The Electroacoustic Music Store

Artists Gilles Gobeil

Gilles Gobeil has completed a master’s degree in composition at Université de Montréal, after studying writing techniques. He has been focusing his work on acousmatic and mixed music since 1985. His works fall close to what is called ‘cinema for the ear.’ Many of his pieces have been inspired by literary works and attempt to let us ‘see’ through sound.

Gilles Gobeil has won over 20 national and international awards including the Ars Electronica (Austria, 1995, 2005), Black & White (Portugal, 2009), Bourges (France, 1988, ’89, ’99, 2009), British Design & Art Direction (UK, 2002), Brock University (Canada, 1985), Canadian Music Council (1985), Ciber@rt (Spain, 1999), CICEM (Monaco, 2014), CIMESP (Brazil, 1997, ’99, 2001), Destellos (Argentina, 2011, ’12), Luigi Russolo (Italy, 1987, ’88, ’89), Métamorphoses (Belgium, 2000, ’02), Newcomp (USA, 1987), SDE Canada (1984), SOCAN (Canada, 1993), and Stockholm Electronic Arts Award (Sweden, 1994, ’97) competitions. His DVD-Audio Trilogie d’ondes has won the Conseil québécois de la musique (CQM)’s Prix Opus for Best Album in 2004-05; his CD Le contrat was nominated in the same category in 2003-04.

Gobeil has received commissions from Codes d’accès (Montréal), DAAD (Berlin, Germany), empreintes DIGITALes (Montréal), Groupe de musique expérimentale de Bourges (GMEB, France), Groupe de recherches musicales (GRM, France), Musiques & Recherches (Belgium), Réseaux des arts médiatiques (Montréal), Société Radio-Canada, Totem contemporain (Montréal), Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie (ZKM, Germany), from Folkmar Hein, Uli Aumüller, Camille Mutel, and Oscar Wiggli, and from performers Suzanne Binet-Audet, René Lussier, Arturo Parra, and Rick Sacks.

He has been composer-in-residence in Banff (Canada, 1993, ’95), Bourges (France, 1991), EMS (Sweden, 2013), GRM (France, 1993, 2012), Franz Liszt Academy (Weimar, Germany, 2010), Miso Music Portugal (2012), Musiques & Recherches (Belgium, 2012), PANaroma (Brazil, 2014), and ZKM (Germany, 2005, ’06, ’07, ’09, ’10, ’12, ’13), and guest composer at DAAD (Germany, 2008).

Gilles Gobeil is a member of the Canadian Electroacoustic Community (CEC), and co-founder of Réseaux, an organization devoted to producing media arts events.

[English translation: François Couture, v-15]

Gilles Gobeil

Sorel-Tracy (Québec), 1954

Residence: Drummondville (Québec)

  • Composer

On the Web

Gilles Gobeil, photo: Isabelle Gardner, Sunday, March 26, 2006

Selected Works

Main Releases

empreintes DIGITALes / IMED 15134 / 2015
empreintes DIGITALes / IMED 0892 / 2008
empreintes DIGITALes / IMED 0576 / 2005
empreintes DIGITALes / IMED 0372 / 2003
empreintes DIGITALes / IMED 0155 / 2001
empreintes DIGITALes / IMED 9421 / 1994


Various artists
Productions Totem cotemporain / PTC 2013 / 2013
Various artists
empreintes DIGITALes / IMED 09100 / 2009
empreintes DIGITALes / IMED 0898 / 2008
Various artists
Musiques & Recherches / MR 2002 / 2003
empreintes DIGITALes / IMED 0264 / 2002
Various artists
Studio PANaroma / SPAN 199013216 / 2002
Various artists
Studio PANaroma / SPAN 199008708 / 2000
Various artists
empreintes DIGITALes / IMED 9604 / 1996
Various artists
CEC-PeP / CEC 95CD / 1995


Arthaus Musik / AHM 102174 / 2012
  • Not in catalogue
Various artists
Edition RZ / RZ 3006/8 / 2012
  • Not in catalogue
Various artists
independent releases / EMH 2009 / 2009
  • Not in catalogue
Various artists
Caprice Records / CAP 22057 / 2005
  • Not in catalogue
Various artists
Fylkingen / FYCD 1014 / 2005
  • Not in catalogue
Various artists
McGill Records / MR 2001-01-2 / 2001
  • Not in catalogue
Various artists
empreintes DIGITALes / IMED 0050 / 2000
  • Out of print
Various artists
Studio PANaroma / SPAN 199003658 / 1998
  • Not in catalogue
Asphodel / ASP 0978 / 1997
  • Out of print
Various artists
Asphodel / ASP 0966 / 1995
  • Out of print
Various artists
Ars Electronica / PA 95 / 1995
  • Not in catalogue
Various artists
CEC-PeP / CEC 92CD / 1992
  • Out of print
Various artists
Radio-Canada / ACM 37 / 1990
  • Out of print
Various artists
empreintes DIGITALes / IMED 9004 / 1990
  • Reissued
Various artists
Mnémosyne musique média / LDC 278049-50 / 1989
  • Not in catalogue

In the Press

Cinema for the Ear

Suzette Chan, Randomia, Wednesday, November 18, 2015

At Holy Trinity Anglican Church on Friday night, New Music Edmonton presented an evening of electronic music by Gilles Gobeil, the award-winning Quebec composer. Joining him on this, the final date of a seven-city Canadian tour, was Suzanne Binet-Audet, who was featured in the program’s first half, playing three pieces, composed by Gobeil, the ondes Martenot.

The ondes Martenot is an electronic instrument invented by French cellist Maurice Martenot in 1928. Martenot made seven sets of the instrument. He made the instruments by hand until 1974; it was this last unit that Binet-Audet brought on tour.

I had never seen an ondes Martenot, so seeing it before the concert started was like a bonus pre-show. The player sits at a small electronic keyboard built on a hand-crafted wood stand that had the clean, unfussy lines of early 20th century modern furniture. The unit is wired to two speakers, one that looks like a traditional floor speaker, and a second one that looks like a hexagonal cabinet. This second unit is called a gong and provides resonance.

The set-up looked compact and quiet, but when Binet-Audet started to play, we were engulfed in a huge, sonic experience. Binet-Audet’s live performance incorporated sounds programmed by Gilles Gobeil, who was at the soundboard throughout the evening. Sound was all around us, emanating from the speakers of the ondes Martenot, as well as speakers set up all around the perimeter of the sanctuary.

The first notes from the ondes Martenot reminded me of many different sounds: a Theramin; a songbird holding a note for too long; music made with air, like an accordion, a saxophone, or human breath. Later, wholly original sounds were interleaved with sounds that recalled running water, rotating metal blades, pumping pistons. These were noises associated boiler rooms, waterworks, light industry and utilities – that is, common settings for film noir and dystopian movies.

In fact, the ondes Martenot has been used in many movie soundtracks. Gobeil describes his own music as “cinema pour l’oreille” (cinema for the ear). We fully entered Gobeil’s cinema pour l’oreille in the second half of the program, when the lights were turned off. We were officially in cinema mode, although there was no projection. The only screen was our imaginations. During a passage that reminded me strongly of airplanes and trains, I reflected on the irony a roomful of people sitting quietly, riveted by the sounds of transportation, but going nowhere, yet feeling transported.

After the concert, Binet-Audet and Gobeil stayed to answer questions. Binet-Audet gave a demonstration of how the ondes Martenot worked. What I was not able to see during the concert was a modulator housed in a drawer of the ondes Martenot and a string-and-ring system that was responsible for the Theremin-like aural effects.

The engagement with the audience after the formal concert was a rare treat, and particularly generous as this performance marked Binet-Audet’s retirement from the stage. Thanks to both Suzanne Binet-Audet and Gilles Gobeil for sharing their artistry and experience.

Concierto electroacústico en 5.1

Josep Lluís Galiana, Levante-EMV, Saturday, May 10, 2008

El ciclo de conciertos Primavera Electroacústica a València 2008 continuó su programación el pasado jueves en la Galería del Palau. Organizada por la Asociación de Música Electroacústica de España (AMEE), la selección de composiciones que, bajo el título genérico Obres de Llarg Hàlit, se pudieron escuchar tenían como mayor aliciente su presentación en el sistema de grabación y por tanto de difusión Surround 5.1 Dolby Digital. Este sistema proporciona sonido digital mediante seis canales independientes: tres canales frontales (izquierda/centro/derecha) que posibilita claridad y nitidez y una ubicación precisa de los sonidos, mientras que los canales envolventes gemelos (trasero izquierda/trasero derecha) rodean al público sumergiéndolo en un verdadero océano de materia sonora.

Este placer se hizo tangible durante la escucha de las tres obras seleccionadas para la ocasión. Tres importantes compositores del actual panorama internacional en este género y procedentes de diversos países. La compositora belga Annette Vande Gorne (Charleroi, 1946) mostró su vertiente más expresiva y detallista con su obra Figures d’espace (2004). Espacializada por el compositor valenciano y miembro de la directiva de la AMEE Vicent Gómez, la pieza conjuga con transparente y eficaz contrapunto los sonidos de la Naturaleza con los producidos mecánicamente en una suerte de Rondeau. De auténticas dimensiones épicas se podría catalogar la obra aportada por el histórico compositor canadiense Gilles Gobeil (Québec, 1954). Ombres, espaces, silences… (2005), inspirada en la polifonía más temprana (Ars Antiqua, Ars Nova), revisita el universo sonoro de los primeros siglos de la Era Cristiana. La resultante es una música de texturas brutales como si se tratase de grandes placas tectónicas de ricas y ancestrales sonoridades a la deriva. Finalmente, la joven compositora británica Natasha Barrett (1972) presentó su Prince Prospero’s Party (2002), basada en el relato corto de Edgar Allan Poe, The Mask of the Red Death. Se trata claramente de una música programática. Narra con gran fidelidad la acción del relato, dividiendo el discurso sonoro en siete secciones y pasando de las risas al grito más aterrador de los personajes de esta insólita composición electroacústica.

Este placer se hizo tangible durante la escucha de las tres obras seleccionadas para la ocasión.

Rien à voir II - Music for Loudspeakers

David Fujino, The Live Music Report, Monday, January 15, 2007

Understand — it’s an evening of electroacoustic music.

At centre stage there’s a chair and table. A box sitting on the table emits a pinpoint red light. Cables sprawl from the box onto the floor and lead off stage.

