La Bête / The Beast Within: Original music for the dance production by O Vertigo; choreographed by Ginette Laurin

Jean Derome

I recommend this disc highly. Musicworks, Canada

La bête can guarantee an edifying musical experience to the courageous at heart. Splendid E-Zine, USA

For this album, Jean Derome was commissioned by Montréal’s O Vertigo dance troupe and their production “The Beast Within,” directed by Ginette Laurin.

Here, Derome treats us with an exploration of animalistic qualities, whether in violence, sensuality or spirituality. The Beast Within is a fresh, rhythmic album full of changing textures, evoking the weaving of fabrics, suspiration, spaces of spectacle such as the cabaret, the circus and our urban environment… Derome’s music dynamically intermingles improvisation and composition while employing, almost exclusively, acoustic instruments for their organic and stratingly real presence.

La Bête, the Beast Within; music which inhabits the body and moves the soul.

CD (AM 048)

  • Label: Ambiances Magnétiques
  • AM 048
  • 1997
  • UCC 771028104826
  • Total duration: 71:02
  • Jewel case
  • 125 mm × 142 mm × 10 mm
  • 90 g

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In the press


Nick Mott, Audion, no. 42, March 1, 2000

Carnival music? Joyous rodeo music? I am constantly reminded of cabaret and circus shows with La Bête, The Beast Within.

Strange, and quite avant-garde in parts, yet oddly “easy to listen to” music. The arrangements are great with plenty of parallels to Eric Satie type moments juxtaposed with wonderful atmosphere and lots of variety.


Steve Taylor, Hollow Ear, August 3, 1998

Original music by Montréal composer Jean Derome for the Overtigo Dance Troupe production choreographed by Ginette Laurin includes sixteen selections, clocking in at just under 71 minutes, performed brilliantly by nine musicians on assorted percussion, woodwinds, brass, accordion, guitar, piano. In addition, the animalistic voicings of Joane Hétu are woven throughout. Along with the angular minor-key melodies for woodwinds and brass, the music here issues mainly from secondary rhythmatists playing over more identifiably metrical leads which together produce effects of persistent ‘accidental’ syncopation. With a name like The Beast Within one would have expected a violent, paganistic statement, however the sound is at times surprisingly tame; suggesting that perhaps the dancing is more violent than the music(?)…Too, this constantly changing landscape of sound pocked occasionally with pulseless ambience does admittedly seem concerned as much with the sensual and spiritual aspects of human violence. A few surreal waltzes and the many strange vocal noises streak the mostly dark spaces with odd color. Fans of the minimalist post-Art Zoyd fringe, or better still, Meredith Monk’s earlier work will find this an agreeable experience.

Diverse Derome Delights

Spike Taylor, Musicworks, no. 71, June 1, 1998

La Bête / The Beast Within is original music commissioned from Jean Derome by the Montréal dance company O Vertigo. It’s a more careful work than Perec hommage. More impressive, too, I think, in the way that it stands back from the focus of the project (the choreography, as opposed to the memory of Perec or seventeen games) as a mature and highly original major work. It is no less chaotic than the other, yet Derome handles the content (I have not seen the O Vertigo production) with an openness and intensity that is a dance itself. Nine musicians are enlisted for La Bête, among them René Lussier, Diane Labrosse, Pierre Tanguay, and extra-specially Joane Hétu, doing vocal acrobatics. She tears into the centre of the action here amid textures of reeds, flutes, and piano, and holds the centre as lead instrumentalist—no lyrics, just new ideas pouring out of them all from Derome on down. I recommend this disc highly, and though you’ll wish you had been able to take in the entire experience of La Bête / The Beast Within, the CD stands with Jean Derome’s best works of any size.

I recommend this disc highly.


Noah Wane, Splendid E-Zine, March 23, 1998

Listening to CDs that contain music written for dance productions always feels odd to me. I just can’t get escape the fact that I’m missing something by not seeing the choreography that is, by all counts, an integral part of the work of art. While I can’t seem to shake that feeling entirely with La bête, I am happy to report that I find the disembodied sonic elements of the work to be truly fascinating. The music is written for what amounts to a small chamber group heavily favoring percussive instruments (for obvious reasons). Throughout the score primal shouts and guttural cries punctuate a fragmented musical texture. Derome’s repetition of similar rhythmic/melodic fragments (Prologue, Carrousel and Adieu mon coeur, for example) reminds me at times of Glass’s later operatic work. Also, his use of tribal dance rhythms is compelling, especially when blended with non-tribal elements like the gypsy-ish folk tune in Les femmes enceintes. I found myself absolutely drawn into the music during serene moments like those of Duo des ventre/les archanges and Mourir. With La bête can guarantee an edifying musical experience to the courageous at heart.

La bête can guarantee an edifying musical experience to the courageous at heart.


