Jean Derome / Ensemble SuperMusique (ESM)

Derome has shown time and again that his idiosyncratic creativity, compositional skill and ability to put a theory into artistically fructiferous practice are second to none. In its clever mix of conceptual consistency and stimulating interplay, Résistances clearly explains why. The Squid’s Ear, USA

Résistances flows through sections that range from minimalistic drones featuring 60 Hz buzzing to swinging big-band movements that positively surge with energy. Musicworks, Canada

Prix Opus 2017-18: Album de l’année

Résistances was premiered on May 14, 2015 at the opening of the Festival international de musique actuelle de Victoriaville (FIMAV) and the Année Jean Derome (AJD) — a big series of events supported by CALQ (Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec) and presented throughout the province of Québec to celebrate the composer’s 60th anniversary. This album features both live music recorded during the second Résistances concert — presented by Productions SuperMusique at Montréal’s Gesù on March 16, 2017 — as well as excerpts from the rehearsals of the previous two days, March 14 and 15.

Résistances is based on the theme of electricity and is inspired by the research that Jean Derome has done on this subject — from the concepts / ideas of electric current, flow, power and voltage to those of resistance, circuit, motor, pulse and frequency. The composition threads through the same territory that Derome started to explore in the year 2000 with his previous composition Canot-camping and is conceived for a group of improvisers. Although a few short sections of the composition are scored, the bulk of it is improvised. Derome acts as a prompter/conductor using a unique set of 140 hand-signs the musicians/interpreters are familiar with.


Résistances uses a very particular instrumentation, mixing voice and acoustic, electrical, electronic and invented instruments. Three drum sets and three double basses mix with pairs of instruments symmetrically positioned on stage: two string, two wood and two brass instruments, two guitars, two analog synthesizers, and piano, turntable, sampler and electric bass. The composition comprises as well three short solo sections featuring Jean Derome on Jew’s harp, trumpet and iPad. Eight musicians double up as vocalists in some sections and all 20 members of the ensemble use a metronome and a stopwatch on different occasions.

The composition

Several sections of the composition are tuned to 60 Hz which is the standard frequency of electricity in North America. For this specific reason some instruments were made especially for this occasion, including two kalimbas and a Jew’s harp tuned to the harmonic scale of 60 Hz. Saxophones are occasionally played with mutes in order to tune their fundamental and harmonics to 60 Hz. All string instruments are tuned as well to this same frequency between B and B flat and all wind instruments have developed alternative fingerings in order to play each harmonic of 60 Hz in just temperament. Finally, some sections oppose the piano and the wind instruments tuned to 440 Hz to the rest of the group which is tuned to 60 Hz (A = 427,64 Hz).

Jean Derome wishes you to “catch a good buzz” while listening to the album.

  • Canada Council for the Arts • SODEC

CD (AM 235)

  • Label: Ambiances Magnétiques
  • AM 235
  • 2017
  • UCC 771028123520
  • Total duration: 59:59
  • Sympathique case
  • 126 mm × 126 mm × 5 mm
  • 35 g

On the web

Download (AM 235_NUM)

This item can be downloaded and/or listened to at

Not in catalogue

This item is not available through our website. We have catalogued it for information purposes only.


About Résistances

As an artist (and a plugged-in one!), I have long been interested in currents: water currents, the flow of ideas, of thought. It was in this spirit that in 2000 I composed Canot-Camping, a vast territory comprising improvisatory game pieces and written material for a group of eleven improvisers led by conductors’ cues: lakes, rivers, rapids. Fifteen years later, it is as if the river has led me to a hydro-electric dam. The river’s current has been transformed into electricity, but the voyage continues.

Québec is one of the world’s biggest producers of electricity. It is generated primarily at Northern Québec’s mega-dams and then transported to the power-hungry cities to the south through 735,000-volt high-tension wires perched on an army of towers planted like samurai across the land.

Peculiarly, the province’s electrical system uses no conventional grounding mechanism. Instead, the electricity in each house is connected to the plumbing; it’s the St. Lawrence River that ‘grounds’ all of Québec.

Electricity exists in waves, like sound. North American electricity is calibrated to one frequency, 60 cycles per second (Hz). This frequency must be kept continually stable by controlling turbine rotation. The smallest discrepancy desynchronises factory machines and causes blackouts, so the entire continent remains in sync, day and night, within a fraction of a second.

Even solar flares influence and undermine our system by bombarding it with electromagnetic waves. That’s what the northern lights are: bombardments that have been serendipitously deviated by the planet’s magnetic field. But they are channelled into the earth all the same through its poles, on which it spins like a magnetic top.

Specialists track solar flares to predict and analyze their effects on electrical frequency, which they detect through the harmonic distortions any modulation produces — like the fuzz of a gigantic electric guitar!

