Review

Ingvar Loco Nordin, Sonoloco Record Reviews, 1 avril 2002

Yves Beaupré (1954) began his singular artistic and musical career at Université de Montréal, studying harpsichord performance with Réjean Poirier. Then he involved himself in the construction and building of harpsichords, with all the fine arts that this endeavor brought with it. He had to dig deep into facets like historical research and acoustic investigations into building material and timbres.

Beaupré has been building harpsichords, spinets and virginals for two decades now, rendering him an esteemed name internationally. During his instrument-making career he has built about 100 instruments in his Montréal workshop to date; a handsome collection of artistic gems!

However, Yves Beaupré’s intense interest in sound — the nature of sound — which he amply put to the test in his almost primeval focus on the smallest timbral effect of construction details of the pure instruments that materialized under his hands, led him further, into a private studio which he set up at home in 1985. Arriving at the art of recorded sound — tape music and electronic music — by way of harpsichord building, he had unusually well-tuned ears and an unusually focused sound-mind. It would seem his very original career would make him perfectly fit for the innumerable variation of timbres of electroacoustic, acousmatic and electronic music.

Beaupré keeps on building instruments, but a lot of his time these days is set aside for electroacoustic composition. He has, for example, teaming up with Édouard Lock, mounted a magnetic pickup system for harpsichord.

This release is his first CD. I can hardly think of anyone else who has lived such a long time in a preparatory state — even if that was not the conscious state of affairs, and even if my statement about “preparatory” only has a bearing on the electronic sounds on this CD (maybe to be considered just an off-spring or a side-effect of the craftsman’s craft…), but the thought or vision of electronic, electroacoustic music that takes its inspiration and dynamics from many years of building acoustic instruments and then reaches the world with news of sounds, only — in this particular context — submitting the story of the decades in the workshop in a subordinate clause, thrills me! Nonetheless, this was the road taken by chance or necessity by Yves Beaupré, and here we are with the result in the laser box, and I am inspired by looking at these pictures of the beautiful instruments that Beaupré has built, which you can se at his Internet site — and I also suddenly recall an old friend of mine (not one of the closest friends, but not just an acquaintance either) who went to harpsichord-building courses in Northern Germany in the early 1970s, and so this CD from empreintes DIGITALes opens up many new rooms inside my mind (some filled with memories I had forgotten…).

Track 1 — Prélude démesuré — commences in a François Bayle “Toupie dans le ciel”-atmosphere and progression… right there in the opening, swirling, rhythmically erotic spinning motion, which you wonder where it will head, out across a slippery slope of glass or ice… In the dark, rhythmic web of pulsation tiny sparks of sonic fire appear, like fireflies in hedges and bushes, and a second rhythmic layer in a higher pitch, counter-pointing the darker pulsation, rises out of nowhere and becomes clear and mosquito-whining. The whole scenery is panning wildly and fast, and the feeling of spatiality is one of fast back and forth-movements inside another, general, stronger movement ahead, as were you bouncing back and forth between the walls of a railway car in a steadily moving freight train across Big Sky Montana or Famous Potatoes Idaho!

The tingling sensation is that of sand particles or small industrial diamonds falling down on a conveyor-belt, or maybe like early morning sand-in-eyes or the sensation of invisible sand dust between your teeth after an Arizona sand-storm rolling across the highway outside Phoenix, having everybody stop on the curb; the poor guys without AC rolling up their windows, still having the nasty minerals seep in everywhere… yes, such is the seasoning sensation of tingling, grating sounds of minuscule auditory grains in this part of Yves Beaupré’s Prélude démesuré!

