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Simon Martin: Hommage à Leduc, Borduas et Riopelle (Download) Track listing detail

L’heure mauve

Simon Martin

  • Year of composition: 2010
  • Duration: 11:07
  • Instrumentation: 3 classical guitars

Through observation and reflection, Ozias Leduc made his art and life “a quest for the unity of things, a deliberate adventure of the senses.” (Robert Bernier, Un siècle de peinture au Québec, Montréal, Les Éditions de l’Homme, 1999, p. 67. [English translation: Alexis Diamond]) For this work, I took inspiration from the gaze, as much plastic as spiritual that Leduc directed towards the Mont Saint-Hilaire and its surrounding landscapes. Between 1913 and 1921, he painted a series of Symbolist canvases on the subject, the last of which is entitled Mauve Twilight.

I chose this title because it addresses both time and colour, two components sufficient to summarize a mountain hike, from dawn until dusk. In terms of this piece of music, the idea of colour makes direct reference to matter, of which Leduc had an extremely modern vision. In his mind, “All works of art should be governed by this basic principle: ’Adapt matter to its particular purpose.’ This means treating a substance according to its requirements and its capacity.” (Ozias Leduc, an Art of Love and Reverie, exhibition catalogue, Quebec: Musée du Québec; Montréal: Montréal Museum of Fine Arts, 1996, p. 25.) At the same time, Leduc believed that the ultimate goal of each individual must be respected. Borduas was able to say of his master: “I owe him that rare permission to pursue one’s own fate.” (Paul-Émile Borduas, “Some Thoughts about the Work of Love and Dream[s] of Monsieur Ozias Leduc”, Écrits/Writings 1942-1958, introduced and edited by François-Marc Gagnon, translated by François-Marc Gagnon and Dennis Young, Halifax, Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, 1978, p. 113.) The dimension of time captures the development and patient observation of matter. Ozias Leduc lived until the age of ninety (1864-1955), and one might say he did so with proverbial slowness; Riopelle once said that the oak wood used to make the table in Leduc’s studio came from a tree he once planted himself… Depicted this way, time is naturally imbued with a spiritual quality.

Artist, thinker, poet, letter writer, president of school commission, city councilor, and apple grower, Leduc also knew how to collaborate with politicians, representatives of the Church, and avant-garde artists as well as citizens. In his widom and diplomacy, he also seemed to perceive the diverging opinions of his contemporaries as facets of an inseparable whole. This vision is summarized in a presentation Leduc made to the Saint Hyacinth Historical Society, in 1930: “I tried to make my art come alive, by considering our little hometown, Saint Hilaire, as an entity that would be our work of art and that everyone, all of its inhabitants, working in concert, would perfect and improve!” (Cited in “Hommage à Ozias Leduc”, in the Cahier d’histoire of the Beloeil-Mont-Saint-Hilaire Historical Society, 17th year, N. 49, February 1996. [English translation: Alexis Diamond]) Having lived in the region myself, I wrote the work as a response to his call.

[English translation: Alexis Diamond]


  • April 21, 2011, La guitare selon Montréal, Studio-théâtre — Place des Arts, Montréal (Québec)

Projections libérantes

Simon Martin

  • Year of composition: 2007
  • Duration: 11:09
  • Instrumentation: saxophone quartet
  • Commission: Quasar, with support from the CALQ

This composition pays tribute to Paul-Émile Borduas, one of the founders of artistic modernity — and freedom — in Québec. Two of his works have had an impact on my own work: his 1949 text Projections libérantes, and his painting Composition 69, found on the artist’s easel upon his death in 1960.

Composition 69 imposes itself at first glance: the canvas is almost completely covered with massive interlocking black impastos that form a “shiny wall of coal”. (See the comment made by Jean-Paul Filion cited by François-Marc Gagnon in the catalogue for the Paul-Émile Borduas retrospective at the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts, 1988, p. 466.) A little bit of white is seen at the top of the wall and through a few cracks, like the cosmic void. I believe this is the infinite toward which the painter projected himself, free for — and freed by — eternity. As a matter of fact, in reference to being fired from teaching at the École du meuble the previous year, Borduas concludes Liberating Projections thus: “You have ended it! So be it! But I defy any power to erase its memory or its example.” (Paul-Émile Borduas, “Liberating Projections”, Écrits/Writings 1942-1958, introduced and edited by François-Marc Gagnon, translated by François-Marc Gagnon and Dennis Young, Halifax, Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, 1978, p. 113.)

