Spelunking in the Organ’s Undulations

By Louise Boisclair

When the organ—an orchestra-machine comprised of an assemblage of a wind system and geometric, square, conical, or cylindrical pipes made of wood, tin, lead, or zinc—is connected to a MIDI interface, the entire composition benefits from the digital possibilities. Without losing any of the Baroque, Romantic, or classical resonances of the traditional repertoire, the composition gains new associations between, superpositions of, or preoccupations with combinations of sounds. And when instrumentalists double as artists, whether they work on the programming, performance, composition, or improvisation, listeners may experience unexpected or unforeseen moments. The twenty-one works created, sometimes collectively, sometimes individually, during the Interstices ductiles [Ductile Interstices] and Vicomte de rien [Viscount of Nothing] residencies, therefore offer an intriguing suite.

Upon first listening to the work, we are surprised by an ambience typical of more traditional forms, yet suffused with something innovative. Our ears apprehend not only the unusual styles, but also their neural, muscular, skeletal reverberations as they spread throughout the body. We endeavour to distinguish between the agency of the instrument and that of the interface, the human and automated parts of the composition, the uniqueness of the solos and the mixture of the duets. For this alone, several listening sessions are necessary. Then comes the moment when hearing and sound form an inseparable whole. This involves listening to the sound’s optimal power as a flow of hypnotic phases picked up from synaptic connections, in an intermingling of pure lines and shifted harmonics. The spontaneous, scriptural transcription of these phenomena reveals an ever-changing sonic play.

Interstices ductiles

Over the course of several aleatory listening sessions, the solo or duo works of Simon Elmaleh, Jocelyn Robert, and Vincent Thériault inspired the following writing.

Le phare [The Lighthouse]

A sustained chord, augmented by numerous others, each punctuated by distant echoes and enhanced by colourful influences, traverses mirages, introducing a horizontal direction to the meanders of the sonic forest.

Interstices ductiles

Le phare


Spores, partie 2 [Spores, Part 2]

Played staccato and accompanied by brief accelerations, short chords give rhythm to the march while oscillations illuminate the canopy, in which a range of sonorities resound like a peacock fanning out its tail.

Interstices ductiles

Spores, partie 2


Narcolepsie [Narcolepsy]

On the shores of an underwater descent, various alarm bells pierce the fog with the determination of an adventurous counterpoint. What is happening? Into what unknown universe are these pitches taking us?

Interstices ductiles



Dyslexie [Dyslexia]

A rising succession of notes focuses our attention on discerning the intertwined frequencies while moments of syncopation slip out of time.

Interstices ductiles



Glissades [Glissandi]

Against a solemn background, horns in a harbour signal their presence in a succession of tight increments that complement and sustain each other.

Interstices ductiles



Lacet [Snare]

In a game of convergences and divergences, a beam of sonic specks disperses strident notes like shooting stars. Following the acute angles of an invisible axis, arpeggios engage in dialogue.

Interstices ductiles



L’assemblée [The Assembly]

Around an atypical diapason, the organ stops tune their pitches and sounds in an accumulation of reeds and strings.

Interstices ductiles



Spores, partie 1 [Spores, Part 1]

A few horns prompt a continuation of iterative insertions in an attempt to return to the initial signal.

Interstices ductiles

Spores, partie 1



In a slow progression of hypnotic encores that scrape the surface of nowhere toward somewhere, resonant frequencies illuminate the accumulation of lines interspersed with ellipses.

Interstices ductiles



Les rondes, prise 1 [Semibreves, Take 1]

Like lovers, the first chords scattered over undulating lines draw in melodies emerging from a vibrational circle, depositing radiant sprays here and there.

Interstices ductiles

Les rondes, prise 1


Intempéries [Bad Weather]

An iteration of strident attacks resonates between piercing calls, pushing the momentum out of the chambers. With incremental breathlessness, the throbbing incantation subsides until fading at last.

Interstices ductiles



Every note radiates over intersecting lines. Every frequency oscillates, extends, fills out as a sequence begins again. Depending on its impulses, the organ becomes a recorder or viola de gamba, whistle or siren, wind (clarinet, oboe) or string (cello, violin) instrument. Assisted by the MIDI system, the composer-instrumentalists reverse the flow, divide the counterpoints, colour the orchestration and plainsong with surprising sonorities. With human manipulation of the interface, the exciter directs the vibrations toward the resonator, which determines the frequency and provides the timbre. They both modulate the harmonics, augmenting the architectonic richness of the series.

Vicomte de rien

A nine-part opus by Jocelyn Robert, Vicomte de rien reigns over an ecosphere in which the sonic geology reveals varied undulations.

De la colline [From the Hill] launches a melodic incursion enlivened by the song of the bunting. In counterpoint, the ear follows its glissando from one level to the next, down to the base.

Vicomte de rien

De la colline


Then, Cette chose, c’est moi [This Thing Is Me] initiates, in the pipes, a call-and-response suite whose repetitions and overlaps draw a trajectory over various staggered plateaus, before the pulse is extinguished.

Vicomte de rien

Cette chose, c’est moi


After the measure that provides the A note, L’art du portrait [The Art of Portraiture] strings together a series of contrapuntal prompts and touches in a quest infused with propulsive legatos, which at first ascend and then are reversed in mid-air.

Vicomte de rien

L’art du portrait


At this point, La réponse paradoxale [The Paradoxical Answer] declares itself from high to low, supported by chords interwoven with overflows and gaps, sketching arabesques embellished with decreasing repetitions, before increasing again in recurring inversions.

Vicomte de rien

La réponse paradoxale


Then, Toutes les collusions [All Collusion] populates the air with sudden punctuated moments in increasingly aleatory and unruly combinations. The mechanism’s agency then takes over from the instrumentalist’s performance, fragmented by a discordance studded with luminous rays that set the final destination.

Vicomte de rien

Toutes les collusions


Emerging from the crypt while performing sonic recalls, La parade des papes [The Parade of the Popes] nuances the rumbles of the tempo and begins soaring toward the ultimate ceremony.

Vicomte de rien

La parade des papes


With a positive tone, L’art des oiseaux [The Art of Birds] awakens a series of calls, chords, scales, and harmonies. From one moment to the next, impromptu suites break up and drift away, leaving the reiterated auscultation of the pulse in their wake.

Vicomte de rien

L’art des oiseaux


Then, Les détours du retour [The Detours of the Return] interweaves the amplified reverberations of an antiphon rising to the heights of an uninterrupted exhalation.

Vicomte de rien

Les détours du retour


Responding to the bunting’s call in humming grottos, before the ultimate disappearance, À la terre [To the Earth] modulates the signal of ascending and descending sonic layers. As earthly vibrations subside, the internalization of the compositions transforms clues into reflections.

Vicomte de rien

À la terre


Months later, remembering the orderly listening of Vicomte de rien and the aleatory one of Interstices ductiles brings back the sense of being in a suspended place. Various degrees and intensities are propelled into a sublime world, floating on an air layer before settling in a solemn moment. The entire body renews its auricular modes and fills its memory matrix with indelible impressions, notes and chords, counterpoints and musical reversals. Enriched by irradiant traces with soothing resonances, the vast corporeal ear closes its openings. In the enduring echo, the reverberation retransmits an upside-down mix that keeps infinitely composing, decomposing, and recomposing itself.