Review

François Couture, AllMusic, August 1, 2001

Released in 1999, Figures is Robert Normandeau’s third CD. It contains four works, all around the 15 minute mark, all created since the release of Tangram (1994), the composer’s previous album. The first piece is his most acclaimed Le renard et la rose winner of the Golden Nica at the 1996 Ars Electronica competition (the piece had already been included on three different compilation albums). Revolving around Saint-Exupéry’s Le Petit Prince, it uses as sound samples the music Normandeau wrote for a radio adaptation of the book, plus the voice of the actors. There is very little left of the original text, as the composer furthers his explorations in sound-speech relations. Yet the narrative translates into a gripping cinema for the ear. The other highlight on this CD is Venture, an unusual exercise for Normandeau. Here he pays tribute to his progressive rock background, using as source material quotes from various 1960s and 1970s LPs. Bits of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, the piece that introduced many prog fans to classical music thanks to Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s album, surface here and there. The piece is not a Christian Marclay-like collage: much of the material is manipulated to the point that it is hardly recognizable, but the standard prog rock gestures are cleverly underlined without reducing the genre to a handful of clichés. Play “spot the tune” to find quotes from The Beatles’s A Day in the Life, King Crimson’s Formentary Lady, Yes’ Close to the Edge, and many more. Compared to these two impressive works, Figures de rhétorique, for piano (played by Jacques Drouin) and tape, and Ellipse composed with samples of guitarist Arturo Parra, lack panache.

… the narrative translates into a gripping cinema for the ear.