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Ambiance électroacoustique

Martin Geoffroy, McGill Daily français, March 5, 1991
Tuesday, March 5, 1991 Press

Le directeur de l’Association pour la création et la recherche en électroacoustiques du Québec (ACREQ), Yves Daoust, est content. Au cours de la demière décennie, Montréal est pratiquemment devenue la Mecque de la musique électroacoustique en Amérique du Nord. Des dizaines de concerts de cette musique encore trop marginale ont été donnés dans la demière année seulement. Visiblement détendu par ces premiers succés populaires, le directeur nous a donné sa définition de la musique électroacoustique.

La musique électroacoustique est un «tripotage électronique» des sons. Le travail se fait essentiellement à partir d’une information électrique pour ensuite restituer cette dernière sous forme d’onde acoustique. «Par exemple, on a un trombone qui ne joue aucun son de trombone, parce que le son est modifié par manipulation électronique», explique Yves Daoust. En fait,c’est un mélange d’instruments conventionnels ou modifiés et de montages sonores enregistrés au préalable en studio. «La musique ne se fait plus comme elle se faisait il y a 25 ans: la technologie n’est pas innocente, elle influence notre mode de production et de pensée» spécifie Yves Daoust. Pour le directeur de l’ACREQ, 90% de notre culture sonore actuelle est électroacoustique. «Notre consommation de musique se fait essentiellement par des moyens électroacoustiques comme le disque ou la radio par exemple» argumente Yves Daoust.

«L’électronique ne va pas disparaître, il va se perfectionner», affirme le directeur. Avec l’avénement des musiques mixtes, regroupant des bandes magnétiques à des instruments en direct rien ne semble vouloir arrêter la marche créative des électroacousticiens. «Le grand compositeur Pierre Boulez, qui a longtemps renié l’électroacoustique dans les années 60, s’est maintenant converti à ce genre d’approche moderne», soutient Yves Daoust.

La musique populaire a trop utilisé l’électronique au niveau de la production d’album. Ce qui fait dire à Yves Daoust que «la technologie contient toujours ses propres germes d’auto-destruction». Le directeur cite en exemple le demier Michael Jackson qui a son avis est surproduit. «C’est tellement raffinée comme travail de studio que bientôt les gens vont en avoir marre et vont avoir envie de retrouver les bonnes vieilles guitares fuzzées», affirme Yves Daoust. Contrairement à certains musiciens électroacoustiques le directeur de l’ACREQ croit que les orchestres symphoniques vont continuer d’exister. «On va toujours jouer du Mozart ou du Beethoven», affirme Yves Daoust.

La musique électroacoustique est née vers 1950 dans des stations de radio. «Elle est née de la volonté de faire de la création radiophonique», soutient Yves Daoust. C’est donc un phénomène relativement récent dont les multiples voix restent à explorer, ce qui a décidé l’ACREQ à parrainer la recherche en électroacoustique. Par exemple, on a réussi à mettre au point un «spatialisateur sonore» qui fonctionne relativement bien. «C’est une machine qui fait en sorte que le son puisse être réparti et contrôlé par ordinateur sur plusieurs haut-parleurs en même temps» explique Yves Daoust. L’ACREQ travaille en ce moment sur un système de son conçu spécialement pour répondre aux besoins particuliers de la musique électroacoustique.

L’exploration étant la plupart du temps un phénomène marginal dans le monde de la musique, il y a lieu de se demander à quoi peut bien servir une association comme l’ACREQ. Elle s’est d’abord donnée pour mission de promouvoir la musique électroacoustique québécoise. L’association édite des enregistrements musicaux sur cassettes d’artistes québécois et fait la promotion de ces derniers à l’étranger. L’association organise aussi des ateliers de création sonore dans les écoles pnmaires et secondaires. Les élèves peuvent alors s’initier à diverses techniques inhérentes à l’électroacoustique comme la prise de son, l’échantillonnage ou le montage par exemple. «La durée des ateliers est habituellement de huit heures, mais après seulement deux heures les jeunes maîtrisent déjà assez les techniques pour commencer à jouer» soutient Yves Daoust.

