Dhomont studied under Ginette Waldmeier, Charles Koechlin and Nadia Boulanger.
In the late 40s, in Paris (France), he intuitively discovered with
magnetic wire what Schaeffer would later call musique concrète
and consequently conducted solitary experiments with the musical possibilities
of sound recording. Later, leaving behind instrumental writing, he dedicated
himself exclusively to electroacoustic composition.
An ardent proponent of acousmatics, his work (since 1963) is comprised
exclusively of works for tape bearing witness to his continued interest
in morphological interplay and ambiguities between sound and the images
it may create.
The Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec has recently awarded
him a prestigious carreer grant. In 1999, he was awarded five first prizes
for four of his recent works at international competition (Brazil, Spain,
Italy, Hungary and Czech Republic). In 1997, as the winner of the Canada
Council for the Arts Lynch-Staunton Prize, he was also supported
by the DAAD for a residence in Berlin (Germany). Five-time winner at
the Bourges International Electroacoustic Music Competition (France)
the Magisterium Prize in 1988 and 2nd Prize at Prix Ars Electronica
1992 (Linz, Austria), he has received numerous other awards.
He is the editor of special issues published
by Musiques & Recherches
(Belgium) and of Électroacoustique Québec: lessor
(Québec Electroacoustics: The Expansion) for Circuit (Montréal).
Musical coeditor of the Dictionnaire des arts médiatiques (published
by UQAM), he is also lecturer and has produced many radio programs for
Radio-Canada and Radio- France.
Since 1978, he has divided his time between
France and Québec,
where he has taught at the Université de Montréal from
1980 to 1996. He is an Associate Composer of the Canadian Music Centre
(CMC, 1989) and a Founding Member (1986) and Honorary Member (1989) of
the Canadian Electroacoustic Community (CEC). Great traveller, he participates
in sevral juries.
He now focuses on composition and theory.
What is immediately attractive about Francis
Dhomont, fortunately, apart from appearances, is that he posses 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 endingwhere, after a duel, both halves of the mini viscounts re-emerge
as one reharmonized entityand 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
slandering and vituperating contemporary art while being in it themselvesor
by naive proselytismdiscrediting 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 exist without the otherone nourishing the
otherwe can explain this remarkably balanced case of acousmattitude
François Bayle, Paris, June, 23rd,
Mouvances-Métaphores: 2. The Drift of
Les dérives du signe (The Drift of the
Mobility here is that of quicksand. One believes one holds the image
but it sifts between the fingers, or allows itself to be covered, engulfed
by a new image closing in upon it.
Ubiquity and ambiguity of signs inform us and lead us astray.
These four works play with diversion. The diversion:
of musical discourse in Novars, of sound sources in Chiaroscuro, of
sensory perception (synesthesia) in Météores (Meteors), and of nature in Signé Dionysos.
Under the title Mouvances~Métaphores
(Mobility~Metaphors), seven works are united 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.
To musique concrète and Pierre Schaeffer, its ill-fated
one moment transported in beautified memories of the first concrète
illuminations of my childhood [
]. Perhaps I was the only one to
be so moved by the sound of these last measures
Marie-Claire Schaeffer-Patris, personal letter to the composer.
Novars salutes the birth of musique concrète, the Ars Nova of
our century, by calling upon the resources of the computer. The intention
is not to create a pastiche but, on the contrary, to testify that by
the most advanced means a language has been passed on. It may also be
possible to suggest, without establishing a simplistic symmetry, that
there exists a link between these two theorists of a new art: Vitry and
classical ear will perhaps recognize fragments from Schaeffers
Étude aux objets (1959) and Guillaume de Machauts Messe
de Nostre Dame (1364). These quotations, along with a third sound elementa
sort of homage to Pierre Henry and his infamous doorare the sole
materials giving birth to multiple variations.
A sign of change: spectromorphologic (Denis Smalley) mutations
give to sonorities of the Ars Nova and to new music (as Schaeffer
named it in 1950) the sound of our time. A sign of continuity: something
from the original works (their color, their structure
In listening to the works of Francis Dhomont,
one senses a unique voice.
