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HCMF 2018: HISS@10, Kudzu, Fast Gold Butterflies Presse 2018-11-22T00:00:00+00:00 Pierre Alexandre Tremblay, photo: Claudine Levasseur, Huddersfield (England, UK), August 3, 2013

[…] The only other work of substance in this concert was Pierre Alexandre Tremblay’s Bucolic & Broken. And what substance! Here, and only here, was a true demonstration of the surround capabilities of HISS. But it wasn’t just the positioning of sounds, Tremblay’s choice of sources – ranging from a scratching pencil to a boiling kettle to birdsong to a tinkling piano gesture to a woman walking her dog – were superbly imaginative, and the way these were juxtaposed into a strange structural form was unconventional but completely convincing. It wasn’t in the usual sense acousmatic, Tremblay instead presenting these sounds as found sound objects arranged into a kind of spacialised collage. But what set the piece apart from almost everything else in this concert (and, perhaps, most concerts) was its demonstration of Tremblay’s very obvious playfulness and a palpable sense of wonder at the sounds he’s working with. For electronic music to be as accomplished as this while being so much fun is a rare combination. […]

HCMF 2018: United Instruments of Lucilin, Harriet Presse 2018-11-21T00:00:00+00:00 Pierre Alexandre Tremblay, photo: Claudine Levasseur, Huddersfield (England, UK), August 3, 2013

[…] In Pierre Alexandre Tremblay’s electroacoustic Un fil rouge the electronics were for the most part uncannily present – which is to say that they felt like a tangible yet invisible additional performer on stage. They manifested most prominently in a recurring motif, extending the ensemble’s tutti accents into an accelerating (and occasionally decelerating) sequence of impacts. This motif recurred so often, in fact, that it became in essence a refrain, between which were a number of episodes providing a contrast to its impetus and momentum. Though they exhibited far less energy, these episodes were the most striking moments of the piece, Tremblay more prepared to let the material drift and linger, resulting in beautiful, dreamy sequences. Even when they were pushed along, though, this episodes remained distinct in the way they seemed more ragged, the result of playful spontaneity driven by an exciting bubbling sense of abandon. […]

Review Presse 2018-11-01T00:00:00+00:00

Review Presse 2018-10-31T00:00:00+00:00

Csapó is a Hungarian-born composer (b. 1955) living in Canada since 1990 who studied with Morton Feldman at SUNY Buffalo and also with John Cage. His Déjà? Kojâ? (’Already? Where [to]?’), for string quartet, is presented in three sections totaling about 73 minutes long.

As the brief notes from Csapó point out, it’s essentially a dirge, though one which fluctuates from sorrow to ecstasy. The “Kojâ” in the title comes from a ghazal by Hafez, which seems to posit human life as a “threshold” before true existence. I find it very difficult to otherwise describe the music. It’s not very much akin to that of Feldman (especially the string quartets) and even less like (most) Cage. Though we hear lines that are pulled and stretched, there’s far more changeability in melodic line and attack crammed into any given 30-seconds than you’d find in an hour of Feldman. More importantly, Csapó, if not quite wearing his emotions on his sleeve, doesn’t shy away from content that is almost necessarily heard first as emotional, then abstractly. The strings surge, offer plaints, sigh and subside; it’s fundamentally sad, stirring music. The structure is flowing and loose, like a slow camera pan over a troubled landscape. The first movement works itself up to quite a fever pitch about 3/4 the way through — one can easily imagine the thrashing about of grieving souls — before settling back down to a more general level of despondency, ending with high, ghostly whines.

Second Parte is pitched somewhat higher, contains more agitation, with pizzicato scurries and brief, clipped lines and overlapping glissandi voiced in the violins’ upper registers. It gradually shifts to the most subdued music in the piece, plaintive sighs studded with questioning plucks. The final portion is actually calm, perhaps even resigned. The texture is thick and creamy, very complex and lovely, the phrases almost conversational, as though discussing and contemplating that aforementioned threshold, but doing so with little apprehension. It ends with quiet acceptance.