A frequency is at once a sound, a measure, and a rhythm. This vibration, 60 Hz, is the point of departure of Résistances. The piece is built on multiples of sixty that continue through to 60 minutes and — why not? — the 60 years of life that I’ve celebrated, in part, by creating it.

This frequency is not typically found in music (60 Hz sounds halfway between B and B-flat) but, in Résistances, the orchestra is tuned to 60 Hz so that, for once, the buzz of the guitar amps is in harmony with the music, and even contributes to it.

Let’s ‘get a good buzz on!’

Jean Derome [English translation: Scott Thomson, ii-15]

Excerpt from Michel Levasseur’s opening speech

In this era of Résistances to fundamentalism, terrorism, austerity, absurdity, aneurysm of thought, inequality, inequity, sexism, conservatism, extremism, totalitarism, conventionalism… we oppose, music, creativity, risk-taking, respect, relentlessness, beauty, continuity, open-mindedness, nature, perseverance, justice, sharing, and egalitarism!

Michel Levasseur’s opening speech for the première of Résistances at the Festival international de musique actuelle de Victoriaville in May 2015 [v-15]

Some recommended items
In the press


Massimo Ricci, The Squid’s Ear, June 5, 2018

When it comes to naming names in the all-encompassing landscape of contemporary music, Jean Derome’s eminence remains relatively unquoted amidst the sacred cows of the last decades. A first-class reedist and composer, he’s indelibly associated with René Lussier — specifically, in the duo Les Granules — beyond significant proprietary works (random memory selection: 1988’s Confitures de Gagaku, on Victo). Derome has shown time and again that his idiosyncratic creativity, compositional skill and ability to put a theory into artistically fructiferous practice are second to none. In its clever mix of conceptual consistency and stimulating interplay, Résistances clearly explains why.

Though partially scored, the composition’s motility principally depends on the nineteen performers reacting to previously learned hand signals. After acknowledging the crucial elements of orchestration in conjunction with the intrinsic influence of electricity in all forms — including the overall tuning — it takes a moment to realize that the scope of this opus reaches far higher than a simple “conducted improvisation” (note the involuntary irony of the term “conductor” in this context).

Across a plethora of intermingling styles, the ensemble — comprising several among Derome’s regular partners in crime — connects with the basic vibe through surges of energy dressed as eruptions, conversations, screams or drones, the whole informed by a cracking musicianship. Notwithstanding the considerable emancipation allowed and the absence of jazz-related stereotypes, the lingering sensation is that of a finely regulated mechanism. Still, serendipitous mutations occasionally materialize. The bulk of Piétinements, for example, resembles Igor Stravinsky’s Rite Of Spring played by Pink Floyd circa A Saucerful Of Secrets, lysergic slide guitars and all. In a pair of collective blasts we couldn’t help thinking — in principle — of Frank Zappa’s Weasels Ripped My Flesh. The absurdly jarring funk of Mélodie 2 flowing into a marvelous Danse finale may indeed prompt someone to start jumping around the house.

Please consider the above references as a mere reviewer’s divertissement. In reality, there’s so much shifting of acoustic identity and abundance of inventive playing here that coming to grips with this particular form of Derome’s imagination could trigger intellectual paralysis in the easily affected. The remedy lies in the very cause: treat the patient to a few additional hours with this remarkable album; then it’s get up, pick up your mat, and walk. Unless one’s dead for real.

Derome has shown time and again that his idiosyncratic creativity, compositional skill and ability to put a theory into artistically fructiferous practice are second to none. In its clever mix of conceptual consistency and stimulating interplay, Résistances clearly explains why.


Lawrence Joseph, Musicworks, no. 130, March 21, 2018

While his previous conceptual works, like Canot Camping, conjured paddling through streams, Jean Derome considers waves and currents of a different kind on Résistances — a paean to the hum, crackle, and fizz of electricity. After receiving its premiere at the 2015 Festival International de Musique Actuelle de Victoriaville, this work was recorded at the rehearsals and second concert performance at the Gesù Amphitheatre in Montréal in March 2017.

While the technical world of circuits may seem distant from the experience of communing with nature on a camping trip, both works share Derome’s primary modus operandi: find a topic, research its details and how to represent them through sound, invite a diverse group of top musicians to participate, and alternate composed sections with directed improvisation through the use of over 140 hand signals developed and refined over decades of experience.

A group of twenty veterans and relative newcomers to Montréal’s musique actuelle scene contribute to this sixteen-part hour-long work. The musicians play roughly equal numbers of electric and acoustic instruments, including various synthesizers, turntables, electric guitars, and basses, along with woodwinds, horns, strings, and drums. A group sound dominates throughout, and very little soloing. The instruments fuse well, with more textural similarity than one might expect from such a diverse lineup, the acoustic instruments’ extended techniques merging seamlessly with the electronics. Résistances flows through sections that range from minimalistic drones featuring 60 Hz buzzing to swinging big-band movements that positively surge with energy.

