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DXARTS Winter Concert: Francis Dhomont’s Cycle du son [Cycle of Sound] — in memoriam

Thursday, February 22, 2024 - 7:30pm
Francis Dhomont [Lisbon (Portugal), November 30, 2018]
Francis Dhomont [Lisbon (Portugal), November 30, 2018]

The Cycle of Sound

This ‘Cycle’ celebrates sound (a major discovery of the twentieth century) and musique concrète. It is a fiftieth-anniversary homage to the inventiveness of Pierre Schaeffer, who clearly created an upheaval in the world of music that has had no precedent. Drawing on the same sound material which was forged from the first movement of Schaeffer’s Étude aux objets, as well as from a personal collection of sounds that have been stored away over the years, these four pieces go through a process where they develop out of each other, question each other, echo each other, and complete each other through allusions, commentaries, metonymies, and continuations. With poetic freedom they both evoke a historic journey and propose a connection between the object of sage Schaefferian observation and the wildest “metamorphologies” of sound art. Years after its composition, Novars, the third part of this cycle but the first to be composed, remains the section around which the entire work turns.

Francis Dhomont


Objets retrouvés (Refound objects) [1996]

AvatArsSon [1998]

I. Fondation (Foundation)
II. Avatars
III. Voix (Voice)
IV.  Aventures (Adventures)
V. Paysages (Landscapes)
VI. À suivre… (To be continued…)

Novars [1989]

Phonurgie [1998]

Francis Dhomont (November 2, 1926 – December 28, 2023)

Lelio Camilleri, Musica elettronica, December 31, 2023

Francis Dhomont, one of the fathers of acousmatic music, among the most important composers of this genre, left us on 28 December 2023.Dhomont was born on 2 November 1926 in Paris. After a conventional musical education, one of his teachers being Nadia Boulanger, he became interested in the possibilities of manipulating sound with the means of recording and sound reproduction. His first experiments began in the late 1940s, in parallel with Schaeffer, using a magnetic wire recorder. Once he heard Pierre Schaeffer’s Concert de bruits, Dhomont realised what could really be done with the new modes of sound composition. In the 1950s, he composed a series of studies with a didactic intent, in which he wanted to demonstrate the possibilities of the recorded format for musical creation. After a long period in which his compositional activity was discontinuous, Dhomont completely abandoned instrumental writing and devoted himself exclusively to electroacoustic writing. The beginning of his activity as a composer of acousmatic music can be identified with the work Cité du dedans (1972), in which one can already find the stylistic and conceptual elements that Dhomont will develop in later compositions.His compositions include Points de fuite (1982), the initial part of the Cycle de l’errance, Novars (1989), homage to Pierre Schaeffer and the third part of the Cycle du son, and the acousmatic melodrama Forêt profonde (1994-96), a complex work based on Bruno Bettelheim’s essay The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales. His interest in psychoanalytic themes is also found in an earlier work, Sous le regard d’un soleil noir (1981), based on texts by Laing, Plato and Kafka. His interest in Kafka also returns in some of the compositions that make up his CD Études pour Kafka (2009), including Brief an den Vater (2005-06), based on the Czech writer’s Letter to the Father (1919).In 1978, Dhomont moved to Canada where he resided for 26 years before returning permanently to France in 2004. A lecturer of electroacoustic music in the Faculty of Music at the University of Montréal, Dhomont became the architect of the creation of a Canadian school of acousmatic music. The long list of composers who were his students can be found in one of his compositions, the Frankenstein Symphony (1997), a work that employs pieces by his former students and friends as sound material.Dhomont’s work is characterised by a special focus on the development of new and distinctive sound types, the detailed structuring of space as a fundamental parameter of musical construction, and the integration of narrative elements into the various levels of the composition. His important contribution to the development of acousmatic music can also be found in his writings and reflections on electroacoustic musical language.Dhomont leaves us a substantial number of compositions that not only mark the history of acousmatic music, but also form an important reference point for the younger generation of electroacoustic composers. To those who knew him, he leaves the memory of his kindness, his humour and his depth of mind and thought.

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