Annette Vande Gorne

An Itinerary Through Northern Europe

François Couture, electrocd.com, February 9, 2004

This is a casual listening path, an invitation to travel — not a guided tour per se, more of an itinerary, akin to Romantic-era travel literature. So this will be a listening itinerary, an invitation to discover a highly subjective selection of electroacoustic composers from a specific corner of the world. Our destination: Northern Europe.

France reigns over European electroacoustic music like a despotic queen. The persisting influence of Pierre Schaeffer’s work — even more than 50 years after the invention of what he has called “musique concrète” — and the gravitational pull of the Ina-GRM tend to hide from the rest of the world the work being accomplished elsewhere in Europe.

So let’s start our journey in one of France’s neighbors, Belgium. The country owes much of its electroacoustic activity to Annette Vande Gorne, the indefatigable animator of the Musiques & Recherches center. Her music displays a strong sense of serenity, something rare in the field of tape music. Tao, a cycle about the five base elements (air, earth, metal, fire and water), remains a classic. In it she explores every possible transformation of the sounds associated to these elements with an uncommon level of artistry and poetry. A student of Vande Gorne, Stephan Dunkelman has picked up on her grace, a grace he transmutes into movement. Often the result of a collaboration with choreographers, his works are driven by an inner force that substitutes the sensuality of movement to Vande Gorne’s philosophical — almost mystical — depth. His pieces Rituellipses and Thru, Above and Between, released on the album Rhizomes, deserve your attention.

A jump across the Northern Sea and we set foot on English ground. Birmingham has become an important creative node in electroacoustic music, thanks to the work of composer Jonty Harrsison and his Birmingham ElectroAcoustic Sound Theatre (better known as BEAST), a laboratory for experimentation and sound diffusion that has helped many talented composers in developing their art. Harrison’s music is an essential listen. His piece Klang (released on Évidence matérielle) ranks among the best-known electroacoustic works of the last 25 years. His precise sound constructions and his distinctive way of compressing sound matter into streams of energy put him up there with Pierre Henry, Francis Dhomont and Bernard Bernard Parmegiani. One can follow the traces of his techniques into the works of Adrian Moore, one of his students, especially in the latter’s fondness for putting simple sound sources (marker on a white board, tin foil) through complex transformations. Sieve, from the album Traces, uses a catchy playfulness to make this transformative process transparent.

Denis Smalley was born and raised in New Zealand, but he has been living in the UK since the mid-‘70s. His contributions to the acousmatic corpus and to the development of sound diffusion make him not only the contemporary but in a sense the acolyte of Harrison. Furthermore, the two composers share a similar interest in form and in the choreographed displacement of abstract sound objects through space and time. Wind Chimes (on Impacts intérieurs) and Base Metals (on Sources/Scènes) are good illustrations of the slightly cold yet fascinating beauty of his music. John Young, one of his students — and another New-Zealander who studied and now teaches in England), follows a similar approach, although he replaces Smalley’s elemental sound sources with more emotionally charged images. The works featured on his CD La limite du bruit offer to the listener several occasions to dive into his or her own memories, the sound of a squeaky swing or a creaky door turning into avatars of Proust’s madeleine. Time, Motion and Memory is a choice cut.

Scandinavian electroacoustic music is still too largely ignored on our side of the Atlantic, but empreintes DIGITALes’ catalog allows us to make a short stop to round up our peregrinations. Natasha Barrett has studied with Harrison and Smalley and has been involved in BEAST, but since 1998 she has elected Norway as her base camp. There, she has stepped away from the style of her teachers and has sought inspiration in the Nordic cold. Her Three Fictions, released on Isostasie, deserve many listens. And let me bring this listening path to an end with one of the key composers in electroacoustic music today, the Swedish Åke Parmerud, whose Renaissance (on Jeu d’ombres) pays tribute to the analog synthesizer without resorting to nostalgic tricks.


François Couture, AllMusic, October 11, 2001

One of the leading female electroacoustic composers of the generation born with “musique concrète” (“discovered” in 1948 by Pierre Schaeffer), Annette Vande Gorne has illustrated herself not only through her works, but also as a teacher, theoretician, animator, and promoter of electroacoustics in Europe, especially in her native Belgium. Her major works from the 1980s and 1990s have been published by the Quebec label empreintes DIGITALes on two CDs, Tao (1993) and Le Gingko(1995, reissued in 1998 as Impalpables).