One finds traits and signatures: long breath-like trajectories,
masterful alternations of deeply engraved forms and light refined lines,
play with proportions and moving masses. Like in Chiaroscuroone
of his most successful a baroque taste for timbral richness and
shadowy contours, interrupted by identifiable fragments, often with vocal
qualities, always alive.
There is a sense of accentuation and deep breathing, leading to a finely
heard silence, framed and placed with the meticulousness of a photographer
for whom every background detail counts as much as, and maybe more than,
the foreground musical intentions.
Novars contains refinements that add fresh color
and new light to the works main purpose. The rhythmic cellular element is that of a
slow dance based on a complex note, a pegged quotation (taken from the Étude
aux objets by Pierre Schaeffer) and, detaching it from the moiré
vocal timbres (stirred up à la Machaut) projects on
the work an evocation from the Pavane (for loved ones, certainly not
The breaths, thrusts, and jetés-glissés (thrown-slid)
of well choreographed gestures counterbalance the rhythmical accumulations
forming a third sound character to this tale; a tale of time and contretemps,
in riddle form.
Indeed, as the tale proceeds, it slowly unveils
its sources of inspiration. Or rather: this unfolding comprises lengthy
placements into perspective, of a distance towards quoted sources,
with Tanguy-like otherworldly colors, of the beaches where this homage
to the revival evolves in
metal sky (Giono) tonalities.
to musique concrète, this piece gently illuminates
its references and leaves us under its profound charm. As with
mourir un peuis it its timelessness?we are offered a strange
yet beneficent moment of reflection. (Paris, June 16th, 1991)
Novars was realized at Studio 123 of the Ina-GRM
(Paris, France) and at the composers studio and was premiered on May 29th, 1989, as
part of the 11th GRM Acousmatic Concert Series at the Grand auditorium
of Radio-France (Paris). This piece was selected by the 1990 International
Computer Music Conference (ICMC90) in Glasgow (Scotland), and by
the International Society for Contemporary Music (ISCM) for the 1991
World Music Days in Zürich (Switzerland). The jury of the 1991 Stockholm
Electronic Arts Award also selected it for performance at its award concert
in Stockholm (Sweden). Special thanks to Pierre Schaeffer who has kindly
allowed the quotation of a few sound propositions, now historic; and
to Bénédict Mailliard, Yann Geslin and Daniel Teruggi without
whose patience it would have been impossible to domesticate Studio 123
and the Syter real-time sound synthesis system of the Ina-GRM (Paris,
France). Novars was commissioned by the Ina-GRM.
To François Bayle
Plays of ambiguity. Of course, this chiaroscuro is one of
shadows and light, of opacity and transparency of sound, of the incertitude
between one and the other. However, beyond this, it is the ambiguity,
the hesitation between spoken and suggested, between face and mask (warning:
a sound may hide another), between manifest and latent, enactment and
Trompe loreille music.
As in much of my work, certain sound elements
come from earlier pieces and are developed anew here. I like the fact
that the discourse is continued, completed. Besides and in homage to the composers of the Montréal
concert organization Les Événements du Neuf (1978-89):
Evangélista, Denis Gougeon, John Rea and in particular to the
memory of Claude VivierI gave in to musical larceny (with the unwary
complicity of its victims) which, I hope, creates an iridescence here
and there, a voluntarily enigmatic contrivance.
Mutation of the musical instruments: mobility,
relief, colors among the shadows
Chiaroscuro was realized at the composers studio
and was premiered on April 10th, 1987 in Montréal. This piece
was awarded the Prize of the 1st Magisterium of the 16th Bourges International
Electroacoustic Music Competition (France, 1988) and was first released
on the Cultures électroniques
3Magisterium compact disc produced by the Groupe de musique expérimentale
de Bourges (GMEB) on the Le chant du monde label (LDC 278048). Chiaroscuro
was commissioned by Les Événements du Neuf and realized
with the assistance of the Canada Council [for the Arts].