Both the stage and the audience sit in the dark, for there’s nothing to see, and there are no musicians on the stage.

The sound technician, Paul Hodge, stands with his control boards and monitors in the middle of the audience. Hodge will end up being as much a performer as each of the composers who work at his side to control and alter their pre-recorded electroacoustic music, music which is not produced by musical instruments.

For its part, the audience has comfortably huddled together in the centre of their rows in order to sit in a sound universe produced by four strategically placed speakers. The audience sits, waiting for ‘playback.’

Ann Southam’s Fluke Sound (1989), with its mysterious, late night mood, was a composition of measured and well-placed sounds recorded from three Revox open reel track tape recorders and two Synthi AKS voltage control synthesizers. Southam’s piece was largely characterized by a ringing telephone sound that continually rang and rang as a connecting motif through the criss-cross and layered waves of new sound that kept dropping in and later faded out entirely. The ‘fluke’ in the title refers to the lucky coincidence of making a new composition by putting two separate compositions together.

The historical part of electroacoustic music was beautifully represented by György Ligeti’s pioneering pieces, Glissandi (1957) and Artikulation (1958). This ‘historical’ reference does not mean to say that the recently departed Ligeti (1923-2006) is anything but startling, original, and always exciting to listen to. Glissandi — with its opening sensual sound like a steel guitar glide — is a beautifully imagined exploration of all manner of glissandi — the short, long, burpey, and longer. Artikulation is all about the tissue of sound that results when new sound elements meet. It starts with the sound of huge water gurgles as they mutate into electronic droplets and then become highly animated, electronic atmospheres.

Meanwhile, the symphonic dimension (or the grand gesture) of electroacoustic music was represented by Gilles Gobeil’s often exciting and occasionally nervous-making Ombres, espaces, silences… (2005) and by Robert Normandeau’s more intellectually planned out (or so it seemed) composition, Palimpseste (2005, 06).

Palimpseste — with its recorded and manipulated vocal sounds — was crafted by Normandeau into five sections, each with a different rhythm, timbre, dynamic, emotional quality, and space. At times it was unclear when the piece was finished, but what touched the audience was the audible scope and ambition of this inter-layered composition, whereas Ombres, espaces, silences… by Gobeil — which started with a loud wind storm and a vast scale ‘THX sound’ — grew dramatically and surely into a true ‘cinema of the ear.’ ‘Cinema of the ear’ is Normandeau’s phrase to describe his composition Palimpseste, but to these ears, ‘cinema of the ear’ better describes Ombres, espaces, silences…. Notable were its quick jabs of violence and loud cosmic door slams; plus its adventurous mixing of tones with noise in startlingly forceful ways that made Gobeil’s composition stand out as one of the more expressive compositions played this evening. The sounds seemed to emanate from deep space.

John Oliver’s Nylong Symphony (excerpt 2005) was a composition of electroacoustic music with a solo guitarist, Oliver himself, on stage. A drone established itself — and over and against it, Oliver played Flamenco and Middle Eastern styled passages, then he moved into an extended sequence where he rapidly ping-pong-ed single notes inside a vibrating framework that was like a suspended Flamenco guitar strum. While playing his guitar, Oliver was kept busy looking back and forth between the music on his stand and the computer screen, but despite all this activity, the music increasingly began to sound the same.

The most engaging compositions this evening were surely those with a clear sense of form — a holistic sense of form, perhaps, but nonetheless a sense of form — something which open-eared audiences intuitively respond to.

[January 13, 2007, Isabel Bader Theatre, Toronto]

The most engaging compositions this evening were surely those with a clear sense of form […] something which open-eared audiences intuitively respond to.

Gilles Gobeil: la force tranquille

Guy Marceau, SOCAN, Paroles & Musique, no. 13:2, Thursday, June 1, 2006

«La vie est plus riche que l’imagination.» Gilles Gobeil, compositeur et électroacousticien parle de son rapport à la création dans un médium où musique et technologie vont de pair. «L’électroacoustique est fascinante parce que le matériau sonore est partout et accessible, poursuit celui qui relègue la technologie au deuxième rang, et privilégie l’émotion et l’expression d’une idée. À mon sens, c’est la musique de l’avenir. Je crois que toutes les musiques du passé ainsi que les interprètes subsisteront, mais ces derniers seront de plus en plus jumelés aux technologies en temps réel, dans de nouvelles interfaces gestuelles permettant ainsi d’élargir la palette des timbres et des expressions. L’idée n’est pas de robotiser l’homme, mais d’accroître son humanité à l’aide d’une technologie qui deviendra de plus en plus simple et transparente. Mais qui peut bien prédire? Paul Éluard affirmait “il n’y a pas de modèle pour celui qui cherche ce qu’il n’a jamais vu”, et la création est justement ce processus de recherche.»

Calme et posé, volubile et articulé, Gilles Gobeil résume ainsi sa pensée et, par extension, l’état des choses dans le milieu pointu et somme toute restreint de la musique électroacoustique au Québec. Compositeur actif depuis plus de 20 ans des deux côtés de l’Atlantique, il figure parmi la petite communauté d’acteurs importants de la scène électro au Québec avec notamment ses collègues Robert Normandeau et Jean-François Denis, tous co-fondateurs de Réseaux (Rien à voir, Akousma), une société de concerts dédiée à la musique électroacoustique. Pourtant rien ne le prédisposait à cela.


Jeune, il a d’abord appris la flûte traversière qu’il amplifiait dans une veine pop et jazz expérimental aux côtés du guitariste et improvisateur René Lussier, avec qui beaucoup plus tard il accouchera du projet Le contrat, inspiré du Faust de Goethe. Deux esprits libres. Il faut savoir que Gilles Gobeil est autodidacte et qu’il a appris les rudiments de la musique en étudiant deux partitions d’orchestre, L’Oiseau de feu de Stravinsky et la Symphonie du Nouveau Monde de Dvorak! «J’ai compris là beaucoup de choses.» Après des études collégiales en sciences humaines qui l’ont peu stimulé, Gilles Gobeil plonge vers la création à l’Université de Montréal, où il étudie la technique d’écriture instrumentale avec Serge Garant qui lui présente Marcelle Deschênes, professeur d’électro avec qui il a fait ensuite sa maîtrise. «Garant m’a transmis cette rigueur intellectuelle où chaque son, chaque note doit avoir sa raison d’être. Aujourd’hui, j’applique encore ce processus et là-dessus, je suis un peu despotique! Mais j’ajoute l’importance de privilégier l’émotion à la raison. C’est ce qui caractérise mon travail.»

Gilles Gobeil a choisi le monde de l’électro pour l’immédiateté du geste. Et parce qu’il n’a pas à se formaliser des contingences reliées à l’écriture instrumentale et notamment son interprétation. Sa musique est à son image: calme en apparence, mais forte et bouillonnante d’idées. Ses envolées musicales sont évolutives et contrastées, souvent abruptes tels des électrochocs, mais toujours incarnées, organiques et prenantes dans ses ruptures de ton. Il trouve notamment dans la littérature (HG Wells, Jules Verne, Proust…) l’inspiration, le déclic, l’image poétique. «Je suis assez près du cinéma pour l’oreille, avec l’idée de toujours raconter quelque chose.»

Un prix Opus

Pour le néophyte, qu’est-ce qui fait une bonne pièce électroacoustique? «C’est une pièce qui supporte la réécoute. Au fil des auditions, et c’est similaire en composition, des “couches d’intelligence” s’accumulent et renforcent le sens de la pièce. Le support sur disque devrait permettre une plus grande pérennité aux œuvres électro. Parce qu’en musique instrumentale contemporaine, comme disait Garant, les premières ressemblent souvent à des dernières.» En 2004, Gilles Gobeil a réenregistré trois de ses pièces pour ondes Martenot (avec Suzanne Binet-Audet) et bande, et gravé Trilogie d’ondes, son troisième album solo chez empreintes DIGITALes, et qui a été couronné Disque de l’année - musique actuelle, électroacoustique au gala des Prix Opus 2005. Cet honneur s’ajoutait à une longue liste de prestigieux prix nationaux et internationaux remportés depuis 1983 (dont des prix de la SOCAN en 1984 et 1993), et dont les derniers en date, en 2005, furent une mention d’honneur au Prix Ars Electronica de Linz, et une place en finale au Concours international de musique électroacoustique de Bourges.

Toutefois depuis août 2005, Gilles Gobeil n’a pas eu le temps d’écrire une seule note. C’est qu’il remplace, pour une année, son collègue Robert Normandeau à l’Université de Montréal dans les souliers de professeur en composition électroacoustique. Cette charge de cours s’ajoute à celle qu’il tient déjà au Cégep de Drummondville, où il enseigne la musique et les technologies sonores depuis plus de 10 ans. «Cette année, c’est à mon tour de m’offrir une demi-année sabbatique. À partir de juillet, je serai compositeur en résidence durant six mois au ZKM à Karlsruhe, en Allemagne, où j’ai déjà fait des stages de création. J’en profiterai pour travailler sur mes pièces pour la réalisation d’un DVD en Surround 5.1.»

À mon sens, c’est la musique de l’avenir.

L’école de Montréal, 4/4

Bernard Girard, Aligre FM, Dissonances, Tuesday, April 6, 2004

Nous achevons aujourd’hui notre découverte de l’école de Montréal. Nous avons vu que n’ayant pas, une fois leurs études terminées, accès au studio de l’université, les compositeurs doivent créer leur propre studio, un peu à l’image de ce qu’ont fait en France Pierre Henry ou Luc Ferrari. N’étant pas rémunérés par des institutions comme le sont leurs collègues français, ils doivent, pour vivre, multiplier les travaux alimentaires, faire des musiques de film, des bruitages pour des publicités, s’associer à des compagnies de danse, des troupes de théâtre. Ils doivent profiter de chaque occasion qui se présente, ce qui explique sans doute qu’ils aient tant développé le genre radiophonique. La plupart des compositeurs de cette école ont écrit pour la radio, des œuvres d’un genre un peu particulier qui se prêtent à une écoute qui n’a pas grand chose à voir avec ce qu’elle peut être dans une salle de concert. Un exemple, une pièce de Roxanne Turcotte, Micro-trottoir, composée en 1997 à partir de reportages faits dans la rue.

On retrouve, d’ailleurs cette réflexion sur l’écoute dans à peu près toutes les œuvres de l’école de Montréal. Un certain nombre de compositeurs ont résolu le problème en composant des musiques à programme, souvent basées sur des textes littéraires qui guident l’auditeur, qui donnent un sens à ce qu’il entend.

