Michel Gonneville

michelMichel Gonneville, Cantate de la dette perpétuelle (2013)
CAC premiere Feb. 27, 2013 Montreal New Music – Aventa Ensemble with Anne Grimm, soprano
, Patricia Green, mezzo-soprano
, Vincent Ranallo, baritone

Browsing Agon (2009)
premiere: June 14, 2009 Gasteig, Munich, Germany

Cantate de la dette perpétuelle was commissioned with the support of the Canada Council for the Arts

After studies with Gilles Tremblay (Montréal), Karlheinz Stockhausen (Darmstadt and Köln) and Henri Pousseur (Liège), Michel Gonneville (1950- ) has devoted himself mainly to composing and teaching, living in his native city of Montréal. His musical output covers many genres, from solo pieces to orchestra and chamber music theater, but also includes collaborations with choreographers, visuals artists and writers. Commissions and premieres involved local and international groups. Lectures here and abroad, participation to jurys, event organization and writing specialized articles have filled other moments of his life. Since 1997, he teaches composition and analysis at the Conservatoire de musique de Montréal. As a pedagogue, he is appreciated for his open-mindedness and dialogic aptitudes. His music is rooted mainly in the post-1968 serial way of thinking, cross-influenced by post-modern currents (Claude Vivier, the French spectral school, and some outsiders). Rigorous formal constructions absorb melodic, rhythmic and harmonic speculations, sophistication and immediate expressiveness striving for equilibrium. Historical references are not rare in his works: for example, Browsing Agon, also composed for the Aventa Ensemble, refers to Stravinsky’s Agon in many more or less clearly perceptible ways.

Cantata of the unredeemable Debt (2013)

“The student uproar against the hike in tuition fees in Québec during the spring of 2012, as well as the timely reading of Margaret Atwood’s lectures Payback. Debt or the shadow Side of Wealth convinced me thoroughly that the vocal work commissioned to me by the Victoria-based Aventa Ensemble should be based on a treatment of this theme of Debt. My daughter Laurie immediately embraced the subject and presented me with a very inspiring storyline and text that, along the few musical guidelines I initially had in mind, was to become a dramatic cantata.

And so came the Voyages of a woman (the soprano) and her Visits, first walking to a man (the baritone) impersonating a Father, a Teacher and a Politician, then flying to a foreign country to a woman (the mezzo-soprano), successively an Immigration Agent, an Employer and a Lover. After fleeing from the weighty heritage of the first three characters, she then tries to be worthy of the gifts of her adoptive land.

The trip back home conveys a slow Introspection. Both fleeing and obligingness are useless in the face of a societal system of interpersonal, intergenerational and international debt, perpetual and never to be redeemed. The final solo and chorus recognize this simple fact, suggested by a will to maintain communication between debtor and creditor, forever mutually dependent.” – M. Gonneville

Laurie Damme Gonneville
librettist

Surrounded by music since early childhood, Laurie Damme Gonneville first studied piano, then bassoon, before concluding that she was a more enthusiastic music lover than performer. While she still plays regularly with the Symphonie des Vents de Montréal, it is in the audience of Montreal concert halls that she keeps sharpening her interest for local and international musical creation. As a writer, she first collaborated with Michel Gonneville on Microphone Songs (2002), a two-movement piece commissioned by the Crash Ensemble. A third movement was added to the work in 2009 as part of a commission for the Ensemble Contemporain de Montréal. Graduating from McGill University’s School of Architecture in 2008, her thesis project focussed on the importance of acoustic environments in the architectural design process. As an intern with Menkes Shooner Dagenais Letourneux, she worked on the competition phase for the new Maison Symphonique de Montréal. She still practices in Montreal, most notably with Atelier TAG and, since 2010, as an architect with Fournier Gersovitz Moss Drolet et associés, architectes.

Browsing Agon (2008)

“The starting idea of Browsing Agon was to write a series of miniatures for the 10 musicians of Aventa Ensemble. To my asking, these musicians and their conductor brought forward the following, very heterogeneous ideas which then became the subtitles of the individual miniatures, each one centered around the instrument of the proponent:
Krakatoa (piano)
Zéphyr, or Amnesia (horn)
Bisbigliando (contrabass)
Sushi (percussion)
Flamenco (clarinet)
Newt (flute)
Hocketus with some Klangfarben (cello)
Hot sandy beach, with sporadic raindrops (alto)
Multiphonics (oboe)
Shoes, Turkey – the country – and Wine (violin)

Instead of being independent pieces separated by silence, the miniatures form an uninterrupted patchwork whose elements are linked together, à la manière de Mussorgsky’s Pictures of an exhibition, by a kind of pointillist refrain, itself undergoing variation. But, more secretly, all of the miniatures are based on materials taken from different movements of Stravinsky’s Agon, thus complying to the idea submitted by Aventa’s conductor William Linwood.
Why Agon ? Because it is in this piece that Stravinsky accomplished a very successful mix of his former polymodal writing and his future serial one. Aside being one of my favorite pieces by the Russian composer, Agon was giving me a very inspiring model of integration of seemingly disparate languages, which was exactly what I needed to deal with the disparate ideas submitted to me.
After a recalling of the whole browsing, the piece finishes like it started…” – Michel Gonneville

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