Review Presse 2018-10-17T00:00:00+00:00

This was one heck of an album to track down the details for, which could have been solved simply by the inclusion of a one-sheet. If there was one it must have gotten lost en-route to me from Chain D.L.K. central, and just about everything about this album and its producers had to be sourced off the Internet. Have you ever tried Googling “Political Ritual”? Just use your imagination as the results you’ll get in this day and age. Fortunately, the artists, Félix-Antoine Morin & Maxime Corbeil-Perron, put their names on the album, but both being French-Canadian, much of the info about them and Political Ritual (the name of the project is also the album title) is in French. According to Morin and Corbeil-Perron, Political Ritual build their music in architectural and woven layers of harmony and polarity, arranging ethereal drone next to hard edged buzz or cinematic movements alongside pummeling beats. With live performance as their backdrop, Félix-Antoine Morin and Maxime Corbeil-Perron took to the studio in 2014 for their first album. Corbeil-Perron is a multidisciplinary artist who has created film and video work and interactive installations shown at international events and festivals, as well as making electro-acoustic and mixed-media music as Le Pélican noir and solo — he also started a PhD at the Université de Montréal in fall 2015. A visual artist as well as an electro-acoustic composer, Morin works solo and collaborates with contemporary choreographers, videographers and several other musicians, finding inspiration for his poetic creations in the processual components of traditional and sacred music. Pushing the boundaries of abstraction, these expert improvisors in analog modular and digital synthesis incorporate invented wind instruments, traditional Balinese percussion, field recordings and digital signal processing into their compositions, intent on shaping a transcendent listening experience.

Okay, that’s all well and good, but what does this album sound like? The album is comprised of two long pieces — Ceremonie (20:07) and Projection cathodique (21:35). While ambient in nature, this isn’t a passive kind of ambient, but a very active, organic and highly charged sort of ambient. Ceremonie is full of crackling electronics and uneasy drones of indeterminate machinery. Over time it morphs into quasi-psychedelic Klaus Schulze territory before veering out into more experimental terrain. The oscillations employed are quite unsettling and throughout its droney demeanor, jarring events occur with some frequency in the background. Just when things seem to be humming along nicely the bottom drops out and the listener is transported to an alien construction site on some God-forsaken planet, replete with the distortion of heavy equipment until it grinds to a sudden halt.

Projection cathodique begins with a less forceful demeanor, the twinkling of crystalline high frequency particles over melodic sonorous low tones and held together with hollowish metallic drone substances. The latter sonority intensifies and echoes off in a feedback loop which morphs in myriad directions overtaking all other sonics present. There is a somewhat natural evolution to the unfolding of this piece that you just have to hear as any description fails to do it justice. Let’s just say it gets pretty dense as sonic layers build on top of each other. By its conclusion there is a return to some of the elements that began this piece and so the cycle is complete.

To be perfectly honest, I didn’t think a whole lot of the album on the first go-round, but after repeated plays the subtleties were revealed and the brilliance of the work became evident. That it was primarily released as a limited edition vinyl LP (500 copies, also available as a digital download) makes it an even more vital purchase.

Review Presse 2018-10-16T00:00:00+00:00

Last but not least, the series is completed by two contrasting albums credited to British Columbia-born Cassandra Miller, one featuring commissioned and other pieces played by Apartment House musicians, the other string quartets played by Montréal’s Quatuor Bozzini. It is pleasing to note that both albums feature cover paintings by Lance Austin Olsen.

Miller has twice been the recipient of the Jules-Léger Prize for New Chamber Music, Canada’s highest honour for composition. For years, her works have been performed across the world. In September 2018, she took up the post of Associate Head of Composition (Undergraduate) at London’s prestigous Guildhall School of Music and Drama. All of which makes it quite remarkable to discover that these two albums are the very first recordings to be issued featuring her music.

