Keep Driving, I’m Dreaming. Ballet BC, Vancouver. Laurence Kelson – PLANK Magazine May 2017
Keep Driving, I’m Dreaming was created as part of the Encounters project which paired three Canadian choreographers with three Canadian composers in celebration of Canada’s 150th anniversary. This piece contrasted the first with its more open and fluid staging. It was fast paced, energetic, and very exciting to watch. It seemed to keep coming in waves and matched the relentless intensity of the music. Nicole Lizée’s stunning and fascinating score is intricately layered both sonically and rhythmically, with lots of dynamic contrast reflected in the choreography. This is an exquisite work with some beautiful, exuberant ensemble moments. It was a joy to experience and met with audience approval.
Keep Driving, I’m Dreaming. National Arts Centre Orchestra and Ballet BC, Ottawa. Natasha Gauthier – Artsfile – April 2017
I love every note Nicole Lizée writes, and her score here is no exception. Lizée works her usual wizardry between the acoustic and the electronic, employing effects like speeding up and slowing down, clashing time signatures, Dali-esque glissandi, and fantastic percussion combinations, tied together with wit and the kind of originality that makes you grin at the sheer balls of it. In a world of minimalists, Lizée’s music celebrates manga video-game superhero maximalism. Shelley and the orchestra handled the tricky speed shifts and hairpin turns as deftly as Formula 1 drivers.
8-Bit Urbex, Karappo Okesutura. Sydney Festival, Australia. John Shand – The Sydney Morning Herald – January 2017
Here was a genuinely audacious piece of festival programming. Canadian composer Nicole Lizée leaves you wondering whether you have just witnessed pop culture being turned into high art or vice versa. The answer, of course, is that the line has been obliterated.
Also a turntablist and electronics whiz, Lizée appropriates anything that stirs an idea or fulfils a need. Two of the four works presented...incorporated the most successful marriage of music and image I have encountered. Ever.
8-Bit Urbex, Karappo Okesutura. Sydney Festival, Australia. Keith Gallasch – The RealTime Arts Magazine – January 2017
In B-Bit Urbex, Lizée, now upstage with the orchestra at her computer, plays with malfunctioning early computer games, with a keen focus on their “pixelated cities.” The simple, often stuttering images and freezes are aurally textured with complex music that has to responsively slow, compulsively repeat or hover. Band members clap in time, two trumpeters play into buckets of water, there’s a wild big band passage and some fine gentle guitar work, pitched against the image of a plodding game robot. The unpredictability of these old games yields rich musical rewards.
…the concert concluded thrillingly with Karappo Orestutura (literally “empty orchestra”) in which a singer adjusts her performance to a malfunctioning karaoke machine (as played by the Australian Art Orchestra). Gian Slater, in superb voice, stays ‘in tune with’ the warped pitches, grinding glides and relentless repeats, maintaining, as Lizée requests, “composure.” Things begin well enough, songs complemented by old footage of couples kissing, fighting, crying, hugging and images of fire. Then a screen explosion anticipates a world about to go wonky, which it does with Devo breaking up on screen and the singer seamlessly executing fractured vocals for “Whip It.” Unexpected images pop-up: the joint-sharing scene from Easy Rider, the dead mother in Psycho, as if the imagined machine has locked onto some other platform. The climax is spectacular: Diana Ross and Lionel Richie onscreen in aged video gazing lovingly at each other, microphones in hand for “Endless Love,” their voices finely realised by Slater and conductor Tristram Williams riding with aplomb every tape stutter, enforced glide and mad looping. The Australian Art Orchestra and Slater, along with a very busy Vanessa Tomlinson on percussion, rise to this demanding occasion with precision and gusto.
Nicole Lizée makes impressive new music—and new audiovisual experiences—from the manipulation, decay and malfunctioning of old technologies. In this concert, the challenging melding of music and media reached a deeply satisfying apotheosis.
(Named Top 5 Concerts of Sydney Festival 2017)
Keep Driving, I’m Dreaming. Ballet BC, Vancouver. Michael Crabb – Dancing Times (United Kingdom) – June 2017
…with a refreshingly original and atmospheric score by Nicole Lizée that mixes live acoustic and recorded electronic elements, helped make Emily Molnar’s Keep Driving, I’m Dreaming the evening’s most memorable and arresting work.
Keep Driving, I’m Dreaming. National Arts Centre Orchestra and Ballet BC, Ottawa. Maud Cucchi – Le Droit – April 2017
Keep driving, I’m dreaming a progressé en accélérations et décélérations, arrêts sur image, privilégiant la mise en lumière de l’individu face au groupe. Le surprenante partition de Nicole Lizée, éclectique et inattendue (sons de cloches et battements de mains convoqués) a offert une bande originale…très originale.
Black MIDI. Toronto Symphony Orchestra and Kronos Quartet, Roy Thompson Hall. Leslie Barcza – Barczablog – March 2017
I have so much to say about the final wonderful piece on the program, Lizée’s Black MIDI, a commission from the TSO & Kronos Quartet. Yes it comes with a preamble, the requirement to understand its language, but that’s a very rewarding stipulation when it comes right down to it. Black MIDI is a series of short compositions for orchestra & string quartet, with films projected above that illuminate what we’re hearing. I’m tempted to call the work a series of short films, resembling documentary in some respects but much more fanciful than what we usually see of the genre, and far more oblique in the approach to expression.