Résistances flows through sections that range from minimalistic drones featuring 60 Hz buzzing to swinging big-band movements that positively surge with energy.


Stuart Broomer, The WholeNote, no. 23:6, March 1, 2018
Touching on virtually any sound available in contemporary music, Résistances is a bracing experience.

Le meilleur de LCA (8/10)

Philippe Desjardins, Le canal auditif, February 13, 2018

Jean Derome est un artiste montréalais actif dans le milieu des musiques actuelles depuis plus de quarante-cinq ans. Compositeur, interprète et improvisateur, il est également cofondateur de l’étiquette Ambiances Magnétiques sur laquelle sont publiés ses albums et autres créations expérimentales et avant-gardistes. Vous avez peut-être vu son nom passer durant l’Année Jean Derome (avril 2015 à juin 2016), qui proposait plusieurs événements rendant hommage à sa carrière et sa contribution à la création musicale québécoise, dont la sortie de l’album Musiques de chambres (2015) et du documentaire Derome ou les turbulences musicales (2015), réalisé par Richard Jutras. Derome est de retour avec Résistances (2017), un album basé sur le thème de l’électricité, performé de façon improvisée par l’Ensemble SuperMusique, qui était accordé pour l’occasion sur la fréquence de 60Hz (celle du courant électrique).

Le piano ouvre Tout part du soleil sur un bouillonnement de percussions étouffées et de souffles imitant la combustion à la surface de l’astre et les éruptions solaires. Les cordes apportent une touche humoristique en ajoutant une sorte de guirlande de bienvenue à l’œuvre. Buzz porte bien son nom avec un montage de bruits de tension électrique qui ponctuent des glissandos aux cordes, faisant la transition vers Étagement des fréquences et son tintamarre percussif soutenu par un roulement de tambour. Les cuivres créent une masse dense et scintillante en parallèle aux harmoniques analogiques, et continuent en crescendo pour terminer sur des aigus stridents. L’ensemble s’estompe et se dégonfle en même temps que les cordes se détendent pendant Aurores boréales, seconde pièce transitoire qui semble dégoûter comme une fin de pluie.

Tableau suit avec une boîte à musique et un piano dissonant, la montée en intensité ressemble justement à une séance d’accordement, jusqu’à ce qu’une ponctuation cuivrée vienne entrecouper la partie improvisée. Le violon un peu nerveux ajoute de la tension et mène à un passage monté en vagues de différentes densités, concluant en filaments de cuivres entrecoupés de chutes percussives. Vamp change complètement l’ambiance en proposant un groove jazz irrésistible et une performance vocale située quelque part entre la virtuosité et l’hilarité, ou un rituel tribal et une soirée cabaret. Le contraste fonctionne merveilleusement bien, comme un interlude entre deux mouvements exploratoires. Le plancher des vaches brise la ligne rythmique et se dégonfle lentement, douloureusement même, pour mener à un passage cacophonique, un peu comme si l’ensemble déboulait la colline au ralenti. La suite donne l’impression que chaque instrument fait sa petite affaire, sans égard à la ligne mélodique. Fréquences-métronomes ouvre sur une série de cliquetis approfondie par un déploiement rythmique créant une espèce de grosse machine à bruits dont les voyants rouges s’allument et s’éteignent frénétiquement pour accompagner l’alarme de feu.

Le piano dissonant prend toute la place sur Tableau-combat, laissant chaque note s’évanouir dans la pièce jusqu’à ce que les cordes commencent à mimer le grésillement électrique et les cuivres à jouer un (dés-) accord comme un orchestre de klaxons. Piétinements enchaîne naturellement sous forme de trame bourdonnante s’intensifiant à partir d’un passage plus rythmique, qui semble imiter la marche d’une tribu se rendant au combat. Les cordes glissent en différents trémolos sur Trois orchestres, texturés par des itérations électroniques et un tintamarre de plus en plus frénétique à la batterie et aux percussions. Le rythme s’ordonne à mi-chemin pour permettre à tous les instruments d’enchaîner à un passage jazz. Moteur deux temps, moteur trois temps fait débouler une suite d’événements sonores en jouant sur la vitesse de réaction et le niveau d’intensité de chaque impact; très comique.

Turbine, virgule passe comme un torrent emportant tous les silences sur son passage, coupant abruptement pour reprendre sa respiration et replongeant dans un tourbillon sonore. Les cris et complaintes vocales rappellent l’incantation tribale pendant que les instruments génèrent un rythme rapide et dense. Mélodie 2 nous ramène à la soirée cabaret et au groove jazz, la guitare rythmique accentue les contretemps pendant que les cuivres étirent les temps pour les rendre élastiques. Danse finale garde le rythme comme un big band sur lequel les solos de violon, trompette et guitare électrique sautillent simultanément sur leurs arpèges respectifs. Orage grésille avec bruits de cordes et ronflement vocal, le frottement assourdissant tombe dans un sommeil à la respiration qui cille.

