Ensemble Contemporain du Conservatoire de Genève / Ensemble Contemporain Montréal+

Nouveaux Territoires 03

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Montreal's contemporary music scene, as sampled in a series of three "Nouveaux Territoires," reflects a positive mixture of American and European influences, the former involving direct appeals to audiences via vernacular musical influences and the latter in the spirit of pure experiment possible in fully state-supported (or is it state-controlled?) scenes. The Ensemble Contemporain de Montréal under Véronique Lacroix is a flexible group that delivers sharp performances of the four quite varied works included here. André Ristic's Projet d'opéra has little to do with opera, but is a little violin concerto of a sort, with the violin closely integrated into the texture and spawning distinct musical areas as the piece proceeds. Some of these involve a sampler, and the piece also involves intriguing give-and-take between a pair of percussionists and the violin soloist. The work most explicitly indebted to popular traditions is Michel Gonneville's Microphone Songs, with an English text (nowhere translated into French, although all other notes are given in both languages) by the composer's daughter. It's quite a rant about contemporary society, matched by manipulation of the voice via live electronics as it enters the titular microphone. Gonneville informs that he "had to find a balance between sophistication and direct expression," and with this unusual technique he's on the right track. The work draws materials directly from recordings by Björk and Radiohead. Perhaps the most out-and-out enjoyable work of the group is Nicole Lizée's Left Brain/Right Brain, which is a sort of homage to cheesy electronic science fiction film and television scoring of the 1960s, all played on conventional instruments. This would make an ideal entry on a program of music by either John Williams or the likes of Michael Daugherty. Dialogue sur d'infimes souvenirs of German-Quebecois composer Michael Oesterle is the toughest to grasp in this context; it was originally part of a multimedia project involving visual and performance art. The idea behind the work is the increasing speed at which humans are recording their own existences. There's not an unstimulating or academic piece in the group here.

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