Alibi Jacques Tremblay

  • Canada Council for the Arts

… extremely effective in maintaining a languorous, yet musically compelling, texture throughout. Computer Music Journal, USA

… Tremblay has a feel for climactic intensity and gnarly sounds which get under your ears. SAN Diffusion, UK

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Alibi

Jacques Tremblay

Notices

Alibi

“The temporal goals of Baroque constitute a ‘matterism’ (as opposed to the formal and conceptual mannerism that preceded it), which takes concrete situations into account and becomes part of history with an action.”

Claude-Gilbert Dubois

If I substitute the word ‘electroacoustics’ for ‘baroque,’ I get a definition that corresponds accurately to my approach to electroacoustics.

Whether the sound object is used for its symbolic value, or is diluted by effects in order to retain only its energy and make it a more abstract entity, my work is initially produced from concrete sound objects. The variations come from the inductive nature of the material. The different ways of revealing this induction allow the creation of a form that will either follow the object’s logic, or be in opposition to it. To paraphrase Debussy: “the object creates the form.”

The processes that I use to ‘play object’ are: morphological transformations (transgressions/regressions), mutations, filtering effects (colorations) and montages. I also like to include quotes that refer to a historical event, suggest drama or a ‘semantic shift,’ as in the work Hérésie ou les bas-reliefs du dogme (Heresy or Dogma’s Bas-relief), where I use a Gregorian chant which gradually evolves into distortion (the symbolic passage from the pure to the impure). These symbioses and hybrids form a ‘baroquing’ æsthetic.

If I put forward the idea of the baroque spirit, it is not so much to defend this tendency as to better define my approach. Most of my works have been under the influence of a permanent feature: my baroque spirit. As the writer Alejo Carpentier says: “I do not consider baroque to be a historic style, it is more like a constant of the spirit.”

It is only in hindsight that I have realized how much my work is nourished by this constant, and which leads me to a rejection of the defined, the static and the unequivocal.

Electroacoustics also allows me to search for the nocturnal side of images, to find the limits of their symbolism, triggering interlocking effects that send perception towards a new object, a new image, a new signifier, like games of “trompe-l’ouïe” (auditory illusions) and “trompe-sens” (sensory illusions).

It is a quest for an Alibi, for spaces, for a deferred elsewhere, where day-dreaming stays so real, it can make you believe that “Life is a dream.

Jacques Tremblay, Montréal [x-98]

Some recommended items

In the press

  • François Couture, AllMusic, October 11, 2001
  • Anna Rubin, Computer Music Journal, no. 25:1, March 1, 2001
    … extremely effective in maintaining a languorous, yet musically compelling, texture throughout.
  • Anna Rubin, SAN Diffusion, November 1, 2000
    … Tremblay has a feel for climactic intensity and gnarly sounds which get under your ears.
  • Alan Freeman, Audion, no. 42, March 1, 2000
  • Francis Monroe, Hurly Burly, no. 12, January 1, 2000
  • Davis Ford, Etch, no. 5:2, April 1, 1999
    … this collection should garner timeless recognition.
  • Andrew Magilow, Splendid E-Zine, March 15, 1999
    … you can expect a swift transformation of your stereo system into some sort of strange stereophonic surgical tool…
  • Richard Cochrane, Hollow Ear, March 1, 1999
    … the results are extremely dramatic…
  • MM, Vital, no. 163, February 22, 1999
    … includes some of the strangest sounds I’ve encountered.
  • Clément Trudel, Le Devoir, October 26, 1998
    L’étiquette empreintes DIGITALes lance trois disques…