Taken together, the two albums illustrate exactly why Miller has been honoured and heard around the globe. Across the spectrum, from Mira Benjamin’s solo violin piece For Mira, through the enchanting string quartets, up to the duet of Charles Curtis’ cello with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Miller’s music gets it right; it feels like it is part of a tradition without being unduly shaped by that tradition or kow-towing to it.

The Canadian Composers Series is such a significant event that it makes sense to appreciate it as a whole without drawing comparisons between the ten albums in it. Hopefully, this series has opened doors for the eight composers in it and for the many more who could just as easily have been included. On the basis of it, there is a strong case for further album releases by Canadian composers, either as another series or as one-offs. History has been made.

Akousma: Quinzième sommet de l’exploration électroacoustique Presse 2018-10-15T00:00:00+00:00 Francis Dhomont, Lisbon (Portugal), November 30, 2018

Présenté dans des conditions acoustiques on ne peut plus optimales, le festival Akousma XV démarre aujourd’hui et se conclut samedi: six programmes des plus nourrissants pour les amateurs les plus pointus des approches électroniques et électroacoustiques.

Francis Dhomont

Ce soir, 20h, Au Gesù

Cet incontournable de l’électroacroustique cultive encore aujourd’hui un intérêt fervent pour une écriture dite «morphologique» et aussi pour ses observations créatrices des «ambiguïtés» entre le son et l’image. Entre le Québec et la France, Francis Dhomont a cumulé les honneurs sa vie durant: Grand Prix Mega-Hertz 2013-Allemagne; docteur honoris causa de l’Université de Montréal; prix SACEM 2007 de la meilleure création contemporaine électroacoustique; prix Lynch-Staunton du Conseil des arts du Canada; 1er prix (1981) et prix «Magisterium» (1988) au Concours international de musique électroacoustique de Bourges (France); prix Ars Electronica 1992 (Autriche). De 1978 a 2004, il a partagé ses activités entre la France et le Québec, où il a enseigné à l’Université de Montréal de 1980 à 1996. Le nonagénaire vit aujourd’hui à Avignon, compose toujours et étoffe sa réflexion théorique. En feriez-vous autant à 92 ans? Au programme de demain, plusieurs œuvres en création nord-américaine.

La lucarne des rêves

Demain, 20h, Au Conservatoire de musique de Montréal

Voilà un film immersif conçu par la Française Cendrine Robelin, avec [la participation] de Martin Gracineau (son) et de Claude Mercier (montage). Voilà une œuvre cinématographique autour de la musique concrète, au sein de laquelle l’approche des compositeurs Bernard Parmegiani et Lionel Marchetti est respectueusement évoquée. «Je rêve d’un film avec le pouvoir de transformer notre perception des bruits du monde et de nous inviter à en faire de la musique. Ces bruits du monde nous entourent et nous façonnent sans que l’on y prête attention. C’est la rumeur de la ville, l’éveil des oiseaux, un moteur en action, des voix, des bruits de machines, des instruments», indique Cendrine Robelin, question de piquer notre curiosité et de nous convier à cette soirée où elle présente également Bain de gong, d’une durée de sept minutes.

Dôme + Sinus + Fiction

Mercredi, 20h, À la Satosphère de la SAT

Dans le contexte d’Akousma, la Satosphère de la Société des arts technologiques (SAT) accueille mercredi trois œuvres immersives sous la bannière Dome + Sinus + Fiction. Un «ensemble d’oscillateurs» réunit d’abord un florilège d’électroacousticiens québécois, suivi de Out of Joint, «essai d’hybridation sonore autour du Macbeth de Shakespeare», imaginé par la compositrice québécoise Monique Jean. Le programme se conclut par le travail du compositeur français Franck Vigroux, intégration singulière de musique contemporaine et de bruitisme, mais aussi de théâtre, de danse et de vidéo. Alternativement guitariste, platiniste, électroacousticien, producteur électro, improvisateur, compositeur, il a travaillé notamment avec des musiciens iconoclastes de réputation internationale tels Mika Vainio (Pan Sonic), Reinhold Friedl, Elliott Sharp, Joey Baron, Zeena Parkins, Ars Nova ensemble instrumental.