3rd movement of Chroniques de la lumière (Chronicles
of Light) (1989)
To Annette Vande Gorne
These Chronicles are an impressionistic sonic
version of visual elementsan
undoubtedly metaphorical acta personal daydream of light based on a concept
by Montréal visual artist Luc Courchesne.
With sound transpositions of luminous phenomena,
natural rays or multiple artefacts, Chroniques de la lumière is comprised of three movements:
Miroitements (Shimmers), Artifices, Météores (Meteors)
or, if one prefers: adagio, allegro, presto-finale. A progression is
articulated, not only from slow to fast, but also from calm to agitated,
from somber to clear, from piano to forte, from static to mobile, from
simple to complex.
Météores proceeds by a progressive
increase of elements, by slow accumulation, an increase of density,
and a reinforcement of the sensation of speed and kinetic energy.
Chroniques de la lumière (thus Météores) was realized
at the composers studio and was premiered on April 26th, 1989,
at the Doppler Concert of the Société de musique
contemporaine du Québec (SMCQ) at the Spectrum in Montréal.
Chroniques de la lumière was first released on the Halogènes
compact disc produced by the Université de Montréal on
the UMMUS-Actuelles label (UMM C 101). Météores was selected
by the International Society for Contemporary Music (ISCM) for the 1990
World Music Days in Oslo (Norway). Many of the sounds were realized at
Studio 123 and with the Syter real-time sound synthesis system of the
Ina-GRM (Paris, France). Special thanks to Bénédict Mailliard,
Yann Geslin and Daniel Teruggi for their invaluable advice. Chroniques
de la lumière was commissioned by the SMCQ and realized with the
assistance of the Canada Council [for the Arts].
operacousmatic between nature and artifice
To André and Paule Gribenski, the voices of the frog and the songs of
There is a small lake in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence (France), a poetic
and intimate site located deep in the Alpilles. On full moon evenings,
after the heat of the day, the sensual pleasure of contemplation is exceptional.
In May and Junewhen nature is expressive the frogs burst
Jean-Étienne Marie, then director of the Centre international
de recherche musicale (International Music Research Center, CIRM, Nice,
France), to whom I had described those barbarian love songs, commissioned
me in 1984 to compose a lakeshore opera parodical, no doubtin
which all of the roles, from the diva to the choir, would be assigned
This is how Signé Dionysos (Signed Dionysus) was born. The title
makes reference to the character of Aristophanes who, in The Frogs, hears
the song of these daughters of the bog. As a matter of fact,
arent the exaltation and ecstasy of these nocturnal singers somewhat
As with any respectful opera, this work has
acts, scenes, tableaux. The plot:
A small Provence lake. After a warm day, the strollers leave, thus
returning the lake to its natural hosts. The frogs return, taking hold
of the stage and will perform the opera. Unheard-of, surreal,
dilated songs. Naturally, after love, the drama will conclude with death
However, it is only entertainment. But what
pleasure to play with this given sonorous generator of innumerable
morphologies and also, once again, with the ambiguous
music- of-nature/artifices-of-the-studio. Truth or lie? Found,
processed or constructed sound? All of these delusions confound the ear
and, as with wine, alter the senses.
This brings us back to Bacchus!
Dionysos was realized at the composers studio and was premiered
on February 1st, 1986, at the festival Musiques actuelles Nice/Côte
dAzur (MANCA, France). The definitive version, reproduced here,
was realized at the composers studio in May, 1991. Most of the
recordings were made at night in May and June of 1984 and 1985. Some
sound processing was realized at Studio 123 and with the Syter real-time
sound synthesis system of the Ina-GRM (Paris, France). Thanks to the
enlightened and indispensable advice of Bénédict Mailliard
and Yann Geslin. Thanks also to Marc Jaquin for his authorization to
use some of his recordings for this piece. Signé Dionysos was
commissioned by Jean-Étienne Marie for the CIRM (Nice, France).