Francis Dhomont studied under Ginette Waldmeier,
Charles Koechlin and Nadia Boulanger. In the late 40s. He intuitivelydiscovered
what Schaeffer would later call musique concrete and consequently conducted
solitary experiments with the musical possibilities of sound recording.
Later, leaving behind instrumental writing, he dedicated himself exclusively
to electroacoustic composition. Five-time winner at the Bourges International
Electroacoustic Music Competition (France) where
he was also awarded the Magisterium prize in 1988 and laureate of a Distinction
2nd Prize at the Prix Ars Electronics 1992 (Linz, Austria), he has received numerous
other international prizes and awards. His theoretical texts and essays are regularly
published in various international journals. He is the editor of Lespace
doson (The Space of Sound) two special issues published by Musiques
Recherches (Belgium) and of Electro-acoustique Quebec: lessor (Quebec
Electroacoustics : The Expansion) Volume IV of Circuit (Montreal). He
is also lecturer and the author of many radio programs for Radio-Canada and Radio-France.
An ardent proponent of acousmatic art,his work (since 1963) is comprised essentially
of works for tape bearing witness to his continued interest in morphological
interplay and sense/sound ambiguities. Since 1978, he has divided his time between
France and Quebec, where he has taught electroacoustic composition at the Universite
de Montreal until 1996. He is an Associate Composer of the Canadian Music Centre
(1989) and a Founding Member (1986) and Honorary Member (1989) of the Canadian
Electroacoustic Community (CEC).Always active, he now focuses on composition
What is immediately attractive about Francis Dhomont, fortunately, apart
from appearances, is that he possesses nothing of the Cloven Viscount,
the Italo Calvino hero whose two halves, misfortune and kindness, scatter
along the way loss mixed with consolation. If that story has a happy
where, after a duel, both halves of the mini viscounts re-emerge
as one reharmonized entity and if this fable comes to mind at
this moment it is because of a profound tendency towards this dichotomy
characteristic of todays composers, to which some do not escape,
either by perverted coquetry slandering and vituperating contemporary
art while being in it themselves or by naive proselytism discrediting
their work by making an irremediable gap between the ambition of their
discourse and the aesthetical result. In the case of Francis Dhomont,
the process is out of the ordinary. We have with him the interesting
double union of a composer whose work is constant with consistent quality,
varied but with unity of style, colored but with great coherence. And,
as a bonus, he is a teacher who produces numerous quality good students,
devoted to listening to others and thinking about their discourse, a
constant mover and continuous analyst of the theories of an art which
remains experimental, who encourages an art allowing as much musical
as human exploration, both abundant qualities of this composer. Because
each half may not exist without the other one nourishing the other we
can explain this remarkably balanced case of acousmattitude.
Paris, June, 23,1991
The term acousmatic appears frequently in the
texts of this book. Yet, what does it mean? An English neologism, which
comes from the French acousmatique, has its origins with Pythagoras
(6th century BC) who was (it is said) delivering his uniquely oral teaching behind a curtain
to prevent his physical presence from distracting his disciples, allowing
them to better concentrate exclusively on the content of his message.
Closer in time to us, at the beginning of this century, one finds in
the two-volume French dictionary Larousse pour tous:Acousmate, n.(from
tEe Greek Akousma, what is heard). Imaginary sound or of which the cause
is not seen. In 1955 the writer and poet Jerome Peignot, at the beginning
of musique concrete, used the adjective acousmatic, meaning a sound
that we can hear without knowing its cause, to designate the
distance that separates a sound from its origins by obscuring behind
the impassivity of the loudspeaker any visual element that maybe connected
to it. In 1966, Pierre Schaeffer mused about giving his Traite des objets
musicauxe (Treatise on Musical Objects) the title Traite dacousmatique
(Treatise on Acousmatic). Finally, around 1974, to mark the difference
and to avoid any confusion with incidental or transformed musical instruments
(ondes Martenot, electric guitars, synthesizers, real-time digital audio
systems...), Francois Bayle introduced the expression acousmatic music
as a specific kind of music, as the art of projected sounds which is shot
and developed in the studio, projected in halls, like cinema. It
is true that over the past twenty years, under the term electroacoustics
there has been a proliferation of sound pieces which have little in relation
to each other except a common use of electricity. It was therefore important
to affirm, with precise terminology, aesthetic choices, a body of thought,
and a language. It is also in this spirit that, since 1989, the Rencontresacousmatiques
(Acousmatic Meetings) of composers in the south of France have been organized.
