Roxanne Turcotte (b. 1960), is a sound designer and a composer, born in Montréal, Canada. She has studied with Francis Dhomont and Marcelle Deschênes. Her studies also included the piano, but she has been focused mainly on composition and music technology.
She is quite active as an artist, and her most recent work Mères et monde was premiered in June 2003 at the Synthèse festival in Bourges, France.
Track 1 is the title track; Libellune (1999 - 2002) for ethnic wind instruments and tape - the long track of the CD; 26 minutes. Michel Dubeau plays the instruments raita, kera, suling flute, oja, shakuhachi, ocarina, Native American Flute, bansuri & duduk!
Turcotte says about this work:
What is libellune? A contraction of the French words “libellule” (dragon fly) and “lune” (moon), a symbol for dreaming and escaping to the moon… A sonic overview of the realms of dream and make-believe through electroacoustic pieces filled with poetry, space, places, fantasy characters and intimate impressions.
The small sounds in the beginning, a hardly audible trickling from a stream over pebbles, perhaps, and a swirling, panning atmosphere, set the sails for this piece, into uncharted realms of… nature?… beyond?… within?… You choose! I know I choose! Everybody chooses something different, I’m sure - but the general set-up of audio does conjure up certain reactions, and within my mind it is a shaman level och existence that is depicted here.
How does a thought arise; where is it born? How does a feeling absorb us; from whence does it rise, descend? I don’t know; maybe from tendencies from earlier lives. The sudden sonic gusts in this piece, at the start, make me think of these seemingly spontaneous occurrences of thoughts and feelings, turning us this way and that, at the mercy of… what? The sudden, brief breaths of sounds or rather atmospheres phasing in and out in Turcotte’s work have me think along these lines; feel along these lines!
Generally, to begin with, the soundscape is transparent and elastic, small incidents appearing and disappearing and returning, in a very spatial manner, moving about like spirits on the loose.
A little later the flapping wings of the dragonflies are used by Turcotte as another instrument, while short vocalisms, reminiscent of the eerie calls out of the TV screen in Poltergeist, reach at you.
More ensemble-like sections follow, when all the instruments that are played by Michel Dubeau are introduced, skillfully, into this atmosphere of dreams, which gradually grows denser, heavier, but still not heavier than the mist that floats over the pasture of early June morns in Sweden, deer still and attentive, ears directed at you.
A dark acoustic wave rolls through the music in a slow pulsation, as the instruments sound eastern, golden, silk-route-like.
A rhythm has established itself without me noticing how. It’s just there, a simple beat of percussion, dark and semi dark; a pulse of the shaman ceremony inside the music. Reversed sounds add delicacy and enchantedness, as a fast fluttering pans madly, and cowbell-like metallics spread rays of reflections off of thin spheres hovering. A hint at a female voice utters shreds of morphemes. The flute of a young boy god in golden locks lures the listener ever deeper into his listening, where he is subject to all kinds of acoustic mirages in a sonic hall of mirrors.
In a jiffy we’re suddenly - but seamlessly, kind of shrewdly - in a Laurie Anderson Superman type of thudding, stuttering oral event, where the rhythm gets more Latino too, smoothly jumbling along, flutes from the Andes flying up around you, as were you smack dab in the middle of a flock of sea gulls, all that white motion up and down, hither and thither, left and right, back and front - and Turcotte’s music inches over into a kind of Steve Reich type minimalism here, and later even a Charles Lloyd Love-In set from San Francisco 1966!
When that particular section dies down, a slower, observing kind of audio emerges, jungle-like, in the sequence and rhythm of Japanese Gagaku; that slowly swaggering, ceremonial progression. Long, resounding calls of gigantic Tibetan trumpets and Aboriginal didgeridoos (or what sounds similar), opens up a rain forest soundscape that could’ve been cut straight out of a Sittelle nature recording - but I’m sure it’s not!
Certain sounds are picked up out of this moist scenery and swung about by Turcotte in her electroacoustic trade, creating a peculiar dance macabre of jungle electronics!
It all glides over into a mixture of Trance Gong and Terry Riley (The Five Voices of the Two Prophets, for example), and it’s a pleasurable giant that moves behind the trees, in a Shangri-La of agelessness…
The title of track 2 is DMXnébula - a flight over a blue planet (2000 - 2002).
François Doyon (lighting designer):
A creative wave originating from the space-time, an inexhaustible energy source, light transforms, celestial it rises beyond the spheres, catching the imagination… Scorching heat, nocturnal sun, a fog of stars, it brings people closer together, dazzles children and pushes the horizon a little further back every day.
