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Berlin-based violinist Biliana Voutchkova and German clarinetist Michael Thieke (Magic I.D., International Nothing) present a stunning achievement in blending compositional, pre-structured material with live improvisation, creating a blurring of virtually identical sections that create microtonal anomalies in timing, rhythm, timbre and motive, as heard in 3 amazing performances. ... Click to View


Matthew Revert / Vanessa Rossetto: Everyone Needs A Plan (erstwhile)

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Lucio Capece / Marc Baron: My Trust In You (erstwhile)

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Melaine Dalibert : Musique pour le lever du jour (elsewhere)

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Otomo Yoshihide / Paal Nilssen-Love: 19th of May, 2016 (PNL)

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Vandermark / Kugel / Tokar: No-Exit Corner (Not Two)

the second CD by the trio featuring the tenor saxophonist and clarinetist Ken Vandermark, the drummer Klaus Kugel, and the bassist Mark Tokar has the band back at Krakow's Alchemia Club, bringing these three Chicago and European players together for a skronky, energetic romp of commanding playing alongside unorthodox approaches and powerfully creative intent. ... Click to View


Bobby Zankel & The Wonderful Sound 6: Celebrating William Parker at 65 (Not Two)

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Ernesto Rodrigues / Guilherme Rodrigues / Fred Marty / Carlos Santos: Jardin Carre (Creative Sources)

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Urlich Mitzlaff : Ten Sonic Miniatures about the "Scream" by Edvard Munch (Creative Sources)

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Frantz Loriot : Reflections on an Introspective Path (Neither/Nor Records)

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Costa's Acustica, Carlo: Strata (Neither/Nor Records)

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Flin van Hemmen (w/ Neufeld / Obsvik): Drums of Days (Neither/Nor Records)

Debut album as a leader from drummer and pianist Flin van Hemmen, an evocative album of original compositions and improvisations recorded in a trio with Eyvind Opsvik on double bass and Todd Neufeld on acoustic guitar, with Tony Malaby on alto and soprano sax on one track; a beautifully cinematic and poetic album that allows for space and reflection. ... Click to View


Peter Blegvad : Bandbox [6 CD BOX SET] (Recommended Records)

Starting with Blegvad's "Downtime" LP, this box traces the evolution of the Peter Blegvad Trio into a quintet with Karen Mantler and Bob Drake, released in a solid box with a double CD of alternate versions, unreleased material and live performances, plus a 72 page book of photographs, memorabilia, drawings, documents and recollections; the ultimate reissue! ... Click to View


Roberto Musci / Giovanni Venosta: Messages & Portraits (2018 Edition) (Recommended Records)

A welcome reissue of two 1980s, forward-thinking albums of electronic compositions from Milanese ethnomusicologist composers, sound engineers and performers Giovanni Venosta and Roberto Musci, incorporating exotic field recordings from their world travels into accessibly sophisticated pieces, creating unexpectedly innovative, novel and melodically rich hybrids. ... Click to View


Vitor Rua & The Metaphysical Angels: When Better Isn't Quite Good Enough [2 CDs] (Recommended Records)

Guitarist Vitor Rua (GNR, Telectu) recorded the 15 pieces of this 2-CD set first as a series of overdubbed solo improvisations, using his virtuosic skills to create intriguing and compelling works, which he orchestrated and recorded with the quintet of Hernani Faustino on bass, Luis San Payo on drums, Manuel Guimaraes on organ, Nuno Reis on trumpet, and Paulo Galao on clarinets. ... Click to View


Allen Ravenstine : Waiting For The Bomb [VINYL] (Recommended Records)

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Lance Olsen Austin : Dark Heart (Another Timbre)

Four fascinating and detailed compositions from Canadian composer and painter Lance Austin Olsen, each work giving the performers space to collaborate on the results, using graphic scores and Cage-like elements from recordings; performers include Terje Paulsen, Gil Sanson, Ryoko Akama, Isaiah Ceccarelli, Katelyn Clark, Patrick Farmer and Apartment House. ... Click to View


Alex Jang : Momentary Encounters (Another Timbre)

Four fragile and mostly minimal works by Victoria-based composer Alex Jang, performed by the Apartment House ensemble, with solo pieces by Heather Roche on clarinet + field recordings, one with Cristian Alvear on guitar, an acoustic quintet, and "any three players" designed for any mix of instrumentation, here on melodica, vibraphone & cello. ... Click to View


Linda Smith Catlin: Wanderer (Another Timbre)

