The Electroacoustic Music Store

Jalons Francis Dhomont

Cover art: Inés Wickmann (Adagp)
  • Total duration: 78:17
  • UCC 771028036523
  • Canada Council for the Arts • SODEC

Prix Opus 2002-03: Disque de l’année

… highlights the fantastic possibilities of electroacoustics and demonstrates Dhomont at the height of his compositional power.

— Matthew McFarlane, Musicworks, no. 88, March 1, 2004

5/5

— ASB, De:Bug, September 18, 2003

Jalons

Francis Dhomont

IMED 0365 / 2003

Some Recommended Items

Notices

Milestones

The title Jalons (Milestones) was taken from surveying because this disc surveys a musical landscape that extends over a space of fifteen years. While the very different eras and interests to which these eight works (from the years 1985, ’90, ’92, ’95, ’98, ’99, 2000 and 2001) bear witness are not comprehensive enough to constitute a retrospective, this disc is nevertheless a mini-panorama that completes other, more thematic, recorded releases; it also presents a few pieces that can be heard in concert only occasionally.

Francis Dhomont [iii-03]

In the Press

  • Matthew McFarlane, Musicworks, no. 88, March 1, 2004
    … highlights the fantastic possibilities of electroacoustics and demonstrates Dhomont at the height of his compositional power.
  • Carlos Pérez Riva, Margen, no. 27, November 1, 2003
  • ASB, De:Bug, September 18, 2003
    5/5
  • Rigobert Dittmann, Bad Alchemy, no. 42, August 11, 2003
  • Tom, L’entrepôt, August 11, 2003
  • MB, Testcard, no. 13, August 1, 2003
  • JWB, Gonzo Circus, no. 58, August 1, 2003
  • PR, Coda Magazine, July 10, 2003
    Poétiquement intégrés, les éléments concrets agissent comme des ponctuations du flux sonore qui captivent de bout en bout.
  • SH, Octopus, no. 23, July 1, 2003
    … des œuvres rares et éclectiques…
  • Paul Steenhuisen, The WholeNote, no. 8:10, July 1, 2003
    Dhomont is also a sensitive recycler, recontextualizing and reworking the sound materials he carefully kneads.
  • Massimo Padalino, Blow Up, no. 62-63, July 1, 2003
  • Julien Jaffré, Jade, no. 12, June 18, 2003
    Francis Dhomont est un Agriculteur au sens étymologique du terme; il transforme de ses mains la nature…
  • François Couture, Ici Montréal, June 5, 2003
    Mon héros à moi, c’est Francis Dhomont.
  • Alan Freeman, Audion, no. 48, June 1, 2003
  • Massimo Ricci, Touching Extremes, May 25, 2003
    … I’m honoured to listen to Francis Dhomont and watch wonderful sunlight refractions through the diamond that’s his art.
  • TD, Funprox, May 10, 2003
    It will prove to be a very exciting listening experience.
  • François Couture, All-Music Guide, April 23, 2003
    Only Dhomont could have broken out of concerns of plasticity and esthetics to tackle a political issue and come up with music so profoundly human.
  • Ingvar Loco Nordin, Sonoloco Record Reviews, April 23, 2003
    He is a true Maestro of the ordering of sonic events if ever there was one, a diligent Poet of Auditory Mirages…
  • François Tousignant, Le Devoir, April 12, 2003
    On se délecte de la finesse de ces petits bijoux entendus à l’occasion de concerts et qu’on peut maintenant se remettre à loisir pour mieux les savourer.
  • Réjean Beaucage, La Scena Musicale, no. 8:7, April 1, 2003
    … un maître de la musique concrète.
  • Aaron Robertson, The Sound Projector, no. 11, March 1, 2003

The many sides of Francis Dhomont

Matthew McFarlane, Musicworks, no. 88, March 1, 2004

empreintes DIGITALes stands at the forefront of those leading the charge for electroacoustic music, particularly when it comes to the music of Quebec composers. This snall label, on which Francis Dhomont has many releases, has quickly become one of the most influential and prominent labels for electroacoustics in the world.

Dhomont’s latest CD is Jalons (meaning milestones). Whereas each of his previous releases had a theme, this disc of eight works spanning sixteen years fills in some of the gaps in Dhomont’s musical evolution. The first piece, entitled Vol d’Arondes (flight of swallows) is dedicated to Dhomont’s fellow electroacoustic wanderer, Annette Vande Gorne. Dhomont sets up the work as a depiction of a summer night in Provence in France. Birdlike noises are combined with the sound of a bouncing marble, a Dhomont sonic signature.

Les moirures du temps earned first prize at the Czech Musica Nova competition. It is the most abstract piece on the disc. In trying to musically express the passing of time, Dhomont uses sounds that are largely unidentifiable, shying away from any visual images the music might suggest.

The gem of the disc is Studio de nuit. Lasting only three minutes, it gives us Dhomont at his most humorous and most self-critical. The work is narrated by Dhomont and shows his work in the studio. “No, too violent,” he remarks off the top. Whenever Dhomont uses the human voice, magic results.

Lettre de Sarajevo is a dark and haunting work, an elegy for the victims of the conflict in that city. Dhomont here prefers dark, rolling and menacing sounds to the polished, beautiful bell-like tones in Studio de nuit. The work is as violent as it is dense in its construction.

A one-minute piece, L’électro, shows Dhomont at his strongest. Consisting completely of human voices repeating the word “electro,” it highlights the fantastic possibilities of electroacoustics and demonstrates Dhomont at the height of his compositional power.

… highlights the fantastic possibilities of electroacoustics and demonstrates Dhomont at the height of his compositional power.