Declan O’Driscoll, Rubberneck, no. 27, January 1, 1998

Derome’s music for the dance La Bête is again wide ranging in its sources, intograting woven moments of minimalism, declamatory pained voices, a gentle waltz and, on Jean-Joseph, a phone ringing, voices arguing, knocking, a plangent melody, a siren and a jackhammer.

Délire actuel: Critique

François Couture, CFLX 95.5 FM, November 17, 1997

Jean Derome a-t-il encore besoin d’une présentation? Membre fondateur et pilier d’Ambiances magnétiques, il est musicalement actif de façon inlassable depuis près de vingt ans. Impliqué dans quantités de projets, on le connait surtout pour sa participation au duo Les Granules avec René Lussier et pour son groupe Jean Derome et ses Dangereux Zhoms. Mais que ce soit avec les Granules, les Zhoms ou seul, Jean Derome nous a habitué à une musique complexe, spontanée et iconoclaste, où l’humour est presque partout présent.

Et c’est ce qui frappe à la première écoute de La Bête. L’absence flagrante du piquant deromesque. La Bête est une musique sérieuse.

La musique de La Bête a été écrite pour accompagner la chorégraphie du même titre de Ginette Laurin et interprétée par la troupe de danse O Vertigo. En fait, seules trois des seize pièces de l’album ne font pas partie du spectacle. Le sujet et le format imposaient une atmosphère plus sombre. Nous trouvons donc Derome dans un nouvel environnement.

Ce qui n’est pas dire que l’album est mauvais. Loin de là. Il s’agit de s’y faire. Jean Derome (flûtes, voix, appeaux, claviers, programmation, bouteilles, saxophones, percussions) est entouré sur ce disque par ces acolytes habituels d’Ambiances magnétiques: Joane Hétu (voix), Pierre Tanguay (percussions, batterie, voix, bouteilles), Diane Labrosse (accordéon, échantillonneur), René Lussier (guitare-papier), Ivanhoe Jolicoeur (trompette, flugelhorn), Tom Walsh (trombone, rasoir), Robert Ellis (trombone basse, tuba) et Bernard Buisson (piano).

L’atmosphère du disque est sombre et quelque peu torturée. La musique est sérieuse, émotive, une bonne partie est tonale. Certaines incursions de Joane Hétu viennent déstabiliser l’édifice, y apporter une note (un cri) discordante et bienvenue. Mais si l’ensemble apparaît d’abord peut-être un peu trop «accessible», on se surprend à plonger dans l’univers de La Bête et d’en sortir les oreilles satisfaites.

La Bête ne deviendra pas un classique de Jean Derome et ceux qui l’ont connu avec l’Hommage à Perec risquent d’être déçus. Par contre, les amateurs de musique scénique se délecteront. Reste à voir le résultat sur scène. O Vertigo sera de passage au Centre culturel de l’Université de Sherbrooke en février 1998 pour présenter La Bête.

… on se surprend à plonger dans l’univers de La Bête et d’en sortir les oreilles satisfaites.


Michael Rosenstein, Cadence, no. 23:9, September 1, 1997

Pinning down the music ot Jean Derome is a Study in futility. This Monlréal native is as likely to be composing music for dance or film as he is to be darting through rock-tinged improvisations with his group Dangereux Zhoms, or tearing into the changes of a Monk tune. What all of his music has in common is a keen sense of humor, an insaliable sense of inquisitiveness, and an impeccable ear for arrangements and group interaction. Derome is helped immeasurably by his association with a large pool of like-minded Montréal musicians who form the artists’ collective recording on the Ambiances Magnetiques label.

Assembled in the studio over the period of a year, La Bête — The Beast within is music commissioned for a dance performance. This is music based on exotic color and gesture, building layers up from minute details. As usual, Derome draws from popular music, brass bands, and exotic instrumentation. There is a strong tie to theater and cabaret throughout, though he always avoids the predictable or trite. On one piece, military percussion tattoos lay a foundation for pumping brass cadences while accordion and keyboards seesaw drunken rhythms as flute dive-bomb the ensemble. The next darts into free collective flurries as free gasped vocals spray nonsense scat while duck calls, percussion, and tightly voiced trumpet and trombone pace and circle. Yet even in the freest moments, Derome never completely abandons melodic flow and pulse. Tanguay’s percussion creates a propulsive undertow that freely draws the music along, often augmented by additional percussion grooves. The brass trio, and particularly the tuba, provide warm dark shadings while wheezing accordion, guitar, or piano provide delicate, open harmonies. Whispered and warbled vocals buzz and flitter around the cinematic arc of the music, which has dramatic and spatial richness. Instruments come in and out like characters wrapped in the mystery of an abstract theater piece, moving from dark, brooding sections to wry levity in a matter of moments. The interplay is tight throughout, and while much of the music is carefully arranged, there is considerable room for the nine players to collectively stretch. There is no question that the choreography will add much to the music, but this recording ably stands on its own.

More texts

  • Rafa Dorado, Margen, no. 12, January 1, 1998