n’en fait pas pour autant une musique bâtarde ou inintéressante, mais vient certainement nuancer notre opinion à son sujet. Tout d’abord, disons que le projet des Les méandres du rêve est né d’une volonté du compositeur d’intégrer à son travail les avenues électroccoustiques, instrumentales et scéniques. En évolution depuis 1984, cette œuvre en mosaïque est construite sur la thématique hautement inspiratrice du rêve, donnant au créateur la possibilité d’aller chercher son matériau dans un vaste corpus d’éléments musicaux rappelant l’univers onirique. Mais là se trouve l’écueil, le stéréotype qui attend au tournant même le compositeur le mieux intentionné et le plus imaginatif. On ne peut bien sûr reprocher aux compositeurs de musique électroacoustique d’utiliser ces clichés, puisque la musique, comme le langage, en est faite. Devant les possibilités infinies de cet art encore neuf, le créateur est justifié de chercher un langage composé d’éléments signifiants pour l’auditeur. Mais la frontière reste facile à traverser entre une musique utilisant le stéréotype comme aide, comme support devant l’immensité des possibilités sonores, et une autre qui se sert de celui-ci comme élément constitutif et privilégié. Voilà le piège où glissent beaucoup de jeunes crécteurs qui abordent l’art électroacoustique, et c’est malheureusement le cas ici. Si on y retrouve tour à tour des échos de musique modale La porte des sables, minimaliste Lueurs ou balinaise Chronaxie, la musique de Serge Arcuri n’est pas anecdotique, mais plutôt évocatrice, et excelle dans l’art de créer des atmosphères. On voudrait pourtant que son talent l’amène à être plus exigeant intellectuellement.

… excelle dans l’art de créer des atmosphères.

Review

Christopher Elson, Paris Transatlantic, no. 5, May 1, 1994

Serge Arcuri, a former student of Gilles Tremblay (see PNMR No. 2, Présences francophones), is one of Canada’s leading electroacoustic composers. This disc, true to its word, meanders a wee bit, but leaves the listener with a positive picture of Arcuri’s work. The electronic component is cutting, at times externally-oriented, referential, at others inward and self-defining — we hear for example, shimmering streets of static, and the fall of electronic rain — but also pick out more mysterious psychic groans, the grinding of deep structures like tectonic plates or a lake freezing in the night. The perfomances by some of the finest interpreters of new music (Cherney, Ouellet, Tureski, Goodman) are seamlessly integrated with the electronic materials. Lueurs is rather conventional but is so recognizably of Montréal that one half expects Uzeb’s guitarist Michel Cusson to cut in with a solo.

Mr. Sandman

Andrew Jones, Montreal Mirror, no. 9:29, December 16, 1993

SONGWRITERS LOVINGLY CALL their dreams muses — a vocabulary to translate the compositional process. Hip artists, such as Brian Eno and Suzanne Vega, have gone so far as to say they have even heard entire songs handed down to them while they slept.

Dreams have long fascinated composer Serge Arcuri. Yet he could never quite bring their surreal, unearthly power to the stage with orchesiral instruments that were hundreds of years old. “Dreams, like myths, express themselves in a symbolic language, communication both obscure and universal,” Arcuri writes in the liner notes to his debut CD for empreintes DIGITALes, Les méandres du rêve. “At the heart of the night, brandished against this apparent death that is sleep, the dream world is more a product of senses and seduction than one of speech.”

The breakthrough for the 39-year-old native of Beauharnois was hearing electroacoustic music. This oft-misunderstood branch ofthe musical tree was born in 1949 when Pierre Schaeffer started using a tape recorder to bulk erase the musical past and record over it the music of the future, “musique concrète.” Forged and sculpted in the multi-track recording studio with both live and synthetic sound sources, electroacoustic music has always been headphone fodder, music for our personal headspace. Like dreams, electroacoustic music offers a hot-wired short cut to the subconscious, the topology of sounds triggering something different in every listener, a soundtrack to films and visuals limited only by our imaginations.

“I like the ease with which electroacoustic music can transport yourself into many different acoustic surroundings,” says Arcuri. “That’s much more diffcult to do in a concert hall. But on the other hand, I don’t like excluding instruments. I like to have a mix of electroacoustics and live instruments, so the work is somewhere between reality of the concert stage and the ‘inouïe’.”

Arcuri studied with Yves Daoust at Conservatoire de Musique de Montréal, and has an impressive list of commissioned works to his name from the SMCQ, ACREQ, CBC and The Vancouver New Music Society. It’s not difficult to understand why: Arcuri’s work avoids the studied aridity of most “musique concrète.” It’s dazzling, texturally ravishing, and propulsive, recalling the recent pop-oriented work of John Adams on Hoodoo Zephyr — only minus the minimalist pulse.

Les méandres du rêve (Dreams’ Meanders) was a long-term project begun in 1982 with Arcuri’s first electroacoustic piece Errances. Arcuri tried to keep a diary of dreams and incorporate them into the pieces as they were written, but found his dreams weren’t up to the quality of the project, so he decided to stick to themes rather than specifics. Indeed, most of the pieces here work on a visceral rather than literal level. Murmure, for example, revisits tribal myths about the origins of life and the big bang through processed and sampled breath sounds.

La porte des sables, for oboe, English horn, MIDI percussion and tape, is inspired by the fables of Moroccan writer Tahar Ben Jelloun’s novel The Sand Child. The music, while bereft of the quarter tones that permeate most Arabic music, evokes the serene, still mood of the desert through the arabesques of the horn playing. “Reading Jalloun opened my ears,” says Arcuri. “The idea of each door leading you deeper into myth, deeper into the unconscious.”

Arcuri has had the good fortune to work with intuitive and passionate soloists such as oboist Lawrence Cherney, harpist Erica Goodman, French homplayer Francis Ouellet and percussionist Trevor Tureski. “More and more instrumentalists are interested in working with electroacoustics,” Arcuri explains. “After all, these pieces were written to be included in someone’s repertory and to be easily played. I like to have open rhythm sections for the player to roam. I don’t like to be a metronome.”

Une fournée de parutions québécoises

Carol Bergeron, Le Devoir, January 23, 1993

La jeune musique

Plus modestement, puisqu’elle occupe un créneau sûrement moins rentable, celui de l’électroacoustique, la maison DIFFUSION i MéDIA propose trois enregistrements: des musiques du Montréalais Serge Arcuri (IMED 9310) et Tao (une œuvre en cinq parties) de la Belge Annette Vande Gorne (IMED 9311). Dans la collection SONARt qui a donné, avant Noël, Ne blâmez jamais les bédouins, un théâtre musical d’Alain Thibault (IMSO 9202), s’ajoute Corazón Road, carnet de voyage sonore des Français Carole Rieussec et Jean-Christophe Camps (IMSO 9301).

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