On retrouve cette démarche chez Francis Dhomont, dans des œuvres comme Sous le regard d’un soleil noir, mais aussi chez Gilles Gobeil, qui a réalisé plusieurs adaptations musicales de romans célèbres, Du côté de chez Swann de Proust, de La machine à explorer le temps de Wells, du Voyage au centre de la terre de Jules Verne.

Je voudrais aujourd’hui vous faire découvrir une pièce qu’il a composée avec le guitariste et compositeur René Lussier. Son titre, Le contrat, fait allusion au contrat implicite que ces deux amis ont signé avec le Conseil des arts du Canada qui leur a commandé une pièce d’après le Faust de Goethe . Cette pièce, dont ils commencé la composition en 1996, n’a été achevée que tout récemment, en 2003. On remarquera dans cette pièce la combinaison de la guitare et des bruits électroacoustiques. À l’inverse de leurs collègues français, les compositeurs de l’école de Montréal pratiquent peu les musiques mixtes. Ils ne les ignorent cependant pas complètement, comme en témoigne l’œuvre de Monique Jean, une compositeure, comme on dit au Canada, qui mêle souvent musique et art vidéo et a réalisé des murs de haut-parleur qui incitent à écouter la musique comme l’on regarde une sculpture. low memory #2 que nous allons maintenant entendre a été composé pour flûte picolo et bandes à quatre pistes. À l’entendre, on a parfois le sentiment d’être comme devant la coupe d’un son que le compositeur nous ferait voir au travers d’un microscope.

Louis Dufort, un des compositeurs les plus prometteurs de cette génération, paraît plus tenté que d’autres parce que l’on pourrait appeler la musique pure en opposition à ce cinéma de l’oreille pratiqué par beaucoup de ses collègues. Zénith, une œuvre écrite en 1999, rappelle, par certains cotés, les musiques expressionnistes du début du 20e siècle.

Spleen est également composé à partir de voix, il s’agit de quatre voix adolescentes et le projet du compositeur était de décrire cet état de mélancolie propre à l’adolescence. Ce goût de la voix, du texte n’est pas propre à Robert Normandeau. On le retrouve chez beaucoup des musiciens de cette école de Montréal. Chez Francis Dhomont, bien sûr, mais aussi chez Gilles Gobeil. Normandeau, Gobeil appartiennent à la génération de ces compositeurs qui ont été formés par Francis Dhomont et ses collègues: il y a, de fait, chez tous ces musiciens de l’école de Montréal, un goût de l’éclectisme qu’on ne retrouve pas forcément chez leurs collègues et, notamment français, souvent formés dans un cadre plus académique.

… on a parfois le sentiment d’être comme devant la coupe d’un son que le compositeur nous ferait voir au travers d’un microscope.

Electroacoustics, the Quebecois Way

François Couture,, Monday, March 22, 2004

The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, right? Wrong — at least when it comes to electroacoustics, the beautiful province of Quebec compares very well to any other region of the world. Call me chauvinistic, I don’t care: Quebec is home to several composers of tremendous talent and influential professors.

My goal is not to turn this article in an analytical essay, but, as a music reviewer and unstoppable listener, I am convinced that there is such a thing as Québécois electroacoustics. Despite the stylistic variety among our composers, I detect a Québécois “sound,” something that sounds to me neither British nor French or German; something that calls to me and speaks to me in a language more immediate and easier to understand.

This “unity in diversity” is probably, at least in part, due to the lasting influence of a small number of key composers whose academic teachings have shaped our younger generations. I am thinking first and foremost of Francis Dhomont and Yves Daoust. So let’s begin this sound path with a Frenchman so Québécois at heart that he was awarded a prestigious Career Grant from the Conseil des arts et lettres du Québec. I can sincerely recommend all of Dhomont’s albums: his graceful writing, his narrative flair and his intelligence turn any of his works into fascinating gems. I have often publicly expressed my admiration for Forêt profonde (including in my first Sound Path, so I will skip it this time), but Sous le regard d’un soleil noir, his first large-scale work, remains an international classic of electroacoustic music, and his more recent Cycle du son shows how close to perfection his art has grown — the piece AvatArsSon in particular, my first pick for this Sound Path.

If Dhomont’s music is often constructed following large theoretical, literary and sociological themes, Yves Daoust’s works lean more toward poetry and the anecdote. Most of his pieces betray his respect for the abstractionist ideals of the French school, but his seemingly naive themes (water, crowds, a Chopin Fantasia or a childhood memory) empower his music with an unusual force of evocation. His latest album, Bruits, also displays a willingness to grow and learn. One is tempted to hear the influence of his more electronica-savvy students in the startling title triptych.

To those two pillars of Quebec electroacoustics, I must add the names of Robert Normandeau and Gilles Gobeil. Normandeau is a very good example of what I consider to be the “typical” Québécois sound: a certain conservatism in the plasticity of sounds (the result of the combined influence of the British and French schools); great originality in their use; and an uncanny intelligence in the discourse which, even though it soars into academic thought, doesn’t rob the listener of his or her pleasure. My favorite album remains Figures, in part because of the beautiful piece Le Renard et la Rose, inspired by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s novel Le Petit Prince – and also because of Venture, a tribute to the Golden Age of progressive rock (a pet peeve I share with the composer, might I add). As for Gobeil’s music, it is the wildness of wilderness, the turmoil of human passions, the sudden gestures, the copious splashes of sonic matter thrown all around. If La mécanique des ruptures remains an essential listen, his most recent album Le contrat, a collaboration with guitarist René Lussier, stands as his most accomplished (and thrilling!) work to date.

These four composers may represent the crème de la crème of academic circles, but empreintes DIGITALes’ catalog counts numerous young composers and artists whose work deeply renew the vocabulary of their older colleagues.

I would like to mention Fractures, the just released debut album by Christian Bouchard. His fragmented approach seems to draw as much from academic electroacoustics as from experimental electronica. Thanks to some feverish editing and dizzying fragmentation, Parcelles 1 and Parcelles 2 evoke avant-garde digital video art. I also heartily recommend Louis Dufort’s album Connexions, which blends academic and noise approaches. His stunning piece Zénith features treatments of samples of Luc Lemay’s voice (singer with the death-metal group Gorguts). I am also quite fond of Marc Tremblay’s rather coarse sense of humor. On his CD Bruit-graffiti he often relies on pop culture (from The Beatles to children’s TV shows). His piece Cowboy Fiction, a “western for the ear” attempting to reshape the American dream, brings this Sound Path to a quirky end.

Serious or facetious, abstract or evocative, Québécois electroacoustic music has earned a place in the hearts of avant-garde music lovers everywhere. Now it is your turn to explore its many paths.

Québécois electroacoustic music has earned a place in the hearts of avant-garde music lovers everywhere…

Introduction(s) to the Delights of Electroacoustic Music

François Couture,, Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Electroacoustic music is an acquired taste. Like it or not, radio and television have conditioned us from an early age into accepting some musical (tonal and rhythmical) molds as being “normal.” Therefore, electroacoustics, along with other sound-based (in opposition to note-based) forms of musical expression like free improvisation, is perceived as being “abnormal.” That’s why a first exposure to this kind of music often turns into a memorable experience — for better or worse. Many factors come into play, but choosing an album that offers an adequate (i.e. friendly and gentle) introduction to the genre will greatly help in letting the initial esthetic shock turn into an experience of Beauty and mark the beginning of a new adventure in sound.

My goal with this sound path is simply to point out a few titles that I think have the potential to encourage instead of discourage, titles opening a door to a new musical dimension. Of course, this selection can only be subjective. But it might be helpful to new enthusiasts and to aficionados looking for gift ideas that would spread good music around. After all, Christmas is only a few weeks away!


We usually develop new interests from existing interests. What I mean is: we explore music genres that are new to us because a related interest brought us there. That’s why when it comes to electroacoustic music, mixed works (for tape and instrument) or works related to specific topics are often the best place to find a bridge that will gently lead the listener into the new territory. For example, people who enjoy reading travel literature will find in Kristoff K.Roll’s Corazón Road the sublimated narrative of a journey through Central America. Those still young enough to enjoy fairy tales (I’m one of them) will find in Francis Dhomont’s Forêt profonde an in-depth reflection on this literary genre as inspired by the works of psychoanalyst Bruno Bettelheim, in the form of a captivating work with multiple narratives (in many languages) and electroacoustic music of a great evocative strength. Lighter and more fanciful, Libellune by Roxanne Turcotte finds its source in childlike imagination and is in part aimed at children without over-simplifying its artistic process.

Guitar fans can turn to Parr(A)cousmatique, a wonderful project for which classical guitarist Arturo Parra co-wrote pieces with some of Quebec’s best electroacoustic composers: Stéphane Roy, Francis Dhomont (Quebecer at heart, at the very least), Robert Normandeau, and Gilles Gobeil. The latter has just released an album-long piece, Le contrat, written with and featuring avant-garde guitarist René Lussier. Lussier’s followers and people interested in Goethe’s play Faust (and its rich heritage) will find here an essential point of convergence, another bridge.

Essential listens

Those who want to explore further will probably want to venture into more abstract electroacoustic art. I recommend starting with the Quebec composers. Chauvinism? No way. It’s just that the music of composers like Dhomont, Normandeau, Gobeil, Yves Daoust, or Yves Beaupré seems to me to be more accessible than the music of British or French composers. It is more immediate, has a stronger impact (Gobeil, usually hitting hard), a more pleasant form of lyricism (Daoust, Beaupré), more welcoming architectures and themes (Dhomont, Normandeau). If you need places to start, try Normandeau’s Figures, Gobeil’s La mécanique des ruptures, Dhomont’s Cycle du son, and Beaupré’s Humeur de facteur.

That being said, there are hours upon hours of beauty and fascination to be found in the works of Michel Chion (his powerful Requiem), Bernard Parmegiani (La création du monde), Jonty Harrsison (Articles indéfinis), Denis Smalley (Sources/Scènes), and Natasha Barrett (Isostasie), but they may seem more difficult or thankless on first listen. And for those interested in where these music come from, the EMF label offers L’œuvre musicale, the complete works of Pierre Schaeffer, the father of musique concrète and grandfather of electroacoustics.

