This composition pays tribute to Paul-Émile Borduas, one of the founders of artistic modernity — and freedom — in Québec. Two of his works have had an impact on my own work: his 1949 text Projections libérantes, and his painting Composition 69, found on the artist’s easel upon his death in 1960.
Composition 69 imposes itself at first glance: the canvas is almost completely covered with massive interlocking black impastos that form a “shiny wall of coal”. (See the comment made by Jean-Paul Filion cited by François-Marc Gagnon in the catalogue for the Paul-Émile Borduas retrospective at the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts, 1988, p. 466.) A little bit of white is seen at the top of the wall and through a few cracks, like the cosmic void. I believe this is the infinite toward which the painter projected himself, free for — and freed by — eternity. As a matter of fact, in reference to being fired from teaching at the École du meuble the previous year, Borduas concludes Liberating Projections thus: “You have ended it! So be it! But I defy any power to erase its memory or its example.” (Paul-Émile Borduas, “Liberating Projections”, Écrits/Writings 1942-1958, introduced and edited by François-Marc Gagnon, translated by François-Marc Gagnon and Dennis Young, Halifax, Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, 1978, p. 113.)
In my piece, I have worked almost exclusively with so-called “multiphonics”. These are sounds produced using unusual fingerings and a distorted pressure mouthpiece, resulting in a fractured or split “multiple” quality. I have approached these phenomena like blocks I could superimpose and juxtapose, drawing inspiration from Composition 69’s impastos. Also, in music, multiphonics can occasionally feel like “noise”, or data scrambling, similar to the colour black in painting. Yet, like Borduas, I have tried to treat this material in a specific way, applying a strict formal structure out of which a certain expressiveness unfolds.
I would like to thank the Quasar ensemble for its invaluable collaboration
Projections libérantes was composed in the winter and summer of 2007 and was premiered on April 6, 2008 by Quasar at La Chapelle in Montréal as part of the series Voyages Montréal / New York. Projections libérantes was commissioned by Quasar with the support of the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec (CALQ).