Monique Jean / André Leroux, Tim Brady, Lori Freedman

… this sublime, surround-sound extravaganza serves as an indication of her prowess. The Sound Projector, UK

… les sons se chevauchent, s’affrontent ou entrent en symbiose, au service d’une musique plus structurée et narrative. Revue & Corrigée, France

Prix Opus 2012-13: Disque de l’année

Monique Jean is a composer whose dense and raw sound universe will inevitably deeply engage the listener. Her musical discourse is flawless, meticulously written, giving sound the time needed to accurately deploy in all its sensory perception. It is An honest sensory, refusing routine, is giving each pieces of this disc a unique color.

The first piece, Givre, is a real major work of 17 minutes crossing back and forth between pure and opaque atmospheres. Follow three mixed pieces — for acoustic instruments and fixed sounds — (Ricochets, Misfit, and low memory #3) exploring the fusion of electroacoustic timbre with saxophone, electric guitar, and clarinet. The last piece, low memory #1, is closing on a set of complex drones and tensions, leaving the listener with time to internalize the work. Monique Jean is an indisputable virtuose composer.

  • Canada Council for the Arts • Musicaction • SODEC

DVD-Audio — Surround (IMED 12119)

  • Label: empreintes DIGITALes
  • IMED 12119
  • 2012
  • UCC 771028211999
  • Total duration: 61:27
  • OGplus
  • 142 mm × 125 mm × 10 mm
  • 50 g

On the web

Download (IMED 12119_NUM)


About Greffes

Although, according to composer Monique Jean, the title of this monograph album — Greffes, which means “Grafts” — refers to an earthy, “botanical” world, her music draws me into an immersive, marine environment — amniotic even; original.

Her artistic process is highly (in)formed and cultivated, yet it eschews all academicism. You could even describe it as being brutally sophisticated. Monique Jean is not trying to please (herself); she is proving to herself (and, by extension, to us, her listeners) that “art is creation, not imitation”, as da Vinci wrote nearly 500 years ago. Our Siren from New Brunswick sings prophecies that are such deeply personal truths they acquire a universal quality, although she wouldn’t go as far as (mis)taking herself for a goddess.

Let us start with Givre (2011), the most recent work and one of the two “purely” electroacoustic works included here. The introduction, where silence also plays a prominent role, extends a hand toward a world of weightlessness, inviting our own imagination to travel ever deeper, although suspended by very high frequencies serving as an anchor. Thus the trunk (of the plant; the Siren’s torso too) is drawn.

Three “grafts” follow: the first one in Ricochets (2006), where the electronics receive a tenor saxophone implant; the second with a guitar in Misfit (2007); and the third one with a bass clarinet in low memory #3 (2005). All three form morphologically fascinating, organic, and aquatic chimeras (in every sense of the word). Three unique hands-on encounters that do not share the same genetic roots, be it within each piece or between the three.

low memory #1 (2000) for fixed sounds, the earliest in the series, already resounds like a “classic” of its genre. Based on a more “orchestral” inspiration, it takes us, through its spatialization (even in stereo), on a journey into the recesses of a personal soundworld where the unexpected suddenly feels like a necessity, something inevitable once it has been discovered.

This ten-year retrospective of our Acadian Siren’s creative work bears witness to a maturity that is generously and skillfully accepted. It’s a sea of fulfillment in which we may swim!

Sharon Kanach, Montréal [English translation: François Couture, Sharon Kanach, v-12]

A Botanical Metaphor

Greffes is a botanical metaphor about the various contributions — instrumental music, live music with real-time processing, sound installation — that graft themselves to an acousmatic process to enrich it and blur the outline of its main body. Sound materials are rough and raw, eroded by the passing of time, by the passing of meaning, driven by a muffle yet vibrant pulse anchored in the body.

Monique Jean, Montréal [English translation: François Couture, vi-12]


Thank you to the following individuals who have lent me their skills and ears at various stages of the process: Pierre Alexandre Tremblay and Bernard Grenon for low memory #3; Olivier Bélanger for Ricochets; Sylvain Pohu for Misfit; France Jobin for Givre; Serge Arcuri for his valuable help with score writing; Bruno Bélanger for mixing all the sound sequences triggered in real-time and for recording the musicians. I would also like to thank Claire Marchand (flute) and Joëlle Léandre (doublebass), whose sounds appear in low memory #1; and Productions, réalisations indépendantes de Montréal (PRIM) for their ongoing support through their arts support program. Finally, thank you Monique Bertrand to whom Greffes is dedicated.