Review

François Couture, AllMusic, October 11, 2001

Alibi is Jacques Tremblay’s first solo CD. It culls six tape music works created between 1990 and 1995. Except for the three-minute Jeu d’ondes, all pieces are lengthy and divided in multiple movements. Tremblay’s main source of inspiration is psychoanalysis. A quote from Carl Gustav Jung underpins Hérésie ou les bas-reliefs du dogme (“Heresy or Dogma’s Bas-Reliefs”). In this long, complex piece, the composer accumulates quotes about various historical events, all related to Man acting on the behalf of God (i.e. using religion as a moral motor or excuse). The facts are presented pseudo-objectively; Tremblay’s commentary is inscribed in the sonic movements. Oaristys and L’intrus au chapeau de spleen both play on the unconscious, suggesting eroticism in the first case and an initiatory journey in the second. Both pieces’ dramatic tension resides in the unsaid. In comparison, La robe nue and Rictus nocturne sound a little thin, even though the second takes jazz for subject. But the promised “jam session” never materializes. There is something of Francis Dhomont’s art in Tremblay’s music, his ability to toy with the subconscious; but while Dhomont actualizes his fascination with psychoanalysis in storytelling, Tremblay remains stuck in the evanescent. His works evoke many things, but the listener comes out of them without a lasting impression. Nevertheless, Alibi makes a good album of “classic” electroacoustic music.

Review

Anna Rubin, Computer Music Journal, no. 25:1, March 1, 2001

[This text was also printed in SAN Diffusion (RU), 1 novembre 2000]

The recent Jacques Tremblay compact disc, Alibi, includes six pieces dating from 1990-1995. Mr. Tremblay is a young composer who explains in the program notes that he began as a guitarist and encountered electroacoustic music as a “revelation.” Further, he grounds his work in the use of concrete sound, both vocal and ambient, and favors a rich, dark sound palette. The “typical” sonic makeup of the first three pieces, in particular, are so varied and rich, yet oddly similar to each other, that listeners may prefer to listen to the CD in the following order: tracks 1, 4, 2, 6, 3, 5.

The first work, Hérésie ou les bas-reliefs du dogme (1990), is a relatively long 21-min piece, which includes extended recordings of an American fundamentalist Christian preacher along with snippets of Frank Sinatra and Muslim and Gregorian chant. The extended “rant” of the preacher is countered with French dialogue which I could not follow, but which another reviewer characterized as “papal posturing.” Most of the quoted speech is enmeshed in a rich stew of repetitive, mechanical sounds, and long stretches of bell-like overtones emphasizing upper partials over repetitions of tonic and dominant. Occasional stretches of Tibetan horns and Gregorian chant (sung by a woman, yet another heresy!) gradually distort and slither away. The religious spirit is perhaps viewed here through the lens of those dark, Spanish baroque paintings, all blood, fire, and damnation, although religion itself is viewed as the evil. The piece inscribes a long 18min arc, pauses, and then has a 3-min coda of similar material. I am not altogether convinced by this large-scale form, but certainly Mr. Tremblay has a feel for climactic intensity and gnarly sounds which get under your skin.

Oaristys (1991) is described as following “the stages of a hypothetical night of love,” and is divided into six movements: Call of Desire, Approach, Embraces and Sensuous Delight, Animal Urges, Scattering, and Inflection. This work is highly sensual, but ominous as well. But then, great passion is often companion to a sense of danger, of vulnerability before the beloved other, even as union occurs. Mr. Tremblay draws from both these sides of the erotic experience. Waves, bird-like calls, cello quotes from a Bach Sarabande, and the stylized vocalizations of a Japanese Noh actor all enmesh the listener in a sinuously rich texture. The second section loops and cycles erotic feminine laughter with percussive patterns reminiscent of bird calls. The composer characterizes this section as a remake of the Erotica movement of Symphonic pour un homme seul by Pierre Schaeffer and Pierre Henry. Sounds progressively expand, speed up, reappear, distort, and disappear in a mercurial trajectory, and the succeeding four movements follow each other until ending with a slow, brooding finale.

The third work, L’intrus au chapeau de spleen (The Intruder with a Spleen Hat), is a mysterious sonic stew which incorporates favorite Tremblay strategies - multi-layered repetitive mechanical sounds, sinuously morphing gestures - but allowing a bit more silence to frame individual gestures. A mysterious, watery, and nocturnal world is evoked, conveying the sense of what boils and roils beneath otherwise ordinary surfaces.