“Black MIDI” is a genre that Lizée uses as an opportunity to investigate the fundamentals of music and music making. If we can imagine that the notation of many notes on a screen will make many notes to be heard, then imagine if that is taken to the extreme, so many notes that the screen is almost blackened. This extreme case of what a machine can do served as an exploratory playground. For twenty electrifying minutes we investigated music from first principles. Black MIDI serves Lizée perfectly to illustrate the implications of technology in the creation of music. If Black MIDI didn’t exist she’d have to invent it.
I think the piece has a great deal to offer, and could be made longer if Lizée had any interest in exploring further, even if the length right now feels taut with suspense & dramatic tension. I hope to encounter this work again, perhaps in a video.
The images & ideas will be reverberating in my head for days.
Alain Brunet – La Presse – March 2017
L’intelligence et la sensibilité supérieures de cette musicienne de 43 ans tiennent à sa capacité de transformer le fouillis de la vie en musiques extraordinaires. Son cottage de Lachine est jonché de vinyles, CD, DVD, livres, guitares, platines, piano, claviers analogiques, bidules numériques, ordinateurs, partitions éparses… splendide bric-à-brac !
Ses oeuvres visionnaires puisent dans le maelström audiovisuel de notre époque, ses musiques illustrent une tension remarquable entre cultures populaires et savantes, apparemment désassorties : rock métal, easy listening, pop britannique, électro, djisme, musiques classiques et contemporaines, bruitisme, jazz actuel, traitement intégré du cinéma…
Philippe Renaud – Le Devoir – June 2017
Le génie de la jeune Montréalaise, aujourd’hui reconnu à travers le monde, est d’abord de savoir absorber des éléments de la contre-culture et de la culture populaire, les jeux vidéo et le cinéma en particulier (elle a composé des oeuvres inspirées du cinéma...de Stanley Kubrick, d’Alfred Hitchcock), pour enrichir le répertoire contemporain. Elle a également le mérite d’avoir introduit dans l’orchestre classique une nouvelle panoplie d’instruments inhabituels aux sonorités singulières en inventant une manière de les fixer sur une partition, donc de permettre à d’autres compositeurs d’utiliser à leur tour ces instruments, d’élargir la palette sonore de l’orchestre.
Another Living Soul. Kronos Quartet. Music and Beyond Festival, Ottawa. Alan Viau – Ottawa Life – July 2017
Montreal’s, Nicole Lizée’s Another Living Soul was an intriguing work which used various percussion elements. The quartet were not only playing their instruments but also stomping, hitting bells, twirling tuned whistling tubes, and sighing. This must have been very demanding on the artists and required lots of practice and concentration to execute so perfectly.
Zeiss After Dark. National Arts Centre Orchestra, Ottawa. Natasha Gauthier – Tales from the Red Chair – February 2017
Nicole Lizée is consistently proving herself to be one of Canada’s most original and exciting composers. In the concise Zeiss After Dark she employs her preferred alchemy of phasing, Doppler-effect brass, and snappy techno rhythms to pay homage to the flickering lighting effects in Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon.
Zeiss After Dark. Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Roy Thompson Hall. Leslie Barcza – Barczablog – March 2017
We began with another Sesquie, those two minute salutes to Canada’s 150th anniversary. I am breathless with admiration for the way Lizée writes her program notes, again more in alignment with the art world than the old classical world I know. Zeiss After Dark would replicate in music something ground-breaking in the history of cinematography, even as we saw Lizée on that most curious interface: looking simultaneously into the past while employing revolutionary tools that break new ground, as though revising our notions of historiography. When Stanley Kubrick filmed a candlelit scene in Barry Lyndon he was simultaneously reaching into the past – to show us an optical effect we never see on film nor terribly often even in our own lives; yet to do so was a kind of advanced trick of recording history, a kind of time-travel. How she might have asked herself would a composer go back in time to record something similar if intangible and elusive from Canada’s history? With the same or analogous aural tools to hear as though in that unilluminated place: where the light helps us hear rather than see. We got something deceptively simple, and while that may mean something minimalist on the surface, it was a slippery surface, one that I grappled with and would like to hear again, as I can’t pretend that I understood it. This was the most probing and elusive two minutes of any of the Sesquies I’ve yet heard…
Bookburners. Grego Applegate Edwards – Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review
Ms. Lizee brings to us a full palette of sound colors and effective pomo compositional ideas, at times embodying the idea of “glitch,” which involves utilizing older audio technologies in ways that involve either their intentional malfunctioning in controlled situations or their appropriation for uses they were not intended. The advent of the turntablist is an example that is widespread and needs no explanation. Nicole makes creative use of turntable virtuosity in her works at times.
The most spectacular example is the duet between a turntablist and an electric cello on the bonus DVD, for the title “Bookburners.” There is here an ingenious use of selected repetitions of record sequences as motives to launch the overarching cello part. It is lyric and impressive.
“White Label Experiment” pits So Percussion with Ms. Lizee on turntables and omnichord for an adventurous environment of sound that hangs together as composition. “Ouijist” is a chamber work that haunts in its mix of alto flute, violin, double bass, omnichord and spectres.
“Son of the Man with the Golden Arms” uses percussion quartet, two electric guitars and solo drums to create a kind of exploded rock virtuosity, shards of rock identity and splinters of sound hanging together in a disjointed but very musically fascinating way. The drum part is tough but beautifully executed by Ben Reimer.
Finally we have from the DVD “Hitchcock Etudes” for piano and glitch. Soundtrack music and dialog are torn apart and reassembled in a disjointed melange that corresponds with Hitchcock film clips that are similarly treated in a synchronized way with the music to form a complete audio-visual glitch. On this one the seeing of it all adds a crucial element. I am not entirely sure that the audio alone would be nearly as effective. But that’s the point, I guess.