Right from the start I first get a feeling of the space ships in Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Sirius, but after the first few seconds I am transported into 1967 and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, when you hear the soaring crowd in the big hall right before it’s about to set off; “It was twenty years ago today, Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play”…
The symphony orchestra is tuning, while the rotating rumble of Sirius ships emit an ominous murmur…
Dark drums shake the ground, bells ring in a foggy distance, the murmur of the ships keep up, and somewhere in there Mr. Stockhausen walks the floor of a captain’s bridge… Sounds of a crowd, just as the applauding bunch in Stockhausen’s Momente, further confuses the educated guesser…. That familiar/unfamiliar female Laurie Anderson bit reemerges left and right, in a breathless kind of breath, like falling, falling, falling away…. Layers on high, curving space inside the music, widen the perspective dramatically, white traces of jet fuel exhaust in the higher pitches, timbres layering, mixing and shifting positions, Saami yoik and jet streams encircling the planet, engulfing the oohs and aahs rising up our throats in a mouthful of halted exclamations… cheeks blown up like the cheeks of quacking frogs at the pond on Melody Lane in Dallas, Texas in 1979, or of some pre-war German old boy blowing his tuba down the streets of Munich, Bavaria… as the dark one that was the fate of Europe still roamed the hostels of Vienna, making a living by painting postcards…
Third comes Sons et tintamarre (tracks 3 - 7) (1994 - 1995, 2002); sound tales for Fannie and to all children of the world.
The different tracks (3 - 7) have these titles:
3. 8, 9, 10… des sons à dormir debout
4. Historie sans paroles
6. Ballon rouge qui bouge…
7. L’æuf magique…
A suggestive flight over sounds… Tarapatapom lives in a land where strange sounds grow and fly all around her. She meets Tintamarre, a talking music box who introduces her to Coquet-the-parrot-who-memorizes-everything. Together, they go in search of the world of electroacoustic art. All the sounds they discover are memorized, synthesized, sampled, treated, organized and filed inside the magic box. After sound watching, sounds take off to create surprising ambiences […].
A kid at right talks right in your ear, counts… (and no reference to Stockhausen Piano Pieces here!) - and another kid at left speaks in French. The voices are permuted, veiled, shielded and mirrored, as the electroacoustic soundscape grows fiercer, denser and… almost overwhelming. The little girls’ - or perhaps the little girl’s - voices are cut up and shredded, swung around and panned, extensively.
The mood changes sharply as a bird call is heard, a snore… and then some extreme synthesizer sounds, or organ treatments - a barrel organ, in that case - and tilting sounds are swung like samurai swords in the air, crossing each other right in front of your face like at the annual Edinburgh Tattoo, where pipers from all over merge in Scotland to perform their marshal arts of old.
Shreds of girls’ voices are used as rhythmic properties, left, right, left, right, in an almost irritating persistence.
A comic effect is reached at track 6, where a funny little melody is heard briefly, until the irregular rhythms of balls or footballs being kicked bounce around the perimeter of one’s mind, until one grows weary…
The finishing section offers some real live children’s voices in intelligible speech, which, however, soon is shrouded, veiled and rolled up in an electroacoustic majesty of trembling timbres in thick, fat, oily textures… and it’s fascinating, captivating, stirring; a passage of really good electroacoustic art in a lot of imaginative creative fantasy.
Finally I see a circle of girls dancing behind the window of time, in an ageless dance of innocence, oblivious of evil deeds done in earlier lives.
Rêveries absolues (2002); a flight over time, sits at track 8.
Talking sounds, resounding meditations and sound remarks reveal the sensations instigated in us by hopes, dreams, fantasies, the exorcism of fears toward a new dimension, tomorrows and the convergence of people in their quest for absolute… Memories and nostalgia feed rebirth and the future via a core sound material: the page flipped, torn and turned over… The tick-tock of running time…
A tremble, at first just a distant whimper, opens the piece, and some close up small sounds, prickly, dry-leafy, until the tremble moves up in pitch as permuted shreds of voices are washed out like flakes of soot out of a bucket of contaminated water from Chernobyl.
I like the way Turcotte utilizes vocal speech, often mangled and cut-up way beyond any morpheme-carrying qualities. The small sounds act as a kind of precipitating percussion; dry rain all around, like worthless grains of leftovers and rejects falling onto a forest floor of dried-up leaves from yesteryear, or your own feet helplessly dried-out and flat from years and years of true death.
Y---OW (1985, 2002); a flight over the phone book, is the strange title of track 9.