Rictus nocturne (1992), again in six movements, evokes the jam session of jazz. I quote the composer: “Each movement follows its own story and develops a compositional problem: montage; play-sequence, of density; of silence; and of sketched, improvised and edited sequences from object instruments.” The jazz idiom, though, is absent in the composer’s own music, though it is intermittently quoted. Interestingly, this piece includes the most introspective and quiet music heard on the disc to this point. What Mr. Tremblay seems to love most of jazz is its quiet balladic side as well as the needle noise of old records which he riffs upon.

Jeu d’ondes quotes Maurice Ravel’s Jeu d’eau, and also includes quotes from historic recordings of reflections on the problems of creating an FM network for radio broadcast. Delightful confections of boat noises, much of it frothy and effervescent, make this a tasty morsel.

La robe nue (The Naked Dress) uses string sounds for a good deal of its material, as well as bells, train, and a horse. The composer evokes Marcel Proust’s Cambray, the first book of Remembrance of Things Past. Mr. Tremblay returns to a reflective mood, giving individual sounds room to gently resonate. This piece is extremely effective in maintaining a languorous, yet musically compelling, texture throughout.

… extremely effective in maintaining a languorous, yet musically compelling, texture throughout.

Review

Anna Rubin, SAN Diffusion, November 1, 2000

[This text was also printed in Computer Music Journal #25:1 (ÉU), 1 mars 2001]

The new Jacques Tremblay CD, Alibi, includes six pieces dating from 1990–95. Tremblay is a young composer who explains in the program notes that he began as a guitarist and encountered electroacoustic music as a revelation. Further, he grounds his work in the use concrete sound, both vocal and ambient and favors a rich and dark sound palette. The typical sonic makeup of the first three pieces, in particular, are so varied and rich, yet oddly similar to each other, that listeners may prefer to listen to the works in the following order: 1, 4, 2, 6, 3, 5.

The first work, Hérésie ou les bas–reliefs du dogme (1990), is a relatively long piece of twenty–one minutes which includes extended recordings of an American fundamentalist Christian preacher along with snippets of Frank Sinatra, and Muslim and Gregorian chant. The extended rant of the American is juxtaposed with French dialogue which I could not follow but which another reviewer characterized as papal posturing. Most of the quoted speech is enmeshed in a rich stew of repetitive, mechanical sounds, and long stretches of bell–like overtones emphasizing upper partials over repetitions of tonic and dominant. Occasional stretches of Tibetan horns and Gregorian chant (sung by a woman, yet another heresy!) gradually distort and slither away. The religious spirit is viewed here through the lens of perhaps those dark Spanish baroque paintings, all blood, fire and damnation, although religion itself is viewed as the evil. The piece inscribes a long arc of 18 minutes, pauses, and then has a 3 minutes coda of similar material. I am not altogether convinced of the larger form but certainly Tremblay has a feel for climactic intensity and gnarly sounds which get under your ears.

Oaristys (1991) is described as following the stages of a hypothetical night of love, (p 14, notes) and is divided into six movements entitled Call of Desire, Approach, Embraces and Sensuous Delight, Animal Urges, Scattering, and Inflection. It is highly sensual but ominous as well. But then great passion is often companion to the sense of danger, of vulnerability before the beloved other even as union occurs. Tremblay draws from both these sides of the erotic experience.

Waves, bird–like calls, cello quotes from a Bach Saraband, and the stylized vocalizations of a Japanese Noh actor all enmesh the listener is a sinuously rich texture. The second section grabs along with the erotic and informal laughter of a woman, albeit looped and cycled with percussive patterns reminiscent of bird calls. He characterizes this section as a remake of the Erotica movement of Pierre Schaeffer and Pierre Henry’s Symphonie pour un homme seul. Sounds progressively expand, speed up, reappear, distort and disappear in a mercurial trajectory and the resulting four movements follow each other until ending in a slow, brooding finale.

The third work, L’intrus au chapeau de spleen (The Intruder with a Spleen Hat) is a mysterious stew which incorporates favorite Tremblay strategies multi–layer repetitive mechanical sounds, sinuously morphing gestures, but allows a bit more silence in the mix to frame individual gestures. A mysterious, watery and nocturnal world is evoked, the sense of what boils and roils beneath otherwise ordinary surfaces.

