Review

David Olds, SOUNDNotes, October 1, 1992

This release, the seventh from empreintes DIGITALes, is obviously a labour of love. Put out to coincide with the 65th birthday of composer Francis Dhomont, these two discs include more than 150 minutes of music (although music is a term that Dhomont disdains when applied to his “acousmatic” art). They are accompanied by a bilingual 216-page book of program notes, graphic representation of scores, catalogues of works and writings, an extended biographical essay, a definition of the term acousmatic and, most notably, 67 tributes by Dhomont’s colleagues. Somewhat daunting in its scope, this project makes abundantly clear just how large a presence Dhomont projects in his adopted home of Quebec.

A Frenchman by birth, he has been active in electroacoustic composition for more than 30 years. He has been teaching at l’Université de Montréal since 1980 and has been very influential in the development of electroacoustic technique and excellence in Quebec since then.

Mouvances~Métaphores [now out of print but reissued as IMED 9607 and IMED 9607] presents his work of the past decade, and the seven works recorded here give a good picture of the breadth of possibility within the world of musique concrète and acousmatic art. Dhomont’s sonic landscapes provide numerous landmarks for the explorer, with the recognizable sounds of trains and nightingales to reassure us as we wander through corridors and countrysides of unknown terrain. In Chiaroscuro, in tribute to the composers associated with the Évenements du Neuf concert-series in Montréal, we hear traces of compositions by John Rea, Denis Gougeon, José Evangelista and Claude Vivier. For the most part, however, we are unaware of the origins of the material, which Dhomont crafts through a variety of studio techniques into a compelling aural banquet.

The first disc in the set, Cycle de l’errance (“Cycle of Wanderings”) [IMED 9607], consists of a triptych composed between 1982 and 1989. The individual pieces (Points de fuite, … mourir un peu and Espace / Escape) are interrelated and provide a sonic treatise of Dhomont’s preoccupation with sound and its placement in space.

The second disc [Les dérives du signe (“The Drift of the Sign”), IMED 9608], while presented as a cycle as well, seems a much more arbitrary grouping, joined for convenience rather than by initial design. I wonder — given the historical focus of the accompanying words — whether we would not have been better served by the inclusion of an earlier work by this pioneer, especially when we consider that several of the pieces here have been previously available on CD.

This collection is an excellent introduction to the French school of acousmatic composition for the uninitiated, and a must-have for anyone with a serious interest in the electroacoustic arts.

… a must-have for anyone with a serious interest in the electroacoustic arts.