Tiny ideas

A compilation album has the advantage of offering a large selection of artists and esthetics in a small, affordable format. Available at a budget price, eXcitations proposes a strong sampler of the productions on the label empreintes DIGITALes. The albums Electro clips and Miniatures concrètes, along with the brand new volume of the DISContact! series, cull short pieces (often under three minutes) to trigger interrogations and discoveries in those with a short attention span.

And finally, for those of you who want to take their time and explore in short steps, the Cinéma pour l’oreille collection produced by the French label Métamkine contains many wonderful 3" CDs, 20 minutes in duration each, for a reduced price. The catalog includes titles by renown composers such as Michel Chion, Lionel Marchetti, Michèle Bokanowski, Bernhard Günter, and Éliane Radigue. These tiny albums are perfect for gift exchanges.

Of course, all of the above are only recommendations. The best sound path to discovery is the one you follow by yourself, little by little.

Best listens!


Ingvar Loco Nordin, Sonoloco Record Reviews, Monday, October 29, 2001

When you peer into the electroacoustic antecedents of Gilles Gobeil you encounter the names of well-known as well as more obscure organizations throughout the genre which have all rendered him awards; Biennal Acousmatic Composition Competition (Belgium), International Electroacoustic Music Contest (Brazil), Ciber@rt (Spain), Bourges International Electroacoustic Music Competition (France), Stockholm Electronic Arts Award (Sweden), Ars Electronica (Austria), Luigi Russolo International Competition (Italy), Newcomp Computer Music Competition (USA), Brock University Tape Music Competition (Canada) and so on and so forth. Impressing! Undoubtedly, this wizard of the electronics, spinning all around his hat, is amply worthy of all this havoc, because he is one of the most talented and sensitive jugglers of sounds we’ve heard.

His new CD is one of a batch of new issues from the prolific empreintes DIGITALes of Canada, wherein we can monitor the present vibrancy out of his creative act. The works presented were conceived between 1995 and 2001, so we are provided with new music, which is always very interesting, since all acts of creativity, throughout the arts, are mirrors of our present day life and the position and state of humanity and affairs of the moment! The similarity between visiting a modern arts gallery down the street and listening to a new CD with electroacoustics is striking. It is often about shapes, shadings, light, movements, contours – and… associations. The richer one’s own scope of references and the wider our frames of reference, the richer and more rewarding our experiences of art. That experience, in its more evolved stages, doesn’t come for free. It takes initial time and effort, but as Pete Seeger once sang in a song called Maple Syrup Time: “Everything worthwhile takes a little time”. The electroacoustic village is pretty sparsely populated, even though worldwide – interconnecting through the Internet – we’re a growing bunch. For the newcomer it’s all about finding a way into the soundscape, and it might be all too easy for someone completely unaware of the electroacoustic goings-on to just bump off the surface, on hearing these weird sounds… However, in later years there seems to have been an up-surge of the idiom, hopefully indicating a wider public interest too, and an uncanny assortment of very good electroacoustic releases have helped pave the way. empreintes DIGITALes constitutes one of the main outlets of high quality sound art, and this CD by Gilles Gobeil is no exception.

Derrière la porte la plus éloignée… (“Behind the Remotest Door…”) (1998) presents a few images from a journey through Italy. A deep murmur opens the piece, harboring sounds as of a deep, slow breath. Jingle jangle wrenchings are inhaled, exhaled, as if you were deep inside the belly of the monster, or maybe hid away on an old wooden bench in a dark corner of a cathedral or age-old church… The liberating sound of running, trickling water refreshes for a while… but suddenly the echo of the sounds indicates a much smaller space, and you hurry in flight down stinking sewers. A sound as of an elevator maybe means that you’re reaching safety, but an enormous, dense factory wall of noise holds you back… A richness of timbre and of millions of grains of sound suddenly halts, as a distant propeller airplane sound is detected from a distance, in the sudden silence. Once again the sounds hit head on, like someone just pushed a button or pulled a lever, but then again this music could be an illustration to the travels after death, through the bewildering landscapes of Karma that are described in the Tibetan Book of the Dead… so just aim for the Light, and fear not these grim faces staring at you from the walls, these murky hands reaching out at you from the slimy corners, because they’re just remnants of bad deeds, manifestations of ill thoughts… so hold on to the best within yourself and aim fearlessly ahead…

Projet Proust (1995, 2001) is “a personal reading” of the first pages of Du côté de chez Swann (“Swann’s Way”) (1913) by Marcel Proust. The narrator is Marc Béland. In a classical electroacoustic manner, the voice of the narrator is heard as from inside soothing spheres of bliss, whereas the sound web in which those spheres of French morphemes are expressed is ominous, spatial, dark, threatening, as from a furnace of destruction or the core of energy on the verge of exploding into a supernova of the intellect, spreading your desperate identity in a dissipation of fragmented thoughts and remnants of words throughout the abyss within… Like in the first piece on the CD the sounds at times start behaving in an inhaling/exhaling manner, indicating Time through Breath, Life through moving Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide. Chanting of angelic choruses are hallucinated through the whining of bee swarm timbres and the occasional occurrences of grinding machines in a large, smoky hall of a steelworks on the Baltic coast, into which diagonal rays of sunlight through semi-transparent windows on high cut through the rising smoke and hovering dust of iron particles, producing rhombs and squares of light on the dirty brick walls and the littered floor, and on the hell-like machinery of industrialization… Minuscule binary progressions of grains of sand wisp back and forth in the panning of the artisan’s tools, as cut up blisters of cries and hollers are ground down to oblivion, until one short second of a real-life scream plummets into water and relative silence… and the softness of speech continues… Nocturnal atmospheres are introduced, from silent Mediterranean nights of dark heat, wherein insects talk to themselves… but is this also a regression of evolution, back to dinosaur pastures of plenty, where the grass is green and where the giants of the earth rule…? … because I hear growlings of primeval forests and plains… or is it just the Unconscious in fast reverse, down the branchery of evolution inside the halls of mirrors of my mind…?

Point de passage (“Crossing Point”) (1997) is, says Gobeil, “a free adaptation of ‘The Time Machine’ (1895) by HG Wells (1866–1946)”. It begins in a furious speed, accelerating in volume, but dissipates into – once again – a “breathing” state of relative silence… Anyone who has read the book by Wells knows and remembers the story, so this is supposed, then, to be programmatic music, re-enacting the story of the British scientist who invented a time machine and went to a distant future - 800 000 years ahead! - where humanity was divided into a naïve and innocent breed (the Eloi) living on the surface of the planet like we do, and a dark, evil and intelligent breed (the Morlochs) residing beneath the ground, in tunnels and halls deep inside the earth, appearing on the surface only to abduct the fair and gentle ones, tearing them apart for the sake of their flesh. Of course, the plot is inspired by the findings of Sigmund Freud and his concept of the Subconscious and the Unconscious, and particularly the sexual and creative implications for the individual, who has to balance the surge and might of millions of years of evolution – tucked away in his unconscious – on a razor’s edge of civil varnish.

There is a lot of movement in this piece; rushing sounds as from haywire subway trains, and I can feel the cold steel of the evil subterraneans’ machinery, and the smell of oil and fuel… A cold rain is falling over the steel dome into which the scientist has pulled his time machine… These sounds from Gobeil’s fantasy are immensely lonely, as from a god who has given up his supremacy… A slow breath, on the verge of snoring, pictures this god asleep in his loneliness.

Nuit cendre (1995) is the last piece. Again Gilles Gobeil has turned to a classical science fiction novel; Voyage a centre de la terre (“A Journey to the Center of the Earth”) (1864) by Jules Verne (1828–1905), the originator of modern science fiction. Initial sounds are abrupt indeed, but soon you are taken into watery, descending swoops of motion, apparently inside some hollow place or craft, and the grinding force of a landslide or dark matter being shoved aside grows into a relentless noise of lithophonic qualities. Lighter metallic rings of timbres sooth for a while… Unusually withheld nuances of sound lurk in the crevasses of the passage… There is an ominous apprehension inside this music… and the tubular rhythms of machinery once again grows in intensity, albeit in softer, brownish timbres of clay and wet slices of soil, seeping down the outside of your listening sphere like venomous honey… It is undoubtedly a crude environment, dark with clay, granite and bedrock strata. The music moves in this environment with diamond edge and boring vibrations… but the sounds of air through vents or steam through pipes transform the event into a softer impression, and suddenly it feels as though the space opens up, perhaps into a giant subterranean hall, so large and extended that you cannot see the roof up there in the dark, even though you point your torchlight upwards… and then you see it; a low-intensity, bluish light that sort of hovers inside the giant subterranean cathedral… Later on sounds of what appears to be thousands of winged creatures flapping about – maybe giant bats – sends fear down your spine, or are these sounds the stumbling feet of shadowy beings skipping towards you in your vulnerability, towards the core of the planet…?

… one of the most talented and sensitive jugglers of sounds we’ve heard.


François Couture, All-Music Guide, Saturday, September 1, 2001

Canadian electroacoustician Gilles Gobeil is one of the important composers associated with the Montréal label empreintes DIGITALes. His works show an obsession with machines and extreme sonic textures: delicate soundscapes blown to smithereens by the thunderous “bang!” of a door slamming shut. Not as prolific as labelmates Robert Normandeau and Yves Daoust, he has nonetheless a more personal style.

Born in Sorel (Québec, Canada) in 1954, Gobeil studied music at the Université de Montréal where he earned an M.A. in composition in 1986. He was selected for residencies at the Groupe de musique électroacoustique de Bourges (France, 1991), the GRM (France, 1993), and the Banff Centre for Arts (Canada, 1993 and 1995). He has won prizes at many international competitions, including Ars Electronica and Bourges. In the late 1990s he co-founded Réseaux, a Montréal-based organization dedicated to promote electroacoustic music concerts. His first CD, La mécanique des ruptures, was released in 1994 by empreintes DIGITALes. The composer’s style was immediately recognizable: industrial sounds, ample gestures, violent contrasts. A second CD, … dans le silence de la nuit…, came out in 2001.

His works show an obsession with machines and extreme sonic textures…

Spectro-morphological Structuring Process in Gilles Gobeil’s “Le Vertige Inconnu”

Joseph Harchanko, SEAMUS Journal, no. 16:2, Saturday, September 1, 2001


Gilles Gobeil’s 1992 composition Le vertige inconnu has quickly gained a reputation as a masterpiece of electroacoustic music due to its explosively dynamic and expressive structural direction.