Annette Vande Gorne had already completed her classical music studies at the Mons and Brussels Royal Conservatories when she first came in contact with electroacoustic music. She was in France for a brief stay at the time. The works of Pierre Henry and François Bayle made her see in acousmatics an uncharted territory. She took training courses with Henry, François Delalande, and at the Groupe de Musique Expérimentale de Bourges, and studied electroacoustic composition with Schaeffer.

By 1980 she was active as a composer while teaching classical music history. In 1982 she founded the Musiques & Recherche center and the Métamorphoses d’Orphée studio, two of the earliest electroacoustic institutions in Belgium. She organized the first festival L’Espace du Son (Brussels, Mons) in 1984 and published the review Liens while putting together a documentation center on acousmatic art. Starting in 1986 she was appointed professor of electroacoustic composition at the Royal Conservatories in Liège, Brussels and Mons.

Vande Gorne is often drawn to metaphysical subjects. Her cycle Tao is a reflection on the four basic elements of taoism. Her relation with words is also crucial to her work. Following Francis Dhomont’s example, she forays into text-music relations. Her collaborations with poet Werner Lambersy are particularly successful.

One of the leading female electroacoustic composers…


Geert De Decker, Sztuka Fabryka, November 1, 2000

Now some music from a citizen of our country, Annette Vande Gorne she lives in the French part of Belgium while we live in the Flemish speaking part. empreintes DIGITALes is from Québec a part of Canada where they speak almost French. Therefore you hear a lot of French on their releases, are the booklets in French and English and have they contacts with French speaking artists from other countries. Annette Vande Gorne has put her music on poems from Werner Lambersy, a poet who lives also in the French part of Belgium. The poems are therefore in French, but the enclosed booklet, 45 pages, gives us a complete translation of all texts that are read in the compositions. In the first composition Annette creates with waves an atmosphere that goes close to the poem, it is of a man that makes a journey, to himself. She is able to create with ambient tunes the feelings that the man encounters through his journey. The following composition is more chaos, this time no ambient tunes but random sounds and various of tunes is the music. This time it is also not the music that follow the words, but the words of the poem receives also a random attitude. Words are read loud, quick, slow, calm and not only one by one but several sentences are read at the same time. In this composition no waves as in the first composition. Waves return in the third composition but on a more dramatic way, it follows the way the poem is performed, slowly and dramatic. Reading the explanation in the booklet you know why. It is a poem (black wedding) about a person who meets the feeling of death that is approaching . Soft and dramatic sounds and tunes comes over you, it is a composition that takes more then 34 minutes. This album is far out the most best record available where music and spoken word is mixed. You do not to know French to like this CD, because the large booklet gives you full translation and information about each composition, while French itself has a poetic beauty.

… the most best record available where music and spoken word is mixed.

Des expériences plaisantes, pourquoi pas?

François Tousignant, Le Devoir, August 8, 1998

Avant de vous quitter pour trois petites semaines, non que je vous fasse des infidélités, seulement question de reposer ces doigts qui ont tant martelé ce clavier, et de permettre à ces oreilles d’aller respirer l’air du large, avant de VOUS quitter donc, une petite expérience hors du commun.

Il s’agit d’une production de notre essentielle étiquette de découvertes empreintes DIGITALes menée par ce Don Quichotte de l’électroacoustique qu’est Jean-François Denis. Vous l’avez sûrement vu en magasin, si vous êtes férus de lèche-rayon; reste à vous dire ce qu’il y a à entendre.

Tout d’abord, un avertissement: cet enregistrement de la Belge Annette Vande Gorne ne tombe pas dans l’électroacoustique pure et dure, celle des structures autosuffisantes et des architectures abstraites aux sonorités déroutantes.

Non, Annette Vande Gorne joue dans ces trois œuvres d’un art de la mise en scène sonore qu’on pourrait dire héritier du mélodrame du XVIIIe siècle, rejoignant en partie la définition d’origine: un texte parlé sur un fond musical expressif. L’experience est digne de ce que veut parfois tenter la Chaîne culturelle, sans que ses artisans, trop peu artistes, sachent y arriver.

Alors, un soir, détendu, mettez ce disque dans votre lecteur et — sans lire la pochette, je n’insisterai jamais assez là-dessus! — asseyez-vous dans la pénombre pour vous griser d’abord des paroles si bien écrites de Werner Lambersy, de la voix du narrateur — presque aussi enivrante que celle de Gérard Philipe — et du «fond» sonore de Vande Gorne.