Eight sophisticated chamber pieces composed by Linda Catlin Smith and realized by the Canadian Apartment House ensemble, including a solo piano performed by Philip Thomas, a piano duo with Thomas and Mark Knoop, and works for percussion & cello, 2 quintet pieces for strings, percussion and winds, and two 7-piece conducted works with two percussionists, strings and brass. ... Click to View


Cassandra Miller : O Zomer! (Another Timbre)

Two ensemble works and two solo pieces by Christian Wolff's favourite contemporary composer, Cassandra Miller, who is blazing a very personal trail through the experimental music world, with brilliant performances by Apartment House, Mira Benjamin, Philip Thomas, and Charles Curtis with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Ilan Volkov. ... Click to View


Cassandra Miller : Just So (Another Timbre)

A disc of extraordinary string works by Canadian composer Cassandra Miller, presenting four string quartets superbly played by the Quatuor Bozzini quartet of Clemens Merkel on violin, Alissa Cheung on violin, Stephanie Bozzini on viola, and Isabelle Bozzini on cello, including the large work "About Bach", awarded the Jules Leger Prize for New Chamber Music. ... Click to View


Bucher / Countryman (w/ Simon Tan / Isla Antinero): Extremely Live in Manila (ChapChap Records)

A live concert in Quezon City from the Manila based duo of Rich Countryman on alto saxophone and Swiss drummer Christian Bucher, who are joined on one track by acoustic bassist Simon Tan and trombonist Isla Antinero. ... Click to View


Ernesto Rodrigues / Guilherme Rodrigues / Adam Pultz Melbye / kriton b.: The Distant Sound Within (Creative Sources)

Three strings--cello from Guilherme Rodrigues, double bass from Adam Pultz Melbye, and viola from Ernesto Rodrigues--plus harmonium and objects from Kriton Beyer, in a live performance at Kuhlspot Social Club in Berlin, each of the 9 movements a concentrative work named with a three-letter onomatopoeia, as the players draw sound from a mysterious dark distance. ... Click to View


Akmee (Pedersen / Jerve / Albertsend / Wildhagen): Neptun (Nakama Records)

Debut album from this Oslo collective quartet of free improvisers led by drummer Andreas Wildhagen (Nilssen-Love Large Unit) with Erik Kimestad Pedersen on trumpet, Kjetil Jerve on piano, and Erlend Olderskog Albertsen on double bass, a thoroughly modern band that balances more experimental playing with improv in the European tradition; a strong start. ... Click to View


Akmee (Pedersen / Jerve / Albertsend / Wildhagen): Neptun [VINYL] (Nakama Records)

Debut album from this Oslo collective quartet of free improvisers led by drummer Andreas Wildhagen (Nilssen-Love Large Unit) with Erik Kimestad Pedersen on trumpet, Kjetil Jerve on piano, and Erlend Olderskog Albertsen on double bass, a thoroughly modern band that balances more experimental playing with improv in the European tradition; a strong start. ... Click to View


Nakama: Worst Generation (Nakama Records)

Freely improvised and unusual collective improv from the quintet of Christian Meaas Svendsen (double bass), Andreas Wildhagen (drums), Ayumi Nataka (piano), Adrian Loseth Waade (violin) and Agness Hvizdalek (voice), an abstract yet energetic album with Hvizdalek's voice adding an exotic edge to extended techniques based in free jazz strategies. ... Click to View


Nakama: Worst Generation [VINYL] (Nakama Records)

Freely improvised and unusual collective improv from the quintet of Christian Meaas Svendsen (double bass), Andreas Wildhagen (drums), Ayumi Nataka (piano), Adrian Loseth Waade (violin) and Agness Hvizdalek (voice), an abstract yet energetic album with Hvizdalek's voice adding an exotic edge to extended techniques based in free jazz strategies. ... Click to View


Machinefabriek: Engel (Machinefabriek)

Rutger Zuydervelt, AKA Machinefabriek, expanded the existing score for Marta Alstadsaeter & Kim-Jomi Fischer's dance piece "Engel", which is a contemporary piece combining dance and circus acrobatics, the new soundtrack a large work combining rich mirages of electronica, ambient sound, assertive noise, and even a section of Paal Nilessen-Love's drumwork. ... Click to View


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  Separatism and Sound in French Quebec  

a parait pas, mais a parait


By Mike Chamberlain 2002-12-19

At the Guelph Jazz Festival in 1999, Jean Derome, leader of Les Dangereux Zhoms, provoked unease in the middle Canadian audience when he declared that it was a pleasure to play in Canada for a change.