This version of Y --- OW has been put together from 22 tapes of the multimedia work by the same title (a sound and photography installation) realized with the photographer Marc Larochelle. The piece explores a number of themes revolving around a frame of mind, a feeling, a communication of the unforeseen evoked by opening the Yellow Pages phone book.
Descriptive elements come back to create a link on many occasions, the answer or echo between the various tapes (older and newer phone rings, answering machine, conversations, water, laughs, screams).
The Laurie Anderson short-breath voice shreds are back, but in what I would call an ensemble or chorus setting, swirling, dancing, painting, panting… It’s very suggestive, very beautiful; carries you away! Into this soaring, hovering ship of vocal remnants ringing telephones are introduced, and then hello-voices and rippling percussive garlands… A standing wave of timbres, kind of thin, fills the function of a curtain, or even curtains, stretching this way and that. You hear, in this hall of sonic mirrors, the freaky signals of modern day Nokias and Ericssons, as well as those grand telephones of our youths or our early black-and-white mono movies!
Sometimes these older telephone bells ring way inside large halls, or far inside someone’s huge apartment in New York, but no one answers, and maybe the recipient is dead, and I think of the tragic fire in Gothenburg, Sweden in 1998, when more than sixty youths died in a discotheque. I recall the firemen’s stories of mobile phones ringing in the pockets of dead youngsters…
Again Roxanne Turcotte works in a very imaginative way, unfolding her imagery across her pallet of sounds, evoking many feelings and visions in a listener’s mind.
The only thing that sometimes bothers me in Turcotte’s works is the rhythms that may raise a kind of discothèque atmosphere, which I’m not so fond of. There are to many dead-rhythm tunes on commercial shit radio all the time. We don’t need that crap in art music.
At track 10 we find Micro-trottoir (1997 - 2002); a flight over inner thoughts… What’s on your mind?
Micro-trottoir is a radio work about the fascinating world of confrontation. The piece is made of onomatopoeias and the voices of persons from various economic and ethnic horizons (sounds which are airy, soft, loud, aggressive, lively, rough, low, high). These micro-trottoirs done by Isabelle Tanguay collected divergent opinions on new topics, lifestyles, dreams and disillusions from a number of generations and characters.
Jingling hinges and interstellar space, winter’s night in the dark north… and ghostly voices crowd your perception with fractions of conversations, like the voices inside someone who badly needs a depot anti-schizophrenic tincture to rid him of too much too soon…
This can be scary for the sensitive, or the ones on the brink, but for most of us it’s enjoyable, with coffee and a good set of speakers and a pretty loud volume. I’d love to play this stuff loud at a party for the common man!
The last work is Poussière d’étoiles (2002); a flight over Perseids… Your eyes are stars!, spread out across tracks 11 - 13, which have the following sub-titles and brief descriptions:
11. Regard étoilé (Intuitive and spontaneous luminosity)
12. Regard intérieur (Luminosity for the return to one’s self)
13. Regard en voyage (Outer luminosity of a world near and far…)
Roxanne Turcotte on this piece:
A musical triptych focused on the look [observations] and visions from outer space. Three looks [observations] at [of] things, three sound impressions, three radiances, three reflections: a starry spark in the eyes!
Poussière d’étoiles takes its musical inspiration from the symbolism in Hitchcock’s works (the looks in the actors’ playing, the illusion, the objects, the surreal passages and his intrusions into the supernatural) with a wink at the fantastic visions in René Magritte’s modern art and at impressionism. It’s all in the look…
Bike bell percussion and dark ambiences, small-town comforts and deep space - and all small towns are in deep space, and, of course, we’re all space creatures, whether we wish to be or not. Everything is situated in outer space. There is nothing in this here universe but outer space. We’re just home blind, on our planet and in our bodies as well as in life; home blind. We have to get wiser-crazier, for anything to matter!
Is this what this music gets across? It’s what it makes me think and write anyway, and I had no idea I would write this just one minute ago… That’s how strong the force of sounds can influence and open mind.
Turcotte has this affinity for brief resoundings of oral cavities, those pre-morpheme expressions straight out of meaty bodies trembling with cardio-vascular activities and electric discharges through subcutaneous networks. This is a sound-poetic aspect on sounds, and I believe Roxanne Turcotte, sort of on the sly, is a natural sound poet without even trying; it seems to come so easy, so fluently - and that is one of the characteristics of all her pieces; their inherent fluency, even though the content may be grainy, disparate, pulling in all directions; it’s still embraced in an artistic fluency, stronger than in most electroacousticians.