The purpose of this analysis is to explain the perceived integrity of a work that continues to achieve a positive consensus among composers, students, and audiences, or what Smalley refers to as a “consensus about the efficacy or failure of particular musical works, thus indicating an instinctive evaluation of the newer spectro-morphological values.” [Denis Smalley, Spectro-morphology and Structuring Process from The Language of Electroacoustic Music, ed. Simon Emmerson; Hardwood Academic Publishers: New York, 1986: 63.] Its expressive shape denotes an underlying structural cohesiveness transcending the mimetic qualities of its source material. The consensus on this piece points largely to structuring principles wholly independent of the concrete meaning of the subways, crickets, and other noises within this work. Instead, abstracted shapes work to create a sense of direction wholly independent of any associative meaning created by the sounding objects themselves. Spectro-morphology is by no means the only method of analysis for electroacoustic works; however, it is a means of describing the processes of the sounds themselves. In other words, spectro-morphology is the language of non-mimetic material, or at least the non-mimetic aspect of sonic material. Therefore, spectro-morphology requires disassociative listening - divorcing oneself from any external context, social or linguistic, presented by the sounding objects themselves.

This analysis makes use of spectrographs to document the sounding energy of Le vertige inconnu. In these spectrographs, the Y-axis represents frequency bands, the X-axis represents time, and the color intensity represents relative energy within the frequency band. Our perception of sound is inescapably linked to our familiarity with physical gesture. The listener associates high-energy sound with high kinetic energy causation. The morphology of a sound is concerned with the onset of sound, either by physical or electronic means, and its motion towards the termination of the sound. The attack-decay archetype is a common physical model as it suggests a strong kinetic causation and the gradual diminishment of energy towards termination.

Below is a spectrograph of a basic attack-decay gesture:

Attack-decay Archetype

This image from 58 second into Le vertige inconnu represents the primary structural motive of the work. As the gesture moves towards termination, the high frequencies diminish in energy more quickly, moving the attention towards the sound’s low frequencies, thus creating a descending attack-decay gesture. By contrast, the next image is of a reversed attack-decay gesture. Its onset is less causative in the morphology of the sound and its motion towards termination is through an increase in spectral energy:

Attack-decay Archetype

The morphologies that exist within a sound are reflected on various structural levels of the composition. The generative role of the onset, the motion towards termination or a new onset, and the presence of sustain portions of the sound, or continuants, occur at the lowest structural level. Likewise, larger structures will move away from the generative onset gestures towards terminating gestures. As textural-carried material is concerned with internal motion and not with external goals, it presents the higher-level corollary of the continuant. At the highest structural level, texture and gesture work as a dynamic dichotomy, reflecting similar motion patterns found at lower structural levels.

Spectral Overview

The perception of sectional structuring is very common even among first time listeners in beginning electronic music classes. The work has been divided into five sections for this analysis. The dividing marks have been placed at the following times: Section A (0:00 – 1:46), Section B (1:47 – 3:10), Section C (3:13 - 4:27), Section D (4:37 – 6:37), and Section E (6:57 – 8:20).

Section A

A reverse attack-decay gesture opens the work, functioning as an anacrusis to the first descending attack-decay gesture. The opening gesture is extended from 2 to 5 seconds by several descending gestures (visible in the spectrograph below) before a second decisive descending attack-decay gesture signals the termination of the first gestural area. While the tessitura of the terminating gesture remains constant, the faster decay of the high frequencies creates a prolongation of the descending gesture, preparing the listener for the first texture-carried subsection.

Gesture-carried Subsection - 0:00 to 0:15

The first texture-carried area is delineated by the primary descending attack-decay motive, acting as an onset to the subsection. The main textural area consists primarily of mechanical iterations. A great deal of motion is visible in the spectrograph, but it is motion without direction. The attack-decay gesture terminating the texture-carried area is weaker than those heard previously. Thus the texture continues beyond the gesture until a second descending attack-decay gesture brings the subsection to a more decisive close. The terminating gesture itself exhibits the same construction as the higher structural levels, as illustrated below:

First Texture-carried Area - 0:16 to 0:34

One of the curiosities of this composition is the collection of disparate sounding sources, particularly the presence of both naturally and mechanically produced sounds. In examining the second textural subsection, however, one discovers the morphological connection between the sounding sources. Textural areas throughout the work are dominated by repeated iterations – short periodic sounds without gestural direction. The second textural subsection consists primarily of insect noises sounding over a rooted pitch-space. However, a need for termination develops as the rooted pitch-space begins to climb in tessitura. It cannot continue indefinitely and therefore tension is created, transforming the texture-carried material into gesture-carried material. The gestural nature is reinforced both by tessitura and with an increase in aggregate spectral energy as the sounding objects increase in amplitude. A third sounding object is introduced between the frequencies previously occupied, complimenting the frequency spectrum to produce maximum effect. At 55 seconds the continuant stops with an interrupting gesture, clearly different than the preceding sounds due to its complimentary pitch-space. However, the terminating function is inconclusive since the gesture lacks the descending morphology of the primary onset/termination motive.

End of Second Texture-carried Area - 0:41 - 0:57

The tension created by the ambiguity of this gesture is increased by the silence that follows. At 58 seconds the interrupting gesture is repeated, followed by a strong descending attack-decay gesture, bringing the subsection to a decided close. Within the first minute of Le vertige inconnu, Gobeil has established a functional spectro-morphological vocabulary so effectively that it can play upon expectations to create deceptive terminating gestures used to prolong the structural areas.

0:51 - 1:03

The third texture-carried area contains a similar structural process to the first texture-carried subsection. An increase in spectral density creates motion away from the texture-carried continuant towards termination. A descending attack-decay gesture at 1:32 anticipates the final build towards termination. However, the gesture at 1:37 lacks the terminating spectral energy to bring the section to a close. It is followed by a return of the mechanical iterations, which function as a textural prolongation. The final terminating gesture is a strong descending attack-decay gesture, prepared sufficiently though the prolongation of the terminating gestures to act as a final decisive termination to Section A.

End of Section A - 1:31 - 1:46

Section A contains four subsections. The opening gesture-carried subsection serves to introduce the primary descending attack-decay motive. The following texture-carried subsection presents three important concepts: periodic iterations as texture-carried material, sectional prolongation by an interrupting motive, and the transformation from texture-carried material to gesture-carried material through the use of increasing spectral energy. The third subsection presents the ambiguity of the relationship between the sounding sources, which is to be addressed later in the composition. The fourth subsection serves to bring the section to a close by repeating the ideas of increasing spectral density and textural prolongation. Section A is summarized below:

Section A - 0:00 to 1:46

Section B

Section B provides a contrast to the more gesture dominated section A. The gestures within section B fail to give a sense of direction and therefore function as what Smalley terms “texture-framing.” [Ibid: 84]. An increase of spectral energy from 2:35 to 2:50 provides the first sense of gestural motion in Section B. However, the morphology of the terminating gesture is an upward motion in spectral energy and lacks the decisiveness of the primary motive.

The following subsection appears as a different sounding environment through the use of reverb and resonance. Also significant to this subsection is the strong presence of harmonic frequency spectra, contrasting with the inharmonic spectra that dominate most of the work. This transition to the second subsection of B is shown below. The resolution and color are varied to better highlight the harmonic spectra.

Iterations from another source, perhaps a flute or an air brake, are mixed with the more harmonic iterations. Like previous textural areas, the continuant moves towards termination through increasing spectral density. Underscoring the importance of the principle motive, one can now intuitively hear how the final descending attack-decay gesture fulfils the terminative function that the upward gesture, bisecting this section, could not.

Section B - 1:47 to 3:10

Section C

Whereas section B is marked by a lack of gestural direction, section C brings back the mechanical iterations with an increase in gestural direction. This forceful motion is interrupted by the descending attack-decay gesture and is followed by a return of the high-frequency iterations from section B. Another descending attack-decay gesture acts as the onset to a slow textural build, as previously heard in section A. As in previous instances, the strong gestural activity of this section cannot be easily concluded with a single gesture. For this reason, the textural section at 4:14 is heard as an extension of section C. This section is decisively concluded at 4:24 with the descending attack-decay gesture, indicating the onset of Section D.

Section C - 3:13 to 4:27

Section D

Like section C, section D serves to further develop both previously heard sounds and structuring principles. The textural iteration motif from section A returns in section D. The spectro-morphological connection between the mechanical sounds and insect sounds was presented in section A when they were introduced in consecutive textural subsections. Now Gobeil’s brings the spectro-morphological connection of these disparate sound sources into high relief. As seen below, the insect iterations and mechanical iteration are neatly aligned, demonstrating to the listener their morphological similarity.

The role of the iterations is no longer textural. As they increase in amplitude they lead towards termination or a new onset. Their alignment serves not only to demonstrate their structural similarity, but also to increase the gestural direction. Their ultimate termination in the descending attack-decay archetype is strengthened by the careful alignment of this motive to the tempo of the iterations.

A second subsection of D is reminiscent of the slow textural build heard in section A. However, this motive is now combined with the sort of interrupting gesture heard in section A (0:55). Instead of being immediately followed by the concluding gesture, the gradual build starts again after the interruption, increasing the tension as the sectional termination is further postponed. Strong gestural activity terminates this build and acts as an onset to the return of the iterations, now in their new gestural role. The iterations move the listener to the climax of the work at 6:45, the strongest descending attack-decay gesture yet heard.

Section D, although containing previously heard material, is unprecedented in gestural activity. The direction towards termination never wavers as interruptions only serve to heighten the tension. Just as the interruption of the middle subsection at 5:30 serves to prolong the tension, the middle subsection itself acts as an interruption of the gestural iteration motive which dominates this section. The material presented in the opening of this work has been transformed into the primary engine of structural motion towards the work’s ultimate goal.

Section D - 4:37 to 6:57

Section E

The need for preparation and balance before termination demonstrated in the individual sections and subsections of the work can also be found at the highest structural level of the work as a whole. The sudden conclusion of this piece at 6:45 would be anticlimactic. Therefore, the final section presents a simple structural idea that is consistent throughout the work: decisive termination through prolongation. Section E contains three subsections, each growing towards termination with a slow spectral build. The second subsection termination is less decisive than the first, leaving room for the ultimately decisive termination at the end of the work.