Discos

Carlos Pérez Riva, Margen, no. 27, November 1, 2003

Kritik

ASB, De:Bug, September 18, 2003

Dhomont arbeitete schon in den 40er Jahren an dem, was Pierre Schaeffer später “Musique concrète” nennen sollte und später an deren Weiterentwicklung, die heute unter dem Namen akusmatische Musik firmiert. Das Album enthält Kompositionen von 1985 bis 2001- flirrende atmosphärische Hörstücke, organische Drones, Soundscapes voller Stadtgeräusche, Naturgeräusche, Stimmen und anderer gefundener und bearbeiteter Klangquellen. Manche Sounds lassen sich gut dem Ursprungsereignis zuordnen, andere Klänge wirken dermaßen manipuliert völlig abstrakt, was die Musik immer spannend hält. Jalons ist mitnichten lahmes Ambientgenudel, da die Musik für Aufführungen komponiert wurde, die ohne Orchester oder visuelle Elemente funktionieren muss. Aber, wer braucht bei dieser Musik auch noch Bilder? Kopfhörer auf und los! 5/5

5/5

Kritik

Rigobert Dittmann, Bad Alchemy, no. 42, August 11, 2003

Der 1926 in Paris geborene Francis Dhomont ist ein großer alter Mann der Elektroakustik, der in den späten 40ern parallel zu Pierre Schaeffer das Einmaleins der Musique Concrète mitentwickelt hat. empreintes DIGITALes feierte einst seinen 65. Geburtstag mit der Doppel-CD Mouvances~Métaphores (IMED 9107/08) und fettem Booklet und ist bis heute sein Hauslabel geblieben. Auf Jalons (IMED 0365) sind acht ‘Meilensteine’ zu finden, entlang derer man sich durch seine Arbeitsweisen von Mitte der 80er bis jenseits der Milleniumsschwelle hangeln kann. Drôles d’oiseaux (1985-86), Dhomonts einzige rein elektronische Arbeit, und Vol d’Arondes (1999) sind komprimierte Naturimpressionen, in denen allerdings immer auch eine symbolisch-psychische Seite mitschwingt - der Wald etwa als Bild des Unterbewusstseins, die Abenddämmerung in der Provence mit dem Geschwirr von Schwalben als Aufschein einer verlorenen Zeit, als alles noch einfach und unschuldig schien. En cuerdas (1998) entstand im Auftrag des Gitarristen Arturo Parra für dessen Sol y sombra… L’espace des spectres und ist hier in einer Version für Solotape zu hören. Les moirures du temps (1999/2000) lässt die nuancierten Brechungen und Schattierungen von Klängen in einer gleichzeitig spielerischen und systematischen Versuchsanordnung aufscheinen. Daneben sind Studio de nuit (1992) und L’électro (1990) eher kleine mit Stimmen und Sprache jonglierende Gelegenheitsminiaturen, die sich selbstbezüglich über die >acousmotropie< der elektroakustischen Freaks, deren Gedanken über das Hören und die Nacht belauscht werden, und die Schönheit ihrer Schwarzen Madonna beugen. Die funktionalen Vorgaben einer Filmmusik geben Un autre Printemps (2000) das besondere Gepräge, Vivaldi, das Füllhorn des Frühlings, Fluss und Überfluss und wie der Klang der Natur die Natur der Klänge in Frage stellt. Lettre de Sarajevo (1995-96) schließlich reagiert auf den Zynismus und die Barbarei der bosnischen Tragödie und europäischen Schande mit der aggressiven Explizität eines sprachlosen offenen Briefes. Dhomonts benutzt als >Sprache< selbst hier sein ausgefeiltes laokoneskes Ringen mit mikrotonalen Klangwolken, flirrenden Klangmassen, die er verdichtet und entzerrt, abdunkelt und aufhellt und mit der bildhauerischen Verve eines Rodin zu auralen Landschaften knetet, die immer auch Seelenlandschaften sind.

Kritiek

Tom, L’entrepôt, August 11, 2003

empreintes DIGITALes het Canadese label dat zich toelegt op Electro Akoestische componisten heeft intussen een indrukwekkende catalogus opgebouwd. Maar het gegeven van ronkende namen en indrukwekkende CV’s levert niet altijd even coherente muziek. Het durft nogal eens uit de bocht te gaan met deze academische kunst richting. Waarbij de componisten een onbeluisterbare kluwen van omgevingsgeluiden, tape manipulaties en ingespeelde stukken componeren waar alleen mede studenten een kop aan kunnen krijgen Veel studeren bevordert niet altijd de onbevangen creativiteit. Maar deze twee CD’s gaan niet gebukt onder kunstzinnige hoogdraverij.

Monique Jean woont en werkt in Montréal ze heeft hier aan de universiteit gestudeerd onder begeleiding van grootmeester Francis Dhomont, haar werken zijn genomineerd op de grote Europese festivals. Haar werk op deze CD kenmerkt zich door het vele gebruik van de menselijke stem. Ze laat stukken tekst of gedichten voordragen en manipuleert deze stukken tot het telkens nieuwe geluidsfragmenten zijn die knap in de huidige sfeer van de compositie ingepast worden. Deze sfeer is vaak donker, sinister of onheilspellend. De combinatie van het kille, desolate en de aanwezigheid van de menselijke stem hierin in verschillende toonaarden spreekt me enorm aan. Francis Dhomont studeerde in de jaren veertig in Parijs onder Ginette Waldmeier, Charles Koechlin en Nadia Boulanger. Hij legt zich nu toe op het componeren en de theorie, heeft les gegeven aan universiteiten in Frankrijk en Canada en heeft diverse prijzen in de wacht gesleept. Zijn muziek op deze CD klinkt veel vrolijker en speelser dan die van zijn leerlinge. Het openingsstuk geeft mooi de sfeer weer in een zuid Europees dorp dat zich opmaakt voor een nachtelijk festival. Er wordt veel gebruik gemaakt van natuurlijke omgevingsgeluiden wat de composities fris en levendig maakt. Twee schijfjes die goed beluisterbaar zijn en waar de concepten duidelijk naar voor komen zonder de meerdere te worden van de compositie.