Complexe + Nature

Jeudi, 20h, À l’Usine C

Andrea Gozzi et Francesco Casciaro présentent Dot Plot, dialogue improvisé via le PrintStrument, sorte de synthétiseur polyphonique électromécanique conçu à partir d’une imprimante matricielle. De la compositrice d’origine mexicaine Nashim Gargari, on aura droit à Ensifera Ventum et Glaciar and Blue Whale, quête d’unité avec la science, les arts visuels et l’environnement. La compositrice canadienne Rose Bolton présentera ensuite The Blinding, évocation sonore du fonctionnement de la mémoire. S’ensuit Live Somewhere du Québécois Philippe Vandal, qui travaille ici sur nos problèmes de perception induits par la saturation d’informations. Le numéro suivant s’intitule Spiel; la performeuse Nien Tzu Weng exploitera le concept «pour bouche préparée» de Michael Montanaro et de Tatev Yesayan. Après quoi le compositeur québécois Georges Forget offrira Eurosignal, inspiré d’un ancien système de radiomessagerie (téléavertisseur, pager). La soirée se conclut par Les Hexacordes bien synthétisés, micro-pièces explorant les 35 hexacordes de la «pitch class set theory» d’Allen Forte.

Chaos + Émergent

Vendredi, 20h, À l’Usine C

La soirée Chaos + Émergent réunira d’abord les Italiens Francesco Canavese et Francesco Giomi, qui exécuteront The SDENG Project, exploration des relations entre le live electronic et l’improvisation. La pièce Thunderdrone, des Espagnols Diego de León et Manu Retamero, témoignera de leur expertise en conception de synthétiseurs et de l’influence qu’ils exercent sur le genre glitch-ambient ou même la techno. Par la suite, la Québécoise Myriam Bleau nous offrira un de ses systèmes audiovisuels dont elle a le secret… quelque part entre l’installation et la performance musicale intégrant l’électroacoustique, la techno, la pop ou le hip-hop. Myriam Bleau sera suivie de l’Allemand Markus Mehr, dont l’œuvre Liquid Empires résulte de subtils traitements d’enregistrements sous-marins… glou glou! Ce programme sera coiffé de Giant Claw, œuvre singulière de l’artiste audiovisuel américain Keith Rankin.

Viva l’Italia!

Samedi, 20h, À l’Usine C

À l’évidence, la présence italienne domine le 15e festival Akousma, le programme de clôture en fera l’éloquente démonstration. D’abord au menu sera diffusée la pièce Valence du Montréalais Ilyaa Ghafouri, un diplômé du Conservatoire de musique de Montréal, sous la tutelle de Louis Dufort, en l’occurrence le directeur artistique d’Akousma. Ensuite, les compositeurs italiens uniront leurs forces: Francesco Casciaro, Francesco Canavese, Francesco Giomi et Andrea Gozzi diffuseront un florilège d’œuvres les ayant marqués; o Down de Gabriele Marangoni pour quatre performeurs; Chants parallèles du brillantissime Luciano Berio; Microclima II de Marco Dibeltulu, imprégnée de musiques traditionnelles de Sardaigne; Scabro de Francesco Giomi, de facture «rugueuse, rustre, rude et impolie»; Otkaz [de] Simonluca Laitempergher, fondée sur le principe d’oktaz, point précis où un mouvement s’arrête et un autre s’amorce.