Section E - 6:57 to 8:20


The continuity of this work is based on repeated and varied use of similar material: long increases in spectral energy, repeated iterations of both insect and mechanical origin which are used both texturally and gesturally, sectional interruptions and prolongations, and strong descending attack-decay gestures used to delineate structural sections. Morphological ideas are clearly working at all structural levels: the shape of the sounds, how those sounds are combined to create larger gestures and sections, and the overall structure of the sections through the entire work. The first section acts as a large structural onset, the second as the start of the continuant phase, with sections C and D leading upwards in energy to the climax at the end of section D. Section E works as a prolongation of the terminating gesture used to round off the work. The structural principles of textural continuant transforming into gesture through spectral building with interruptions to heighten the sense of direction, and the use of prolongations to round them out occur simultaneously throughout the structural levels. On the highest level, the relationship between onset, interruption (I), termination (T) and prolongation are summarized below.

Spectral Overview

As stated previously, spectro-morphology describes but one aspect of a composition. Elements such as space and the meaning and contextualization of sounding sources may provide still deeper and richer insights into this work. However, spectro-morphology is the language of sonic experience. Masterworks of western music have traditionally been considered those works demonstrating skillful mastery of their fundamental materials, be they pitch/rhythm motifs or spectro-morphological motifs. Further, the development of these constructive materials into large-scale formal structures reflected on various structural levels is also a hallmark of craftsmanship. Finally, as Smalley emphasizes, the efficacy of a work is dependant on the listener’s experience. Gobeil’s careful attention to detail provides a dramatically linear work whose meaning deepens on subsequent hearings, a crucial trait for success in the fixed world of tape music. Careful study of the structuring principles of such a work provides a useful compositional model, connecting accousmatic music, “the rightful heir to western music” [Ibid: 61], to its roots.

… a masterpiece of electroacoustic music due to its explosively dynamic and expressive structural direction.

Gilles Gobeil, cofondateur du festival de musique Rien à voir

Dominique Olivier, SOCAN, Paroles & Musique, no. 4:10, Saturday, November 1, 1997

Le festival de musique électroacoustique Rien à voir en est à sa seconde édition. Pendant cinq jours, du 12 au 16 novembre, au Théâtre La Chapelle à Montréal, les amateurs d’électro et les autres pourront se plonger dans un bain de musique, entourés par un veritable orchestre de haut-parleurs. Un des trois co-fondateurs de l’évenement, le compositeur Gilles Gobeil, a été très surpris de l’accueil qu’a reçu la première édition en février dernier. «On a fait salle comble, et on s’est rendu compte qu’on ne s’était pas trompé. Il y a un public, une demande pour ce genre de musique-là. Pour nous, ça a été très important.»

Cette seconde édition permettra au public montréalais d’entendre et même de voir quelques uns des meilleurs compositeurs électroacoustiques au monde. Rien à voir recevra également le compositeur québécois Ned Bouhalassa pour un concert Carte blanche.

Le concert d’ouverture du festival sera sur le même modèle que l’an dernier puisqu’il présente des œuvres des trois fondateurs, Jean-François Denis, Robert Normandeau et Gobeil. Ce dernier diffusera sa pièce Point de passage, créée en mai dernier lors d’un concert de l’Association pour la création et la recherche électroacoustiques du Québec (ACREQ).

Professeur en technique du son au Cégep de Drummondville, Gobeil est une personnalité discrète. Perfectionniste acharné, il remet sans cesse sur le métier son ouvrage. «Je préfère produire peu et être satisfait du résultat», confie-t-il. Adversaire de la technologie à outrance, ce poète des sons considère qu’il y a un danger à se laisser accaparer par une «machinerie» en constante évolution. «C’est comme un labyrinthe dans lequel on peut facilement perdre son temps et son énergie. Ce qu’il faut, c’est savoir bien manipuler les outils pour passer le plus vite possible à l’acte de création.» Dernièrement, le compositeur remportait le Premier Prix et le Prix du public au Concours international de musique électroacoustique de Sao Paulo, au Brésil, avec sa piece Nuit cendre. L’œuvre sera présentée en avril prochain aux Journées mondiales de la musique 1998, à Manchester, en Angleterre.

Ces temps-ci, Gilles Gobeil travaille sur deux pièces électroacoustiques qui seront prêtes dans le cours de l’année 1998. La première est une commande du guitariste Arturo Parra et sera pour bande seule avec adjonction de gestes de guitare. La seconde, pour bande et ondes Martenot, sera créée par l’ondiste Suzanne Binet-Audet en octobre 1998, lors de la Semaine internationale des ondes Martenot, organisée par l’Ensemble d’ondes de Montréal à l’occasion du 100e anniversaire de naissance de Maurice Martenot et du 70e anniversaire de l’invention de son instrument.

Concert Briefs

SOCAN, Words & Music, Monday, September 1, 1997

Gilles Gobeil has won the Premier prix and Prix du public in the second International Electroacoustic Music Competition of São Paulo, Brazil, for his work Nuit cendre. The work has also been chosen by an international jury for participation in World Music Days 1998, scheduled for next April in Manchester, UK.

Gilles Gobeil has won the Premier prix and Prix du public…

En concert

SOCAN, Paroles & Musique, Monday, September 1, 1997

Gilles Gobeil a récemment reçu le Premier prix et le Prix du public au 2e Concours international de musique électroacoustique de São Paulo, au Brésil, grâce àa sa pièce Nuit cendre. Cette œuvre a également été retenue par le jury international pour participer aux Journées mondiales de la musique 1998 qui auront lieu à Manchester, en Angleterre, en avril prochain.

Gilles Gobeil a récemment reçu le Premier prix et le Prix du public…

Refaire le monde

Mario Cloutier, Le Devoir, Saturday, September 16, 1995

[…]Gilles Gobeil pourrait sans doute dire la même chose de ses créations électroacoustiques. La poésie, voilà ce qui l’habite. Détourner, dire de façon différente, tel est son credo. «La musique électroacoustique, contrairement à celle du nouvel-âge qui flirte avec le tempérament, s’éloigne du rythme et de la mélodie.»

Maître ès composition de l’université de Montréal, lauréat de nombreux concours nationaux et internationaux et boursicr maintes fois reconnu, Gilles Gobeil vit une carrière à l’image de sa musique. Rien à voir, tout à entendre. Le spectacle sera donc pour l’oreille lors de la présentation de sa pièce de 8 minutes, Le vertige de l’inconnu, qui a nécessité trois mois de travail, lors du concert de jeudi prochain à la 5e salle de la PdA.

«Mon travail s’apparente à celui des tailleurs de pierre du Moyen Age qui consistait à explorer et évaluer le comportement des matériaux au voisinage de la rupture. Il privilégie les formes nettes, fortes et tranchées, les mouvements d’alternances et les jeux marqués de tensions et de détentes.»[…]


Laurie Radford, Contact!, no. 9:1, Friday, September 1, 1995

Winner of this past year’s Stockholm Electronic Arts Award and of numerous other international and national prizes over the past decade, Gilles Gobeil has established his refined and singular approach to electroacoustic composition with a growing series of works. This 1994 CD from empreintes DIGITALes brings together eight of his works from the past decade.

The disc begins with Gobeil’s most successful work to date, Le vertige inconnu (1993), a work that in a sense summarizes the composer’s preoccupations found in varying degrees of evolution in the other works on the disc. He uses visceral sound materials that are drawn from machines, industry and the urban environment; fine attention to structural detail where abrupt, screaming sequences of grinding and whining metal are juxtaposed with the relative repose of whirring gears, hissing steam and rich, throbbing drones; and new spatial environments where these industrial voices are given shape, size, and speed as they collide and combine in ever-new trajectories and textures. Le vertige inconnu is severe, and of a beautiful purity of design and balance of form and material.

Two works on the disc, Voix blanche (1988-89) and Là où vont les nuages… (1990-91), utilize the ondes Martenot in combination with tape and additional sources of sound generation and processing via MIDI (in the case of the Là où vont les nuages…). The ondes is not so much a soloist in these works but rather an equal sonic source contributing to and complementing the materials of the tape part with its crystalline, supple and haunting voice emerging from complex gestural and timbral constructs. It only predominates, like a sole survivor, in the ghostly interludes that hover softly between the main phrases of friction, collision and impending climactic punctuation.

La ville machine (1992), “an electroacoustic drama on the subject of sound ecology”, is the heart of the disc both by its duration and its breadth of expression. There is an unflagging tension between breathless voices sharing images, nightmares, a mission fraught with confusion and apprehension, immersed in an environment constantly shifting from grotesque urban punctuations to collages of human activity, the seashore, the street, the playground… and the hopeful words of children. There is an urgency to the work and its contents, unsettling, yet optimistic in its unabashed confrontation and its embrace of the very source of the destruction it alludes to: the mechanized city.

Rivage (1986) is perhaps the most blatantly visceral of the works presented here. It clearly reveals Gobeil’s early preoccupation with industrial sound materials and formal structures driven forward by the very weight of the sounds they contain. It features a more prominent use of fabricated materials in combination with environmental sources than the later works, but already maintains a darkly pensive character that finds its way into most of the later works.

The earliest work presented on La mécanique des ruptures, Traces (1985) reveals, like Rivage, the seeds of Gobeil’s gestural and structural preoccupations: the contrast between highly charged textures and large, quivering spaces inhabited by delicate shimmers of sound and the chirping of natural environments.

The reverse chronological order of the works on the disc takes us from concision and refinement back to a time of searching and discovery. Try reprogramming your CD player and follow the composer’s original journey!

… the disc takes us from concision and refinement back to a time of searching and discovery. Try reprogramming your CD player and follow the composer’s original journey!

Canada’s Electroacoustic Success Story

Daniel Feist, SOCAN, Words & Music, no. 2:7, Saturday, July 1, 1995

Canada is famous for hockey, the Rockies and sockeye salmon, medical research and film animation, even space age technology. There is reason to be proud.

But could you have guessed we lead the way in electroacoustic music? Odds are, most Canadians don’t even know what it is.

Yet Francis Dhomont, Robert Normandeau and Gilles Gobeil from Quebec, Barry Truax and Paul Dolden from Vancouver, and Toronto’s Bruno Degazio are counted among a growing number of internationally acclaimed Canadian electroacoustic composers.

“Canada occupies a unique place in the area of electroacoustics,” says Toronto composer Al Mattes. “You just have to see who wins the major prizes each year at Bourges in France and other important events. Canadians are always up there near the top.”

Mattes, who co-founded Toronto’s avant-garde Music Gallery two decades ago, is current president of the Canadian Electroacoustic Community (CEC), the country’s only coast-to-coast support group for the sonically obsessed. Significantly, membership in the CEC has almost doubled in the last two years.