Kritik

MB, Testcard, no. 13, August 1, 2003

Die acht zwischen 1985 und 2001 entstandenen Stücke geben einen breit gefächerten Überblick über das musikalische Spektrum von Dhomont, Ehrenmitglied der Canadian Electroacoustic Community, der sich schon in den späten vierziger Jahren Seite an Seite mit Komponisten wie Pierre Schaeffer der Erforschung dessen widmete, was kurz darauf »musique concrète« genannt werden sollte. Die hier versammelten Stücke sind sowohl von der Länge wie auch dem Ausgangsmaterial höchst verschieden. Sie reichen von vergleichsweise determinierter Filmmusik bis zu eindringlichen, politisch motivierten Nummern (Lettre de Sarajevo), mal bildete eine Gitarrenarbeit die Ausgangsbasis zur elektronischen Komposition (En cuerdas), mal dienen die Stücke einer stimmungshaften, fast postimpressionistischen Erinnerungsarbeit, die versucht, eine ganz bestimmte Atmosphäre – in diesem Fall ein Abend in der Provvence (Vol d’Arondes) – akustisch umzusetzen und dabei deren Flüchtigkeit festzuhalten. Die kontrastreichen, sehr dynamischen Arbeiten enthalten neben der facettenreich eingesetzten Elektronik sehr viele perkussive Sounds, selten jedoch genau identifizierbares Material wie Verkehrsgeräusche und Fußstapfen. Dhomonts Klangsprache bleibt meist abstrakt, dabei immer spielerisch, voller Lust an jeglicher Art von Geräusch und also an keiner Stelle karg.

Critique

PR, Coda Magazine, July 10, 2003

En guise de présentation, l’on dira de Francis Dhomont (dont Richard D James, alias Aphex Twin, est fan) qu’il a découvert les possibilités de la musique concrète peu de temps après Pierre Schaeffer, abandonnant dès lors l’écriture instrumentale classique pour se consacrer exclusivement à la composition électroacoustique. Jalons n’a pas été conçu comme une rétrospective, bien que les huit œuvres qui s’y trouvent rassemblées aient été réalisées sur quinze ans, entre 1985 et 2001. Malgré l’absence de thématique commune (le seul fil conducteur étant la rareté de ce qui est compilé), l’ensemble est cohérent, même si les ambiances échafaudées sont plus ou moins oniriques. Saisissante, une pièce complétement électronique fut pensée comme une “forêt profonde”, récurrence qui hante l’œuvre de Dhomont et symbolise l’inconscient. Un autre morceau, pour guitare, démultiplie les cordes grâce aux manipulations électroacoustiques, tandis que tout le reste se présente comme une petite musique du souvenir jamais naturaliste, aussi explicites que soient les réminiscences évoquées -la nuit qui tombe sur un village, la rumeur qui monte… Poétiquement intégrés, les éléments concrets agissent comme des ponctuations du flux sonore qui captivent de bout en bout.

Poétiquement intégrés, les éléments concrets agissent comme des ponctuations du flux sonore qui captivent de bout en bout.

Critique

SH, Octopus, no. 23, July 1, 2003

Du Canada et du label empreintes DIGITALes (Métamkine) nous arrivent un mini-panorama, Jalons, des œuvres (1985-2001) rares et éclectiques de l’exigeant Francis Dhomont et un très beau premier disque, L’adieu au s.o.s., de Monique Jean, reconnue pour ses collaborations avec danseurs et vidéastes. Ces compositeurs de musique concrète et électroacoustique, grands voyageurs sonores de deux générations différentes, démontrent que la musique est toujours l’expression d’une sensibilité ancrée dans la réalité qui nous entoure et nous constitue…

… des œuvres rares et éclectiques…

Review

Paul Steenhuisen, The WholeNote, no. 8:10, July 1, 2003

Anyone interested in electroacoustic and acousmatic music in Canada is already familiar with the empreintes DIGITALes label and its catalogue of excellent artists and CD’s. Jalons and L’adieu au s.o.s. are no exception.

Jalons (meaning "milestones") is a collection of more obscure, less performed works from Francis Dhomont’s output between 1985 and 2001. A master of the acousmatic field he sowed and cultivated, Dhomont is also a sensitive recycler, recontextualizing and reworking the sound materials he carefully kneads. Some sources tire (the water sounds, the requisite footsteps, etc.), while others sparkle (the strings in Un autre Printemps, and the guitar-based timbres of En cuerdas). These are sounds we know, materials we hear or confront every day in the natural world, here explored in great depth. From John Cage we learned to the extreme that every sound can be music, and from Dhomont we learn that every sound is a doorway to elsewhere, an ambiguous and mysterious portal. Experts will recognize the software and processes employed on the sounds - the trademarks, icons, and (at worst) clichés of the style - all the while remaining appreciative of the special care taken by the artist, and the attentiveness of his compositional ear.

Dhomont is also a sensitive recycler, recontextualizing and reworking the sound materials he carefully kneads.

Recensione

Massimo Padalino, Blow Up, no. 62-63, July 1, 2003

Jalons antologizza un quindicennio abbondante (1985-2001) di lavoro dello sperimentatore elettronico, vive fra la Francia e il Québec, Francis Dhomont. Delizioso davvero. Anticipa colla sua musica, seppure in maniera mille volte più creativa, la “psicoacustica” del passato decennio di un Tetsu Inoue: eliche di suoni che sibilano, attorcigliano, cavalcano maree silenti, naufragano nel vuoto più desolato per magari poi sfrigolare via frizzanti, scintillanti, verso pareti d’elettronica estesa. Meraviglioso, ricco nel dettaglio sonico, spruzzato e macchiato di gocce musicali spesso sfuggevoli. Ma nondimeno incantevoli. (8/10)

Critique

Julien Jaffré, Jade, no. 12, June 18, 2003

Chacune des partitions, combinaisons/compositions de Francis Dhomont évoque une histoire, une sensation d’imprévisible par les climats qu’elles tracent, les panoramas qu’elles donnent à visiter mentalement. Dans le jeu de sculpture sonore de Francis Dhomont, l’œil jalouse fréquemment les oreilles. Sa contribution est une forme sensitive d’impressionnisme environnementaliste; il semble puiser dans la nature, dans les ambiances et le contexte des lieux qu’il visite, la matière de sa création, avant de transfigurer ses sources via des processus de filtrages, de relectures charnelles et acoustiques. Francis Dhomont est un Agriculteur au sens étymologique du terme; il transforme de ses mains la nature, pour en faire un artefact, une création in situ. Son environnement oscille entre le ludique, où les chants nocturnes des cigales deviennent une rencontre du troisième type (Vol d’Arondes), ou l’inquiétant comme sur En cuerdas ou des spectres d’arpèges de guitares traversent les pièces. Pour paraphraser le texte anonyme qui accompagne le disque: «l’univers sonore de Francis Dhomont demeure cependant celui de la métamorphose par le traitement informatique et la démultiplication par l’écriture électroacoustique.» Si Jalons était un tableau, ce serait «nu descendant l’escalier»!