In the end we have an impressive compositional program of music that stands out as exceptional, original, brittle and speaking to the sounds of the malfunctioning technology around us, turning it into art rather than the sort of cursing episodes one might find oneself in when you expect Aye-to-Bee continuity from your equipment.
She is an original, both lyrical and disembodied, innovative in her minimalist deconstruction, thoroughly a voice of today. An original voice in full-flower, in fact.
Highly recommended music.
Bookburners. Matthew Parsons – CBC
This piece has one of the most staggering openings you’ll ever hear: turntablist P-Love transforms a dusty old Slim Whitman record into a glorious, delicate call-and-response; a solo cello harmonizes below. It’s simple, ingenious and absolutely gorgeous.
Hitchcock Études. Top 15 New Classical of 2014: Stephen J Nereffid – Music is Good – Dublin, Ireland
Lizées’s ‘Hitchcock Preludes” is a magnificent collision in which soundtrack snippets are repurposed in startling ways, underscored and commented on by a piano.
National Arts Centre News Release: COMPOSER HOWARD SHORE TO MENTOR COMPOSER NICOLE LIZÉE IN 2015 GOVERNOR GENERAL’S PERFORMING ARTS AWARDS MENTORSHIP PROGRAM
The National Arts Centre (NAC) is proud to announce that acclaimed Canadian composer Howard Shore has chosen to mentor Montreal composer Nicole Lizée through the 2015 Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards Mentorship Program. Made possible with support from The Keg Spirit Foundation, the program allows past recipients of the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award, Canada’s highest honour in the performing arts, to give back to the next generation.
Howard Shore received the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement in 2011 for his many contributions to the cultural life of Canada. He is among today’s most respected, honoured and active composers and music conductors, and his music has been performed in concerts throughout the world. His work with film director Peter Jackson on The Lord of the Rings trilogy stands as his most towering achievement to date, earning him three Academy Awards. He has also received four GRAMMY and three Golden Globe awards.
Nicole Lizée has been called a “brilliant musical scientist” and lauded for “creating a stir with listeners for her breathless imagination and ability to capture Gen-X and beyond generation.” She creates new music from an eclectic mix of influences, including the earliest MTV videos, turntablism, rave culture, Hitchcock, Kubrick, 1960s psychedelia, and modernism. In a decade and a half of composition, she has received over 40 commissions, and her music has been performed worldwide in such renowned venues as Carnegie Hall (New York), Royal Albert Hall (London), Muziekgebouw (Amsterdam) and Cité de la musique (Paris).
“I am very excited to have this chance to learn from the great Howard Shore,” Ms. Lizée said. “Mentorship opportunities like this are as valuable as they are rare, and so I am grateful to the Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards Foundation, the National Arts Centre and The Keg Spirit Foundation for making this possible.”
“Nicole is such an innovative composer, a truly original voice,” Mr. Shore said. “I look forward to exchanging ideas and collaborating as artists through this program.”
This Will Not Be Televised/Bookburners. TURNmusic, Green Mountain Club, Waterbury, Vermont. Jim Lowe – The Barre Montpelier Times Argus
The program was divided in two, with the second half devoted to Montreal composer Nicole Lizée. Interestingly, while the first half was much more accessible to listeners, Lizée’s music proved much more intriguing.
And there was a complete separation of styles between the American and French-Canadian. While the first half showed its relationship to today’s pop music, the work of Lizée, who was born in 1973, relates more to the French serial music of the likes of Pierre Boulez.
Perhaps the most challenging work, to musicians and audience alike, as well as the most intriguing, was Lizée’s “This Will Not Be Televised.” An abstract journey through sounds, it incorporated ethereal electronic sounds and snippets of pop coming from manipulated turntables, while a spectrum of acoustic instruments — winds, strings and percussion — created their own sounds as well as the direction.
Despite utilizing multiple tonalities and rhythms, the result wasn’t cacophonous. Instead it was more of a musically psychedelic trip, enthusiastically and well performed.
Manipulating the three turntables, which were viewed by the audience projected on a movie screen, was “turntablist” Paolo Kapunan, a Lizée colleague. He would vary the speed of selected vinyl discs manually, while controlling the mix and volume from an electronic panel.
Kapunan was joined by TURNmusic cellist John Dunlop in Lizée’s “Bookburners,” a much more concrete work. Ethereal electronic sounds wisped around the solo cello performing solo passages, some in the style of J.S. Bach, some more abstract. The expertly played cello, though, gave the intriguing journey definite direction.
Arcadiac. Performed by the Regina Symphony Orchestra. Victor Sawa – conductor. Christopher Tessmer – The Leader Post
Lizee’s Arcadiac was captivating as the avant-garde orchestration coincided with various beeps, bleeps and blips of the numerous Atari console games shown onscreen. The familiarity of the early video game audio balanced with the symphony created a harsh beauty seemingly born out of anarchy. A challenging piece to listen to – and likely to play, as well – it was definitely tremendous and a complete paradox to the world of Brahms and Bach.