Thus, this acousmatic music, or as Denis Dufour says: 'Acousmatic Art,
was conceived from its beginnings to be heard without the use of visual
intervention. It does not involve any instrumentalist onstage with
the exception of the person who projects the work during a public performance
in order to maximize the use of the given space. It organizes morphologies
and sonic spectra. images ofsound (Francois Bayle), coming
from a multiplicity of sources, but that the absence of visual identification
makes anonymous, unifies and prompts a more attentive listening. (Is
it by pure coincidence that the hearing of blind people is reputed to
be so refined?) It follows its very own mechanisms that, due to their
newness, require coherence and intuition. It is a coso mentale. Finally,
it fixes onto a medium (magnetic tape, computer disk or other) with precision
and no maybes. The most subtle nuances chosen by the composer: what we
hear doesnt resemble what is wanted, it is what is wanted. This
last point is very well presented by Michel Chion in his book, Lart
des sons fixes, ou la musique concretement (The Art of Fixed Sounds,
or Music in Concrete Terms). Further, lets stress a fact that remains
underrated. If music has always been closely associated with its reproduction
by performers, as opposed to many other art forms that are once and for
all fixed on a medium painting, literature, cinema, video...), it is
due to the impossibility to do so differently, and not by choice. Never
before. until this day, could one capture, keep, and reproduce a faithful
image of sound phenomena. Before it was necessary to use a more or less
precise symbolic notation to capture the ideas of composers. This gave
birth to a quasi-universal practice that we have no reason to complain
about or tire of. However, this situation is neither a fatality nor a
law since today we know how to fix sound as we do for visual images or
sets or text. To pretend the opposite is only to rely on habit and on
the largely publicized fetichism of the performer. Acousmatic, the art
of a century that prevents the disappearance of sound, is a new and autonomous
art form which certainly finds in the compact disca genuine sound
bookone of its most convincing vehicles. The works brought together
here belong to this reality, still young but already engaged in the next
August 1991 -
Montreal, October 1996
This acousmatic triptych recounts the Journey
and some of its symbolic projections (escape, love, flight, space, the
limit of disappearance, the loss of oneseif)while merging natural images
with pure abstractions; metaphors of a metaphor, since in musicanytale
is inherently a transposition. The composition of these three works spans
a period of eight years; already, this suggests for me that the act of
wandering both in its proper and figurative meanings movement,
change, mobility. roving dreams, upheaval, and revivals --- all weave
the very material of life itself>
There are thus three sections to this Cycle de lerrance (Cycle of Wanderings)
begun in late 1981 with Points de fuite (Vanishing Points), for which ... mourir
un peu (... dying a little, 1984) is an extended commentary in nine movements
and Espace/Escape (a bilingual anagram ----
espace being French for space (1989) is the final
outcome definitively exploring spatial preoccupations.
These last two works draw some of their material from Points de fuite,
a communal well. This is perceptible particularly in the fourth movement
of... mourir un peu, its longest section, Theme de is fuite (Theme of
tlight( which is both a large scale reprise-variation of Points de fuite
as well as the central axis for the eight other movements.
Under the title MouvancesMetaphores MobilityMetaphors) (on
two discs: Cycle de lerrance and Let derives du signe now released
separately) are united this around the common theme of movement as with
virtual displacement of sound in geometric space or metaphorical transferences
of meaning into the realms of imagination.
Cycle of Wanderings
To Jean-Louis Ostrowski
Term of perspective. The point of convergence of parallel lines,
Audition/reading on many levels:
1. technical (kinetic study: glides in tessitura, mutations of masses,
of densities; modifications of timbre; energetic eruption/dispersion
2. Impressionistic (encounters, crossings. fusion of heterogeneous events
which carry similar connotations; trajectories, velocities, displacements;
the hear and the distant; the passage)
3. symbolic (flight: running away; departure. wandering, lapse. obliteration.
The horizon, Kafka: Disappearing America)
4. ad libitum...
Points de fuite (Vanishing Points) was realized
at the composers
studio in Montreal in 1981-82 and was premiered on June 13th. 1982. at
the 12th Bourges International Electroacoustic Music Festival (France).
Points do fuite was awarded 2nd Prize at the 12th Bourges International
Electroacoustic Music Competition (France, 1984), 1st Prize at the Brock
University Tape Music Competition (St Catharines, Ontario 1985), and
was selected by the international jury of the International Society for
Contemporary Music (ISCM) for the 1984 World Music Days in Montreal.
To Marthe Forget
in nine movements
1. Marine (Marine);
2. Cartographie liminaire (lntroductory Cartography);
3. Un certain embarquement (A Famous Embarkation);
4. Theme de la fuite (Theme of Flight);
5. Transfert I (Transfer I);
6. En abime (In the Abyss);
7. Transfert II (Transfer II);
8. Palimpseste (Palimpsest);
9. II ritorno (The Return)
Where one speaks once again of departures,
journeys, farewells (Leaving
is already dying a little ); and also of escape, pleasure. initiatory
journeys, imaginary space and again of absence, of the petite mort
(post-ecstatic physical collapse) and of the grand voyage.