Francis Dhomont est un Agriculteur au sens étymologique du terme; il transforme de ses mains la nature…

Compact!

François Couture, Ici Montréal, June 5, 2003

La plupart des amateurs d’art électroacoustique ne jurent que par Pierre Henry, Bernard Parmegiani ou Luc Ferrari. Mon héros à moi, c’est Francis Dhomont. Sa musique possède une grâce et une force émotive unique dans les limites de la musique académique. Jalons rassemble des œuvres composées entre 1985 et 2001 qui n’avaient pu s’insérer dans les cycles précédents (comme Cycle du son ou l’inoubliable Forêt profonde) et qui étaient apparues sur des albums compilations ou tombées dans l’oubli. Moins marquant, il vaut quand même le détour, ne serait-ce que pour l’élégance plastique de Vol d’Arondes, le cri humaniste de Lettre de Sarajevo ou l’humour tendre du clip L’électro. 8/10

Mon héros à moi, c’est Francis Dhomont.

Review

Alan Freeman, Audion, no. 48, June 1, 2003

And yet more Monsieur Dhomont! He is busy, isn’t he? Well, actually Jalons is a collection of eight works dating from 1985 through to 2001.And yet more Monsieur Dhomont! He is busy, isn’t he? Well, actually Jalons is a collection of eight works dating from 1985 through to 2001. A chance to hear some of his individual smaller works as opposed to big conceptual ones. There’s quite a variety to it as well.

This is even evident in the first track Vol d’Arondes which moves around a lot, notably nodding to Parmegiani and Bayle in its use of granulation and sound crunching, along with lots of nice subtle pitch delay. Contrastingly En cuerdas is Dhomont’s own version of a work he did with guitarist Arturo Parra, taken a step further away from Parra’s guitar, and all the better for it. Les moirures du temps is pure sonic fabrication, and shimmers almost indescribably, whereas the following Studio de nuit places that type of sonic structure against more clatters and crunches, along with snatches of text discussing aspects of human perception at night. Such invention continues throughout, in Lettre de Sarajevo with its angular concrete counterpoints and wedges of sound, Un autre Printemps different in that it’s a film score that uses snatches of Vivaldi, Drôles d’oiseaux all made up of chopped and mangled bird twitters, and finally the tiny closing track L’électro which amounts to a jokey collage of laughter and chattering. A chance to hear some of his individual smaller works as opposed to big conceptual ones. There’s quite a variety to it as well.

This is even evident in the first track Vol d’Arondes which moves around a lot, notably nodding to Parmegiani and Bayle in its use of granulation and sound crunching, along with lots of nice subtle pitch delay. Contrastingly En cuerdas is Dhomont’s own version of a work he did with guitarist Arturo Parra, taken a step further away from Parra’s guitar, and all the better for it. Les moirures du temps is pure sonic fabrication, and shimmers almost indescribably, whereas the following Studio de nuit places that type of sonic structure against more clatters and crunches, along with snatches of text discussing aspects of human perception at night. Such invention continues throughout, in Lettre de Sarajevo with its angular concrete counterpoints and wedges of sound, Un autre Printemps different in that it’s a film score that uses snatches of Vivaldi, Drôles d’oiseaux all made up of chopped and mangled bird twitters, and finally the tiny closing track L’électro which amounts to a jokey collage of laughter and chattering.

Review

Massimo Ricci, Touching Extremes, May 25, 2003

It’s not easy reviewing a record by one of the very fathers of acousmatic music: any word is useless in front of sound juxtapositions that cross boundaries through heart, brain and studio mastery, reaching for a pure beauty that’s just visible in front of you, almost tangible. Such is the case of Jalons, the newest collection of Francis Dhomont who - at 77 years of age - can still compete and dominate among the electroacoustic composers of our time. This work is made of tracks from various years, going all the way from concrete sounds to pure electronics (Drôles d’oiseaux). I particularly love Dhomont’s use of animal voices amidst the orchestral samples, for example the dog bark coupled with a string with arco in a marvellous piece - maybe the top of the CD - called Un autre printemps. The whole release is full of splendid moments and catching audio images; in a time where any young turk with a buzzing laptop is labelled “genius” I’m honoured to listen to Francis Dhomont and watch wonderful sunlight refractions through the diamond that’s his art.

… I’m honoured to listen to Francis Dhomont and watch wonderful sunlight refractions through the diamond that’s his art.

Review

TD, Funprox, May 10, 2003

Francis Dhomont is a composer from France who has been composing ‘musique concrète’ and electroacoustic music for over 60 years, along with composers like Pierre Henry and Pierre Schaeffer. Besides composing, Dhomont also lectures at the University of Montréal and writes articles about music-theory. Dhomont taught a lot of other composers, like Robert Normandeau, Christian Calon and Yves Daoust and many more.

Jalons is Francis Dhomont’s 7th CD release (his 6th on empreintes DIGITALes). The eight pieces contained on this CD were composed between 1985 and 2001. The music ranges from subtle soundpatterns made from various recorded or ‘found’ sounds to very organic sounding storms of drones. Dhomont seems to play with the recognisable element of sounds a lot, since a lot of the sounds are on the edge of recognisability. Some are totally recognisable while others are totally abstract. This makes the compositions very intriguing and an exciting listening experience.

Dhomont seems very fascinated with the sound of voices of humans or animals, since this seems to be returning on every release. Voices are obviously a source of great recognisablity, but they are also very useful for manipulating. Although certainly not all works contain vocal samples, other sounds used in his compositions often seem to turn into vocal-like parts. Most of Dhomont’s works therefore seem to turn into both organic and industrial sounding waves of sound. Dhomont’s works sound something like a flock of mechanical birds chattering.

Mind, electroacoustic compositions are often meant to be ‘performed’, mostly in theatres or at exhibitions. This means that there is nothing else for the listener to focus on, so the music is often very demanding (difficult). Therefore this CD is not exactly easy listening ambient work (although it can of course be used as such). To be able to fully experience its potential it requires dedicated listening, preferably on a perfect installation, or with headphones.

