Review

Ingvar Loco Nordin, Sonoloco Record Reviews, June 1, 2004

Christian Bouchard was born amidst the turmoil of the revolutionary year of 1968, when students and workers of the Old World raged against the rulers of Europe, and while the U.S.A. was torn apart by the Vietnam War.

Bouchard released his premier recording in 1995; a prepared guitar venture. Simultaneously, he dispersed his first attempts at electroacoustics. This proved successful, and he went on to studies with Yves Daoust. Bouchard has of late been awarded several prizes for his electroacoustics.

The first work on this empreintes DIGITALes CD is Angle mort; a recent piece completed in 2002. The subtitles regarding the sequence of sounding events tell a story in themselves: Duel-1; Accident; Duel-2; Morphinic Night; Transfer; Microscopic Cohabitation / Scattered Memories - and the dedication gives it away too: “To my bike-riding friend”.

These titles remind me of an August Strindberg short story, in which a man who has just lost his wife to illness and death reads through a paper of notes all the way from the engagement to the marriage to the wife’s death and the funeral arrangements; a whole life and existence summed up by short notes on a piece of paper.

Christian Bouchard explains that he to begin with aimed at a sound world that would picture the struggle between viruses and antibodies as well as the sounds a patient would pick up at intensive care, with all the machinery around him in his dreamy state of sedation. As Bouchard was working with this, he received the news of a friend’s motorcycle accident, which threw the sound process in a somewhat different direction.

The sound sources are submitted in Bouchard’s linear notes: “electronic sounds, oral noises, breathing, crowds, lifts, street corners, mechanical objects”.

The work commences in a spur of cut-up white noise, splices of electronic rumbles and aural atmospheres that appear almost percussive in their sudden appearances and disappearances, as if the world was turned off and on at the whim of a child of God, playing in the nursery of the universe. It could also be mistaken for a little techno unit so and so - but it’s a different story!

Bouchard’s cut-ups work. He doesn’t keep them up too long, but simply lets the lightning-fast excisions swoop past in precipitous angles that leave you ducking and dodging until reality starts filling up your consciousness with a seeping, wheezing fog of moist audio. It’s a more constant flow of oxygen finding its way up your nostrils and deep inside your auditory meatuses.

As the action gets more intense, hammering down on your nerve-ends in a vibrating hell-hound breath, sounds out of a human oral cavity drools down your listening like honey down a spoon you just lifted out of a jar…

As the piece progresses, it appears to lift you up by the neck like a kitten, speeding you through a shaman state of mind, in which secrets of life and the world are presented to you in a sonically transformed, symbolic kind of way, as in some of the most Stockhausenesque Stockhausen works (Oktophonie, Kathinkas Gesang), or like in Rolf Enström’s brilliant shaman electroacoustic work Tjidtjag & Tjidtjaggaise (Prix Italia 1987!), wherein Jonas Edvard Steggo’s Saami yoik (recorded on site in 1952) naming the two Lapland mountain peaks is turned around into another, hitherto invisible (unheard!) realm, wherein the shaman travels to the beyond and back with you, the listener, in a steady grasp.

Bouchard manages the same notion, albeit with the victim of the motorcycle accident as the traveler, levitated out of his gravitational position in the midst of all that intensive care equipment, floating under the ceiling with all those hoses and tubes hooked up, looking like the source of life floating in weightlessness, being tapped by an alien breed, and the concrete walls of the gigantic hospital suddenly transparent like the lungs of a fish grasping for air on the pier, the whole building an organism full of cellular activity and flowing fluids of necessities, as the gravitational conversations go on between celestial bodies in deep space…

Flakes of memories drift by, familiar voices disguised in phase shifts, childhood fears magnified, a father that reaches to the sky, his hat up there blocking the sun, the creaking of the baby carriage tearing the world apart…

Sounds of traffic and cafeterias bring adulthood and meager spirituality; the meaningless gestures of day-to-day curling back as a curse… and the beeping of life-supporting hi-tech reaches the mind in a mimicry of Terry Riley organs, feed-back and all, finally reducing existence to its bare core; a singularity of pain and pleasure and all the states in between, from a root canal to an orgasm in an instant.

Piece number 2 (tracks 2 - 4) is Trois miniatures en suite from 1997 - Bouchard’s first digitally produced electroacoustic work, which was made from a set of rules concerning duration and other aspects. For example, the composer is instructed to “look for soundscapes bearing the traces of the human activity that will be the only material for a miniature. Include the complete selected samples at least once.”

