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La Scena Musicale - Vol. 19, No. 3

Elite Composers with Flexibility: New program in composition for the screen and stage at the Université de Montréal

by Emilie White / November 1, 2013

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In September 2013, the Faculty of Music at the Université de Montréal welcomed the first cohort of young composers to its new DÉPA (Diploma of advanced professional studies) program in composition for the screen and stage. This one-year program is aimed at graduate students who want to learn how to adapt musical compositions for film, dance, and theatre.

According to Isabelle Panneton, dean of the faculty of music, a doctorate program was necessary. She believes that master’s-level students haven’t necessarily acquired a solid enough signature style to be able to adapt to the requirements of cinema and stage. “We really want to train an elite group who will be able to work within the constraints of the screen and the stage. So we decided to move it to the doctoral level,” she explains.

An advantage is that the program allows composition students to partner up with young filmmakers at Concordia University or the Université de Montréal, and with choreographers at the École de danse contemporaine de Montréal. This interschool, interdisciplinary exchange allows students to explore different genres and the limits posed by their respective arts.

“Great flexibility is needed. You need to respond to exterior constraints of all kinds: war music, tango, jazz, rock, or even something that resembles Mozart,” Panneton points out. “You need to respond quickly and have the ability to adapt to demands.”

Young filmmakers also learn about the constraints of composers, and composers learn about the limits imposed by cinema.

The Faculty of Music at the Université de Montréal creates opportunities for young composers who want to dive into the world of cinema, theatre and dance. The DÉPA also allows composers to explore musical technologies to meet the needs not only of music for the screen and stage, but also for the video game and multimedia industries.

One student enrolled in the program has already composed the scores for two short films, one of which is a cartoon, in partnership with a student filmmaker at Concordia University.

According to the dean, students will join forces on projects all year long. Audiences will have to keep an eye – and an ear – out for more DÉPA collaborations.

Translation: Rebecca Anne Clark

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