The works of Francis Dhomont will certainly appeal to those who like musique concrète or electroacoustic music, and to those who are willing to give a CD a really thorough listening. It will prove to be a very exciting listening experience.

It will prove to be a very exciting listening experience.

Review

François Couture, All-Music Guide, April 23, 2003

Unlike most of Francis Dhomont’s previous album (including Forêt profonde and Cycle du son, his last two), Jalons is not comprised of a single cycle — it’s not even a theme-related collection. The composer’s talent for telling a tale through sound and voice manipulation was crucial to the impact some of his earlier records made (Sous le regard d’un soleil noir, Forêt profonde again). One needs to approach Jalons differently. Well sequenced, thanks to a succession of long (11 to 15 minutes) and short pieces, it still isn’t the captivating, immersive listening experience its predecessors provided. Furthermore, Dhomont’s followers will most likely already have one or two of these pieces, as many first appeared on compilation albums. And yet, Dhomont remains a first-rate storyteller and all the pieces included here deserve a place on one of his solo discs, even though they somehow fell through the cracks of earlier projects. In addition to their avian titles, Vol d’Arondes (1999) and Drôles d’oiseaux (1985-1986) have been revised in 2001. The first shares base elements with the second, a rare example of exclusively electronic music by Dhomont (it was also a first exploration of the “forest” theme developed in his masterpiece already mentioned twice in this review). En cuerdas uses classical guitar sounds contributed by Arturo Parra. A self-standing piece, it also exists in a re-written form as a tape-and-guitar concerto (see Arturo Parra’s album Parr(a)cousmatique). The best work in this set is Lettre de Sarajevo, a moving piece on “the horror and the shame” (quote the liner notes) that represented the Yugoslavian war in the mid-’90s. Only Dhomont — and maybe two or three more composers from within the academic sphere — could have broken out of concerns of plasticity and esthetics to tackle a political issue and come up with music so profoundly human.

Only Dhomont could have broken out of concerns of plasticity and esthetics to tackle a political issue and come up with music so profoundly human.

Review

Ingvar Loco Nordin, Sonoloco Record Reviews, April 23, 2003

When Francis Dhomont (1926) delivers a new CD for the connoisseurs of electroacoustics to savor, I feel almost ashamed to try to write about it. That is how much respect I have for this Gentleman of Sounds, and that is also why I decided to also include his own comments in this text. He is a true Maestro of the ordering of sonic events if ever there was one, a diligent Poet of Auditory Mirages, and what he’s done up till now is awesome if you take the time to search it out. He’s like a generous emperor handing out his valuable gifts to the people who gather around him in the courtyard, and yet he is such a soft-spoken, low-keyed man, unpretentious, unassuming, still hanging with the youngsters of the crowd, though he is getting old, if you’re into the counting of years; two years Stockhausen’s senior, three years Ferrari’s. In a slightly altered Dylan quote, he stays forever young.

This CD filled to the rim presents some very interesting works.

Dhomont explains that the title of the collection - Jalons (Milestones) - draws its meaning from the surveying of the landscape of his oeuvre over a period of 15 years, from 1985 to 2001. Track one is called Vol d’Arondes (1999, rev. 2001), and is dedicated to Annette Vande Gorne. Dhomont’s comments:“Provence. A summer evening, the window open wide on a slowly darkening sky. Through this deep, blemishless blue, the flight of swallows: a strident, constantly changing feeding dance. The delicious night continues to fall. There are the sounds of the village preparing for the night festival; the echoes reach me. A jet begins its descent into Marignanne […]”

How significant this quote from Dhomont is of his musical thinking and his musical methods, opening the soundscape on a vision, an intuitive encompassment of a situation, a moment and a place which come together in an atmosphere, a floating, passing space-time reflection of an I and a Thou that become irretrievably organic parts of each other, in a total, sensual perception of that nightfall moment in a man’s life, that completely concentrated, yet turned-away, absentminded stillness at the window, fresh air from the fields.

Those swallows streaking through the sky in kamikaze calligraphy; the backdrop of so much human introspection in summery landscapes, from pre-history through the Medieval European paintings to our present day electroacoustics and those empty-eyed moments in micro breaks at the computer keyboard…

Francis Dhomont’s delicate accuracy with his brush of many sounds somehow equals one of the earliest, perhaps, sound paintings ever done, by August Strindberg in his book Röda Rummet, albeit just in words, of his view over Stockholm one May evening of 1879.

The introductory passage of Vol d’Arondes is more of a statement of summer nights than anything else, the bee swarm audio soaring, the gleamings of secrets passing in a flash, the spiraling motion of time - and the blackbird with its unparalleled song of melancholy, first heard in spring, and later in an introspective shadow-song of premonitions of Death in late summer…

Dhomont’s elastic sounds around the bird of melancholy are wrapped in transparent, gluey layers, eventually masking the blackbird in a mass of sonic layers, which, however, retains the melancholy of the disappearing, orange-beaked featherling.

Rhythmical events emerge with the sounds of crickets, envisioning the dance of the Unseen over at the other side of the field, blocked from vision other than the inner. They seem to drink, dance and have magically fun over in that half hidden dimension of the obscurity of those than not many believe in…

Grainy events fall like flaky shreds of war all around your listening. Murky, jerky, springy jesters of sound start a havoc of short-lived comments left and right, at times overtaken by swells of more high-pitched attacks from beyond. Crunchy bits of white get caught in the action, and overtone conversations tower on high. A murmur out of the clay of seafloors tremble for a while, until we rise in the salty air of makeshift seagulls dancing on the winds of imagined oceans deep in someone’s hazy memories… Giant trees break and fall, or is this the crackle of war or New Years, or perhaps a sports game of sorts… I can’t make out what the sudden roars of an audience indicates; perhaps no more than an ingredient of sound…

Distant modal ringing, like hazescape-bells from sunken or dim-dimensioned cathedrals, paint a sky of bronze for silvery insect trajectories while tin forests in the mist harbor floating shadows of dubious origin…

Creaking watchmaker pinions beat a jerky time, out of simultaneity, chronology bending and bulging; the dream disappears like a cat’s tail behind the door…

Track 2 is En cuerdas (In The Strings) (1998), for Arturo Parra. Dhomont’s comments:“[…] [En cuerdas] is the version for solo tape of Sol y sombra… l’espace des spectres, a work for guitar and tape that was co-written with Parra. The composition heard here is completely independent from that work. Its sonic environment nevertheless remains one of strings […] made virtual, transformed by computer processes and multiplied by electroacoustic writing.”

