Review

James Harley, Computer Music Journal, no. 22:4, December 1, 1998

The 40-year-old Stéphane Roy brings a background in literature to his work in electroacoustic music. This Montréal-based composer has received numerous awards for his music. The composer associates his style with the school of “acousmatic” composition of the GRM in Paris.

Kaleidos brings together four compositions composed over the period 1987-1994. Mr. Roy’s sonic palette is consistent throughout this collection. In sudden gestures, he scatters fleeting sprays ot oily resonant grains. These are often mixed on top of distant, amorphous textures. Stéphane Roy also relies on another strategy: wide variations in dynamic range. Violent outbursts of energy emerge dramatically from near-silence to make curious gestures, then quickly disappear.

Mimetismo (1992) is a virtuoso composition based on strumming in the style of Spanish flamenco guitar, spanning 10 min and 36 sec. The piece was realized in several stages, with initial work using the SYTER system at the GRM studios, and final editing at the studios of the Universite de Montréal. The piece hegins gradually, building frenetically to an extended summit (but not a climax) at 3:30. The intensity gradually lowers, and we are transported to a realm of distant atmospheres. I was impressed by the composer’s fluid treatment of macro form.

Paysages intérieurs (1988), realized at the Universite de Montréal studios, works with a limited palette of source sounds that are transformed in the manner of musique concrète: filtered, transposed, remixed, spliced. The first several minutes consist of variations in what sound like small bells. The opposition between distant, Iooming figures and nervous cross-panning grains creates a dramatic landscape. As the composer states: “In these landscapes, where the unspoken reigns, a thousand fears suddenly emerge under the pressure of an interior murmur. The mysteries of our spirit open up ancient fratricidal debates, nourished by our entire existence” (program notes). This is a mysterious yet intriguing work, continuous in texture with a beautiful low-layer weaving throughout.

Ondes / Arborescences (1987), created in Montréal a year before Paysages intérieurs, Iasts 9 min and 36 sec. It begins with a cascade ot high and low frequencies. The source of its watery timbres is untraceable. Pitch plays more of a role in the opening of this work, which adds layers of long sustained tones to create harmonic fields that eventually destadestabilize into noises. The (analog synthesizer?) pitches return, drifting down in amplitude and across the spatial panorama. The melodic material seems improvised and quasi-random, so although the piece is skillfuily mixed, I did not find this piece to be as strong as the others.

Crystal Music (1994), at 14 min and 46 sec, is the newest and longest work on this disc. The work unfolds in the same unstable style as Mimetismo Realized with the Common Lisp music language, the first minute opens in a dramatic “acousmatic” style. As the composer states: “Like glasswork, the material has been expanded, moulded, transmuted in the fiery furnaces of experimentation.” A wide range of dynamics and techniques of granulation plays a major role in this tour-de-force of mixing.

A wide range of dynamics and techniques of granulation plays a major role in this tour-de-force of mixing.

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