Rictus nocturne (1992), again in six movements, evokes the jam session of jazz. I quote the composer: Each movement follows its own story and develops a compositional problem: montage; play–sequence, of density; of silence; and of sketched, improvised and edited sequences from object instruments. (p 16, notes) But jazz idiom is absent in the composers own music though intermittently quoted. Interestingly, this piece includes the most introspective and quiet music heard on the CD up to this point. What Tremblay seems to love most of jazz is its quiet balladic side as well as the needle noise of old records which he riffs upon.

Jeu d’ondes quotes Ravel’s Jeu d’eau and includes quotes from historic recordings of reflections on the problems of creating an FM network for radio. Delightful confections of boat noises, much of it frothy and effervescent make this a tasty morsel.

The work, La robe nue, (The Naked Dress) uses string sounds for a good deal of its material as well as bells, train and horse; he evokes Proust’s Cambray, the first book of Remembrance of Things Past. Tremblay returns to a reflective mood, giving individual sounds room to gently resonate. This piece is extremely effective in maintaining a languorous, yet musically compelling texture throughout.

… Tremblay has a feel for climactic intensity and gnarly sounds which get under your ears.

Review

Alan Freeman, Audion, no. 42, March 1, 2000

Jacques Tremblay apparently had his whole concept of music changed when he heard Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Hymnen, and it shows in his own music as heard here. A collection of six pieces (dating 1990-95), Tremblay’s art is not as refined as Daoust’s, but he’s gaining a focus that’s individual. I really wanted to like Tremblay’s creations, but his total disregard for any musical context meant that much of the disc, lacked the focus I feel such sonic art needs to actually work and hold the attention.

Review

Francis Monroe, Hurly Burly, no. 12, January 1, 2000

The process followed by this composer in order to manipulate objects is translated to morphogenic transformations in transgression, regression, mutation, coloration and montage, also willing to include references to historical events.

All this and lots more in a CD that puts forward endless sound stimuli requiring a rather loud listening volume.

Review

Davis Ford, Etch, no. 5:2, April 1, 1999

This is an extremely complicated, and disjointed volume of concrete sound manipulation. As a general listen, it can come across quite harsh, with it’s wide spectrum of noises, some of of them literally attacking you. Listening to Karlheinz Stockhausen often produces a similar tone, and Tremblay admits a Stockhausen influence. In a described context, this melting pot of sounds starts to make sense. Listening to the first track, Hérésie ou les bas-reliefs du dogme, you are assaulted with various religious audio snippets varying from southern American televangelist preachers, and other quotes issued in French. One gets the sense, whenever samples of preachers are used, that the artist isn’t necessarily promoting religion, but chastising it. This indeed turns out to be the case, as culled from the liner notes: “I found it unbelievable to see all the cruelties that man has committed in the name of God. I had found my subject.”

With Tremblay, it appears that subject is preeminent to the music. With each piece he has a strong message or concept in which to convey via recognized sounds. Sounds do transform, and shapeshift, but when they do, it appears that there is a purpose to that as well. Tremblay points out that when the Gregorian Chant dissolves into distortion, it symbolizes a transition from pure to impure. Alibi is like a difficult read, which must be pieced together and analyzed. This can be a fascinating adventure, or a tiresome chore, depending on who listens to it. Taken at face value, the pieces herein can be quite intrusive as a background, attesting to their demand for deeper exploration. This property alone seems to indicate that this collection should garner timeless recognition. Other themes Tremblay explores involve: eroticism, the unconscious, a tribute to jazz spontaneity, and Marcel Proust. Jeu d’ondes is a piece constructed entirely from sounds taken off a sailboat. In this “imaginary marina,” ships have come together to celebrate a new vessel: “the unsinkable FM network” which Tremblay expresses via various radio broadcasts throughout while the ships blow their horns. There are some fascinating and original ideas and concepts realized on this disc, although it requires a bit of explanation to guide you through Tremblay’s world.

… this collection should garner timeless recognition.