Out of a deafening beginning, out of shape, emerges - transpires - an open space with moving objects, slowing down, leaning towards the walls, then falling out into the room, in a maze of movements across the floor; a sonorous ballet without cause, but with complex results inside the listener’s perception. Fluids are apparent, and electrically charged dynamisms… It gets more intense, events flapping around the walls like pigeons desperate for open skies and naked trees, as the hovering power of a generator shapes a mighty electromagnetic force field of layered, horizontal sounds; layer upon layer of timbres on which small spurs of tonal color vibrate, energetically… Echoes of a long-gone barrel organ push and pull at the electroacoustic film, which holds it captured, the thin, elastic surface of electronic force reflecting starlight out of the bottomless pit of space.

A tractor-beam pulls a spaceship across the galaxy, and the first Anemone Hepatica (Blue Anemone) opens its youthful and age-old petal face to the sky in the shade of a rune stone from the times of the Vikings. April washes around the living!

The whiplash of acoustic guitars start getting decipherable towards the end of the piece, and I sense erotic fandango references and spurs of foot-stomping flamenco incitements, but also more closed-in, self-centered guitarisms of a style addressed by the likes of John McLaughlin and the Mahavishnu Orchestra, if I know what I mean…

At the end the stringed audio hints at the glorious creativity of Ernesto Diaz-Infante over in California; one of the most prolific figures of modern music.

Les moirures du temps (1999-2000) to the composers and founders of Réseaux: Jean-François Denis, Gilles Gobeil and Robert Normandeau, is the third presentation on the CD Jalons. Dhomont’s comments:“In the same way the that the eye perceives the changing play of light on various shapes and textures of a given color, the ear picks out the sparkles and shimmers that the minute variations of related sounds can produce. Instead of changes in space, changes in time. This is further pointed out by an anecdotal element, a sign of the passage of time that punctuates the sound stream in three places: the beginning, the middle and the end. Certain characteristics, techniques and types of sound were selected: harmonic timbre, accumulation, percussion/resonance, movement and dynamic contrast - the very things that give sound context and make it shimmer.

After the sudden beginning; rustle of metallic percussion and a gearing-up subway train… footsteps in a resonant space, from right to left, and… gone… as dry peas are poured on a kitchen table, a whisk rotated inside a saucepan - or simply sounds that may evoke such secular visions…

There is a wave motion at work inside this music, but inconspicuous, hardly noticeable, unless you… notice it, because it is hidden inside, behind all these minute fractions of sound that build the musical range of colors, but the wave goes through all of this, make it bob up and down as the wave itself keeps moving in sinus progressions… or maybe it’s better to say that there is a breathing going on in this fabric of sounds, an act of inhaling and exhaling, of groups of events approaching, only to recede again.

There is a chapel attention in here, a space of some holiness, in which gold dust is soaring on the vibrations of magic bells, touched by rays of light from the day outside…

Small, bending, wobbling shapes of beauty float like soap bubbles through the music; sounds are dispersed in an act of weightless hovering… and the subway train, again gearing up, returns for a short instance like a recurring refrain mantra…

The steps reappear, only to disappear once more, making me wonder whether all that I hear - this myriad of details of sound, shaping such beauty and such a soaring motion - is simply - or maybe not so simply… - the idling mind of a drunkard resting in the stench of urine and leftovers in a dark corner of a subway station.

Rune Lindblad, Swedish pioneer of electronic music and textsound composition, had a revelation during similar circumstances in the early 1950s, when he woke up in a park in Gothenburg, hung over after an artist party the night before, as the maze of impressions of an awakening city through sound and light, as he was rising towards consciousness, gave him the incentive to start working with sound! Of course; a longshot, but one of numerous ways you can associate and fantasize in this Dhomont music. Normality is an elastic concept, as I just heard a CNN reporter in Baghdad state…

Since this kind of music in most instances is absolute music, the experiences and frame of reference of each listener rub against the body of the work and produce individual visions. This music produces as many visions as there are listeners - and I am just one of those listeners, taking my time to jot down what comes to mind when listening. It is, in a way, like a shrink session!

Slices of tilting planes of metallic percussion reflect the light of sound into different aspects of the mind, as unfathomable halls of imagination spread sky-high and horizon-wide, harboring the many shades of light of life… and at the end the concrete situation in the subway station is repeated, but the steps now come from left, disappearing at right…

Track 4 is Studio de nuit (1992). It is a short piece of just 3 minutes. Dhomont’s comments:“Here we surprise the acousmotrope (by analogy with the heliotrope, that which turns towards hearing) engaged in his rituals and his creations, in a half-real, half-dreamed moment of nocturnal composition for Figures de la nuit, a work for radio commissioned by David Olds for the program Transfigured Night on CKLN-FM in Toronto. Along with the voice of the artist we hear (in order of vocal appearance) those of Laurie Radford, Pierre Daboval, Justice Olsson, Marie Pelletier, Jean-François Denis and Pierre Louet.

The sound of the setting up of the tape-recorder, old style, reel-to-reel, in a starting position, opens this little item, voices rushing by in fast rewind. This gives me an impression of a clean environment with lots of technology, clean shirts, subdued colors, a refined atmosphere, a gathering of assorted friends, an exclusive cadre of artists and studio windows on a control room… but that is just the environment for the little experiments of this sound painting, which, indeed, rolling back on itself in a conversational reflection on the art utilized, in English and French, sort of talks out of itself about itself, relishing and taking joy in its own sonic illustrations; birds, swooping events, flashing references, parts and bits of statements about sonic art, a few tries a history, but mostly just the games of sound art playboys finger-tipping the edges of their enormous possibilities, relaxing me in my armchair at night as spring spreads its bleak evening light out there among the thrushes… a gleaming trifle of art coloring a passing moment, like a gush of wind lifting your curtain by the window, letting the garden fragrances in…

Lettre de Sarajevo (1995 - 1996) to victims everywhere: dispossessed, sacrificed, forgotten comes at position 5 on the CD. Dhomont’s comments:“What can be said about Sarajevo that has not already been said? Faced with a deluge of triumphant cynicism, I was unable to content myself with the formal, esthetic games that are so dear to the composer. And so, naively, I wanted to speak about the horror and the shame. The title came to me, sudden and obvious: “Letter,” which can tell of the magnitude of the disaster and which at the same time can send a cry in the desert of nations; “Sarajevo,” because this city, like all too many others, symbolizes the tragic incoherency of the return to barbarity in our age. It is a pessimistic report that, six years later, recent events give no sign of refuting.

