Rick Bidlack, Computer Music Journal, no 20:4, 1 décembre 1996

Over the past three or four years, I have had the privilege of hearing several of Gilles Gobeil’s pieces performed and diffused live in concert. His work has always impressed me for its exquisite craftsmanship and extraordinary attention to detail, the sheer interest of his raw materials and their juxtapositions and transformations. Nonetheless, I have always had a nagging suspicion that what I was hearing was not music — something interesting and provocative, but not music. In reviewing this CD, I have had to face this suspicion, and I have come to the startling conclusion that Mr. Gobeil is, in fact, not a composer at all, but a sculptor. He is a sculptor whose medium is sound, or rather, the sonic by products of mechanical events, which are the real subject. Indeed, Mr. Gobeil comes close to admitting this himself in the short note that accompanies the present recordings, in which he mentions his fascination with medieval stone work and the behavior of materials under stress, of, for example, a rock “on the verge of splitting apart… brought to its breaking point.” His source materials include all manner of mechanical bangings, screeches, sunderings, throbbings, and whistles, many of which contain a strongly repetitive element. It is this repetition that lies at the center of my assertlon.

Music is a temporal art. Fundamentally, the music of any style, in any historical period, serves to articulate the passage of time. We humans perceive the passage of time through that wonderful invention we call rhythm, which is also a form of cyclic repetition. What distinguishes human rhythm (and our own heartbeats) from mechanical repetition is that rhythm is always a deviation from the mechanical norm. It is the deviation from mechanical perfection that gives rhythm its ability to propel music forward in tirne, and it is the corresponding lack of any deviation that makes the ticking of a clock so static. It is not paradoxical to state that a clock cannot articulate time, it can only measure it.

Sculpture, in contradistinction to music, is about the articulation of space, light, and texture. Translate these domains into the sonic realm and the discussion revolves around space, reverberation, intensity, and timbre. These are the fundamental elements that Mr. Gobeil’s works manipulate. Hence, a piece such as La ville machine contains a strongly cinematic quality that is apprehended more visually than aurally. In fact, there is a very strong sense of place in all of the pieces on this CD, as though one is wandering through a world populated only by factories, garages, and railroad crossings. Fascinating, too, is the sense that the sound components of pieces like Le vertige inconnu and its cousin Nous sommes heureux de… are clearly related to one another, but in what way? We still have no adequate means of coherently describing complex timbral relationships. Perhaps sculptors like Mr. Gobeil can shed light where composers have stumbled.

I was frankly disappointed in the two works for Ondes Martenot, Voix blanche and Là où vont les nuages… not because they are lesser works than any of the others on this CD, but because the sound world of the Ondes Martenot integrates too well with that of the tape. Neither piece provides a contrast between the instrument and the tape, nor a soloistic focus — the Ondes Martenot is simply one more sound component, on a par with the others in the work. This is a pity, as the Ondes Martenot has an intriguing sound, and one would want to hear it in a setting that shows it off to better advantage.

He is a sculptor whose medium is sound…