“I think you could make a legitimate claim that electroaccustic music was invented in Canada,” says Mattes. “There are a number of different roots of course, but the idea of voltage control really comes from Hugh Le Caine’s work.” Le Caine (1914-1977) was an extraordinary figure and it’s no wonder SOCAN Foundation’s annual electroacoustic composition award, one of five categories in the society’s Awards for Young Composers, bears his name. As director of the Electronic Music Laboratory at the National Research Council in Ottawa dating back to the 1940s, Le Caine was driven by an urge to create new instruments and sounds. A number of the inventor/composer’s remarkable instruments, such as the Sackbut and the Serial Sound Structure Generator, were precursors of today’s synthesizers. Le Caine also laid the foundations for Canada’s earliest important electroacoustic studios, first at the University of Toronto and later at Montréal’s McGill University. Ever since, music departments in universities across the country have been a fertile environment for the burgeoning electroacoustic scene. Now-retired pioneers like Istvan Anhalt (Queen’s University) and Otto Joachim (who has had his own private studio since the mid-1950s) have been followed by the likes of Gustav Ciamaga (University of Toronto), alcides lanza (McGill), and Jean Piché (Université de Montréal).

The CEC has about 250 members but, according to administrator Ian Chuprun, “there’s a much larger number of electroacoustic composers who aren’t members yet. Pop culture has started to use more electroacoustic techniques all over the place — in television, in film, in commercials — and that has made the whole field more accessible.”

Kevin Austin of Concordia University in Montréal agrees: “This is not music in the traditional sense. A large part of it is the use of sound without direct reference to pitch and rhythm as we’ve come to understand it. But electroacoustic music is much easier to appreciate now than when it was first developing, because many of the sounds are no longer perceived as being so different. We’ve grown accustomed to sounds being ‘morphed’.”

Austin, actively involved in the electroacoustic scene for more than 25 years, founded the MetaMusic ensemble in 1972 and the Concordia Electroacoustic Composers’ Group in 1982. He was the driving force behind the creation of the CEC in 1986.

While the media have made electroacoustic ideas more accessible from an audience point of view, technology has made the process more approachable from a composer’s perspective.

“To ‘morph’ a sound in the ’50s might have taken weeks of computer time,” Austin says. “Today, you can sit down with a sampler, attach a vocal resonance to the attack of a guitar, and presto, you have a new sound.”

One of Canada’s top electroacoustic composers, Paul Dolden has a different point of view: “I just don’t like the word ‘electroacoustics.’ I would prefer to say I’m a composer who uses technology. My work is basically glorified orchestral music. The fact is, I like notes. I’m not much interested in so-called ‘sound objects’ and I hate synthesized sounds. However, since I do work on tape and none of my pieces can be performed live, I suppose it can all be classified as electroacoustic. But I just don’t think we need the term.”

Today Dolden is $10,000 richer, having just won one of two Jean A. Chalmers Musical Composition Awards, along with Montréal’s Jean-François Denis. Denis, who taught electroacoustic music at Concordia University [in 1985-89], captured his $10,000 award for his valuable work as a concert presenter and editor, and for launching the successful record label empreintes DIGITALes. Dolden was recognized for his composition L’ivresse de la vitesse (“Intoxication by Speed”).

“It’s 400 tracks of all acoustic instruments,” Dolden explains. “You should see the score. There are millions of notes! Basically what I’ve done is reduce five symphonies down to 15 minutes. The idea was to speed up music to the point of intoxication.”

Last month, Dolden premiered his latest work at a concert presented by the Société de musique contemporaine du Québec (SMCQ) in Montréal. “I called it The Heart Tears itself Apart with the Power of its own Muscle. Resonance #3. It’s a piece for string orchestra and tape. The tape part uses a lot of pop culture artifacts. It’s a rocker for intellectuals.”

At the other end of the electroacoustic scene, in Vancouver, is Barry Truax of Simon Fraser University. He has been an influential electroacoustic academic and composer since the early ’70s. Two years ago, on the strength of his piece Riverrun, Truax was awarded the coveted Magisterium Prize at Bourges, the most prestigious electroacoustic festival competition in the world.

“In the old days, there was tape music, electronic music and computer music,” Truax recalls. “They were separate communities with an emphasis on the technologies. The three groups didn’t really interact a lot. Eventually, the barriers started coming down and you can certainly point to a breakdown in the difference between analogue and digital as a factor.”

Truax is acclaimed for his work in the area of computer-assisted music, and was among the first to program his own software. “That was a necessity in the ’70s,” he says. “Today it’s just an inconvenience.”

The composer is currently at work on a major commission for the annual International Computer Music Conference in early September. The event was staged in Copenhagen last year and in Tokyo in 1993; this year it will be held in Banff, Alta.

A long time Truax associate is Vancouver composer Hildegard Westerkamp, whose acoustic explorations have always focused on environmental sounds. “A lot of the time I am walking the edge between sound ecology and sound composition,” she says. “I’m hoping to premiere a new piece at ISEA (the International Symposium for Electronic Arts) in Montréal in September.”

Westerkamp, who recently returned from a two-week sound symposium organized by the Akademie der Kunste in Berlin, is editor of The Soundscape Newsletter, official voice of the World Forum for Acoustic Ecology. “The electroacoustic medium is so fascinating,” she says. “I find it unfortunate that so few women are in the field. I think the big stumbling block is the technology. It doesn’t discourage everyone, but the circumstances can be quite difficult.”

Just ask Bruno Degazio. “Right now I’m working with a WX7 wind controller and a Yamaha VL1,” says the accomplished sound designer and composer from Toronto. “The VL1 is a physical modeling synthesizer that plays and feels like a musical instrument. It’s the way of the future.”

This year, Degazio is booked solid on IMAX film projects. His recent work includes impressive soundtracks to Titanica, The Last Buffalo and the Oscar-nominated documentary The Fires of Kuwait.

As it is in many other areas, the electroacoustic scene in Quebec is distinct. Many Québécois composers have been profoundly influenced by the school of “musique concrète” in France, which focussed on the electronic manipulation of “sound objects” rather than on electronically created sounds. As a result, their entire creative approach tends to be different.

A key organization in Quebec is the Association pour la création et la recherche électroacoustiques du Québec (ACREQ), established by Yves Daoust and Marcelle Deschênes in 1978. A string of outstanding composers have been affiliated with ACREQ. Among them are Alain Thibault, Robert Normandeau and Gilles Gobeil, all of whom have won numerous international awards. Gobeil recently captured second prize at Ars Electronica, a festival in Austria.

“The scene is very stimulating right now,” Gobeil reports. “There have been a lot of changes and what I especially like is that we’re starting to communicate more and listen to each other’s work.”

One proof of that is Jean-François Denis’s label empreintes DIGITALes. “Right now we have 24 CDs on our label and yes, there’s an audience for it! I don’t just make these CDs, I sell them too,” Denis insists. “I’m not surprised by the potential of electroacoustic music either, because there are many sensitive artists working within the field.”

To get a measure of the electroaoustic talent that is out there, curious ears can explore DISContact! II, a recent compilation of 51 works on two CDs by members of the CEC. Though each piece lasts just three minutes or less, the development of acoustic ideas is often extraordinary.

… could you have guessed we lead the way in electroacoustic music?

L’art de la transformation

Daniel Feist, SOCAN, Paroles & Musique, no. 2:7, Saturday, July 1, 1995

Le Canada est célèbre pour son hockey, ses Rocheuses et son saumon rouge, ses recherches en médecine et ses films d’animation, et même pour sa technologie de l’ère de l’espace. De quoi étre fier!

Mais qui aurait pu croire qu’il est aussi chef de file en musique électroacoustique? La plupart des Canadiens, selon toute vraisemblance, ne connaissent même pas ce style de musique.

Cela n’empêche pas Francis Dhomont, Robert Normandeau et Gilles Gobeil, du Québec, Barry Truax et Paul Dolden, de Vancouver, et Bruno Degazio, de Toronto, de faire partie d’un groupe grandissant de compositeurs de musique électroacoustique canadiens acclamés partout dans le monde.

«Le Canada joue un rôle unique dans le domaine de l’électroacoustique, affirme le compositeur torontois Al Mattes. Il suffit de consulter la liste des lauréats des principaux prix qui sont remis tous les ans à Bourges, en France.»

Cofondateur il y a deux décennies de l’avant-gardiste Music Gallery de Toronto, Mattes est actuellement président de la Communauté électroacoustique canadienne (CÉC), le seul groupe de soutien pancanadien pour les obsédés sonores. Fait révélateur, l’adhésion à la CÉC a presque doublé depuis deux ans.

«Je crois qu’il serait légitime d’affirmer que la musique électroacoustique a été inventée au Canada, dit Mattes. Il existe plusieurs souches différentes, naturellement, mais l’idée du contrôle du voltage est véritablement issue de l’œuvre de Hugh Le Caine.»

Le Caine (1914-1977) était une personne extraordinaire et il n’est donc guère surprenant que le prix de la composition de musique électroacoustique de la SOCAN, remis annuellement, porte son nom. En tant que directeur du Laboratoire de musique électronique du Conseil national de recherches à Ottawa au début des années 40, Le Caine était habité par la motivation de créer des instruments et des sons nouveaux. Certaines de ses plus remarquables inventions, tels la saqueboute et le générateur de structures sonores sérielles, furent des précurseurs des synthétiseurs d’aujourd’hui.

On doit aussi à Le Caine d’avoir jeté les fondations des premiers studios électroacoustiques d’importance au Canada, d’abord à l’Université de Toronto et ensuite à l’Université McGill de Montréal. Les départements de musique des universités de toutes les régions du Canada constituent depuis un environnement fertile pour l’univers effervescent de l’électroacoustique. Maintenant à la retraite, des pionniers comme Istvan Anhalt (Université Queen’s) et Otto Joachim (qui a son propre studio depuis le milieu des années 50), ont été suivis par des compositeurs tels Gustav Ciamaga (Université de Toronto), alcides lanza (McGill) et Jean Piché (Université de Montréal).

La CÉC compte environ 250 membres dans ses rangs, mais selon l’administrateur Ian Chuprun, «le nombre d’électroacousticiens qui ne sont pas membres est beaucoup plus élevé. La culture pop a commencé à faire davantage appel aux techniques électroacoustiques dans tous les secteurs — à la télévision, au cinéma, dans la publicité — et l’ensemble de ce domaine est du même coup devenu plus accessible.»