As can be expected, this work kicks off in a dark tremor, in a gesture of murky downward drifts, like a dark silhouette in rain and wind bending down towards the soil, conveying the hopelessness found in the woodcut Sorg (Sorrow) by Rune Lindblad.

The dark, tumbling unrest continues, in a vision of the dark ages, of the Great Death, the plague, passing through a Medieval Europe, the mighty Horseman treading every lane and every street of every village, leaving a trace of blood and corpses and putrefaction behind, surrounded by mourners and desperate love-makers… and the Horseman came to Sarajevo in the 1990s to stay a long time, pitching camp at the market place, the whiplashes of sniper fire taking out children playing and old men walking in their thoughts… The music is fittingly downtrodden, murky, ominous, seeping through the duration like poisonous gas at a World War I battlefield, killing through the trenches…

The ringing of bells, tiny and bigger, fill an aftermath of war with introspection and retrospect, with remorse and soul-searching, since war lives in each one of us, which is why it can ravage our societies like fierce firestorms; it glows in our minds, and we make it happen, we fuel the fire, we are the Horsemen… for we are all mixtures of Hitler and Mother Teresa… The sound of Francis Dhomont’s Lettre de Sarajevo are eerie, like cold gusts of air that make you wrap your scarf tighter around your neck as you journey through life… Dhomont‘s dark painting achieves sounds that bring Hieronymous Bosch’s terrible visions to life inside the listener… and World War II bombers cross the Channel, April 2003 B2 bombers approach Baghdad… as the threat hangs over Syria and its not yet looted museums like a Damocles sword…

Track 6 is Un autre Printemps (2000), for Uli A. and Antonio V. Dhomont’s comments:“In composing this music for film I had to follow rules that differ from those of non-identical music: there were thematic directions that had to be respected, constraints that were imposed by the material (Vivaldi, the viola, a dog, the sound of a stream, naturalism) and by the timing, allusions and references that had to be incorporated, and so on. Un autre Printemps does, of course, echo Vivaldi’s famous concerto, which forms the thread that runs through the film. But the thread wanders, changes and is recycled. The important place accorded the movement of water and its mutations corresponds to the metaphor of the effusiveness of spring that is so present on the screen. But here the sound of nature questions the nature of sound. This approach to finding the beauty in sound as a means of organizing and structuring it reminds me of when I carved wood to earn my living, drawing my inspiration from form inherent in it. I tried in both cases to reconcile will and chance, conception and perception, and nature and artifice. With a dark thud and a splash we’re in a Vivaldi sphere with strings and crow and dog - and water, running water, wind through trees (aspens?) and a brook, frogs, airy landscapes… and a close-up brook trickling; then high-pitch dream-streaks through the ether, one characteristic of water taken on a soloist joyride, speed-freaking through the audioscope.

The sounds whirl and flake, in and out of the music; the music in and out of the dreamscape, Vivaldi’s red hair entangled in strings through the centuries; Malcolm Goldstein fiddlings fragmented in hasty sprays of string sounds, bits and pieces of violin atmospheres splintering like freshly cut wood at a settler’s cabin in 19th century Minnesota, in Vilhelm Moberg’s Chisago… and it whirls and sails around the listener; a renaissance dance, lightly trodden in absentminded daydreams of summer… rays of sunlight pouring down through leafy crowns, reflecting off of fairies’ wings…

Drôles d’oiseaux (1985-1986, 2001), for Françoise Barrière, Christian Clozier, Jean-Claude Leduc and Valia and Patrick Lemoine, is number 7. Dhomont’s comments:“Fifteen years after I composed this purely electronic work - the only one I ever produced - I exhume it, as a curiosity. But a more poetic image was guiding me, that of the forest as a magical symbol of our unconscious. This was my first foray into the deep forest that I had already been thinking about; in it a few reminders of that first effort can still be found.”

A whirring as of insects, but electronic ones; the turning of a shortwave dial, but not crude like in Stockhausen’s Kurzwellen, but rather smoothly elastic, dynamo humming, trembling along in a layer of brown currents, little figurines of glaring gestures signaling above the surface of the forth-welling progression of events.

Even in this non-concrete piece of electronic music Dhomont’s musique concrète poesis permeates the sound, in electric mimicries of insect level life under the microscope; a minuscule world of unnoticed movements on the underside of leaves of grass; those micro worlds of daily life, springing to full size life in Dhomont’s electronics!

These circuits are inhabited by birds and insects in virtual existences. We observe a mix of entomology and electronic circuitry, chirps and sparks and welling sinus waves… Fluttering, chattering rhythms sound like a recording I once heard of a feverishly rotating super nova way out in deep space, moving around its axis at an unbelievable speed. I try to imagine this super nova in black space, emitting this rhythmic message through the rainforest of birds and monkeys of Dhomont’s Drôles d’oiseaux… and its like nothing I have ever heard before. Sometimes the atmosphere densifies into super-charged force fields, and then it thins out into a glittering, shimmering haze of ornithology! It makes me wish Dhomont had given pure electronics some more attention than he has. This is one of the most compelling electronic works I’ve come across, devastatingly creative, bursting with sonic ideas that come at you in high-speed beauty!

The last piece is very short. It’s L’électro (1990) for Marie Pelletier. Dhomont’s comments:“This piece is a little vocal game, resolutely optimistic, about the ineffable beauty of electroacoustic music. It is also a brief stylistic exercise that mixes fragments of ancient voices with the voice of Marie Pelletier in order to recapture the spirit of Puzzle, a 2’10” clip realized in 1975. Twenty-eight years ago - how time flies!”