When I asked Derome about the statement later, he told me that it was, in fact, the first time the group had played in Canada, "including Quebec," he added, in about a year. "So I wasn't really making a political statement by saying that." He paused for a moment, then said, "But of course, it is a political statement."

As Rene Lussier says in "Salade du Chef:" Ça parait pas, mais ça parait. Translated, "it's not obvious, but it is." Or, one could twist the phrase a bit and get "sépares pas, mais sépares." (That is, "Not separate, but separate.)

Even as an English-speaking resident of Quebec whose stance on the question of Quebec's sovereignty is as much pragmatic as emotional, to hear Quebec and Canada referred to as two different countries can be a bit jarring. But it is also clear to me that the question of Quebec's status as a nation-as opposed to an independent political entity-is hardly in doubt, and that even if the sovereignty project is stalled for the moment, with Quebec in an uneasy 50-50 impasse after two failed referendums, psychologically, at least, Quebec and Canada might as well be two different countries.

Ça parait pas, mais ça parait.

Derome and Lussier are two of the founding members of the record label Ambiances Magnetiques, a Montreal-based collective whose music has been labelled as musique actuelle. The term, most famously associated with the Festival International de Musique Actuelle de Victoriaville, was coined-most people agree-by Universite de Montreal composer Pierre Mercure sometime around 1960. Mercure meant music of now, and the path he took indicated a break from the European hegemony of contemporary classical music in Quebec. Since then, the term has acquired new meanings.

In his book, Plunderphonics, Pataphysics, and Pop Mechanics, Andrew Jones described musique actuelle as "distinct music for a distinct society." My question is, what is particularly quebecois about musique actuelle? Additionally, and particularly, how do discourses within and around this musical practice tie in with discourses of Quebec nationalism?

In dealing fairly quickly with the first, and elaborating a bit on the second by examining several works of Rene Lussier, I hope to open up avenues for further discussion.

In 1982, Michel Levasseur inaugurated the Festival International de Musique Actuelle de Victoriaville. It is unclear whether Levasseur had even heard of Pierre Mercure at the time, but the mix of programming at Victo came to define the eclecticism for which musique actuelle is known.

Ambiances Magnetiques was founded as a non-proft collective in1983 by seven Montreal musicians-Jean Derome, Andre Duchesne, Joanne Hetu, Diane Labrosse, Robert Marcel Lepage, Rene Lussier, and Danielle Palardy Roger. Shortly after, Michel F. Cote and Martin Tetreault joined the collective. The musicians came from a variety of backgrounds-jazz, classical, folk, and rock-but they were all experimentalists who had experienced difficulty in getting their music recorded and released. The term musique actuelle-which only record stores in Quebec employ as a musical category-came to be applied to the work of the various members of the Ambiances Magnetiques collective.

The materials used by the Ambiances Magnetiques musicians had Quebecois antecedents: the non-serial contemporary classical music of Pierre Mercure and the Societe Musique Contemporain du Quebec; the free jazz of the politically radical Quatour Jazz Libre du Quebec of the late 1960s; Walter Boudreault and Raoul Duguay's mix of classical, jazz, rock, and multimedia experimentalism with L'Infonie; and traditional Quebec folkmusic. The notion of metissage, or mixing, then is integral to the practices of musique actuelle. For Rene Lussier, as we will see, metissage is also a vital component in the formation of Quebecois cultural identity.

One must also consider the historical context of the emergence of this new hybrid music. I hesitate to call it a style-musique actuelle is defined more by reference to methodology than to genre. The central problem for the Quebecois is in pursuing a national project based mainly on preservation and of a French-language heritage and the evolution of identity within an overwhelmingly English-speaking environment culturally and economically dominated by the United States. However, while there is anxiety about the emerging modernization of Quebec society, for creators, modernization presents opportunities as well.

Robert Marcel Lepage claims that it was in the process of translation of the music that the members had in their large, eclectic record collections that the shape of musique actuelle was formed. As he puts it, "For the creative musician, the Tower of Babel is a blessing, not a curse. When we played Albert Ayler, we would mix it up with folk music. So you might get a free jazz jig." Again and again in conversation with the Ambiances Magnetiques people, the word transformation came up. In fact, something is gained, not lost, in the translation.

Turning to the work of Rene Lussier, Le Tresor de la Langue is an exemplary text that deals with vital questions in the formation of a Quebecois identity. Lussier took to the roads of Quebec in the late 1980s, asking people the simple question, "Is it important to speak French in Quebec?" One can hardly imagine an English-Canadian asking the same question outside Quebec. Tresor immediately foregrounds the difference between Quebecois French and the French spoken in France, as the first interlocutor is a woman from France who says that it is important to speak French in Quebec but that she has difficulty understanding the Quebecois dialect.

