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.
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- Gyula Csapó: Déjà? Kojâ? by Bozzini Quartet
- Lézardes et zébrures by Bernard Falaise
- The Space Between Us by Ida Toninato, Jennifer Thiessen
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An enthralling sonic landscape encompassing mercurial harshness, unexpected contours and cultivated accents, Boule Spiel is an affirmation of the textural cooperation among German pianist Magda Mayas and two Québécois musicians, electric bassist Éric Normand of Rimouski, where the session was recorded, and Montréal viola da gamba player Pierre-Yves Martel. Those instruments, along with “feedback, snare drum, objects and speaker” are the only sound-makers listed. But the minimalist tones which blend to create this two-track journey, including keening whistles, string plucks, bell peals, percussive thumps, feedback flutters and oscillated hums, not only make individual attribution unlikely, but at the same time highlight the constant unexpected shifts within the understated unrolling sequences.
Emphasizing atmosphere over narrative or instrumental virtuosity, the trio’s blended output, especially on the more-than-30-minute introductory Lancer, contains enough processed drones, electric bass stops, keyboard patterning and inner-piano-string plucks to vary the aural scenery enough to create a sense of harmonic and rhythmic progress, but without jarring interludes. By the time the concluding Spiegelbildauflösung or “mirror image resolution” fades away, the three confirm how carefully each can reflect the others’ cerebral improvisations. An enlightened sound journey has been reflected and completed, but the details of what transpired individually are impossible to accurately analyze.