It’s a pleasurable, fast moving sensation, listening to this music; breezy, intricate, at times soaring on a certain level, while still anchored in rock bottom material through darker, ambient audio, which towards the end allows for a repetitious deep percussion, while the grainy level turns into jingle jangle tingle tangle chain sonics, like passing through a hippie curtain of Indian Hare Krishna bells attached to hemp ropes or macramé of cold water flat passages between hallways and bedrooms in London or Stockholm in 1969…

La Beauséjour is the title of track 2. The music opens with sharp incisions and a turning perspective of timbres, until shortly a surprisingly acoustical zither- or harp sound spreads its gold. I suppose it is Mr. Beaupré sliding his fingers across the strings of one of the instruments he builds. The topography gets rougher here than in the preceding piece, but soon a train line rhythm sets in, and you’re just waiting for the steam whistle to blow — and it’s Long John from Bowling Green… and did you hear that Dylan bootleg; maybe it was “Great White Wonder”, but could’ve been one of the other, early, famous bootlegs by the youngster from the Mesabi iron ore range up in Hibbing, Minnesota…

You’re inside a trembling oil barrel, as the vibrations tap manically on your tympanic membranes. Sad and absent-minded soft melodies are more sensed than actually heard through the web of sounds, like fragments of dreams or the beginning of thoughts which blow away before taking shape, and much is going on; lighthouse-much on a day when winds are gusting and gulls flutter around the lonely tower out at sea, shrieking, ascending, descending in white, noisy motions above the waves…

The myriad of little tweaks make me feel the invisible presence of minor munching creatures, munching away at time and duration like some little Sesame Street guys… and the music turns merry-go-round minimalistic, in a modern Italian-style Luca Miti electronica homage to Terry Riley and old gurus at the shores of the Ganges in Varanasi. Phase shifts and in-and-out stitching into the web make you a little dizzy; pleasantly so, like were you somewhat intoxicated by a small amount of hard liquor… and then it all oozes out into some free-form improvisational jazz, like a section of Rotcod Zzaj or some of the flimsier moments of master musician Ernesto Diaz-Infante of California…

Track 3 is called La Laurendeau, opening on a strong timbral note, flapping out, winding up like a doll-house grandfather’s clock gone completely watery berserk, accompanied by softly bulging aquarium fondlings of water and kind thoughts, floating about like submerged intensions of good will. I think of smiling seals in old Beatles songs, or perhaps Cousteau undersea films, replayed on Discovery Channel. The bulging, swaying quality of this music, paired with the pitch shift effects on the beads of prickly, tiny percussive dots have me lay back in an imagined floating position, hearing bells of submerged cathedrals toll for you know who — don’t ask for whom! — and it’s all a fairy tale of a character and a sensualism not unlike the phase-crazy hydrophone recordings of David Dunn in his wonderful piece “Chaos and the Emergent Mind of the Pond”…

So far I haven’t gotten any associations at all back to Yves Beaupré’s inspirational instrument building shop in Montréal, which is a good mark, showing that the composer hasn’t made it easy on himself.

I might quote myself from a posting I did to the CEC mailing list (cecdiscuss@concordia.ca) the other night, when someone wanted all verbal thoughts on music — I guess he basically talked about the writing about music, and even more precisely; program notes — banned, since if the music wasn’t self-sufficient without accompanying words, it wasn’t much to talk about anyway. I said:

“Listening to music and expressing anything that is awoken or induced by the music can lead to mysterious places that you’ve never visited before, and in the end it may have nothing to do with the music that started that chain of inner events - but the sequence began in the music. Writing about music is riding a jerky horse at a Texan rodeo in Mesquite; a bouncing adventure which might land you in the dust, but that’s the moment when DUST becomes interesting, and you can slip down into the mineral worlds - and you’ll still be writing about music. Let go and let happen, Mr. Man!”

This general approach that I advocate above is inherent in Yves Beaupré’s musical work. He begins in his workshop, but ends up anywhere, as my review plainly tells. This is good! It demonstrates what a fantastic adventure life is; this life, all the ones before and the millions to come. Keep on keeping on! Om Mani Padme Hum!