It is not surprising that ... mourir un peu (... dying a little) was
premiered in Marseille, amongst the relics of the ancient Phocaean harbor;
the first movement, Marine, is a quick allusion to this voyage in time.
The sea nearby a symbol
both inexhaustible and pluralistic had to be present. It is, certainly,
persistently ; the wave lends its energetic law to the whole and to the part:
ebb/flow, growth/decline, apparition/disappearance.
The concrete slides into abstraction and then re-emerges ; anchoring points in
reality and furtive evocations (heard or guessed?) appear sporadically.
This piece originates from Points de fuite (Vanishing Points) further developing
it, and directly draws elements for the fourth movement, Theme de la fuite (Theme
of Flight). This movement is the peak of the wave made from curves
of the increasing and decreasing durations of the nine movements.
1. MARINE 2:07 Overture. Massalia/Marseille.
2. CARTOGRAPHIE LIMINAIRE 3:35 Opening credits, first drafts, articulation of
3. UN CERTAIN EMBARQUEMENT 5:27 yes, yes, the one with all of its transports
4. THEME DE LA FUITE 8:55 To escape. to disappear: she flight and the takeoff; A
5. TRANSFERT I 6:30 Passage from a place, from one order to another. From the
earths center to
6. EN ABIME 5:14 Mirror games, asymptote. The fall to the bottom of the sky.
7. TRANSFERT 4:10 New crossing. From earth to sky and beyond the looking glass.
8. PALIMPSESTE 3:26 Strata and holes of the memory. deletion, blanks. Death and
mourning go on,
9. IL RITORNO 2:29 + 2:39 (5:08) In the steps of Ulysses.
...mourir un peu was realized at the studio
of the Groups de musique experimentale do Marseille (GMEM, France)
and at the composers
studio in Montreal in 1984, and was premiered on June 21st, 1984 at the
Jardin des vestiges in Marseille (France). The fourth movement, Theme
de la fuite (Theme of Flight) was recommended at the 2nd
Electroacoustic Music International Rostrum (TIME) in Stockholm (Sweden,
1988) and was first released on the Anthology of Canadian Music Electroacoustic
Music compact discs set on the Radio Canada International label (ACM
37 CD 1-4). Three other movements
Transfert I (Transfer 1), En abime (In the Abyss), and Theme de
la fuite --- were selected by the 1986 International Computer Music Conference
(ICMC). Den haag (Netherlands). The 3rd movement, Un certain embarquement
(A Famous Embarkation), is part of the Here and Now/En nos femps et lieux
CD compilation, a celebration of Canadian music produced by the Canada
Council for the UN s Sath anniversary [SRC-CDSP 4513). Thanks to
Pierre Schaeffer and Pierre Henry who have kindly allowed the brief but
pregnant quotations from Erotica (from Symphonie pour on homme seul,
1959), as well as to Laurent Lafran for certain sound recordings, nor
forgetting Gesualdo, Mauduit, and Schubert for their involuntary participation.,,,
mourir un peu was commissioned by the French government (Direction de
la musique) and the GMEM.
To Jean-Francois Denis and Claude Schryer
As soon as we become immobile, we are elsewhere; we dream in a
vast world. Immensity is the movement of immobile man. Immensity is one
of the dynamic aspects of peaceful daydreaming. Bachelard,
The Poetics of Space
Open, intimate, confused spaces. Broken spaces. whirling.
Indecisive edges of the space.
Space-refuge, enclosed, maternal, space of reminiscence and
Tumult or murmur in the space of a thousand reflections.
The flight always engenders a vertigo of multiple elsewheres.
Attempted encounter of heterogeneous elements related by two criteria
: one is sonic and denotative (the place of sound in space), the other
symbolic and connotative (referring to the theme of wandering), both
alluding to movement.
These criteria determine the form and are its cement. The multiplicity
of materials embody the ideas of space and mobility.
This work integrates into its structure active elements of spatialization
which have a semantic value.
Espace/Escape was realized at the composers
studio in Montreal in 1989 and was premiered on November 11th, 1989 during
the Canadian Electroacoustic Community (CEC) festival, the 2nd CEC Electroacoustic
Days, 'convergence', in Banff Alberta, Canada). It was awarded mentions
at the Stockholm Electronic Arts Ward in 1992 and at the Prix Art Electronica
(Linz, Austria) in 1993. Espace/Escape was selected by the 1991 International
Computer Music Conference (ICMC) in Montreal, by the 5th International
Symposium on Electronic Art (ISEA) in helsinki (1994) and by the International
Society for Contemporary Music (ISCM) for the 1996 World Music Days in
Copenhagen. A short sound recording authentic sound shooting (Michel
used in this piece was offered by composer Christian Calon ; Dhomont
thanks his friend for the gift, hoping to have made good use of it. This
piece was commissioned by Claude Schryer for The Banff Centre for the
Arts and realized with the assistance of the Canada Council.