Rather than engaging in a useless debate over the relative merits of standard French and Quebecois French, Lussier explores the richness and the musical possibilities of Quebecois French, which has been formed by its 400-year separation from France and its incorporation of native and English terms and phrases. Among other things, he turns Charles de Gaulle's famous "Vive le Quebec libre" speech at the Montreal City Hall in 1967 (in which he riled federalists by openly supporting a "free" Quebec) and the FLQ (Front de Liberation du Quebec) manifesto into musical texts. So we see the process of translation and transformation at work in Tresor.

Quebec aux Quebecois. This phrase, which we see and hear at public spectacles such as the St. Jean Baptiste Day parade, is an ominous one for non-francophone Quebecois. Imagining the nation involves delineating the borders of the community, and the notion that there are pure laine Quebecois who constitute the nation is frightening for those who do not fit into this category. One thinks of then-premier Jacques Parizeau's infamous concession speech after the 1995 referendum when he asked what "we" (the separatists) were defeated by? His answer: "money and the ethnic vote." Thus, anti-separatists employ the term "ethnic nationalism" to discredit Quebec nationalism.

For Lussier, Parizeau's position is a non-starter. A central thesis that emerges in Tresor is that the Quebecois identity is itself a metissage of French, English, native, German, Italian, Greek, Portuguese, Haitian, and North African elements. Instead of marginalizing the ethnics, he incorporates them into the cultural heritage of Quebec. By valuing the non-francophone elements of culture as part of the very patrimonie of Quebec, Lussier shows a way out of the dilemma posed by the cosmopolitan nature of Quebec society. Or, if it's not a way out for francophones, it is a way in for non-francophones.

Lussier's impatience with certain dominant nationalist discourses that have served to hold up the sovereignty project can turn to despair. While the dream of a sovereign Quebec is still a vitalizing force for most members of Ambiances Magnetiques, there has also been a shift in emphasis to more personal concerns, which are, nonetheless, political. This is a turn away from a focus on the preservation of the French language in Quebec to be found in Derome and Lussier's "P'tit Pain" or anxiety over the attractions and pitfalls of modernization expressed in Andre Duchesne's "Train, Train." Lussier's song, "Salade du Chef" is ostensibly concerned with the economy and technology of food production, but it can also be read as a comment on the current political situation in Quebec.

Making une salade du chef involves mixing in all kinds of food. Once ingested, the salad becomes part of the body. Lussier considers modern food production, with its reliance on chemicals (fertiilizers, herbicides, pesticides), antibiotics, and genetic modification, noting that even the lettuce is not in control of itself. Modern agriculture is not about growing healthy food, and it's not about stewardship of the land. It's all about money. "Toutes est au cash."

Taken literally, the lyric expresses Lussier's concerns of daily life, not different from people anywhere. For the past several years, he has spent most of his time in a rural region where industrial pig producing facilities have polluted the rivers and ground water. His retreat is analogous to the retreat from overt separatist concerns by other Ambiances Magnetiques artists, such as Diane Labrosse and Michel F. Cote. Labrosse noted that her work has become less political and more poetic since the heady days of nationalist fervor around 1980. Cote, whose work as a sound artist tends to be less political in anyevent, now regards the sovereignist project as irrelevant to the challenges posed by globalization.

Lussier might-he didn't say as much, and I don't want to put words in his mouth-agree with Cote's view that Quebec premier Bernard Landry is only a little less stupid than Canada's prime minister, Jean Chretien. But "Salade du Chef," given a reading in light of the current Quebec government's obsession with economic development and the recent history of the separatist movement in Quebec, reveals deeper meanings.

Even if my translation is imperfect, the transformation can be quite productive in terms of the issues discussed here. Lussier's text is saying, quite clearly, (ca parait pas, mais ca parait) that we are all part of this salad,this metissage, but we are subject to the totalizing discourse of global capitalism in which we are regarded as no more than productive units (toutes est au cash). We are prisoners, the 5000 pigs under one roof, the cattle, the sheep, the turkeys, even the vegetables, who are not in control of themselves, and we only have to look at the very basic elements of our lives to see this reality. Jacques Parizeau said that the sovereignists were defeated by "money and the ethnic vote"but money was really just a code word for anglo Quebecois. As I noted earlier, Lussier disavows the separation between the terms Quebecois and ethnic or anglo, but it is really our obsession with money that hinders the creation of a healthy body politic and keeps us apart.

Ca parait pas, mais ca parait. Separes pas, mais separes.



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