Finding your voice as a musician is no easy task, nor is finding your place in the music community at large. With remarkable ease and confidence, however, Ottawa native double bassist and composer Pierre-Yves Martel has found a niche for himself in the thriving Montréal scene. Most surprising is that this 27 year-old player has done so with a solo album, Engagement & Confrontation, to be released very soon on the local Ambiances Magnétiques label. But if one judges by his concert schedule, this is only the tip of the iceberg. Just last month, he headed south for performances in both Boston and New York and will perform two concerts in Toronto with guitarist Antoine Berthiaume on the 21 and 23 of this month. Here in town, he will spar with drummer Isaiah Ceccarelli on May 3 at Casa del Popolo as part of the Improvising Montréal Series. What’s more, Martel is active in both the contemporary and baroque music scene (he also plays viola de gamba) and has composed for classical and jazz ensembles alike. Barely out of music school, Martel is now a full-fledged working musician. Despite the risks of a solo album, the choice seemed natural to him. Inspired by the work of John Cage, fellow bassist Michael Formanek and René Lussier, Martel considered the potential for the “prepared” acoustic bass. “The research for the album,” he explained, “took place in my apartment where I just investigated the instrument’s sound possibilities. I built a kind of recorded library of musical miniatures and challenged myself to discover different sounds. It was like viewing the instrument from different perspectives.” Heartened by the results of his explorations, Martel applied successfully for a Canada Council grant last year. Recorded over a three-day span last October, the session was captured by no less than ten microphones. “The actual material is improvised,” Martel notes, “but stems from 35 very well-defined preparations.” Martel sees this process as similar to playing the melodies and changes of jazz standards. “Each track has one preparation. These include things like an open D tuning, rubbing the bass, using sympathetic vibrations, moveable bridges, and various clips on the strings.” “The prepared bass is a whole new instrument,” Martel sums up. “I’d like to work with other sound artists and try to bring prepared bass into group settings.” To this end, you will surely find Martel busy at work around town in one group or another, digging into the adventure of creative music.