Monique Jean, Montréal [English translation: François Couture, vi-12]

Some recommended items
In the press

Monique Jean: Hard Graft For Easy Listening

Stuart Marshall, The Sound Projector, September 6, 2013

In this tastefully packaged DVD-Audio recording, electroacoustic composer (and former Francis Dhomont protégé) Monique Jean (re)asserts her redoubtable talent in a field scarcely short of it. Her second release on the empreintes DIGITALes label – in 9 years to be precise – demonstrates a depth of realisation most likely achieved as a result of a patient, methodical work ethic. Unlikely is it that she’s been sat around thinking about lunch all these years: her list of works for live performance, radio, video and installations, since 1997, is Babylonian in stature. Regarding the work itself: in the words of a biographer, Jean ‘is interested in the tensions, ruptures and clashes of sonic matter that produce a transmutation of the real into the poetic.’ Which is as valid a summary of the contents of this DVD-Audio as one could possibly muster.

The slightly sycophantic sleeve notes twice designate the composer a ‘siren’ (though not ‘a goddess’, phew); moving on to conceptually clarify the kinesthetics of solo instrumental performance qua source material for Jean, relating a methodology whereby ‘each performer’s gesture… is magnified and broken down to its energetic principles, which then become the theme of the piece.’ And where for some this might entail sampling and looping telling fragments of a recording for the sake of a tasty beat, for Jean it is an intuitive reckoning with the musician’s very élan vital, as she disembowels a series of intrepid improvisations and exposes the pulsating innards. While Iancu Dumitrescu isn’t likely to find himself on the dole any time soon, he would have every cause to approve of this assiduously assembled set of acousmatic meditations.

While the album’s title Greffes (‘Grafts’, 2012) alludes to realms botanical, I concur with (sleeve note writer) Sharon Kanach’s ‘amniotic’ designation, for there is palpable depth to her world. Subtle aquatic allusions / illusions emerge from the get-go: alien technology stealthily scanning the primordial sea floor in Givre (2011), begetting an unearthly counterpart to Parmegiani’s La création du monde; while simultaneously inhabiting a measureless void – space both inner and outer – a blackness sliced by shafts of light, devoid of emotion or intellect; over 17 minutes accreting electromagnetic mass in the face of the inexorable final moment. Something of a centrepiece to the album, this piece might benefit frequenters of flotation tanks more than the usual phalanx of reverbed panpipes and didgeridoos.

In Ricochets (2006), a soaring saxophone shrieks, wails, wavers and vomits its guts into the alchemist’s laboratory, where it is both dissected and disintegrated on a bed of silence which becomes a funeral pyre: the incandescence of the performance immolating the improviser, who issues upwards in a pungent plume of smoke. Within this, identity remains intact if intangible; conveyed in millions of glistening particles that flow freely from the expanding flames, rattling and retreating from the speakers in intervals.

Similar phenomena beset subsequent performances; differences determined by participants’ personalities. These are also electronically processed, abstracted and distilled. Misfit (2007) sees a tightly tuned guitar given the Catholic heat treatment: the rising and abating conflagration discharging the essence of the once-electric instrument into the heavens. Its strings become livid tendrils that lash through the dense smoke, leaving bloody trails. In low memory #3 (2005) and #1 (2000) there is a distinct alternation / altercation between extended bouts of atmospheric compression and decompression, ‘attempts at re-establishing some kind of balance… the act of rebuilding being constantly thwarted and repeated’; clarinets of different pitches are manipulated and molested with religious fervour and scientific rigour, as though concealing a cosmic secret from the inquisition.

There is violence apparent in these audio autopsies, though it is as implied in the recorded performance as it is, applied by the curious composer. The result is an agonising catharsis, whereby the transpersonal essence is alchemically separated from the ‘corpse’ of the recording and given freedom of speech, within the full emancipatory remit of the recorded medium. It’s a real room-rumbler to boot. Jean’s concerts have won her acclaim in Canada (she took home the 2005 Opus Award for Concert of the Year), which suggests her performances must be something approaching transcendental, if this sublime, surround-sound extravaganza serves as an indication of her prowess. In rare instances such as this recording, a voice speaks to me from an alien dimension, whereupon I experience a gut-level glimmering of fear and wonder. For those who regard the recorded medium as a tomb for ‘dead’ performances, this album might revive a few spirits. Seek it out forthwith!

