Micheline Coulombe Saint-Marcoux


Beyond the surface meanings of language we may become aware of a world where the play of decomposition, association and juxtaposition produce an unlimited number of sounds and sonorities. A kind of verbal delirium, or vertigo. Arksalalartôq, based on texts by Québec poets Noël Audet and Gilles Marsolais, expresses the vertigo of words and sounds, by analogy with the Inuit game (most often played by women) in which participants test their creative and inventive powers as well as their stamina by emitting sounds most of which are meaningless.

During the creation of this work, Coulombe Saint-Marcoux recognized the resistance of some sonic materials and the importance of openness for the composer. In an interview with Lyse Richer, she said that she worked for two days on a ten-second montage that refused to do what she wished. Suddenly, she decided to play it backwards, and found the result to be marvellous: “one must not be too stubborn. The material at hand has its potential at the start, and its exigencies and its limits” (Richer 1984: 22).

“Many inexpressible forces express themselves in a counterpoint of strolling voices and searchlights, where the hiccuping voice finally finds its broken voice, and where, once we have approached the work from the opposite direction, we find both the spirit of Pierrot lunaire and the musical lessons of Erwartung” — JJ Van Vlasselaer, Le Droit, Ottawa, 9 février 1982.

[English translation: Andra McCartney]

Arksalalartôq was realized in 1970-71 in the GRM studios (Paris, France) and premiered on February 26, 1971 during the “Journées-rencontres du GRM” in Les Halles (Paris, France). Arksalalartôq was commissioned by the Ina-GRM. A mixed version—for voice, electronics and tape—was realized in 1976 at the request of actress-singer Meg Sheppard and composer-pianist alcides lanza and recorded on the disc Transmutations: voice, piano & electronics, New Music from the Americas vol. 3 (Shelan, ESP 9601).



  • February 26, 1971, Journées-rencontres du GRM, Halles Baltard, Paris (France)