Review

Andrew Magilow, Splendid E-Zine, March 15, 1999

After suffering through some other artists’ musical mediocrity, I equip myself for another empreintes DIGITALes experience. I’m immediately spooked by the opening track Hérésie ou les bas-reliefs du dogme, which has a roaring, jet-engine quality about it. With a barrage of aural effects entering and exiting the speakers, Tremblay does not hesitate to let loose on a stimulus overload, as this 20 minute piece shakes, shudders and roars, and then quietly diminishes, becoming a brooding animal (which I’m sure will charge out when I least expect it). Tremblay does not trip up after his opening piece, as Oaristys interjects keyboard strikes, tribal drumming interludes and more engimatic thought processes, which are hauntingly disturbing, yet cunningly engimatic, piquing your curiosity and keeping your attention. Tremblay enjoys sampling human voices and then slicing them into disjointed parts, like a mad French chef letting loose on his gamey-entree of the evening. By all means engaging, Tremblay’s own warped auditory explorations will leave you undoubtedly enlightened, but also spent and tired due to their forceful intrusions into your own soul. Beware, for Tremblay means business, and once Alibi slides into your CD player you can expect a swift transformation of your stereo system into some sort of strange stereophonic surgical tool which will inspect, probe and alter your human senses.

… you can expect a swift transformation of your stereo system into some sort of strange stereophonic surgical tool…

Review

Richard Cochrane, Hollow Ear, March 1, 1999

Jacques Tremblay’s world is a pretty frightening one. Taking his cue from traditional concerns of musique concrète, his music is cinematic, narrative-based and populated by many recognizable sound-sources. Take the lovely Oaristys, which the composer rather worryingly describes as erotic. It moves programmatically through six stages of a sexual encounter, each one populated by disturbing, disembodied sounds, cavernous echoes and intense dissonance. Maybe this just goes to show subjective any ‘program’ will be, attached to any music, even in this most illustrative genre. Given that Oaristys is Tremblay’s tender ballad, no wonder tracks describing “the unconscious, prowling and searching for a way to enter the fissured wall of memory” or “the cruelties that man has committed in the name of God” are a long way from blissed-out ambience. While the musical content of these pieces is in itself enjoyable enough, the concrete sounds (including spoken words, water, footsteps; the usual things) create a considerably more all-encompassing atmosphere of nastiness. It’s as well that Tremblay puts enough musicality into what he does that you feel you want to keep listening. It’s something like watching a horror movie with your eyes shut.

The last two tracks are less conceptually scary, but just as edgy. Rictus nocturne is the composer’s tribute to jazz, and oddly enough it’s the world of mushy standards which gets the treatment. Still, apart from the odd, obvious sample, what Tremblay is doing here is using the notion of the “jam session,” the informal, after-hours playing where much experimentation often goes on. Combining a variety of electronic techniques under no particular theoretical rubric, Tremblay creates a altogether abstract work of music with very little to do with jazz; though it’s a lot of fun. Jeu d’ondes is a short piece sampling sounds from a yacht (both the boat and the water) and completely re-frying them to produce another abstract composition. Tremblay’s relationship to his sources is ambiguous, transforming some beyond recognition while leaving others untouched. Often, as on the first and final tracks, the results are extremely dramatic; in Oaristys they are strangely beautiful.

… the results are extremely dramatic…

Review

MM, Vital, no. 163, February 22, 1999

The most recent catalogue issued by empreintes DIGITALes (yours for the asking, by the way) contains a quotation by one George Nicholson, “… we might say that certain sonic landscapes, thought, colours, certain states and manifestations of the soul would remain forever muted, if electroacoustics had not sprung forth from nowhere — unexpected and inevitable.” This is a sentiment I cannot help but agree with wholeheartedly. Over the past few weeks I’ve had the opportunity to listen to some of the newest music in this genre and have finally had the chance to listen to Alibi, which exemplifies the above quotation most admirably. Compared to most electroacoustic music I’ve heard, the compositions on this CD struck me as being quite sinister and it includes some of the strangest sounds I’ve encountered. Mr. Tremblay studied with all the right people and feels himself to be firmly rooted in the spirit of baroque, which he, together with write Alejo Carpentier, feels to be not so much a historic style, but rather a constant of the spirit. The first (and my favourite) track on Alibi is titled Hérésie ou les bas-reliefs du dogme and concerns itself with the manner in which the heart of man has become “a cave of bandits” shaped by the reigning collective moral ideal, and which ensures his survival amongst great infamies. It is filled with quotes which illustrate the crimes and cruelties committed by man in the name of God. So it is that we hear money-hungry cable preachers, forked tongued papal posturing, Saddam Hussein as a Madman Insane all of which demonstrate the “shift from idealism to materialism, from heart to reason”. Gregorian chants and Tibetan mantras similarly evolve from the pure to the impure as they slide down a slope from the path of fearlessness into the valley of the shadow of distortion.