The Criterion Collection/La Callas Fantasie. Tapestry Opera, The Distillery, Toronto. Greg Bouchard – Noisey/Vice
During the first of two acts, featured soprano Carla Huhtanen sat awkwardly on stage while singing and mimicking actors from the The Sound of Music and Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, like a lonely fangirl in her bedroom. Meanwhile, Montreal-based composer, Nicole Lizée was behind the boards taking well-known scenes from each film and chopping them up into new but oddly recognizable pieces. For instance, she did a five minute loop of Maria von Trapp tuning her guitar and singing “let’s start at the very beginning,” which made for a very creepy version of the Sound of Music classic “Do-Re-Mi”. Or when she turned Tippi Hedren’s upbeat piano performance in The Birds into a slow trip-hop dirge that would make even Geoff Barrow proud. As the show reached its climax, Huhtanen obsessively watched scenes of opera diva, Maria Callas, at one point taking pills in reference to Callas’ famous beta blockers, which the late singer took to calm herself from anxiety attacks before shows. It was a vivid if uncomfortably honest portrayal of an artist overcoming their fears and chasing the longtail of fame. The show would end with Huhtanen confidently standing up and assuming the role of the diva with her voice washing over the room. Fitting, as the night was all about reimagining pop culture icons while creating huge and unique spectacles, something of which, opera, since its very inception, has always strived to do. And that’’s what makes Tapestry Opera and Tap:EX Tables Turned great, because they give a glimpse as to what opera can offer us in our multimedia savvy world, and what we’re missing out when we ignored it.
The Criterion Collection/La Callas Fantasie. Tapestry Opera, The Distillery, Toronto. Jenna Douglas – Schmopera
Well, Tapestry Opera did it again. I go and see one of their shows, I come away wanting to tell everyone how they should run to the Distillery District to see it, and I’m stuck to find the words to explain why. Last night was the first of two performances of Tapestry’s 2nd annual Tap:Ex (Tapestry Explorations/Experimentations), this time the program is Tables Turned, featuring the music of Montréal-based composer and turn table artist Nicole Lizée, with percussionist Ben Reimer and the spectacular soprano Carla Huhtanen. Lizée’s music was in two parts, the first nodding heavily towards iconic films and filmmakers, like Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds and Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. The second half was centred on Maria Callas, and the roles of icons in the lives of aspiring artists.
It was a jarring effect at first, to hear acoustic and electronic instruments, but Lizée uses each respective sound world in an organic way. In this first set, entitled The Criterion Collection, Lizée pieces together clips of music and film, and isolates small moments using glitch loops, and deconstructs the audio and video. In the first set, Carla is seen in comfy clothes, sitting down to watch her favourite movies. Lizée focuses on a word or a physical gesture in the film, repeating it over and over at different speeds. Small moments from The Shining, “Come play with us, Danny,” and Danny’s facial expressions, are slowed down and pulled apart. Lizée even adds the image of herself, sitting beside Doris Day at the piano in The Man Who Knew Too Much. The last section of The Criterion Collection is made up of moments from The Sound Of Music, like when the kids’ new stepmother-to-be plays ball with them (“Baroness Plays Ball”), when Maria teaches the kids the do-re-mi song (“Solfège 101”), when they all get caught singing and dancing about their favourite things (“Dog Bites Canticle”), and the singing of the nuns (“A Clowder of Nuns”). What Lizée does with the nuns’ music was pretty extraordinary, one of my favourite moments from the set.
I found Lizée’s work fascinating to watch and listen to, and Carla’s part in this set helped connect Lizée’s music to the motivation behind its creation. I heard Lizée as someone near my age, who grew up watching a lot of the same movies as I did; just like me, Lizée had her favourite moments of all time in those movies, and she was almost embodied in Carla’s movie-loving character. When those favourite moments were shared, like when the Baroness winces, thinking she’s going to get hit with the ball, I really did feel like I had something in common with all the art in the room. I wasn’t the only one who felt included with this nod to a shared culture. I heard people reacting all around me, nervously laughing when those twins from The Shining appeared onstage. With this program, I finally understood the level of cultural relevance that Tapestry’s Artistic Director Michael Mori calls for in today’s opera scene. To have people in the audience, reacting vocally to what they see and hear, and empathizing with the Carla’s live character in front of us, is a simple and profound moment of relevance for which most opera houses strive.
The second set, entitled La Callas Fantasie, featured Carla more prominently. She plays a singer, one of the many opera singers that idolizes Maria Callas. Over the piece, we see Carla practicing her difficult arias, struggling with coloratura and sound quality, and trying to emulate La Divina. Lizée uses a few quintessential arias recorded by Callas, to punctuate a singer’s journey of frustration and self-doubt and over-analysis, trying to find her own voice. Carla sang fragmented, frustrated bits of that tricky coloratura in “Non più mesta” from La Cenerentola, which Lizée splits up between the voices of Carla and Callas. Lizée does the same, in longer, more desperate-sounding fragments of “Una voce poco fa” from Il barbiere di Siviglia. I thought it was a perfect capturing of an artist whose progress is stunted by the unrealistic, overbearing presence of their idol. Carla went from determined, to frustrated, to trying to be someone she’s not. At this point, Lizée introduces clips from interviews Maria Callas gave with Lord Harewood; Lizée continues to deconstruct and isolate certain words Callas says, like “recitativo”, and “Bellini is very different than Donizetti,” and “I am not an idol, I am human.” From this point, Carla’s character gathers confidence, with Callas’ recording of the Habanera from Carmen; I like to think Lizée was telling artists that their idols are important, but they don’t signify a “right path to success.” Carla’s final notes of La Callas Fantasie _were full and rich and satisfying, and she sang with a sound that was reserved for when her character finds her _own voice. I kept thinking of the term, “swan song”, but she wasn’t dying. I loved that an artist used other artists to tell even more artists that they are truly artists.