… this sublime, surround-sound extravaganza serves as an indication of her prowess.


Pierre Durr, Revue & Corrigée, no. 96, June 1, 2013
… les sons se chevauchent, s’affrontent ou entrent en symbiose, au service d’une musique plus structurée et narrative.


Massimiliano Busti, Blow Up, no. 180, May 1, 2013

Sin dagli anni sessanta la sperimentazione sonora legata alla musique concrète si è rivelata uno spazio congeniale alla sensibilità femminile e il numero delle compositrici che oggi operano in quest’ambito appare sempre più numeroso, come testimoniano le recenti uscite di una delle etichette più rappresentative nel settore, la empreintes DIGITALes. Monique Jean, canadese classe 1960, attiva da tempo nell’ambito della musica per film e della sound art, in Greffes anima un mondo magico che è già perfettamente definito dall’acusmarìca pura di Givre, la lunga composizione iniziale creata per dodici performance site-specific del coreografo Tedi Tafel sul ciclo delle stagioni, un’evocativa rappresentazione del risveglio della ntura nel mese di Marzo in cui l’energia vitale inizia ad animarsi Sotto la coltre dei ghiacci. Ad essa si affiancano tre brani basati sullo studio di altrettanti strumenti, in cui il sassofono di André Leroux libera anelli di suono che si scompongono in effetti caleidoscopici (Ricochets), la chitarra di Tim Brady genera architetture fantastiche grazie a un brillantissimo processo di elaborazione in studio (Misfit) e il clarinetto di Lori Freedman si trasfigura in un’avvolgente nebulosa di drones e de!ays (low memory #1). Materia elettroacustica purissima, suggestiva, iridescenre, perfettamente bilanciata.

Manuella Blackburn, inglese di Londra, è invece una giovane compositrice (del 1984) che utilizza una materia sonora più fragile e sfuggente, meditativa (l’atmosfera da giardino giapponese evocata da field recordings e strumenti tradizionali in Karita oto), mutevole (le elaborazioni timbriche di Spectral Spaces) e vagamente ironica (l’uso degli utensili da cucina in Kitchen Alchemy). Il suo Forrmes audibles è un mìcro-universo ricco di sfumarure e sorprese in cui si apprezza l’estrema varietà dei contenuti e la profondità di una ricerca che con lucidità riesce brillantemente ad eludere la routine accademica.

… come testimoniano le recenti uscite di una delle etichette più rappresentative nel settore, la empreintes DIGITALes.


Vito Camarretta, Chain DLK, April 14, 2013

Coming on the uncommon format of DVD-Audio to exploit the sonic cinematic quality of 5.1 surround, this second solo release by Montréal-based composer Monique Jean succeeds in enmeshing listeners by means of meticulously moulded reticulums whose intrinsically intricacy seems to have been unravelled in order to make every graduated shading more appraisable and enjoyable by the adoption of a sort of modular laying of sonic flagstones or, to reprise the title chosen by Monique, a series of grafts and insertions. After the immersive long-lasting first track Givre (French word for “hard rime,” the crystallization of water drops, caused by the so-called supercooling of fog), which renders this freezing process in an extraordinarily vivid way by means of electroacoustic weaponry, granular sounds, thin whishes an withering sonic entities, Monique elevates the concept, abridged in the title of her album (Greffes is the French word for grasps), by three impressive grasps of traditional acoustic instruments into acusmatic offshoots: Ricochet sounds like the tuning of a saxophone into a complicate system of dampers and shock absorbers, Misfit — my favorite sonic game — seems to represent the transplant of electronic and electric circuits and belt sanders within the body of an electric guitar while on low memory #3, Monique seems to trace the adventourous journey of clarinet sound over a route of tension pulleys, trip hammers and rusty wheelbarrows. On the final low memory #1, a windmill of viscous drones, woody burrs and metallic creaking gropes into electric gusts in a streamlined way which will make it easy to metabolize even for listeners, who are not accustomed to this kind of sonorities and are invited to explore the interesting sonic research of tensions and ruptures of sonic matter and the transmutation of concrete sounds into a poetic dimension by this composer.