Curieux de devoir admettre que dans ce que d’habitude on veut entendre comme événement musical, ici c’est la participation verbale qui prédomine. La compositrice fait office d’intermédiaire, de faire-valoir d’une humilité aussi expressive que sincère. Cela est d’autant plus efficace que l’oreille — comme le sentiment, cela vous semble-t-il bizarre? — navigue perpétuellement entre deux niveaux premiers d’écoute: la concentration sur la narration, l’attention au contexte acoustique.

Alors, quand on se laisse pénétrer de cet univers, on pressent un autre rythme, raffiné (j’oserais «féminin» uniquement si on accepte cette définition comme représentant une sensibilité autre que la traditionnelle, qui propose une vision sensoriellement différente des us coutumiers des bonzes acousmaticiens). On arrive même à le ressentir.

En cela, Noces noires est une expérience remarquable, symphonie verbale d’images chocs, sonorités de ponctuation des vertiges des impressions provoquées, telle une matrice qui se transmute elle-même aux transformations de son fruit généré. Le titre du disque, Impalpables trouve toute sa justification.

Les amoureux de science-fiction préféreront la porte d’entrée du Le ginkgo. Tous s’accorderont peut-être pour trouver Architecture nuit plus «ésotérique».

C’est un des autres charmes de cette musique, celui de ne pas s’enfermer dans un seul compartiment et d’explorer un genre des facettes qui tentent de s’imbriquer dans un portrait qu’on rêve parfait.

… une expérience remarquable, symphonie verbale d’images chocs…


Ear Magazine, May 1, 1998
I love this woman’s compositions, sound and textures… Brilliant. The Best — Highly Recommended + Third Ear Mention: Most Impressive!

Rien à voir avec Calon, Vande Gorne, Parmegiani et les autres

Le Devoir, February 19, 1998

Hier commençait au Théâtre La Chapelle la troisième série de concerts Rien à voir. Au menu: cinq jours d’électroacoustique, des compositeurs venus de tous les horizons, trois lancements de disque. Ces concerts ne sont pas comme les autres: aucun musicien sur place, mais vingt haut-parleurs faisant entendre des œuvres déjà fixées sur bandes.

Le festival veut souligner le 50e de la musique concrète. En 1948, alors qu’il était responsable du Studio d’essai de la Radio française, Pierre Schaeffer se rendit compte qu’un disque souple permettait de transformer le son, de le moduler. Comme les couleurs pour le peintre, la musique peut être utilisée en tant que véritable matériau.

Le concept a fait des petits et a étendu ses tentacules. À la suite de Schaeffer, les Québécois se sont employés à développer ce créneau. Il est d’ailleurs revenu à trois d’entre eux — Jean-François Denis, Gilles Gobeil et Robert Normandeau — de lancer hier le festival Rien à voir, tout à entendre.

Aujourd’hui, le public pourra entendre le travail de recherche de Christian Calon, un compositeur autodidacte qui partage sa vie entre le Québec, la France et l’Allemagne.

La soirée de demain sera entièrement consacrée à la Belge Annette Vande Gorne. Samedi, pleins feux sur le Français Bernard Parmegiani, dont on entendra un total de six pièces. À la séance de 18h30: Bidule en ré (1969), Entre-temps (1992), Sonare (1997); à celle de 20h30: Violostries (1965), Pour en finir avec le pouvoir d’Orphée (1972) et La création du monde (1982-1984).

Le festival Rien à voir, tout à entendre se conclura par un concert-surprise. On sait tout de même que ce concert mettra en vedette Parmegiani, dont on entendra l’œuvre la plus célèbre, De natura sonorum, et cinq jeunes compositeurs de Montréal.

Le festival ne quittera son repère du Théâtre La Chapelle que pour un seul événement. Aujourd’hui, à 13h, sera donnée en première nord-américaine Die Zimmer der Erinnerung (Les Chambres de la mémoire) de Christian Calon, au Goethe-Institut, au 418, rue Sherbrooke Est.

Par ailleurs, seront lancés trois disques, tous sur étiquettes Empreintes DIGITALes: Miniatures concrètes (24 clips électroacoustique), Les corps éblouis de Christian Calon et Impalpables d’Annette Vande Gorne.

… cinq jours d’électroacoustique, des compositeurs venus de tous les horizons, trois lancements de disque.