So, when I say I don’t know how to describe what happened, it’s because a lot of it was new to me. I don’t trust my turntable terminology, for one, but my lack of descriptors comes from the fact that Nicole and Carla made great art that demanded a reaction from the audience. Tables Turned was good art by great artists, and as complicated as it probably was, the over-arching cultural references weren’t hard for the audience to grasp. Seems like a simple recipe for good theatre, and it was.
The Criterion Collection/La Callas Fantasie. Tapestry Opera, The Distillery, Toronto. John Gilks – Opera Ramblings
Last night’s Tap:Ex Tables Turned lived up to the hype. It was a pretty incredible experience but extremely difficult to describe. The first half consisted of Nicole Lizée’s reprocessed clips from classic films (The Shining, The Man Who Knew Too Much, The Birds, The Graduate and, of course, The Sound of Music but there were others). It was mostly short loop stuff; for example, the ball bouncing scene from TSoM over and over again. Beside the sound from the film there was live accompaniment from Ben Reimer on a variety of tuned percussion instruments and Carla Huhtanen with a variety of vocal effects and weirdly disturbing acting, helped along by the fact that she does look a bit like Julie Andrews, especially exploding Julie Andrews. I think there may have been more electronics from Nicole in the mix too. It was weird and fascinating and very enjoyable.
The second half was the same basic format but using Maria Callas clips; not just the classic performance material but interviews with Lord Harewood (of all people) as well. Again it was very disorienting and there was some more fine singing and acting from Carla, who doesn’t look (or sound) at all like Maria Callas. Both sets lasted about 25 minutes which was perfect. The common temptation in experimentation to stretch an idea further than it will go was avoided here.
If the goal was to make us look at overly familiar, iconic material in a new way, then I think the gang succeeded admirably.
Kool-Aid Acid Test #17: Blotterberry Bursst premiered by the San Francisco Symphony, Edwin Outwater – conductor, SoundBox, San Francisco. John Marcher – A Beast in a Jungle
They saved the best for last and words won’t do justice to describing the allure of Nicole Lizée‘s Kool-Aid Acid Test #17: Blotterberry Bursst, the first work commissioned specifically for SoundBox. Blotterberry Bursst has three primary elements but there’s a lot going on within it: live instrumental music; film and audio samples; and video, all of which are essential to the whole of experiencing Lizée‘s homage to the cultural manifestations of LSD in the 60s. She stirs samples of the Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” and Love’s “Alone Again Or” into the music played by the orchestra, at other times bits from the soundtracks of The Conversation, The Graduate (brilliantly so), The Birds, Vertigo, and Roger Corman flicks come and go out of focus, rewind, twist and trip their way back into the orchestral mix, along with the participation of mezzo-sopranos Silvie Jensen and Tania Mandzy Inala. The incongruity of Nadya Tichman and Peter Wyrick performing the piece was just a small part of its delights, and a nod should be given to the anchoring presence of Joan Cifarelli’s synthesizer. It’s a fond and imaginative 30 minute look back at a time once seen by many as scary, now rendered as a nostalgia trip, complete with video of people dropping SoundBox blotter tabs. Let’s see it again next year in the main hall, with all the lights out.
Kool-Aid Acid Test #17: Blotterberry Bursst premiered by the San Francisco Symphony, Edwin Outwater – conductor, SoundBox, San Francisco. Joshua Kosman – SFGate
…a buoyant Saturday night performance led by conductor Edwin Outwater, was an experience that kept dipping in and out of focus. The score ranged far and wide, from jittery minimalist grooves to sumptuous instrumental chorales. At times the performers seemed, like Lewis Carroll’s Red Queen, to be working very hard just to stay in one place; at others, a few elemental gestures would nudge the performance into a whole new stylistic realm.
The video track, meanwhile, was as domineering as video tracks tend to be. It began with a wonderfully surreal call to attention — the roar of the MGM lion played backward — and then proceeded to a catalog of acid-tinged cultural references, including the Jefferson Airplane classic “White Rabbit” and “The Trip,” Roger Corman’s 1967 film about just what the title says.
In addition to LSD itself, the piece has the Bay Area on its mind, with familiar film clips from “Vertigo,” “The Conversation,” “The Graduate” and more. That last provides fodder for one of Lizée’s most inspired musical moments, as she breaks Katharine Ross’ climactic cry of assent in the movie’s penultimate scene into its basic melodic elements.
Unfortunately, that gesture lasts only a moment before the kaleidoscope turns and the audience is rushed into the next thing. “Kool-Aid Acid Test” is a free-form assemblage of such gestures, each one arresting and often beautiful but too elusive to quite grab hold of.
Kool-Aid Acid Test #17: Blotterberry Bursst premiered by the San Francisco Symphony, Edwin Outwater – conductor, SoundBox, San Francisco. Roberto Friedman – The Bay Area Reporter
The piece was a wild aural approximation of an acid trip, with quotations from Jefferson Airplane (“White Rabbit”) and visuals from Vertigo, The Birds, and other Bay Area flashbacks. Whoa, man, trippy!