Sometimes the pace — though in a constant movement — comes to a peculiar, meditative rest, right there inside the movement forth, and that’s when I like this the most, when the craftsman sort of raises his hands from his work and breathes…

The 4th track is La Pelots Point. It immediately fills the sounding space available with eerie timbres of the hereafter or the imminent hereafter, or perhaps of a daydream anxiety-event while riding a turboprop waying westward, like in Gordon Lightfoot’s “Early Morning Rain” (beautifully interpreted by Peter, Paul and Mary); that long lost longing for “home”; a metaphysical home of homes, which can not be found as long as we insist on being born all the time, over and over… never getting tired enough of this flickering, blinding sequence of lives that pass, pass, pass — so fast that the stream of lives, seemingly an obvious rhythmic encounter, turns into pitch (which in turn reminds me of how Stockhausen turned pitch into rhythm and vice versa in “Kontakte” of 1959 - 1960). It never ends. It truly never does end! It just twists and turns and spirals through the space-time continuum! Tally-hoe! The Space Cattle Herders are on the move! The Universe is our Home! Make yourself comfortable!

Sparky, sudden events of short durations kick in and out, giving me nice feelings of early electronic music of the WDR-studio of Cologne, but soon this veers over into the French idiom of poetic acousmatics of GRM (Groupe de recherches musicales) of Paris, equally nicely felt inside my musical frames of reference — and I realize how rich and varied this CD by Yves Beaupré really is. There is no time to get tired of his sounds, but there are places to rest, sections to meditate — and places to mourn, as I hear sounds reminding me of radio transmissions from the ship Estonia which went down all of a sudden in a September storm in the Baltic Sea in 1994, drowning over 800 people — and I used those radio transmissions to compose a radiophonic textsound piece simply called “Requiem”, which I paired with another piece of mine called “The Land That is Not”, dealing with the assassination of Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme in 1986, on a private CD that will never be commercially available (it was mostly a way for myself to work through these events and try to understand them in a physical, fleshy way)… and here I hear a soft and caring melody in the distance inside Beaupré’s work, slowly disappearing inside deep murmurs as of buses passing by outside, giving off infra sounds, but the soft, melodic, modal sounds reappear, like individual organ pipes of an old stone church in Gotland emitting encoded messages for times to come… and for the first time on this CD I hear people, voices, whistlings, calls… like in a memory or a dream… out of time…

Track 5 is cryptically entitled La DDB. It has body, and sparkles with gushes of twinkling sounds, riding on rolling carpets of auditory enforcements, embellished timbres welling forth like the northern lights in Lapland a bitterly cold January night… The feeling of friction in the layers of sound that grind against each other also have me think of cold nights, starshine and snowy expanses, where survival can be dependant on a pair of mittens and a thermos with hot soup…

Growling and cawing sounds conjure up inner sights of secret winter-forest sceneries; a lynx leaving big traces in the snow, the trunks of spruces reflecting from its eyes (bent in a fish-eye manner on the surface of the eyes of a lynx in Lapland) — and a black raven circles the tree-tops… No human in sight, no human for miles and miles and miles — and this secret barely audible inside Beaupré’s music…

Cosmic forces interact with the smallest nuances of shades across the snow, and with the faintest grain of audio inside this music. It’s all in all! The workshop in Montréal set this music off through wood and varnish and keys and strings, and a lynx and a raven appeared in my mind in Scandinavia! All in all! What is real? What is reality? Anything that isn’t eternal isn’t very real… but maybe everything is eternal, and therefore… real — like my lynx and raven in Beaupré’s music!

The concluding piece — track 6 — is Péroraison. It smalltalks like kittens on the kitchen floor, or like the almost schizoid thoughts inside the sound poetry of Hebriana Alainentalo, perfectly enacting the absentminded concentration of a little girl of three with a bucket of sand… and in Yves Beaupré’s last work on this amazing CD tiny strands of vibration have me smell the rubber of rubber bands and ponder over the theory of vibrating superstrings vibrating everything into existence… and I hear wolves howling deep, deep inside this piece, like the call of the wild from our own inner wildernesses, sloppily painted over with a thin layer of so-called civilization, which easily crumples like wayward toilet-paper in a brain-storm… and the last minutes of the music is the sensual tapping of fingertips across your forehead and your mind, as the music leaves you in hypnotic beauty and attuned senses.

… how rich and varied this CD by Yves Beaupré really is.

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