Robert Normandeau


  • Robert Normandeau
  • Year of composition: 2021
  • Duration: 12:30
  • Instrumentation: orchestra and multichannel fixed medium
  • Commission: Orchestre de l’Université de Montréal (OUM)

The title came to me from my attraction for a very long time towards drone instruments, which have notes maintained by a wheel, a breath, or a playing mode: hurdy-gurdy, bagpipes, tanpura… I have already written a piece with the first, StrinGDberg (2001, 02, 03), and with the second, Anadliad (2010). When Jean-François Rivest asked me to write a piece for the Orchestre de l’Université de Montréal (OUM), I wanted to adapt one of these for this large ensemble. I chose StrinGDberg, which is the first work in a cycle that I named Timbral Spatialization. As it is based on an improvised melody played on the hurdy-gurdy, I had all the melodic material on hand. All that remained was to do the orchestration!

The original piece offers a meditative journey on the notion of timbre. The complex sound of the hurdy-gurdy was filtered out very heavily at the start of the piece, to the point where the listener had to listen carefully. Then, gradually, the filters open and let more and more sound and high-pitched components pass through. All these filters were scattered in space in different loudspeakers, hence the name of the cycle. I even suggest that listeners move around the concert hall, if possible, in order to sharpen their perception of sound space thanks to this setup.

In Bourdons, I transposed this idea of filtering to the orchestra. The instrumentalists are invited to play with as little timbre as possible at the start of the work until their instrument scream, squeak, and rub at the moment of climax. For the listeners, it is an opportunity to (re)discover the timbre of these well-known instruments.

The electroacoustic part envelops the orchestra through a dome-shaped loudspeaker setup which completely encompasses it. The Orchestre symphonique de Montréal (OSM) octobass — recorded in 2016 — supports the orchestra with its low drones.


Bourdons [Drones] was realized during the summer 2021 at the Studio Icosa of the Faculty of Music of the Université de Montréal in Montréal (Québec) and premiered on December 4, 2021 by the Orchestre de l’Université de Montréal (OUM) during the concert Festival — Créations | La Première de Brahms at Salle Claude-Champagne of Université de Montréal (Québec). The piece was commissioned by Orchestre de l’Université de Montréal (OUM). Special thanks to Danaë Ménard-Bélanger who so skillfully laid out the score of the work, and to Jean-François Rivest who had the audacity of this commission. Without their many and varied suggestions, this piece would not be what it is today. I would also like to thank Silvy Grenier who recorded the original melody for me on the hurdy-gurdy in 2001 and to Eric Chappel for the octobass in 2016.


  • December 4, 2021, Festival — Créations | La Première de Brahms, Salle Claude-Champagne — Université de Montréal, Montréal (Québec)