Le directeur de l’ACREQ sort un premier disque compact sur étiquette empreintes DIGITALes au mois de juin. Un album qui aura l’air d’une trame sonore de film. Gageons que cette première offrande sonique est trés attendue des amateurs.

National Concert Tour Is Breaking Down Barriers

Eric Dawson, Calgary Herald, March 3, 1991
Sunday, March 3, 1991 Press

A former composer-in-residence at the Banff Centre for the Arts is the driving force behind Canada’s first national concert tour devoted to electroacoustic music.

Ontario-born Claude Schryer, based in Banff during the Centre’s 1981-82 and 1985-86 winter cycles, is leading the three-week, seven-city tour that began last week in Vancouver. Billed as Electro Traces, the tour features music by six composers working wıth computers, synthesizers and other musical instruments.

“This is my life-after-Banff project,” says Schryer. “We wanted to get out an the road and take electroacoustic music to new audiences. It’s important to demystify the medium by making it accesaible and breaking down popular inhibitions toward anything involving electronics.

Is it music or is it technology? More than any other, Schryer says, this is the query that he hears time and again from audiences at such concerts. His aim is to show that it is music — music of quality — that can be made rewarding in concert form.

A grant from the Canada Council made it possible for Schryer and his colleagues Robert Normandeau, Alain Thibault, Daniel Scheidt, Jean-François Denis and Christian Calon to do this on what Schryer calls an ideal manner on a $50.000 budget.

“The budget is tight for a group of nine people and a lot of equipment but it makes it possible to do our job well. We have been able to take along our own sound system, an orchestra of loudspeakers. Without this, we could not begin to do our very best and the music would not be heard as it should be.”

Making electroacoustic music interesting in concert has long been one of the medium’s principal difficulties in reaching a wider public than the tiny newmusic crowd. Electro Traces has been specifically planned to overcome this problem. Works broadcast on the orchestra of loudspeakers are “performed” by a technician in full view.

Other music was chosen specifically for visual and aural variety. Schryer highlighted such “traditional and vısual” presentations as a piano concerto for piano and tape.

Although unable to secure a venue in Calgary for the tour, Schryer believes a CBC broadcast (to be announced) and five available recordings on the empreintes DIGITALes label will succeed in spreading the word for electroacoustic music throughout Canada. Exchanges of artists and information world-wide through an existing network is also building support for the still small but growing Canadian community.

“It all takes time,” Schryer says. “It took us time to convince the Canada Council, for instance that a tour of this kind was important. When they finally agreed, it was a real breakthrough for electroacoustic musicians in this country. We have always had support from some areas — especially from the Banff Centre, which is unique in degree of support it has given us.”

But now is the time to build an audience and change a few minds about the merits of the medium. To date, Schryer says, the tour has met all his expectations: the general response has been good audience members have been especially keen to speak with the touring musicians and clear up any misconceptions they have.

“Our message is getting through.”

A few humble suggestions on how to improve annual extravaganza

Paul Wells, The Gazette, March 2, 1991
Saturday, March 2, 1991 Press

Now’s the time to showcase an other avant-gardist, Montréal guitarist René Lussier. He has a real audience — a respectable number came to his Spectrum show during last fall’s New music America festival

More important, as his album Le trésor de la langue showed, Lussier gives eloquent expression to Québécois nationalism, wich isn’t exacly likely to fade away by summer. Publish disclaimers (“The opinion expressed in this concert are not necessarily… “) if you want but seize the chance to give this festival some political bite.

Review

Mark Vail, Keyboard, no. 17:3, March 1, 1991
Friday, March 1, 1991 Press

Subtitled “25 instantanés électroacoustiques de trois minutes” (25 three-minute electroacoustic snapshots), this CD presents a pot-pourri of inspired, moody, and sometimes frightening music. Total running time is over 77 minutes. Too many pieces to detail here, but we’ll touch on a few outstanding ones.

