Christian Calon

Radio Roadmovies

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Composers Christian Calon and Chantal Dumas share interests in electro-acoustic music using field recordings as its basis. But here, they also share a two-month trip across Canada, from Montreal to Vancouver, by way of the Great White North (they reached the Arctic Circle in Yukon) and a return home through the Badlands. Radio Roadmovies is a two-CD set presenting two hourlong works conceived for the radio (Radio-Canada and DeutschlandRadio Berlin). "Le Petit Homme dans l'Oreille" ("The Little Man in the Ear," 2000, Phonurgia Nova Award in 2001) is a fragmented travel diary, filled with people, places, and events. The two composers, often addressing the microphone to describe and comment, are joined by a cast of fellow travelers and locals, from children shouting their names at Ouimet Canyon to Native American chiefs greeting them with a song. The work takes the form of a series of snapshots segued through complementing or contrasting sonic elements, instead of following a chronological or geographical logic. The composers' touch is mostly limited to choosing and editing the recordings, although some sections are heavily -- and obviously -- treated, like the stampede caller's heated description of the race turned into a sampled rap. The human factor is through the roof in this bilingual account. Either you will like the various characters or you will be annoyed by their chatter. The second disc is a completely different affair. Culled from the same field recordings, "Documents de Surface" ("Surface Documents," 2002) excludes human voices to focus solely on environmental sounds. The work is a gripping display of nature (wind, water) and man (trains, boats) at work. Here, the composers work seamless dissolves between locations to put together theme-related pieces. "Côté Pacifique," with its foghorns, trains, and crashing waves, is the most striking. Urban listeners will be astounded by the richness of these nature recordings and the elegance of their organization. If you're a rural listener, you should listen with all windows open and let real and recorded sounds intermingle, just so you can't say where that train is coming from.