L'Infonie

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In the early '70s, L'Infonie was the leader of the countercultural movement in Montreal. The band's complex compositions and propensity for free improvisation, coupled with its stage antics and pop-spiritual…
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In the early '70s, L'Infonie was the leader of the countercultural movement in Montreal. The band's complex compositions and propensity for free improvisation, coupled with its stage antics and pop-spiritual philosophy, make it the cult band in the history of the Montreal avant-garde music. Its four long-deleted LPs remained items much sought after by collectors all over the world.

L'Infonie was born out of the meeting of two very strange men in 1967. Raôul Duguay (born February 13, 1939, in Val d'Or, Quebec), a trumpeter and poet already with two books published, met saxophonist Walter Boudreau at a poetry-music happening in Montreal. They began to improvise and an eternal friendship was born. They quickly put together L'Infonie, a contemporary jazz-rock orchestra workshop usually involving a dozen musicians (there might be as many as 24 at times) that quickly became part of every artistic happening in Montreal. Duguay and Boudreau developed a whole concept around L'Infonie, mostly drawn from oriental philosophy and all the ideologies that would later crystallize in the new age movement (of which Duguay would later become one of the strongest representatives in Quebec). The musicians would wear togas and triangular hats, and Duguay and Boudreau made numerous esoteric references to the letter O (usually with a circumflex accent) and the number three -- their philosophy is "explained" in the book Manifeste de l'Infonie, published in 1970 by the Éditions du Jour. They looked like a dadaist version of Magma.

L'Infonie was part hippie-fun anarchic mayhem, part experimental contemporary composition. The very far-out side of Raôul Duguay, who could come on stage wearing only underwear made out of bear fur and indulged in extended vocal improvisations based on the repetition of phonemes, was balanced by Boudreau's classical training and ever-growing interest in contemporary composers like Pierre Boulez, Edgar Varèse, and Karlhein Stockhausen. The band's first LP, released by Polydor in 1969, definitely belong to the Duguay-end of their spectrum. The same year, Boudreau heard Terry Riley's famous composition "In C." He re-arranged it for L'Infonie, which recorded it as Mantra (also on Polydor) in 1970. It was also in 1970 that the band made a very remarked appearance at the Nuit de la poésie 1970, a night of poetry readings that was filmed. With the release of Vol. 333 (on the Montreal-based label Kot'ai), the band had reached its artistic peak as a unit, achieving balance between its fun/rock side and its serious/classical side. The album contains the two-sides long "Paix" (Peace), L'Infonie's magnum opus. Raôul Duguay soon left to launch what would become a very successful solo career. In 1974, Boudreau released Vol. 3333, which contained a reworked version of "Paix," under L'Infonie's name, but the album remains a Boudreau-only project, as the band itself wasn't regularly working anymore after 1972. Boudreau would soon found the Société de Musique Contemporaine du Québec (the Quebec Contemporary Music Society), which he continued to lead into the 2000s; many musicians from L'Infonie would follow him. Drummer Ysengourd Knohr joined singer/songwriter Plume Latraverse's band.