Michel A Smith opens with Style de bougalou (Bougalou-like), which features some entertaining vocal (baby sighs, cries, goos, and other strange whisperings) and instrumental (only piano is familiar) samples. Smith molds these into a delightful rhythm that gradually builds into a screaming runaway train at the climax.

You’ll think Jabba the Hut has invaded your listening space when you hear Zack Settel’s SkweeitChupp. The humorous, nonsense speaking narrator, who often sounds Russian, is interspersed with sometimes fun, sometimes macabre vocal and FM sounds. Altemately cute and scary.

Associations libres (Free Associations), by Gilles Gobeil with René Lussier on electric guitar, comes as close as any music we’ve heard to causing instant nightmares. The cacaphony of shrieking guitar tones, sonic collisions, jungle noises, frightening machine simulations, and slamming booby traps certainly made our skin crawl. Very impressive.

Creative sampling — in both realistic and bizarrely edited forms — abounds on Électro clips. You’ll hear crowd noises, flowing water, electric trains, trucks, television newscasts, and so on — even “Where are you?” from Prince’s The Future on his Batman Motion Picture Soundtrack. The distinctively female yawn in Francis Dhomont’s Qui est là? is absolutely infectuous.

Twenty-five individual sheets — each with a black-and-white photograph on the front and a trilingual composer introduction and brief description of the corresponding piece on the rear — accompany the CD. Électro clips provides a varied taste of current trends in electroacoustic music. Besides, if you can’t stand a piece, the next one is less than three minutes away.

Very impressive.

Critique

André Major, Son hi-fi vidéo, March 1, 1991
Friday, March 1, 1991 Press

En novembre demier Montréal accueillait la onzième édition du festival New Music America, rebaptisé par les organisateurs Montréal Musiques actuelles. Ce festival de 11 jours a présenté plus de 450 artistes venus du monde entier. De ce nombre, il faut souligner les performances de Joan La Barbara, du guitariste Loren MazzaCane Connors et le lancement d’Électro clips, une album compilation de musique életroacoustique. Cet enregistrement, comme ceux de Calon, Thibault et Normandeau, est aussi disponible sur l’étiquette montréalaise empreintes DIGITALes.

Review

Kevin Austin, Computer Music Journal, no. 15:1, March 1, 1991
Friday, March 1, 1991 Press

Robert Normandeau was born in Québec in 1955, studied composition and electroacoustics at Université Laval and Université de Montréal, and is currently finishing his PhD with Francis Dhomont and Marcelle Deschênes. He too has many awards to his credit — he has won competitions such as Bourges 1986, 1988; Phonurgia-Nova 1986, 1987; and Luigi Russolo 1989 — and has held various residencies. He notes that work with artists in other disciplines, visual performance and cinema, are very important to him. Of particular note is Normandeau’s expert recording and processing technique. There is often a hyper-reality to his recorded sounds that produces a tactile sensuality, often glossed in a field of reverberation.

Jeu (1989) (“Game” / “Play”) is based on different uses of the word game/play in both literal and metaphorical senses. The play is subtle, refined, hinting at profundity and always sensually intriguing. Sound objects from renaissance choral music to a fragment of Stockhausen’s Hymnen dance before the ear in ways obscure, titillating, and evocative. The clear is made meaningful, the significant appears disguised in the commonplace. But it is only a game, isn’t it?

Mémoires vives (1989) is a “fascination with requiems.” It is also a refined study in sampler, collage, and reverberation techniques. Source materials are exclusively from requiems from the Gregorian Mass of the Dead to the present, transformed and used in time slices of a few milliseconds to almost a second. Reverberation ranges from none to immense in duration, and from small room to echo of several seconds in the density domain. Much of this work is a sonic projection of memory types and functions.

It is clear from the sensitivity to pitch-type material that Normandeau’s background has included an intimate study of Western pitch structures. While there is no overt use of pitch relationships in the small amount of material that can be considered pitched, there is a strong intuitive feel to the potential of this parameter for the creation and articulation of form. (Note especially the quasi II7 [supertonic seventh chord] structure from the Fauré Requiem at about 13 min 50 sec.)

