Peerless Acousmatica

Steve Benner, Amazon, 21 août 2001

Robert Normandeau is a leading figure in the French-Canadian acousmatic school of electroacoustic composition. This collection of his works offers an interesting survey of pieces for tape dating from 1985 to 1999.

Éclats de voix (“Bursts of Voices,” 1991) was winner of 1st Prize for Jury as well as Public’s Prize at Noroit 91. The work is constructed entirely from computer-processed samples of the voice of an 11-year old - although this source is, in fact, hardly ever obvious. The exquisite sonorities (representing five childhood ‘states’) that Normandeau wrests from his source are entirely captivating (like nearly all of his work) and the piece is an absolute delight from start to finish. The disc’s opening work, Bédé (1990) is an electroacoustic miniature, of just 3 minutes duration, derived from the same source material but making an interesting contrast with Éclats de voix. The source sounds in Bédé are more discernible for what they are; the piece is also rather darker and gives a somewhat more disturbing view of childhood than that presented in the later work.

The third work on the disc, Spleen (1993) continues the same theme. Awarded the Public’s Prize at Noroit 93, this piece is constructed entirely from processed vocal samples of the voices of four 16-year old adolescents. Its restless pulsing rhythms and sudden mood-swings portray only too well most people’s experience of that time of life and in a way that is impossible to draw away from! Fabulous stuff!

Matrechka (1986) is a lengthy and highly abstracted work, featuring a complex sound-world (of largely undiscernible origin) which unfolds by degrees, each of its sections revealing another within it, like the nest of Russian dolls of its title. By contrast, Le cap de la tourmente (1985) is a dark and brooding 7-minute ‘movement’ from the much longer “Musique holographique,” which accompanied an exhibit of sculptures with holograms (holosculptures) by Georges Dyens. Its inclusion here feels like something of a filler, to my way of thinking, although it is well worth a listen.

The closing work on the CD, Ellipse (1999), is constructed entirely from guitar sounds and was originally commissioned by Arturo Parra to form the tape part of a work for tape and guitar. Somewhere along the compositional path, however, Ellipse took a different direction and emerged as a solo tape piece, representing the composer’s half of the intended musical dialogue: as the ellipsis of the title, “omitting… elements of meaning,… allowing the interlocutor, the listener, to fill in the blanks.”

Overall, this is a worthwhile collection of Normandeau’s music, although it presents nothing that isn’t available on other releases of his music. It is certainly worh having if you can’t locate copies of the empreintes DIGITALes releases.

… a worthwhile collection of Normandeau’s music…

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