One of the great things about the Festival International Musique Actuelle Victoriaville (FIMAV) is that, unlike many festivals, it’s possible to attend every show. With three venues — a movie theater, converted arena and intimate room in an educational institution (cegep, one of a network of 48 post-secondary schools in Quebec), shows are programmed to cycle through the venues two times on the festival’s busiest days (Saturday and Sunday). Within reasonable walking distance, the layout allows sufficient time between performances for attendees to get to the next venue.
Day two of the 24th edition of FIMAV ran the gamut from acoustic to electroacoustic to eardrum-shattering electric, and from unadorned free improv to metal spectacle. Just another day in the life of FIMAV. […]
While the majority of the sounds created by Snow, Licht and Onda derived from analogue sources, Theresa Transistor’s hour-long set was a combination of cutting-edge technology and acoustically generated timbres. An electroacoustic (or acousmatic) group of four Quebec musicians — Monique Jean, Christian Bouchard, Christian Calon and Mario Gauthier — Theresa Transistor transformed the intimate surroundings of the cegep room into an almost participatory environment for the audience.
Rather than being on a stage facing the audience and serving as its focal point, with the audio system projecting sound from the stage towards the back of the room, Theresa Transistor set up its notebook computers, processing gear and assorted odds and ends on tables in the center of the room, surrounded by the audience. Speakers were situated around the perimeter of the room, encompassing rather than unidirectional. The result was a sonic “theater in the round,” something to be felt and experienced as much as heard, a kind of improvisational performance that worked live but would likely be less successful on CD.
The set was best experienced with eyes closed, letting the washes of sound, electronic beeps, rhythmic white noise and more become the soundtrack to an imagined movie. While the majority of the work seemed to be computer-generated, watching the four musicians made it possible to see a number of natural sounds sampled as in a working laboratory, then processed and fed back into the mix, driving an ongoing and complex four-way sonic conversation. Whistles, spoken word and whispers spoken into a microphone, a small bell tree, a tape head passed near a power bar were all sound sources for the quartet. Musical samples emerged at one point, providing a temporary respite from the more angular abstractions of most of the performance.
Like the Snow/Licht/Onda performance, Theresa Transistor was very much music of the moment, though not necessarily music in the terms with which it is usually described. As much as the sound and interaction amongst the artists was improvised, so too was the aural field itself. Location, or the point from which the sound emerged amongst the speakers surrounding the audience, was just as important as the sound itself. Another uncompromising set on what would turn out to be a challenging day all around.