Welcome to MusiMarch 2002!

In the spirit of MusiNovember 1998 and MusiOctober 1999, MusiMarch 2002 will provide a forum for investigating music as a living, contemporary phenomenon. The creation of music in all its richness, complexity and paradox will be our main focus. We want to approach the act of creation as closely as possible, and to understand it as a meaningful and symbolic gesture from several standpoints. The works of ten composers will serve as a point of departure for examining contemporary music itself, and its relation to society. We will have the pleasure of meeting eight of the ten composers whose works will be performed at the three concerts of this symposium. In lectures, master classes and discussions of all kinds, they will discuss their concept of what music is and offer insights into their esthetic development and their relation to the society in which they live.

The events planned for MusiMarch 2002 will not be restricted only to these issues. They will extend to an area that is particularly rich in possibilities for the music of today: the potential inter-relation between different modes of syntax, genres, styles and cultures, and their inter-penetration with each other. This will be the topic of discussion for a roundtable on Monday, March 4: le Métissage musical/Transcultural Music.

This year’s guest of honour is Chinese composer, Tan Dun. His enormously popular works which figure prominently on the international scene (he was awarded the Oscar for best film music in 2001), represent a crossroads between East and West. He brings together material from sources as diverse as Shamanistic ritual tradition, Western mythology or cultural referents from the music of large-scale film productions. His Marco Polo is one of the most impressive accomplishments in the contemporary opera repertory. The Orchestral Theatres series also displays his very original way of transferring ritual elements of theatre and popular Chinese culture into the traditional Western concert hall. Well-known Canadian composers Melissa Hui and Alexina Louie will also be present. Melissa Hui was born in Hong Kong, raised in Vancouver and studied in the United States. Come As You Are, one of her recent works, features a dialogue between the Chinese pipa and a Western-style instrumental ensemble. The Oriental origins of Vancouver-born Alexina Louie figure prominently in many of her works. In Music for a Thousand Autumns music in the “chin” idiom is woven together with the old Chinese song Yearning on the River Shiang. Interestingly, Alexina Louie has written music for the concert hall as well as for theatre, dance and film. This is also true of Denis Gougeon, whose very flexible style has enabled him to work quite brilliantly in the worlds of theatre and dance.

Composers such as Jean Lesage, John Rea or myself are concerned to varying degrees with questions of artistic “inter-textuality,” or cross-fertilization. One of the elements we see in Lesage’s music is a return to the use of affections from the stile fantastico of the Late Baroque. A few years ago Rea initiated the use of a subtle and complex system of musical references and correspondences extending through cultural space and time; his Jeux de masques is simultaneously fascinating and disturbing. Many elements of the European symphonic tradition are literally “transplanted” into a number of my works from the eighties, where they are served up from a critical North American perspective not devoid of occasionally caustic humour. Paul Frehner, on the other hand, seems to take pleasure in calling into question our perception of the passing moment by manipulating allusions, even subliminal ones. Xiogang Ye, who studied both at the Peking Conservatory and in the United States, is one of the most conspicuous of today’s Chinese composers. His music displays an efficiency of style that places him in the lineage of Stravinsky but also draws inspiration from Cantonese musical idioms, as can be heard in Nine Horses. As for Mauricio Kagel, he is one of the masters of “stylistic appropriation,” or imaginative deconstruction and reconstruction. Not content with inviting us on an imaginary journey through the folklore of Eastern and Southern Europe, he amuses himself by constantly changing perspective and blurring our perception and memory.

MusiMarch is the fruit of a long-standing partnership between the Faculty of Music of McGill University and the Société de musique contemporaine du Québec (SMCQ). This year a prestigious new partner has joined forces with us: the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal. Since the SMCQ has already enjoyed a fruitful collaboration with the OSM in organizing the OSMCQ four times, it seemed only natural for us to combine these two partnerships into a new and larger combination of forces. This was the beginning of MusiMarch 2002. We are confident that this three-way collaboration will make a concrete contribution towards the performance of new music and towards making contemporary music known to an informed and ever-widening public. We firmly believe that the performance of new music plays a major role in maintaining the vitality of our musical culture and society as a whole. We would therefore like to express our most sincere thanks to the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, and especially to artistic director Charles Dutoit, artistic administrator Paul Fortin and director general Madeleine Carreau for sharing with us the responsibility for bringing this vision to life.

You are cordially invited to attend the four concerts of this week of intense activity, the roundtable on Transcultural Music and all the lectures and discussions. It will be a fascinating and enjoyable week.

I look forward to meeting and speaking with you.

Denys Bouliane,
Artistic Coordinator of MusiMarch