Demanding voices lunge out brandishing guilt — where there is no guilt, then guilt will be provided. The tweet and twitter of bat-like demons of the dark fly around in the threatening space, where disease and dis-ease are free to roam and prey on the weak and frail. Definitely not a piece to be listened to in the dark. The following track flows out of this with well-lubricated ease, and I suppose there is a link to be found. It’s called Oaristys and it’s theme is eroticism. Still, it remains quite a foreboding terrain and even the laughter included in it later on does little to alleviate the looming shapes at the edge. Great voice treatments! More darkness in L’Intrus au chapeau de spleen — the elusive unconscious which seeks entry through the crumbling fortress constructed around memory, sometimes persuasive as a gentle lover, sometimes as wild as a bull — “the keeper of our monsters…” Jeu d’ondes is the shortest composition on this CD and it is constructed from recordings of the different sounds found on a sailboat — rustling sail, creaking cables, clattering winches — combined with quotes from radio broadcasts. Of the four empreintes DIGITALes CDs I’ve written about in the last four editions of Vital, I found this the most confrontational, the hardest to assimilate and perhaps, in the end, the CD which contains the ‘deepest’ compositions.

… includes some of the strangest sounds I’ve encountered.

Un cinéma pour l’oreille

Clément Trudel, Le Devoir, October 26, 1998

Dans ce qui pourra se révéler un «cinéma pour l’oreille», le théâtre La Chapelle propose, du 28 octobre au 1er novembre, une immersion dans la musique concrète ou «acousmatique». Cinq jours d’électro pour souligner les 50 ans d’une musique inventée par le Français Pierre Schaeffer.

Parmi les compositeurs de musique concrète, l’un des plus prolifiques est François Bayle qui dirigea à Paris, durant 30 ans, l’Ina-GRM ou Groupe de recherches musicales de l’ORTF. Ces journées organisées par Réseaux font la part du lion à Bayle que certains qualifient de «légende vivante». Le samedi 31, les concerts de 19h et de 21h (Rétrospective no 1 et Rétrospective no 2) portent entièrement sur des œuvres de Bayle. Ces concerts sont repris le dimanche (1 novembre) aux mêmes heures. François Bayle s’entretient dimanche (14h) avec de jeunes compositeurs.

Un catalogue abrégé de ses œuvres présenté par la revue d’esthétique musicale LIEN (printemps 1994) contient une cinquantaine de titres. Sous la direction de Michel Chion, LIEN a recueilli une vingtaine de témoignages de musiciens et de compositeurs sur Bayle, auteur de plusieurs ouvrages théoriques. Certains ont découvert l’électroascoustique au contact d’œuvres comme L’Oiseau chanteur ou Espaces inhabitables de Bayle, dont l’un des disques porte le titre Motion-Émotion.

Cet événement Rien à voir (4) accueille trois autres compositeurs: le Montréalais Stéphane Roy (mercredi 28); le Suédois Erik Michael Karlsson qui offre (jeudi 29) ses propres compositions (19h) suivies à 21h, d’une Carte blanche. Venu d’Allemagne, le compositeur Ludger Brümmer, qui a remporté en 1993 le prix Ars Electronica d’Autriche, offrira deux concerts le 30 octobre.

L’étiquette empreintes DIGITALes lancera (28 octobre) trois disques: Musiques naïves (Yves Daoust), Alibi (Jacques Tremblay) et Lieux inouïs (Robert Normandeau).

L’étiquette empreintes DIGITALes lance trois disques…

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