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Review Presse 2018-10-01T00:00:00+00:00

Jeweled miniatures constructed of fingerpicked guitar arpeggios and electronic treatments. Quiet and contemplative, like studying the patterns of shifting light and shadow on your afternoon wall.

Distillations offers clouds of harmonics with squelchy, wheezy organ tones accreting. A few of the pieces stop dead and change tack in an arresting manner, not so much jarring as re-aligning, an intake of breath. The longest piece, Porcelain 360 has metallic, vibraphone tones and weird bent organ swells, a toy piano amid careful chord shapes which gradually gain speed and density over its twelve minute running time. Lopsided, but still managing to maintain a sense of development. Marcher sur la glace has a stuttering, leslie speaker feel, and Stalactites et stalagmites sets up a stately series of strummed chords with hovering held tones that gradually becomes more harmonically complex.

For some reason I am reminded of a weighted hanging thread, slowly spinning one way and then the other, throwing tiny shards of fiber in graceful arcs as they glide to the floor. Somewhat hidden inside the cover are chord diagrams and short bits of musical staff, which I unfortunately cannot read.

New Arrival: Otherwise by Carl Ludwig Hübsch, Pierre-Yves Martel, Philip Zoubek Nouveautés 2018-09-25T00:00:00+00:00

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New Arrival: Revue & corrigée #117 by Various artists Nouveautés 2018-09-19T00:00:00+00:00

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Review Presse 2018-09-12T00:00:00+00:00

Miller’s music is absorbing for any number of reasons. She makes use of aspects of various branches of modernism including minimalism and, in some pieces, a kind of structural stasis but almost always also references traditional forms and techniques, from Bach to folk songs to Ives and more. Just So collects four pieces for string quartet, performed in typically beautiful and rigorous fashion by the Bozzini Quartet, two shorter works bracketing two longer ones. The title composition is a lilting affair, recalling some kind of village gig or reel, the strings pitched high, dancing, the rhythms just this side of irregular, the cello coming in for some wonderful underpinning in the final few moments. A bracing, joyous number to open the set. Warblework, as the title implies, concerns itself with birds: three thrushes and a veery. To my ears, not birdsong as much as tracing the paths birds make in flight and very movingly so. The strings swirl and skitter in brief bursts for the Swainson’s thrush, alight for a moment, then take off once again while the hermit thrush swoops a bit more, stays lower to the ground and the wood thrush grunts and pushes its way through the underbrush before standing still to survey its surroundings, which are filled with lovely, dry harmonies. The veery, another kind of thrush, does seem to make a doleful call amidst grainy streaks, the calls multiplying, a little anxious as though espied. Here, as in other pieces, Miller makes subtle use of approximately iterated cells of music, a near repetition of clusters that nods to minimalism without ever falling into rote usage — this is an especially fine work.

About Bach is the longest work presented here and kind of a centerpiece, illustrating the sort of structural tack that Miller seems to enjoy and that, in a way, she elaborates in her marvelous composition, Duet for Cello and Orchestra, commented on below. Here, if I’m not mistaken, one violin (maybe sometimes both?) plays a very highly pitched, seven-note ascending “scale” throughout the piece. Readers with more musical knowledge than I might identify it, but I was reminded, oddly enough, of the scale sung by the lead tenor at the conclusion of Glass’ 1979 opera, Satyagraha. It’s very poignant in and of itself, gathering strength and weight and, indeed, poignancy as it’s repeated again and again. The lower strings, in an almost conversational manner, reflect with phrases that seem obliquely derived from Bach, though with an entirely modern hesitancy and questioning aspect. Toward the end, it attains a clear dimension of solemnity. There’s a type of stasis in effect, pinioned by the violin (s) but also enhanced by the general self-similarity of the interposed phrases, though they in fact vary at all times. The sense of overhearing snatches of discussions in a large room pervades, dreamlike. Just a deep, marvelous and affecting work, brilliantly performed. The disc concludes with Leaving, another work that appears to have folk song roots, maybe a sea shanty, lolls in place like an old docked boat gently buffeted by small waves. Each of the strings seems to carry a related tune, melding together at times, drifting apart at other moments. It’s an immensely satisfying, soft kind of almost-lullaby, a fine ending to a superb recording.