Résistances de Jean Derome confirme que tout est possible avec un niveau de créativité comme le sien. La richesse de la palette sonore est captivante, intrigante; on se demande quel instrument a bien pu jouer tel bruit. En ce sens, ça sonne moins jazz que sur son album précédent, et plus expérimental avec ses éléments inspirés de la musique bruitiste et du «mickey mousing». L’œuvre est très amusante, et on dira ce que l’on voudra de la musique actuelle, cette fois-ci, elle est aussi accessible qu’un dessin animé pour enfant.

Résistances de Jean Derome confirme que tout est possible avec un niveau de créativité comme le sien.


Richard Allen, A Closer Listen, January 7, 2018

One of the wildest albums of the new year comes from Montréal composer Jean Derome. Even a quick look at the back of the CD, and one knows one is in for a treat: 20 performers on instruments ranging from tuned kalimbas to trombones. The tuning is to 60 Hz, the standard tuning of North American electricity, and the album is exactly 60 minutes long (although billed as 59:59). As one might expect, currents abound. Derome is interested in all manner of electricity: “current, flow, power, voltage, resistance, circuit, motor, pulse and frequency.” We hope our readers will forgive the obvious statement: this album is electric.

The performers treat restraints as opportunities, typically improvising around a theme, wherever the conductor has placed their seats. A sweet cacophony builds to overload on Étagement des fréquences, implying that all of the performers are having a blast; the ensuing bleats of Aurores boréales are like those of a pleasant reveler on New Year’s Eve. And of course some of the instruments require electricity to work, notably the turntable and iPad, while the others rely on currents for amplification and recording.

The eight-note eruption of Tableau eventually leads to a restrained explosion of drums, skirting on the edge of accessibility, playing with emotions and expectations. There’s little use for the avant-garde if it’s just noise and meandering. This track serves as a wink to the audience, and is helpful in creating a sense that such moments will be doled out throughout the release. Nothing here will be a hit, but that doesn’t mean it won’t make an impact. The onomatopoeia of Vamp produces a similar effect, while the army of metronomes in Fréquences-métronomes makes it sound like a clock shoppe.

As the album progresses, it veers wildly from side to side like a bowling ball in a bumper lane. The composer draws wide lines, but there are lines, a loose focus that allows for creativity on an expanded playground. If one is tempted to play along, making noises with one’s mouth or tapping the objects in the living room, Derome would likely be pleased. We all have electricity running though us, enough to carry static shocks, fire synapses, and make balloons rubbed in the hair stick to walls. This album highlights our common connection, and celebrates the energy it produces.

One of the wildest albums of the new year comes from Montréal composer Jean Derome.

La ronde des disques Millésime 2017

Marc Chénard, La Scena Musicale, no. 23:4, December 1, 2017

Récipiendaire d’une bourse de carrière en 2013, Jean Derome a investi son pécule dans une série de projets spéciaux. Le premier, créé en mai 2015, fait l’objet de ce tout nouveau disque lancé le 14 décembre. Pour saisir la pleine portée de cette entreprise, de loin la plus ambitieuse de Derome, une lecture des notes de l’artiste s’impose. En bref, l’œuvre entière repose sur la fréquence de 60 Hz, norme utilisée dans le réseau hydro-électrique nord-américain. En musique, cela se traduit par une note située entre le si bémol et le si naturel, celle-ci servant de tonalité de base. Derome explore donc la microtonalité, ce qui nécessite une certaine adaptation de l’oreille au début. Pour réaliser sa vision, le compositeur a recruté 19 collègues jouant toute une gamme d’instruments, incluant des synthés et tourne-disques. À une seconde près des 60 minutes et divisé en 16 plages, le disque se déploie assez lentement dans la première moitié. Outre un ostinato de basse quasi ellingtonien dans la sixième plage, il y a peu de matière compositionnelle dans cette tranche; il faudra donc attendre la dixième plage et les suivantes pour que l’ensemble ressorte davantage, dans un premier temps par des jeux d’improvisation collective dirigée et, dans un second, par une ligne thématique en fin de parcours. En tant que disque, cette œuvre conceptuelle pèche par des longueurs, mais ceux qui ont pu assister à la captation en concert de cet enregistrement le printemps dernier au Gesù pourront sans doute avoir un autre… buzz.

… l’ensemble ressort davantage, dans un premier temps par des jeux d’improvisation collective dirigée et, dans un second, par une ligne thématique en fin de parcours.