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Yves Daoust — Musiques naïves (1998)

Yves Daoust — Musiques naïves (1998 / 78:01)
empreintes DIGITALes / Diffusion iMéDIA

Yves Daoust has been a significant contributor to Canada, and specifically Quebec, in the realm of electroacoustic music. In the later 1970's, he helped found the Association pour la création et la recherche électroacoustiques du Québec (ACREQ), where he stood as director for almost ten years. For the past 22 years he has taught and developed electroacoustic programs at the Conservatoire de musique et d'art dramatique du Québec. A collection of works that explores mainly within the realm of acoustic ecology, Musiques naïves is one of several collections of Daoust's electroacoustics, and it is available on the label.

The title of this collection could be interpreted as a description of a theme where the pieces use sounds for very specific reasons; where sounds are removed from their typical context, or they are placed such that we are intended to make particular associations with what we have been familiar with during our lives. As such, the sounds are sometimes intentionally isolated from exterior relationships, they are virgin. They can only be used to serve the purpose designed for them by Daoust. The album cover (Point de vue (a) by Luc Beauchemin) presents a collage of images that are reconstructed to show a scene we are familiar with. And yet, each of the objects within it has been illustrated in a different light, a different time of day. If one was to isolate the individual images, they would likely take on new meanings, but assembled together they act in harmony, providing a multifaceted scene.

This compilation is a professional-looking package (following the design trends of other releases distributed by DIFFUSION i MéDIA), with a more-than adequate amount of accompanying text: a brief biography, a four-page forward and overview by François Guérin, followed by another four pages of notes from Daoust on the individual pieces.
The first track on the CD is titled Impromptu, composed in 1994, and it is based on Chopin's Fantasie-Impromptu in C sharp minor, the entirety of which was recorded into a sequencer and controlled by MIDI. Daoust used certain motifs of Chopin's piece to sculpt new elements of his own that he organized into a piece full of gradual invitations and sudden surprises. It begins with simple, digital-sounding (Daoust intentionally produced this using only tools made for relatively popular use) piano melodies that are repeated and developed, being made slightly longer, and extended to further ranges of the keyboard. There is a very immediate tension here, and it is at first a fairly straightforward, linear pattern of sounds. Soon the notes happen faster and faster until they become cloudlike and granular, and while the original piano sound is still vaguely audible, it is mainly because we have heard it evolve as a simple increase in speed and number of iterations. The design of the piece encourages one to see the implications of a basic series of tonal relationships and to view it and compare it to their previous conceptions of the music of Chopin. The development of the piece is patient enough that by the end, when it seems as though there are 20 lines of MIDIcontrolled pianos playing at tempos in the area of thousands bpms, one can still hear the original arpeggio played back slowly as it was in the beginning.

The next track, from 1986 and named Il était une fois... (conte sans paroles), intersperses familiar sounds of play with an eerie yet clean ambiance. It begins with recordings of children at a playground, but this is quickly swept away in a stereo vortex, and the absence that can suddenly be felt is filled by ascending and descending motions of harmonics. The ‘play' theme is revisited, though with some more extreme processing that exaggerates its emotional, cathartic elements. Soon these two themes become less and less separated, and it is possible to hear the playful qualities present in sections that sound like they are designed to frighten. The form of the piece is essentially the progression of these isolated movements that begin to develop and combine. The sounds of children at play are put into a musical context. Daoust conceived this piece based on the idea of children's lullabies that take them to strange, mysterious lands, where he would examine what exists in their dreams between their reality and music.

