Review

François Couture, Gibraltar, October 1, 1999

Hello to all of you. This is not one of my usual reviews. But there is a record I must share with you, especially with the most adventurous of you. I love prog music, but I also have other interests, one of which is electroacoustics. The basic principle of electroacoustics is to take source sounds and to transform them electronically to create a piece of art. Concepts such as melody, rhythm or tonality are irrelevent. The composer is sculpting the sound to create a sonic work of art. This type of ‘music’ can be very disorienting for the first-time listener and really is an acquired taste. But here I have for you a portal, a way of entering electroacoustics for prog heads.

Robert Normandeau is Québec’s best electroacoustician. He won numerous international prizes and already has three CDs out on the Montréal-based label empreintes DIGITALes. His latest, Figures, is just out now. I want to draw your attention on track 3, Venture, a 19-minute piece. In this piece, Normandeau pays tribute to his musical background. Like many of us on Gibraltar, Normandeau grew up with progressive rock. In the liner notes, he confesses that he was introduced to classical music through (guess what) Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, thanks to Emerson, Lake and Palmer of course. So Venture (notice the similarity with a Yes tune) uses as source sounds bits and pieces of prog tunes that are transformed to make them almost unrecognizable. I say almost because I still managed to find a bit of the intro of Close to the Edge, a vocal track from King Crimson’s Formentary Lady and there are a lot more. Normandeau uses these as archetypal music signatures, trademarks of prog (like building crescendos, mellotron sounds, etc.). There are also citations from the 16 Pictures… Mussorgsky exhibited. This piece could be your introduction to electroacoustics the same way Pictures at an Exhibition was a way to enter classical music for so many of us. In any way, and although you might feel a bit lost at first if you never experienced this type of music before, it is really fun just playing ‘spot the tune’ throughout the 19 minutes of this track.

Robert Normandeau is Québec’s best electroacoustician.