Yes, a sure sound-poetic smile out of the corner of Dhomont the Jester’s mouth, a graffiti of vocals descending lightly like confetti over a Park Avenue parade, delivered with the humor and benevolence that is a second nature to this Poet of Sounds!

He is a true Maestro of the ordering of sonic events if ever there was one, a diligent Poet of Auditory Mirages…

Critique

François Tousignant, Le Devoir, April 12, 2003

On pourrait appeler cela une collection de miniatures. Sur cette parution de notre belle collection de musique acousmatique empreintes DIGITALes, revoici la musique de Francis Dhomont. Encore, diront peut-être certains. À la différence de bien des parutions précédentes consacrées à ce compositeur — où on avait principalement des œuvres au long souffle, à la réflexion qui prenait le temps de faire se confondre espace et temps, psychologie et physicalité, lieu et durée de l’art —, voici un disque consacré à des pièces brèves, voire de circonstance.

Cela impose donc un autre type d’écoute que celui auquel Dhomont nous avait habitués. Travailler sur la profondeur des strates et trouver l’art de l’aphorisme poétique, voici deux disciplines qui exigent une autre manière de concevoir et de réaliser la musique. Surtout que Dhomont va du clin d’oeil — un peu à la manière des Éventails de Mallarmé — à la prise de position politique qui rappelle des sonnets de Rimbaud, d’Aragon ou d’Éluard.

Dans le premier cas, la tendresse et l’humour semblent emprunter un jeu de codes parfois pictural, autrefois un peu secret. On se délecte de la finesse de ces petits bijoux entendus à l’occasion de concerts et qu’on peut maintenant se remettre à loisir pour mieux les savourer. Soulignons la grande qualité de ce genre de répertoire: si certains auteurs tombent facilement dans le ton carte postale, l’intelligence et le raffinement de Dhomont font que ce qui ne pourrait s’avérer qu’anecdotique devient toujours objet d’habitation; la légèreté permet un souffle frais pour l’imaginaire heureux, ce que le compositeur sait fort bien faire partager.

On trouve aussi trois œuvres plus engagées et plus lourdes: En cuerdas, Les moirures du temps et Lettre de Sarajevo. Si En cuerdas pose encore des problèmes de rhétorique et paraît toujours comme une œuvre moins réussie, les deux autres montrent un Dhomont maître de son propos. Qu’elle soit «abstraite» ou dénonciatrice, cette musique porte un programme latent. Ce n’est pas à l’histoire que s’attache le propos mais davantage à l’expression d’une émotion ressentie en un certain endroit de l’être et que l’artiste transpose en un autre médium.

Ici, on se surprend pour une rare fois à apprécier comme essentielle l’écoute sur nos deux bêtes haut-parleurs. En salle, la diffusion spatiale peut parfois orienter l’attention davantage sur le faire de l’œuvre que sur l’œuvre elle-même. Dans notre antre d’écoute, Dhomont vient démontrer la vérité de son «inspiration» et la nécessité de ses choix esthétiques, comme si la «réduction de moyens de diffusion» soulignait plus haut le contenu qui s’incarne en sons. C’est encore donner d’autres lettres de noblesse à une forme d’art souvent jugée marginale ou décorative (pensons aux sonorisations d’espaces et de lieux publics pollués par de bâtardes réalisations d’ameublement) qui arrive à exprimer sans agressivité, mais avec une vigueur implacable, la force d’un art engagé et en mouvement, musique dans laquelle le message ne se limite pas au médium. […]

On se délecte de la finesse de ces petits bijoux entendus à l’occasion de concerts et qu’on peut maintenant se remettre à loisir pour mieux les savourer.

Critique

Réjean Beaucage, La Scena Musicale, no. 8:7, April 1, 2003

Sixième disque de Francis Dhomont chez la maison montréalaise empreintes DIGITALes, Jalons regroupe des compositions encore inédites ou parues dans des compilations. Il s’avère donc moins conceptuel que les productions habituelles du doyen de la communauté électroacoustique québécoise. On y trouve une réduction stéréophonique de Vol d’Arondes, présenté en version octophonique lors de sa création à la dixième édition de la série Rien à voir, en décembre 2001. L’œuvre emprunte une partie de son matériel de base à une autre, Drôles d’oiseaux, qui date de 1985 et que l’on trouve aussi ici. Cette dernière est une réalisation entièrement électronique, la seule du catalogue du compositeur. De même sur ce disque, En cuerdas (1998), une musique parfaitement autonome, a servi de base au guitariste Arturo Parra pour Sol y sombra… l’espace des spectres, une pièce pour guitare et bande, publiée sur son disque Parr(A)cousmatique, également chez empreintes DIGITALes.

La meilleure façon d’apprécier la musique électroacoustique, et Francis Dhomont serait certainement d’accord, reste le concert acousmatique, durant lequel le compositeur, généralement, diffuse les œuvres au programme au moyen d’un «orchestre de haut-parleurs» à un public plongé dans le noir. On a ainsi pu entendre en mars dernier, durant le festival Montréal / Nouvelles musiques, la pièce Les moirures du temps (2000), que l’on pourra maintenant écouter chez soi grâce à ce disque. Le disque comprend aussi Un autre Printemps (2000), un détournement de la musique de Vivaldi que Dhomont a conçu pour Mein Kino für die Ohren (Mon cinéma pour l’oreille), un film du cinéaste allemand Uli Aumüller. Bref, une collection variée qui permet d’apprécier différentes facettes du travail d’un maître de la musique concrète. 4/6

… un maître de la musique concrète.

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Vital no. 372

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  • For Sonic Explorations the London Sinfonietta will present the London premiere of the multitrack work Vol d’Arondes by Francis Dhomont on October 1, 2009 in Hall One of Kings Place in London (England, UK). Also on the programme, electroaco…

    Friday, August 14, 2009 / In Concert
  • The disc Jalons by Francis Dhomont was choosen as “Disc of the Year — Musique actuelle, Electroacoustics” at the 2003 prix Opus Gala held January 25 in Montréal. Created in 1996 by the Conseil québécois de la musique, the Opus priz…

    Tuesday, February 10, 2004 / General