Eerie, haunting, reverberant, innovative. Those are some of the words you can apply to the music of the group HMMH (Hétu — Martel — Mouchous — Hübsch). Composed of well-known members of Quebec’s avant-garde jazz and creative music scene, the quartet has just released a new album Fleur de chaos. They’ll be showcasing this album in an IMOO series show at General Assembly on Sunday.
Saxophonist and composer Joane Hétu has co-directed the Ensemble SuperMusique, a major force in Quebec’s jazz scene, since its founding in 1998, as well as the weekly series Mercredimusics since 2002. Pierre-Yves Martel’s main instrument is the viola da gamba, but he has reinterpreted this traditional instrument for a new century, creating “an authentic musical language through non-conventional techniques and instrumental preparations”, He he also works outside of instrumental music altogether, using a variety of objects rife with new sonic possibilities, from contact-mics and speakers to motors, wheels, surfaces and textures. Ottawa audiences have most often heard composer and tuba player Carl Ludwig Hübsch through his trio with Martel, Hübsch Zoubek Martel, which plays improvised music characterized by the transparent overlaying of wonderful timbres through intelligent-but-spontaneous structures. Émilie Mouchous “makes electronic instruments that induce touch and movement that find their context in improvised performance and installation. Inventor of the term ’mouth feedback,’ she uses a panoply of everyday and absurd objects, and enjoys ’playing the spaces’ that receive her.”
[…] 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. […]
[…] 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. […]
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.