Hitchcock Études. Performed by Quatuor Bozzini, Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, UK. Simon Cummings – 5:4
Most striking of all was Nicole Lizée‘s Hitchcock Études, another UK première, where cut up sound fragments from a number of Hitchcock’s films—Psycho, The Man Who Knew Too Much and The Birds—form the basis for the quartet’s material. In some ways the music resembled parts of Steve Reich’s Different Trains, although Lizée was concerned more with musical phrases coming from repetitions of non-verbal sounds. Much of the passagework was minimalistic—an inevitable consequent of looping short snippets—but the way Lizée steered the music set up an interesting relationship with the original film context, which was reinforced by being presented, also in cut-up form, on a large screen above. Sometimes the relevant scene was given an altogether fresh sonic underlay, and in the case of the infamous shower scene from Psycho, it was a relief that Lizée had avoided simply leaping on Bernard Hermann’s vicious string slashes. Furthermore, in her étude based on the scene in The Birds (famously a movie without any non-diegetic music) where the flock descends in force on the fleeing schoolchildren, Lizée latches onto the song sung by the children immediately beforehand, serving as a poignant reminder of how much things have changed in only a few minutes. This interplay with an existing narrative was fascinating.
Rossum’s Universal Robots. Tapestry Opera. Leslie Barcza – Barcza Blog
R.U.R., based on the Czech Karel Capek’s play from the early 20th century play (RUR =Rossum’s Universal Robots), has long struck me as an ideal vehicle for an opera. I gave it some thought awhile ago, although had no idea really how to adapt it. Imagine my delight that Nicolas Billon and Nicole Lizée not only took this on, but –in the short excerpt—showed a truly inspired idiom for their adaptation. They created the most impressive interaction between music & text, singers & performers that I’ve seen in any of the Tapestry Briefs exercises I have witnessed. As we watch the two scientists freaking out about their robot creations, we hear music that is on the boundary between electronic & acoustic, between human and mechanical, with repetition that is sometimes human-made and other times seems automated. At times the fade of the music resembles something asymptotic, as if the music and voices fade mathematically, as a function of something profound and inhuman. This interface between words & music, between performer and performance is very problematic and troubling: but in all the right ways.
Please Tapestry, have Billon & Lizée continue their work on this piece! The five minutes we heard are already masterful.
This Will Not Be Televised. John Schaefer – WNYC, eMusic Record Review
Canadian composer Nicole Lizée writes music with a seriousness of purpose that doesn’t get in the way of her wry sense of humor and palpable sense of fun. She is drawn to the sounds of electronics, pop music and, to be even more specific, the sounds of electronically manipulated recordings of pop music. The title track of this collection, “This Will Not Be Televised,” is a work for turntablist and chamber orchestra….fragments of old recordings are scratched and pitch-shifted, leading the acoustic ensemble on a merry chase through a fractured but brightly colored soundscape…”RPM” is a precursor to the title piece – an early exploration of the turntable as an additional orchestral instrument. It too uses familiar elements that fuse into a much more abstract musical language, ending in a mind-bending, freeform DJ battle.
The most easily accessible work here is “Girl, You’re Living a Life of Crime,” a lyrical but rhythmically tricky piece for what is essentially a jazz/rock band. This and its companion quintet pieces, the spare and halting “Carpal Tunnels” and the off-kilter sci-fi score “Jupiter Moon Menace” show the influence of New York’s Bang On A Can crew, but Lizée has a distinctive approach to rhythm (inspired by skipping records, jazz rhythm patterns, etc.) that helps make each of these works uniquely her own.
Canada Council for the Arts Press Release: Nicole Lizée wins Jules Léger Prize for composition honouring John Cage
The Canada Council for the Arts announced today that composer Nicole Lizée is the winner of the 2013 Jules Léger Prize for New Chamber Music for White Label Experiment, a work inspired by renowned American composer John Cage.
“Nicole Lizée’s innovative musical creations perfectly capture Cage’s wit and inventiveness,” said Robert Sirman, Director and CEO of the Canada Council. “Our congratulations to Ms. Lizée on winning the 2013 Jules Léger Prize, and bringing a unique sound to chamber music audiences in Canada and internationally.”
The 2013 Jules Léger peer assessment committee called the piece both “unique and daring.” Jurors noted, “The work masterfully blends a wide range of timbres, from non-pitched hi-hats and typewriters, to quasi-pitched toy pianos and turntable sine waves. In White Label Experiment, Ms Lizée has created not only an engaging work of new chamber music, but also one that achieves the highest standards of innovation and excellence, almost entirely without the help of proven chamber music idioms. As such, it represents a triumph of artistic vision supported by masterful skill.”
The Golden Age of the Radiophonic Workshop (Fibre-Optic Flowers) premiered by the Kronos Quartet, BBC Proms, The Royal Albert Hall, London. Alison Owen-Morley – studioflamingo
….the Kronos Quartet had put together a cracking programme for tonight’s concert. Setting out to “fill the space” of the Royal Albert Hall, the pioneering quartet achieved this with a piquant mix of music, taking in upbeat Syrian pop, reflective Scandanavian folk, Balkan dance rhythms and variations on a traditional Scottish theme as well as contemporary music. The world premiere of a BBC commission from Nicole Lizée paid tribute to the BBC Radiophonic Workshop in a vibrant electronic soundscape, a sonic environment which the string players inhabited and interacted with to great effect. What a programme and what a performance – an absolute treat!
The Golden Age of the Radiophonic Workshop (Fibre-Optic Flowers) premiered by the Kronos Quartet, BBC Proms, The Royal Albert Hall, London. Jude Rogers – The Quietus
A repeat of the Kronos Quartet’s 2012 Prom in the Royal Albert Hall on Thursday evening provided this electronic music fan with a few unexpected pleasures. Hang on: is that an esteemed New York string ensemble playing an Omar Souleyman track? Shit, it is. Is this the Radiophonic Workshop? Not quite, but a piece by contemporary Canadian composer Nicole Lizée called The Golden Age of the Radiophonic Workshop (Fibre-Optic Flowers). It was a particular treat to hear Kaossilators, sampled voices and analogue sythesisers transporting violins and cello into a much more menacing soundworld. The Prom announcer’s delight after it finished was also sweetly old-fashioned: “oh, the wonderful display of recherché oscillators!”.
