À son insu

Maxime McKinley

À son insu

  • Maxime McKinley
  • Year of composition: 2014
  • Duration: 10:26
  • Instrumentation: siren organ and fixed medium
  • Commission: Productions Totem contemporain, with support from the CCA

Working on a mixed piece for an instrument invented by Jean-François Laporte (the siren organ) made me dive into a sonic world about which I knew nothing. Using this ignorance as a creative space stimulated me a lot in this project; a creative process that made me feel that what I think I know about sound actually only touches the tip of the iceberg. Hence the title, À son insu (“without knowing”), which can be read in French as a current expression (what happens without one noticing, what escapes us), but also as a sort of dedication or tribute to the sound and what it has to teach us (in French, “À” can mean “To”). The tape is made entirely from recordings of the siren organ, sometimes used with kitchen utensils (whisk, lids) and bells. First shy, the sound flourishes gradually: the potential of the siren organ unfolds in a development that extends more and more, accumulating breaths, beating in high harmonics, percussive attack-resonance effects, and textures of microtonal chords slowly moving. The siren organ (real) runs in its own potential (virtual), “walking” in the tape through “nomad doublings”, that is to say it points out, supports, or increases various elements and / or layers of the tape.

This piece was composed with support from the Canada Council for the Arts (CCA), with the assistance of Adam Basanta for the realisation of the electronics. Thanks to Jean-François Laporte and Marie-Chantal Leclair for their availability and generosity that made exploration possible.


  • June 2, 2014, Marie-Chantal Leclair, siren organ • Totem électrique Québec, Conservatoire de musique de Québec, Quebec City (Québec)