Gatien Lapointe

Resident archivist Jack Dangers listens to the French poetry and musique concrète of Gatien Lapointe

The back cover of ‘Corps De L’Instant / Anthologie 1956-1982’ has a photo of Gatien Lapointe looking very relaxed in front of a Moog modular system. But it’s the only record the French-speaking Canadian ever made, and he wasn’t responsible for the music. He was a poet. This album, which was released in 1983, is a type of musique concrète, mixing sound and electronics with poetry.

Its genre on Discogs is given as “Speech, Rhythmic Noise, Poetry”, which is fairly accurate, though it’s actually more musical than this description suggests, with abstract synth lines and familiar Moog burbles and blurts under Lapointe’s narration of his work.

The concept of sound art was basically a French invention. Pierre Henry and Pierre Schaeffer made musique concrète radio plays with actors doing the narration, and this piece follows in that tradition. The music is really good, and I wonder how they approached it. Did Lapointe just book a nearby studio and ask the engineers to create musical/musique concrète pieces around his readings? If that’s the case, they did an excellent job.

It was recorded at Le Studio Vert, which was a standard commercial studio, rather than an experimental electronic studio from what I can find out. Owned by Pierre Tremblay and Michel DeBloies, it was the first MIDI-equipped studio in Quebec, apparently. Pierre Tremblay is co-credited for the music on ‘Corps De L’Instant / Anthologie 1956-1982’ along with engineer/producer Quentin Meek, and Maurice Jacob. Tremblay is credited as the engineer on several of the records made there by Canadian pop bands, as is Meek, but Jacob seems to have left no trace other than this record.

An important figure in Canadian poetry, Lapointe’s first anthology was published in 1953, and in 1969 he became a professor at Université Du Québec à Trois-Rivières. Before he accepted the invitation to teach there, he asked the university to fund a small publishing house to release the best of his students’ work. He called it Écrits Des Forges, and from 1971 it released anthologies a couple of times a year. It also served as the record label for ‘Corps De L’Instant / Anthologie 1956-1982’.

Lapointe died in 1983, aged just 52, and there is a library named after him at Trois-Rivières. The Écrits Des Forges imprint continues to publish poetry, and even put out a couple of CDs by French poet André Velter in the 1990s – ‘Le Grand Passage’, and ‘Ça Cavale’ with music by Jean-Luc Debattice.

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