Last week George Zahora reviewed a CD of Normandeau’s recent compositions. This week we take a peek into his past with Lieux inouïs (Unheard-of places), a CD of five electronic works from the mid-to-late 1980s. Much of Normandeau’s music falls into the “acousmatic” genre. Roughly, acousmatic music is electronic music that seperates sounds from their sources, and often exploits sounds for their inherently interesting qualities rather than any symbolic or narrative meaning they might have. In Normandeau’s sound-world this means that we’re treated to a wide range of sounds, from processed choirs to chugging trains to bleep-bloop electronics to slamming doors and bouncing balls.
Rumeurs (Place de Ransbeck) (Rumors) is a light, fluid piece that plays with organic sounds that are just on the edge of recognizability. Matrechka is full of darker and more electronic sounds, which are constantly evolving. Mémoires vives takes existing requiems (from Ockeghem, Gilles, Berlioz, Mozart, etc.) as its starting point, and subtly weaves them into an ethereal, mysterious new requiem. Jeu (game or play) explores some of the many uses of the French word Jeu. It’s similar to Rumeurs (Place de Ransbeck) in that it’s a mix of many recorded sounds presented in such a way that you’re never quite sure what you’re listening to. The final piece, Le cap de la tourmente is again darkly electronic — I imagine it as the sound of someone pounding slowly on a huge electronic metal barrel. Normandeau has a very good ear for finding interesting sounds and then figuring out how to combine them effectively, and the compositions on this CD never get bogged down in the electro-murkiness or loooooooooooooooooong time scales that sometimes turn people off to this sort of electronic music. It’s a fine disc “pour le novice ou l’expert.”