T.A.G (Trottoir [Sidewalk], Asphalte [Asphalt], Goudron [Tar]) by Monique Jean

T.A.G   (Trottoir [Sidewalk], Asphalte [Asphalt], Goudron [Tar]) by Monique Jean

(pour la version française, claquer ici)

In this work, no sooner are police sirens, footsteps on asphalt, and crowd sounds heard, than any tendency towards discursive sonic representation is clearly dispelled; indeed, the composer selects to have the listener dive into the constitutive sonic matter, and to relegate the listening experience to the realms of the sensitive, the sensible, the sensual.

Such invitation takes two main paths, the first of which subjects the police sirens and other sonic material, to manipulation.  On its heels : a collection of synthetic sounds at once reminiscent of concrete sounds, and transposed otherwise and elsewhere. Echoing characteristic crowd movement, a script for the masses, developed through the device of accumulation, follows a formal limpid course, just as a certain complex listening stance

is solicited by the composer.

The first half of the work presents police sirens (which inherently resemble synthetic sounds)

whose characteristic glissando is amplified and re-introduced into the synthesis. Following multiple loops and other digressions, they end by giving rise to a long descending glissando, a key moment in the composition which highlights the composer’s vast know-how, a tour de force of seduction of our sense of listening to gestures of such scale and concision. What occur next are sounds of footsteps on asphalt laid out in a series of accumulations, before they too, become a source for sound synthesis.

How can one resist the temptation to link this work to the 2012 Canadian Spring student protests ?  Yet Monique Jean’s composition defies direct comparison, potential references merely hovering about it without ever putting down roots. In ‘What is Literature ?’, Jean-Paul Sartre’s comments might sum up such affiliations :

“Notes, colours, forms : these are not signs,  indeed they are unreflective of any thing external to them.   Any minute obscure meaning that might inhabit them – light gaiety, timid forlornness –  simply shivers about them like a heat haze”.1

Rare indeed are the occasions where a new work’s first performance elicits such a powerful consensus among listeners.  Last Thursday’s première of T.A.G. at The Akousma Festival in Usine C was just such an occasion.

Patrick Saint-Denis

1. Jean-Paul Sartre : What is Literature ?, Galimard, 1948

27.10.13 / New Works (postludes), Patrick Saint-Denis

Translation : vivienne spiteri         


1 Jean-Paul Sartre : What is Literature ? Gallimard, Paris 1948.

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