Significantly shorter than the other five works on this CD is the third track, Mi bémol. Composed in 1990, it opposes short tonal noises against media recordings of audiences and announcers. Most significant about it to me is that it captures the rhythm of the objects and drama of our lives and applies them to acousmatic sounds. For example, the piece opens with the high-pitched, bell-like sound that is repeated in such a way as the sound of a bouncing ball. Another rhythmic movement (that sounds like the squeaking of a shopping cart) is heard along with this, showing a crude snapshot of so many moments where two or more independent events are happening in close proximity but at different paces. There is constant use of acceleration and deceleration, which contrasts the crowd noise that suddenly begins playing with no gradual introduction. Soon we hear dramatic somewhat violent news stories, and the short sounds of choice here occur with the randomness of gunfire, and have an explosive, yet flat quality to them. A brief return to a steady backdrop of polyrhythmic motion, and, following a field recording of fireworks going off, we hear a sparse cloud of upper-range frequencies, the noise of which is comparable to the visual noise of a pyrotechnics show. A return to the bouncing-ball opening theme brings the piece to a conclusion. Daoust's notes on this piece are ambiguous, but he implies excitement with his language: “a few of my ‘fetish' sounds...a propensity for anecdotes, overlapping textures, the vacillation between a strictly musical discourse and a documentary approach.”?

The next piece was composed in 1992, titled Résonances. It immediately attacks the listener with rich, full bell sounds, and begins to sculpt the bell's fundamental properties into texture. The work is titled this because the wavering texture he has created is taken from the resonant portions of the bell sample, and the attacks of the bell are separated into a different group that serves a different purpose: to provide sounds to place on top of the resonant loops that are heard. These attack sounds are also isolated at times and varied greatly in dynamics, playing with the song's own idea of texture. Evidently the progression of the piece is the result of the atmospheres created by the resonance he feels within himself when he hears these church bells.

The delicate Water Music, written in 1991, is the fifth track. It begins with some light interplay between droplets and trickles of water, weaving soft tonal noise into the mix. Soon there is no longer silence between the drops of water, but a very organic texture that immediately calls to mind the sounds of nature. The sounds of children splashing about are soon heard, followed by an erupting storm. The rain fades in and out, sometimes acting as background to the vague conversational voices that are soon heard. There is a return to the airy, natural atmosphere, but now we hear a fast-moving stream of water. Daoust's recordings of the water are absolutely beautiful, bringing out its most buoyant properties. Gigantic washes of noise move over the scene, leaving a more granular, tonal texture that still reminds us of the unpredictable, yet flowing nature of the stream sounds we just heard. The surges of noise begin to sound very much like the lapping of waves on an ocean, suggesting that the waves of noise heard before were just processed sounds of the tide sweeping the creek away, imposing a literal perspective on the listener. The sounds of children playing are briefly heard again, followed by water flowing out a drain (this was also heard briefly before). The sounds of trickling water return, though they are now reverberating slightly, and the nature theme returns again with the calls of birds. Daoust sequences these little scenes in such a way that one can place them into more evident contexts as the piece develops. First, we hear water in its most pure form, removed from any familiar environment, and its sonic characteristics truly shine. As we hear the children playing in the water, suddenly it sounds nothing like just did, and an emotional reference is formed. The piece evolves from this, playing with our preconceptions of beauty. How do we decide why a sound is or is not beautiful - is it its properties that are completely irrelevant to a situation, or simply the context we place it in? Or are they, in fact, one and the same?

The sixth and final piece on this collection is Fantaisie, composed in 1986. It was a work commissioned by the Société Radio-Canada “to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of French production on the state radio network, using sound archives as basic materials,”? to quote Daoust. The name is derived from Schuber's Fantasia in F minor, which suggested the form of this work. Within, there are many unprocessed radio recordings of advertisements and announcers, combined with crescendoing vocal effects, where voices repeat rhythmically at great intensities, or accelerate with pitch increases and echoes. Fantaisie dips into more pensive ambient movements as well, varying the social landscape in taking the listener on a historic tour through radio Canadiana. It seems as though many middle-aged Canadians have fond memories from when they were young of the radio as a tradition of the family, and this piece paints a vivid picture in this regard.

Musiques naïves certainly unifies Daoust's pieces by the principle of specificity. The songs in this collection are based strongly on concepts of relationships, perhaps most notably that of comparison. Daoust brings sounds in and out of the locations in which we normally associate them, and in doing so creates an environment where we can contemplate what such sounds mean to us, and perhaps even why they mean one thing and not another.

Timothy Sutton

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