The Golden Age of the Radiophonic Workshop (Fibre-Optic Flowers) premiered by the Kronos Quartet, BBC Proms, The Royal Albert Hall, London. Jez Winship – Sparks in Electrical Jelly
There was an interesting piece on Radio 3 the other day by Saskatchewan-born composer Nicole Lizée, a premiere from last year’s Proms commissioned by the BBC and played by the Kronos Quartet. The Golden Age of the Radiophonic Workshop paid homage to the pioneers of electronic music in Britain, its subtitle, Fibre-Optic Flowers, referencing Delia Derbyshire’s poetic visualisation of her own sonic creations. Lizée has mixed conventional orchestral instruments with modern technology before, incorporating turntables and children’s electronic toys….Her Hitchcock Études for Piano and Glitch played with clips from the master of suspense’s films, creating digital loops and warped extracts from Bernard Herrmann’s soundtracks and growing fractured splinters of Bartokian piano from their repetitive phrases. These work very well with the manipulated video extracts from the films….The Kronos Quartet have always seemed willing to incorporate other elements into their soundworld, and this proves to be the case here. Oscillators, multi-track cassette decks and turntables are brought into play, and there seems to be a perpetual underlying level of sound ‘weather’, hinting at Delia Derbyshire’s atmosphere pieces such as Blue Veils and Golden Sands. The sound of a typewriter points to the Workshop’s use of concrete sounds, and also provides a link with unconventional works from the early twentieth century, such as Eric Satie’s Parade, which also introduced the hammering of alphabetical keys into the orchestral mix….Ghostly, reverbed echoes of a more genteel music hover like the sounds of an earlier BBC era, light music still lingering like ragged wisps of fog in the aether. The quartet, in its more unadulterated moments, sends out flickering, trailing currents of sustained tones which attempt to realise Delia’s vision of fibre-optic flowers, glowing with subtly electronically enhanced luminescence. The violins produce bending, fluid glissandos at some points, which sound like the playing of Popol Vuh guitarist Conny Veit, and the whole thing ends with another nod to Krautrock/Kosmische music, with a locked groove snatch of a line from Kraftwerk’s The Hall of Mirrors….Nicole Lizée certainly seems to be a potentially worthy successor to the great female electronic composers attached to the Radiophonic Workshop over the years.
The Golden Age of the Radiophonic Workshop (Fibre-Optic Flowers) premiered by the Kronos Quartet, BBC Proms, The Royal Albert Hall, London. Nick Breckenfield – The Classical Source
In the intriguingly titled Fibre-Optic Flowers – a quotation from Delia Derbyshire, one of the mainstays of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop – our four players were not only in charge of their instruments, but also a reel-to-reel tape recorder, a turntable, an arcade game; Lizée uses all of these imaginatively during an involving ten-minute work that ends with a crackly spoken phrase on a loop.
Death to Kosmische performed by Kronos Quartet, Carnegie Hall, NYC. David St.-Lascaux – The Brooklyn Rail
….Kronos played Nicole Lizée’s extragalactic “Death to Kosmische”, a New York premiere, incorporating a variety of exotic and electronic elements. These included the softly major-key melodic omnichord, a descendant of the autoharp and zither, and the stylophone, a miniature synthesizer whose subtle auditory effects ensemble were best known to Kronos and sound desiner Scott Fraser. Ziegler and Dutt first took these instruments up and Harrington and Sherba played minimal two-note oscillations, the resulting effect that of a roomful aunts jamming in the listener’s cranial attic, cranking electronic music boxes, or reincarnated as alien musicians in a nightclub on exoplanet GJ1214b. With its electronic vibrato/reverb and instrumental novelty, “Death” was arguable the most electrifying composition of the evening. Lizée, who wrote that this piece reflected her fascination with “musical hauntology”, appeared afterward, taking bows to enthusiastic applause.
Death to Kosmische performed by Kronos Quartet, Yerba Center for the Performing Arts, San Francisco. Julia Glosemeyer – eventseekr
In Death to Kosmische the strings of Kronos Quartet imitated electronics and combined with primitive machines (also played by the band) to create an enchanting retro-futuristic soundscape with breathtaking glissandi.
Metal Jacket – recording (Ombu Records). Performed by Shawn Mativetsky and Xenia Pestova. Andrew Timar – The WholeNote Magazine
….individual pieces clearly reflect the personalities and musical aesthetics of their composers. Metal Jacket by the busy Montreal composer Nicole Lizée is an excellent example. This smart, crafty, and playful work pushes boundaries of groove, drone, repetition, phrase augmentation and diminution–all essential features of traditional Hindustani music–and overlaps them with characteristics found in electronic mediated music: glissandos, fades and extreme distorion effects.
Timothy Mangan – The Orange County Register
Nicole Lizée’s “Death to Kosmische” thrummed eerily and fantastically with electronica, a brilliant sci-fi soundscape that bristled with activity.
Death to Kosmische premiered by Kronos Quartet. Holly Harris – The Winnipeg Free Press
At age 37, this brilliantly gifted composer has already developed a voice uniquely her own since graduating from Brandon University in 1995. Her earlier work for turntable and orchestra has graced the NMF stage before, creating a stir with listeners for her breathless imagination and ability to capture Gen-X and beyond generation. The world premiere pays homage to two archaic pieces of music technology: the stylophone (1960) and the omnichord (1980). Both of these are incorporated within the atmospheric 20-minute work.