Kevin Austin, de l’Université Concordia à Montréal, abonde dans le même sens: «Nous ne parlons pas de musique au sens traditionnel. Dans une large mesure, il s’agit d’une exploitation du son sans l’intervention directe des notions de hauteur et de rythme telles que nous les comprenons. Mais il est beaucoup plus facile d’apprécier la musique électroacoustique maintenant qu’à l’époque où elle faisait ses premiers pas, étant donné que plusieurs des sons utilisés ne sont plus perçus comme étant très inhabituels.»

Très actif dans les milieux de la musique électroacoustique depuis plus de 25 ans, Austin a mis sur pied l’ensemble MetaMusic en 1972, ainsi que le Groupe électroacoustique de Concordia en 1982. Il a aussi joué un rôle déterminant dans la création de la CÉC en 1986.

«Dans les années 50, la transformation d’un son pouvait prendre des semaines, déclare Austin. De nos jours, il suffit d’utiliser un générateur et de raccorder une résonance vocale à l’attaque d’une guitare, et bingo! vous venez de créer un nouveau son.»

L’un des compositeurs de musique électroacoustique les plus en vue du Canada, Paul Dolden, ne partage pas cette vision des choses: «Je n’aime pas du tout le mot électroacoustique. Je préférerais dire que je suis un compositeur faisant appel à la technologie. Ce que je fais, c’est de la musique orchestrale embellie. J’aime les notes, cela est indéniable. Je suis peu intéressé aux soi-disant ‘objets sonores’ et je déteste les sons synthétisés. Mais comme je travaille sur bande et qu’aucune de mes œuvres ne peut être exécutée en direct, je suppose qu’on peut classer le tout dans la catégorie ‘musique électroacoustique’. Mais je crois sincèrement que nous n’avons pas besoin de ce terme.»

Ces jours-ci, Dolden s’est enrichi de 10 000$ en remportant l’un des deux Prix de composition musicale Jean A. Chalmers, l’autre étant allé à Jean-François Denis. Ce dernier enseigne [de 1985 à 1989] les rudiments de la musique électroacoustique à l’Université Concordia, et son prix lui a été remis afin de souligner sa contribution à titre de présentateur de concerts, d’éditeur et de fondateur d’empreintes DIGITALes, une étiquette de disques accumulant les succès. Quant à Dolden, c’est sa composition L’ivresse de la vitesse qui a retenu l’attention du jury.

«Cela consiste en 400 pistes d’instruments acoustiques, explique Dolden. Vous devriez voir la partition. Elle contient des millions de notes! Ce que j’ai fait, essentiellement, c’est réduire cinq symphonies à une durée de 15 minutes. Le but visé était d’accélérer la musique au point d’en arriver à un état d’ivresse.»

Le mois dernier, Dolden a présenté sa récente œuvre en première dans le cadre d’un concert de la Société de musique contemporaine du Québec (SMCQ) à Montréal. «Je l’ai appelée The Heart Tears itself Apart with the Power of its own Muscle. Resonance #3, précise-t-il. «La portion sur bande fait appel à une grande quantité d’artefacts de la culture pop. C’est du rock pour intellectuels.»

À l’autre antipode de l’univers électroacoustique se trouve Barry Truax, de l’Université Simon Fraser. Compositeur et académicien influent depuis le début des années 70, il a reçu, grâce à sa pièce Riverrun, ie très convoité Prix Magisterium à Bourges, où se tient le plus prestigieux concours de musique électroacoustique au monde.

«Jadis il y avait la musique sur bande, la musique électronique et la musique informatique, se souvient Truax. Il y avait des regroupements distincts qui mettaient l’accent sur les technologies. Les trois factions entretenaient peu de rapports. Mais les barrières se sont mises à tomber, notamment en raison de la différence entre l’analogique et le numérique.»

Truax doit sa réputation à son travail dans le domaine de la musique assistée par ordinateur, et il fut l’un des premiers à programmer ses propres logiciels. «Cela était nécessaire dans les années 70, dit-il. De nos jours, c’est devenu un inconvénient.»

Le compositeur de la côte ouest travaille actuellement à exécuter une importante commande pour le compte de la International Computer Music Conference, qui aura lieu au début de septembre. Cet événement annuel marquant s’est tenu à Copenhague l’année dernière et à Tokyo en 1993. Cette année, c’est Banff, Alberta, qui en sera l’hôte.

Les expérimentations acoustiques de la compositrice vancouveroise Hildegard Westerkamp, une associée de longue date de Truax, ont toujours porté sur les sons environnementaux. «Il m’arrive souvent de concilier l’écologie et la composition sonore, explique-t-elle. J’espère donner la première d’une nouvelle pièce à l’ISEA95 Montréal (Symposium international des arts électroniques) en septembre à Montréal.»

Récemment revenue d’un symposium de deux semaines sur les sons, organisé par l’Akademie der Kunste à Berlin, Westerkamp est l’éditrice du Soundscape Newsletter, l’organe officiel du World Forum for Acoustic Ecology. «Le médium électroacoustique est tellement fascinant. Je trouve dommage qu’il y ait si peu de femmes qui s’y intéressent. Je crois que la technologie représente l’obstacle majeur. Méme si cela ne décourage pas tout le monde, il y a aussi le contexte plutôt difficile lié au domaine qui peut parfois aussi rebuter certaines personnes.»

Le cas de Bruno Degazio, un compositeur et concepteur de sons chevronné de Toronto, illustre bien ce point de vue: «Actuellement je travaille à l’aide d’un contrôleur d’instruments à vent WX7 et d’un VL1 de Yamaha. Le VL1 est un synthétiseur de modélisation physique qui réagit comme un instrument de musique lorsqu’on en joue. C’est la voie de l’avenir.»

Cette année, Degazio est engagé à plein temps dans des projets de films IMAX. Parmi ses récentes œuvres, on retrouve d’impressionnantes trames sonores dont celles de Titanica, The Last Buffalo et The Fires of Kuwait, un documentaire mis en nomination aux Oscars.

Comme cela se produit dans nombre d’autres domaines, l’électroacoustique se conçoit différemment au Québec. Beaucoup de compositeurs québécois ont été profondément influencés par l’école de la musique concrète en France, qui s’attarde surtout à étudier la manipulation électronique d’«objets sonores» plutôt que les sons crcés électroniquement. Par conséquent, leur approche créative tend à être différente.

L’Association pour la création et la recherche électroacoustiques du Québec (ACREQ), mise sur pied par Yves Daoust et Marcelle Deschênes en 1978, est l’un des regroupements importants de la province. Bon nombre de compositeurs remarquables lui sont affiliés, dont Alain Thibault, Robert Normandeau et Gilles Gobeil, qui ont tous remporté plusieurs prix internationaux. Gobeil a pour sa part décroché le deuxième prix au Ars Electronica, un festival présenté en Autriche.

«Le milieu est en pleine effervescence à l’heure actuelle, dit Gobeil. Plusieurs changements sont survenus et je suis particulièrement heureux de voir que nous commençons à communiquer davantage et à écouter les œuvres de nos collègues.»

L’étiquette empreintes DIGITALes de Jean-François Denis permet de mesurer l’ampleur de ces déblocages. «Notre catalogue contient maintenant 24 compacts et, oui, il y a un marché pour eux! Je ne me contente pas de fabriquer ces disques. je les vends aussi!» insiste Denis. Je ne suis pas surpris non plus par le potentiel de la musique électroacoustique, étant donné qu’il y a beaucoup d’artistes sensibles qui ont opté pour ce genre.

Pour obtenir un aperçu du talent de ces musiciens, on peut écouter DISContact! II, une compilation récente de 51 œuvres de membres de la CÉC. Bien qu’aucune des pièces ne dure plus de trois minutes, plusieurs d’entre elles témoignent d’un développement d’idées acoustiques sortant de l’ordinaire.

… qui aurait pu croire qu’il est aussi chef de file en musique électroacoustique?

Gilles Gobeil a remporté le Prix SOCAN dans la catégorie œuvre électroacoustiques

SOCAN, Le Milieu, Wednesday, September 1, 1993

Le compositeur montréalais Gilles Gobeil a décroché le Prix de la SOCAN dans la catégorie œuvres électroacoustiques grâce à une pièce réalisée sur bande d’une durée de 15 minutes intitulée La ville machine. Âgé de 38 ans, Gobeil a été choisi à l’unanimité par les trois distingués membres du jury, à savoir alcides lanza, professeur à l’Université McGill, Pril Smiley, directeur adioint du Electronic Music Center de l’Université Columbia, à New York, et Paul Lansky, professeur à l’Université Princeton, au New Jersey, et pionnier reconnu dans le domaine de la composition assistée par ordinateur. Le jury a délibéré durant deux jours et écouté près d’une centaine d’œuvres soumises dans le cadre de ce concours.

L’œuvre primée s’échafaude sur un texte dramatique de Lyette Limoges et met en vedette un narrateur et une narratrice.

«Cette œuvre est intéressante à divers titres, commente Lansky. Au plan de la sonorité, nous avons affaire à une pièce très polie et excitante. Toutes sortes d’éléments des plus variés méritent d’être écoutés. Le compositeur traite le matériel sonore de manière renversante. Il a assurément l’oreille très fine. Les événements s’imbriquent entre eux de façon merveilleuse.»

«Ce qui nous a attirés dans cette œuvre, ajoute Smiley, c’est son concept, qui était un peu plus audacieux [que les autres].»

«Nous avons aussi cru que cette œuvre pourrait séduire un plus large auditoire de par la grande variété de son contenu. On pourrait la considérer comme une version moderne de War of the Worlds, lancé à l’assaut des années 90», de renchérir Lansky. Gobeil a étudié à l’Université de Montréal sous la tutelle de feu Serge Garant, de Marcelle Deschênes et de Francis Dhomont, et il accumule les prix non seulement au Canada mais aussi à l’étranger. Il a déjà été lauréat du Festivai de Bourges en France (en 1988 et 1989), du Concours Luigi Russolo en Italie (en 1987,1988 et 1989), du Concours Newcomp/USA (en 1987), du Prix Robert Fleming (en 1985) et du Concours des jeunes compositeurs de la SOCAN (en 1984). Il est membre de la Communauté électroacoustique canadienne et compositeur agréé au Centre de musique canadienne.


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