… an extraordinarily vivid way by means of electroacoustic weaponry, granular sounds, thin whishes an withering sonic entities…


Simon, Goûte mes disques, March 7, 2013

On vous parle pour la première fois du label Empreintes Digitales, et pourtant on en suit toutes les sorties avec une attention systématique. Pour comprendre cette confiance aveugle, il faut préciser que la structure est l’une des plus grandes références en matière d’électroacoustique mondiale. […] Et pour cause, Empreintes Digitales ne sort jamais de mauvais disque. Si on ne connait pas la moitié du quart des artistes présents sur la structure (à moins de vivre dans l’underground montréalais), tous ont en commun de justifier des curriculum vitae plus que pointus. Car Empreintes Digitales, c’est avant tout un rassemblement de mecs bardés de diplômes en composition électroacoustique. On est ici dans la frange «dure» du genre, celle qui fait la jonction entre les mathématiques appliquées et la stricte composition. Un catalogue qui peut paraître comme trop pieux pour les profanes, mais qui devrait attirer l’attention – si ce n’est déjà fait – des amateurs de risque contrôlés.

Enfin si on vous parle de tout cela, c’est parce que Monique Jean vient récemment d’apporter sa pierre à l’édifice, et de bien belle manière qui plus est. On la connait peu, pour ne pas dire pas du tout, mais ce qu’on entend sur les cinq longues pièces de Greffes nous suffit pour la considérer comme une pièce essentielle de l’échiquier canadien du genre électroacoustique. Rien que le Givre d’ouverture justifie à lui seul l’achat de ce DVD-Audio (ah oui, on a oublié de vous dire, la structure ne publie que sur ce format pour présenter ses travaux en configuration 5.1): magnifique monstre de dix-sept minutes qui joue sur les infrabasses, les balises signalétiques et les micro-fractures pour transcender d’une magnifique manière cette première étude rigoureuse du son.

On pourrait d’ailleurs croire à l’écoute de ce premier titre que Greffes annonce un disque de bon écolier, ce qui est finalement loin d’être le cas. Car les quatre titres qui suivent optent pour une voie bien plus audacieuse (même si la maîtrise de Givre n’a rien de péjoratif), voire casse-gueule. Guitares préparées, clarinettes et saxophones formeront tour à tour les bases de titres plus ou moins longs, assurant à cet ensemble des atours organiques virulents, parfois noise et déroutants.

Quoiqu’il en soit, derrière revient la même maîtrise, permanente malgré cette volonté de vouloir sortir d’une image trop scolaire. Un très bon disque, qui appelle sans cesse à la réécoute. Histoire de s’assurer qu’on n’en a pas fait le tour, que les interrogations sont là pour durer. Pour tous les amateurs de sonorités boisées.

Un très bon disque, qui appelle sans cesse à la réécoute.


Wolfgang Kabsch, Musik an sich, February 25, 2013

Die klanglich hochwertige DVD-Audio des 2. Soloalbums der Kanadierin Monique Jean bietet sehr gegenteiliges. Die ersten knapp 18 Minuten bauen aus elektronischen Knirschen und Brummen, eingespielten Geräuschen und schweren elektronischen Drowns eine gespenstische Atmosphäre. Das DVD-Audio Format macht hier doppelt Sinn, denn so wirken die Drowns selbst bei normaler Lautstärke wie ein kleines Erdbeben und die Sounds kommen glasklar herüber. So entsteht Geräuschkopfkino mit manchmal wie zufällig entstehenden Melodien.

Danach taucht man als Vierer in tiefe Musique Concrète Gefilde ab. Die elektronischen Geräusche sind immer noch vorhanden, werden nun jedoch mit dissonant gespielten Instrumenten (Saxophon, Gitarre und Klarinette) “veredelt”. Das kann man wahlweise als große Kunst oder auch als reine Kakophonie bezeichnen. Dieses Klangmenü geht über Stücke. Stücke, bis man im abschließenden, wieder dem ersten ähnelnden Klangkosmos mündet.

Das ist kein einfacher Stoff und nichts zum nebenbei hören. Die Arrangements sind ebenso wie der Klang beeindruckend.

Auf der DVD-Audio werden die Tracks als hochauflösende MP3’s mitgeliefert, die wie immer Kunstvoll gestaltete Papphülle bietet reichlich Informationen zur Künstlerin und ihrem Antrieb.

… und die Sounds kommen glasklar herüber.
  • Sunday, January 26, 2014 / General

    The 17th Opus Prizes winners were announced on January 26, 2014 in Montréal. The “Disc of the Year — Musique actuelle, Electroacoustics” is Greffes by Monique Jean. More