Bill Richardson – CBC
[Death to Kosmische] proved a wonderfully absorbing work, dense and transparent in turn, shady and haunted; eerily vibrant with ghosts.
Musicworks, Issue 105, Winter 2009
Nicole Lizée – Surrealist Collagist. A Music of New Contexts.
Feature article by Richard Simas
The net effect of hearing Nicole Lizée’s music, live or on record, is of an uncanny freshness, lucidity, and distinct personality. It is suave in its seduction, alertly suggestive of many worlds, and yet still speaks from only one world, Lizée’s. It’s soulful, and beyond the bright ease with which its forms and sensations unravel, it connects to weighted emotion and her savvy considerations. Girl, You’re Living a Life of Crime is a mesmerizing tune that, from its initial driving hi-hat riff, weaves a hypnotic pattern around the listener, which Lizée then develops by looping, splicing, and needle-skipping the pop-like melody. You want to hear it again and again. READ MORE
This Will Not Be Televised. Review by Richard Marsella – The WholeNote Magazine
Not all CDs were created equal. This CD wipes a smile across my beard. After listening to it over and over, it’s apparent: Nicole Lizée knows the good stuff. I began doing anthropological studies by having this recording playing in the background and watching people’s reactions. What I deduced is that “This is not background music” could have been an easy alternate title to “This Will Not be Televised”.
The title composition is a wonderfully creepy musical adventure. The music goes in so many interesting directions. In the liner notes of this 2008 Centrediscs release, it’s mentioned that this piece was named a Top 10 recommended work at the 2008 International Rostrum of Composers. I would agree that this piece sets the bar for great contemporary music!
The piece RPM blends turntables with a larger orchestra. I love this sound, and I think the symphony orchestras of the future should make it standard to include an entire turntable section. It’s very difficult to describe the magical combination of turntables and ensemble that Lizée has achieved. It is obvious that every sample she uses is carefully chosen and appropriately placed. I love the sense of play in this music, from the live mimicking of skipping records, to the nostalgic use of cheesy 1980s heavy metal albums. When I close my eyes, a lot of this music is the soundtrack to the cartoon in my mind.
Girl You’re Living a Life of Crime is a pop-based piece….This piece certainly is not a standard pop tune though as it messes with the idea of tape-splicing and in the end the musicians create a shaky ostinato and eventually drive it off a cliff.
This CD does such a genuine job in celebrating jazz music, improvisation, pop music, contemporary music and everything in between. Lizée’s music clearly reflects the many identities of Canadians, and the next generation of its composers. Her fearless approach is engaging and I highly recommend raising children on this music…
CBC News – Work by Montreal’s Nicole Lizée Hailed at New Music Forum in Dublin
A composition commissioned for the CBC by Montreal-based composer Nicole Lizée has won a place among the world’s best new music at the International Rostrum of Composers. The International Rostrum, a group representing radio broadcasters from around the world, meets annually to compare work from contemporary composers. The CBC submitted Lizée’s 2005 composition This Will Not Be Televised for consideration at this week’s meeting of the rostrum in Dublin. On Friday, it was named one of the top ten new compositions at the forum….Lizée, (who is) now living in Montreal, created This Will Not Be Televised for turntables and a chamber orchestra. It incorporates a sine wave recording and a chorus of nuns, drawn from The Sound of Music, with unique vocals from rockers, including David Lee Roth’s shrill overtones and selections from Duran Duran, the Wu-Tang Clan and Nana Mouskouri. The turntable sounds are accompanied by two violins, a viola, violoncello, bass and percussion section. Lizée, who has arranged works for the Montreal group the Besnard Lakes, has used turntables in previous works, including RPM and King Kong and Fay Wray. She has received commissions from l’Orchestre Métropolitain du Grand Montréal, Ensemble Kore, Ensemble Contemporain de Montréal, Bradyworks Ensemble, Brigitte Poulin and Continuum. Lizée has twice been named a finalist in the Jules-Léger Prize for New Chamber Music, most recently in 2007 for This Will Not Be Televised. National radio networks from 30 countries submit works composed within the last five years to the forum, which gives broadcasters a chance to hear new music from emerging artists.
Left Brain/Right Brain. Gapplegate Music Review – New York City
….Nicole Lizée dazzles ones senses with very vibrant chamber orchestrating.
This Will Not Be Televised. Alain Brunet – La Presse
En première partie de programme, j’ai surtout aimé l’intégration que la compositrice Nicole Lizée fait du hip hop d’avant-garde. DJ P-Love est un bon scratch-mixer qui sait se comporter comme un soliste dans le cadre d’une oeuvre sérieuse.
This Will Not Be Televised. CJAM Music Review, “Most Highly Recommended”
An exploration into the world of turntablism and its integration into a concert music setting. Pitch based manipulation are used to create melodies that are accompanied and embelished by a live ensemble of musicians. In the first track, for example, you’re going to hear selections from “C.R.E.A.M.” and “Can It Be That It Was All So Simple” by Wu-Tang Clan suddenly materialize and disappear before you know it. To make the experience even more intense, vocal and guitar samples from Van Halen are cut into the mix. Did I mention this all occurs within the first 10 minutes of the first track?
This Will Not Be Televised. Rubert Bottenberg – Montreal Mirror
Quebec composer Nicole Lizée is a pioneer in reconciling turntablism and classical music, and beyond that shotgun marriage, she betrays a rich imagination and appreciation of the lowbrow and pop.