The earlier works on the CD flesh out the background to these two works. About Rumeurs (Place de Ransbeck) (1987), Normandeau writes that the piece “oscillates between pure sound and meaning, without ever resolving to one or the other,” while Matrechka (1986) (the nested Russian dolls) “takes the form of an unveiling, a journey where reality, of a certain form, gives place to another reality. It uses the theme… that art should never be mistaken for the object it represents.” Doors open and close, voices sing and chide, waves break, as Magritte wrote under his painting of a pipe, “Ceci n’est pas une pipe (This is not a pipe).”

Le cap de la tourmente (1985) was created for an exhibit of five holographic sculptures, each with its own sound track. The version presented on this CD is an electroacoustic concert version based on these five sound tracks in only one of any number of realizations. The sounds are frequency modulation type complexes in a slowly evolving, quasi-pitched expansive context.

Normandeau refers to his latest work as “acousmatic pieces,” and also variously as “cinema for the ear.” The cryptic French word “acousmatique” is not only a manner of sound projection (diffusion) through numerous loudspeakers, but also a relationship between the sound and its meaning.

Electroacoustics is only slowly coming to grips with the perceptual parameters of our field, and is now starting to develop an analytical vocabulary which begins to deal with sound as object, symbol, metaphorical object, and metaphor. If language is accepted as vocabulary and syntax in the service of a semantic (including the relationships of same), the acousmatic use of pre-existing sonic objects allows for the immediate creation, perception, and understanding of form(s). This is because the basic sonic object (vocabulary element) is a whole and complete object, not requiring hierarchical relationship(s) (syntax) to obtain meaning (semantic). The creation of a syntax is achieved through the transformation of these vocabulary elements.

Calon moves the sonic entity towards the interior, an exploration of inner spaces. Normandeau often transforms the play of sonic-light through the creation of new (external) perspectives of existing sonic objects, such as chords from medieval choral works carefully inserted within the sounds of a Paris metro train. Calon transforms psychological space partly through the liquid consubstantiation of text. Normandeau transforms perceptual space partly through calling the individual’s own perceptual models into question.

Much more could be written about the textural nature of these two composers, and acousmatics in general; for example, the tendency, or even the necessity, of a linear and sectional approach to composition. The sound objects themselves, frequently made up of grouped elements, are often so complex that they will not easily submit to simultaneous layering. There are times when their natural, gestural duration requires that the composer allow the listener time to integrate the sound into the interior sonic framework. This requirement brings the composer to writing in medium, and occasionally large, symphonic durations.

Each composer addresses the material and moves from a similar source type (concrete and digital transformations applied mostly to concrete, but occasionally electronic sources), but in different directions (in/out). The works on the Calon CD are presented in chronological order, and Calon leads the listener to the present. Normandeau reveals the history of the object, by moving from present to past.

Careful headphone listening reveals a small number of minor technical flaws, but these works were not created for headphone listening, or for that matter, for listening in two-channel stereo. In the various electroacoustic concerts in Montréal (there are more than three regular series accounting for more than 30 concerts per year), these works are presented in sound projection systems with a minimum of eight channels, and as many as 24 and more. Eight to sixteen-channel diffusion is typical. In simple stereo listening, some of the material is spatialized as simple panning, but during the process of spatial actualization or sound projection in performance, these simple stereo localizations may become intricate directional weavings and spinning.

Much of the work carries with it an acoustical perspective (reverberation and basic localization characteristics). The use of various venues and types of loudspeakers provides the composer with means for physically expanding and contracting the source of the perceived sounds during this process of spatial actualization. It is because of this that individuals who have access to multispeaker systems, either for their own use or more importantly for public presentation, should consider that a two-channel presentation of these works is parallel to (for example) a piano version of Stockhausen’s Gruppen.

The series continues with a third CD of works by Alain Thibault, a fourth CD of three-minute works by 25 young composers (Électro clips), and a fifth CD containing the computer and interactive works of Vancouver composer Daniel Scheidt. I recommend them most highly, one and all.

… these works are journeys through — or the articulations of — inner, outer, hidden, or even unheard-of places or spaces.

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