In my piece, I have worked almost exclusively with so-called “multiphonics.” These are sounds produced using unusual fingerings and distorted pressure mouthpiece, resulting in a fractured or split “multiple” quality. I have approached these phenomena like blocks I could superimpose and juxtapose, drawing inspiration from Composition 69’s impastos. Also, in music, multiphonics can occasionally feel like “noise”, or data scrambling, similar to the color black in painting. Yet, like Borduas, I have tried to treat this material in a specific way, applying a strict formal structure out of which a certain expressiveness unfolds.

I would like to thank the Quasar ensemble for its invaluable collaboration.

[English translation: François Couture, xi-07]

This text is unavailable in English.

Projections libérantes a été composée à l’hiver et à l’été 2007 et a été créée le 6 avril 2008 par Quasar à La Chapelle à Montréal (Québec, Canada). Projections libérantes est une commande de l’ensemble Quasar avec le soutien du Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec (CALQ).


  • April 6, 2008, QuasarVoyages: Montréal — New York, La Chapelle, Montréal (Québec)

Icebergs et Soleil de minuit — Quatuor en blanc

Simon Martin

  • Year of composition: 2007
  • Duration: 16:51
  • Instrumentation: string quartet

Pierre Schneider wrote the following about Jean Paul Riopelle and his Icebergs series: “Black and white: these pre-eminent tools of drawing, he employs as a painter. When he works the surface with a knife, as is his habit, their shades are infinite, their potential bondless. Sometimes the literal image, encircled by its ring, precipitous, is more or less hemmed in, crushed in a vise of dazzling ice. At other times, though, a gentle snow covers it, caresses it, insidiously dissolves it. Here, black and white collide; there, they fuse, blending into delicious greys.” (Foreword, Jean Paul Riopelle, exhibition catalogue, Paris, Musée national d’art moderne, 1981, p. 23, as cited in Riopelle, exhibition catalogue, Montréal, Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal, 1991, p. 141.)

What I found inspiring in Riopelle’s work is this exploration of all the possibilities of matter, without ever becoming systematic about it. Riopelle approaches these possibilities in multiple ways: with every stroke of the spatula on a single canvas (Austria, The Jacob Chatou); with series of paintings (Icebergs, The king of Thule); through diptychs (La ligne d’eau), triptychs (Ashes), quadriptychs (Midnight Sun: Quartet in White), a polyptych (Polyptyque) to several works within a single work (Le Bestiaire); through assemblies of scraps from previous experiments (Le grand assemblage); by treating a single subject in different media (the owl represented in painting, sculpture, lithography, mixed media, etc.), and so on.

In my own composition, each section can be seen as one painting within a series, or as one of Riopelle’s spatula strokes scrutinized from up close: a world in itself; organic nature with inherent contrasting structures and variations, and like this view of nature, the work does not attempt to demonstrate anything, i.e. it makes no attempt at narrative development. Instead, it is meant as the affirmation of the necessity of chance, the necessity obtained from chance, the constant reiteration of equations whose variables keep changing because they modulate one another. Consequently, everything must always be made anew (you must play to be alive: if you were to stop confronting doubt and discovery, stop throwing the dice, you would not be playing anymore and you would die). By paying tribute to Riopelle, Nature’s portraitist, my work also celebrates life and the rhythms of its manifestations.

[English translation: François Couture, iv-07]

This text is unavailable in English.

Icebergs et Soleil de minuit — Quatuor en blanc a été composée au printemps 2007 et a été créée le 28 avril 2007 dans la cadre du Composer’s Kitchen 2007 par le Quatuor Bozzini à la galerie B-312 à Montréal (Québec, Canada). Icebergs et Soleil de minuit — Quatuor en blanc a été finaliste du Prix Jules-Léger de la nouvelle musique de chambre en 2008.


  • April 28, 2007, Bozzini QuartetComposer’s Kitchen 2007: Concert, B-312 — Édifice Belgo, Montréal (Québec)

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