Listen to Expédition 4, "Bébittes". Written by Jean Derome.
Recorded on Nov 12-14, 2000 at Radio-Canada's studio 12. Performed by Nicolas Caloia, Guillaume Dostaler, Normand Guilbeault, Joane Hétu, Diane Labrosse, Jean René, Pierre Tanguay, Martin Tétreault, Tom Walsh, Rainer Wiens.
Canot-Camping (2000) is a large-scale composition for chamber ensemble, and is what composer Jean Derome refers to as a musical mosaic made up of independent sections based on the theme of a canoe and camping expedition. The piece serves as a musical “territory” that the ensemble can explore over the course of a given performance, or “expedition” as they are referred to.
Each musical element represents a site, and each site can be related in different ways to other sites. In an expedition the designated leader chooses the route, covering as little as one section or as many as several “days” worth of adventures towards new territories of sound. The piece features a flexible structure allowing for new sections and ideas to be incorporated to suit the circumstances of a given expedition. While originally scored for 12 musicians, there are sections that permit more or less players at a time. The piece features contrasts between sections based on literal translations of canoe and camping themes into music, and sections that are more thematically abstract. There are also contrasts between fully composed sections notated in standard and proportional notation, as well as structured improvisations notated in graphic notation. The challenge is for the musicians to navigate through both structured and abstract terrain on their musical journey.
There are two methods of transmitting the score, the first based on a series of notated cards for the players to follow, and the second based on a series of hand gestures that everyone must memorise beforehand that the director can then use to guide the music in different directions. The score itself is relatively sparse. Rather than emphasising a structured sequencing of events, the piece focuses on the compelling nature of the overall concept for the players and provides a simple and flexible framework for interpreting this concept. In his compositions Derome generally strives to convey his ideas using the simplest and most direct means of communication. Thus one measure of the success of a given piece is in achieving a consistent result over the course of several performances, having given a minimum of instructions.
For Canot-Camping Derome integrates a variety of notational styles including written and verbal instructions, drawings and graphic symbols, as well as standard and proportional notation where appropriate. There are also several instances of “found” scores, including playing cards, dominoes, topographical maps, as well as a series of aphorisms entitled “Choses à savoir” (“Things to Know”) where the words themselves serve as the score. The result is a dynamic interplay between the players and the score. Because of this Derome draws an analogy between a video game and the performance process involved in a given expedition, where the piece unfolds as a journey through a new world, in which the players gather materials that can alter the course of the expedition. Thus, given the flexibility of its structure, it is a piece that evolves not only from one expedition to the next, but within a given expedition as well, where the final destination, if there is one, is unknown.