Review Presse 2018-09-01T00:00:00+00:00

Critique Presse 2018-09-01T00:00:00+00:00

Critique Presse 2018-09-01T00:00:00+00:00

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Review Presse 2018-08-27T00:00:00+00:00

The second disc, Just So, consists of string quartets played by the Quatuor Bozzini. The major work here, About Bach, is a fitting companion to the Duet for Cello and Orchestra: viola and cello play in the manner of baroque viols, a chorale that crosses over itself again and again until it finally exhausted. Against this, the violins play endlessly rising harmonics in the stratosphere, ethereal and remote. The effect is sublime at first and then strangely affecting as the elegaic implications of the music embed themselves in the consciousness, the harmonics continuing unperturbed by the cadences below. Miller talks about this piece being shaped by Bach transcriptions, Jewish music and computer glitches, bringing order out of the messy circumstances of life. Quatuor Bozzini make the fiendish technical requirements of playing this piece with finesse all but invisible. The other pieces contain elements of the folkloric, to varying degrees. Warblework names its four movements after species of birds, mixing up the mimetic, programmatic and impressionistic in an idiosyncratic way that deftly avoids the Scylla and Charybdis of Messiaen and John Luther Adams. The disc is topped and tailed by two brief works, the smart and sweet almost-a-solo Just So which sounds like a folksong transcription, and the more serene and sonorous Leaving which is, in fact, a transcription. It’s been worth the wait.

Review Presse 2018-08-23T00:00:00+00:00

The Sheffield-based label Another Timbre specialises in experimental music, from the postwar US generation of John Cage and Morton Feldman to the present day. Lately, it has made a special feature of Canadian composers, and among its latest releases are two discs devoted to the music of Cassandra Miller, who grew up in British Columbia and is now based in London. Her teachers have included Michael Finnissy and Richard Ayres, but, as the eight pieces on these recordings show, her music is hard to categorise, its starting points unpredictable and wide-ranging.

In Quatuor Bozzini’s survey of Miller’s quartet pieces, the four movements of Warblework are based on the songs of four north American thrushes, while About Bach, as its name signals, is a homage, with a solo violin spiralling high above fragments of chorales derived from the famous D Minor Chaconne. In Philip the Wanderer, composed for the indefatigable pianist Philip Thomas, the source is a recording of a Mozambican musician, while the solo-violin For Mira is based on a computer transcription of Kurt Cobain singing Where Did You Sleep Last Night. In every one of these pieces, though, Miller’s response is totally her own. The music never seems second-hand or derivative in any way.

Perhaps the most striking of all is Duet for Cello and Orchestra, from 2015. It began, Miller says, as a homage to the composer Vincenzo Bellini, and also makes extensive use of an Italian folk song. But the solo cello (played with wonderful restraint by Charles Curtis in this performance with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and Ilan Volkov) is mostly limited to a scarcely changing sequence of alternating fifths, while the orchestra has a frieze-like succession of increasingly dense flourishes above it. The soloist only breaks free in the final moments for a brief cadenza in harmonics, which seems to belong to another musical world altogether. It’s a strange but profoundly haunting piece.

Another Timbre launched its Canadian series last year with Drifter, a two-disc collection of pieces by Linda Catlin Smith, New York-born but now based in Toronto. The most recent batch of releases includes another album of her quietly unassuming and entrancingly beautiful Feldman-esque music.

On Smith’s Wanderer, there are eight works played by members of Apartment House, each of them using a single musical idea to devastating effect — shared melodic lines in the ensemble pieces Knotted Silk and Stare at the River, gradations of touch in Velvet, for two pianos — and all totally beguiling.