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La Scena Musicale - Vol. 6, No. 5

Contemporary Music for all Generations

by Lucie Renaud / February 1, 2001

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The year 2000 turned out to be a busy one for the Montreal Contemporary Ensemble / Ensemble Contemporain de Montréal (ECM). La Scena Musicale interviewed its founder and artistic director, Véronique Lacroix, after the ECM’s first Pan-Canadian tour, which took it from New Brunswick to British-Columbia, as part of the Generation 2000 workshops.

1. Emily Doolottle
2. Andriy Talpash
3. Gordon Fitzell
4. Jean-François Laporte
5. Rose Bolton

Generation 2001

For the first time since 1994, the Generation contest was opened last year to all of Canada’s composers. The five selected composers (Andriy Talpash, Rose Bolton, Gordon Fitzell, Emily Doolittle and Jean-François Laporte) needed first of all to focus their approach during preliminary workshops attended by a growing number of interested music lovers. After the Ensemble and its composer worked on a composition, it was fine-tuned for a concert presentation in the fall, preceded by reference points drawn up by the composer. "Being required to synthesize one’s thoughts for the public, at the preliminary stage or at the concert, helps put the work in focus. Often composers cannot accomplish what they aspire to; there are practical choices to be made,"sums up Véronique Lacroix.

The Ensemble, in residence at Montreal’s Conservatory of music since 1995, wants to stimulate young composers by providing different contexts for creation. It also wants to ensure that the partnership with the composers is long-term. "In Quebec,"says the artistic director, "even beginning composers can consider a career. We guarantee them three or four commissions over a ten-year period—elsewhere, composers can expect their works to be performed only after ten years! When we initiate a partnership we accompany the composers in their career, their evolution. These are the composers of our generation and we are constantly attentive to what they have to say."

A fascination for the unknown

For Lacroix, the interpretation and propagation of contemporary music have always been second nature. In 1987, considering it essential to participate in the musical life of her time, and as a young conducting student at the Conservatory, she founded the Ensemble, made up of fellow students. The conductor clearly remembers the Ensemble’s first concert, which blended a Mozart octet and a creation by Anthony Rosankovik in a thematic approach. The ECM musicians are now young professionals recognized as finº instrumentalists, but Lacroix continues to combine composers old and new. "As an interpreter, to understand contemporary music well, one must also know what came before,"she insists.

Eighty new works later, creation continues to stimulate Lacroix. "I never tire of watching the creative process, she says. I like its unsettling dimension. The challenge lies not only in giving shape to the notes and the rhythm of a work, but in making it come alive."

The concert continues to be a unique moment for the conductor: "A concert is an event, a celebration, a time for the audience to focus on listening to the work. It greatly enhances the capacity to listen. The presence of the musicians onstage affords the possibility of more electrifying moments.”

Director Lacroix wants to avoid falling into a routine, and this explains no doubt the unique variety of the ECM programming. "With the Generation workshops we go through a rational analysis while explaining the creative process. The thematic concert with its mixed fare, a hybrid of classical and contemporary and its extra-musical dimension, is a way of reaching out to a public of non-initiates. It carries the listeners into another dimension without their noticing, simply through emotion. That way everyone can get something out of the experience, simply by allowing themselves to be carried by the flow,"concludes the conductor.
A prospect of exciting discoveries ahead!

[Translated by Alexandre Lebedeff]

Young composers wishing to participate in the Generation 2001 workshops have until February 15. Details are available at the Ensemble’s web site at: http://www.ecm.qc.ca.

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