Bouchard made three pieces according to these instructions, here presenting them as a suite.

The first miniature is called Sacréboules, which mixes a passing airplane with two Chinese balls rolling, plus the sounds of a brook.

The second one is Le point de vue du parcomètre, which Bouchard calls a “superimposition of soundscapes from a single point of view.”

Thirdly Bouchard presents Tonicité “for base material, a single sound take.”

Sacréboules sounds different from what the description suggests. It opens in a prickly, hardly audible, high-pitch, randomly percussive mood, perhaps an electronically transformed flow of water over rocks and pebbles (the brook), but this cannot be determined save by the confirmation of the composer, should you ask him. These sharp, beautifully trickling triangle sounds soon are accompanied by a harsh and overwhelmingly brutal, dark noise (probably the airplane), wherein the triangle sounds take on the shape of church bells which in turn bend into some sage bell bulgings from undersea consciousnesses, withdrawing into a sound world reminiscent of Pierre Henry’s Le Livre des Morts égyptien, which however is based on manipulated grand piano sounds.

At the end the live shot of reality is revealed. Quite an exiting piece, extremely cleverly organized! This is true, vibrant, artistic sound wizardry! Many should listen and learn here! It is in the handling of small means and short durations that the true artist is revealed.

Le point de vue du parcomètre immediately appears to be dealing with time - or perhaps the illusory measuring of time… You hear a clock being wound and the ticking of wristwatches, on a backdrop of church bells… but it’s like trying to grasp the air in your hand och running for the end of the rainbow; simply a malfunction of our way of thinking, of our way of organizing existence in our mind; a wrongly formulated question.

Atmospheres of human societies rise in the soundscape, echoing in town mall reverberations or subway station environments, as the true nature of time looses us in a 300 000 kilometer per second flyby… constituting an aspect of space, wherein gravity is mere curved time, and our fates are smeared out on the walls of the time-space continuum like God-given graffiti…

The third part of Trois miniatures en suite - Tonicité - opens in the raw, natural vicinity of a backing dump truck, and the traffic aspect keeps up in it’s identifiable shape for a short while, until a softly panning, very benevolent and pleasurable sound soothes you and your comrades on this journey of lives…

The soaring sensation keeps up, in a laid-back flow of time and distance, albeit after a while reminiscent of the horrendous but spiritually enlightening Ligeti -flight of 2001 - a Space Odyssey - which in fact was a shaman journey not unlike the one Rolf Enström pictures via Jonas Steggo’s yoik in Tjidtjag & Tjidtjaggaise, mentioned above.

This, again, proves the brilliance of Christian Bouchard’s performance. It’s quite unlikely for anyone to be able to chisel such a wondrous and spiritually provoking piece of sound art out of such a meager source material - but Bouchard manages! Congratulations! This really livens me up!

Parcelles (2002 - 2003) comes in two sections, the first on tracks 5–11, the second on tracks 12–16.

Bouchard has a way with words, too, explaining quite poetically the aim of Parcelles. Please go to his page at empreintes DIGITALes’ site to read his whole statement. However, some of what he says boils down to the fact that he is fascinated by “magical moments” found in his sound environments, and that he tries to record those and utilize them in his art, much like a painter catches “landscapes, abstract forms” etcetera, filtering them through his personality, through his frames of reference. He calls them “fragments of moments”.

Bouchard meticulously submits the sources of Parcelles: Iron brake out my window - Sirens-Children in the nearby park - Fill in the Crier at the Montréal Festival - Secrets of a Stranger in Brussels; St Michel’s Cathedral - Noon Comings and Goings at Saint-Malo/Intra muros - Waiting for the Boeing in Paris/the Concorde - To All Passers-by, Thanks!; very close to my mics - And It Was So Quiet; between two cars - Leap-piano, Child’s Play, at a Jazz Festival - Noted Landscape at La Malbaie - Saint-Laurent Boulevard - A Fragment of Solitude at Orly.

The iron brakes out Bouchard’s window are turned into a bronze age lure in a mystical veil of age and dreamy textures - and thus it goes on through the entire Parcelles work, both parts; surprising utilizations and manipulations of windows in time, slices of reality taking on their hidden characteristics in fluent, poetic presentations that say something more and different than what is apparent just through the sum of the sounding parts - and therein lies the brilliance, the true quality of this sound art, which charms me more than most things I’ve heard lately. I can’t find one dull moment in Bouchard’s pieces. He’s the right man at the right place!

I can’t find one dull moment in Bouchard’s pieces. He’s the right man at the right place!

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