Alfred Hitchcock, sf-filmovi i Lars von Trier ulaze u kafić...
Nicole Lizée is a huge fan of Alfred Hitchcock, science-fiction films, and Lars von Trier, the maverick Danish director whose Dogme (dogma), about film, inspires her own reflection on how to compose music. She says composers should be just as bold and inventive about creating music as von Trier is about making films. The director, who describes his life as a fabrication, has provoked a new current in cinema with his unstable camera work and raw observations of human nature.
At the age of eleven, Lizée made multiple recordings of her voice, using a series of ghetto blasters, replaying and layering the tracks for effect in a homemade montage. She recalls that “There would be hiss and warping, and the first track would recede into the background with an odd timbre.” Traces of these early experiments remain evident in her current creations. The garbled tape sound on an early-edition Jesus of Nazareth video-disc of the miniseries inspired an interest in glitch and the fallibility of media. “Things can fail in spectacular ways,” she observes, “and provoke interesting visuals and sound. “Glitch, noise, hum, static, warping—I’m very drawn to these sounds. I use them to a large extent in my purely acoustic works. They’ve become idiomatic.”
Nicole Lizée, in her mid-thirties, from Gravelbourg, Saskatchewan, studied piano in Brandon, Manitoba, and composition at McGill University. She has played with a series of different indie rock bands and now she writes concert music from her home in the Montreal suburb of Lachine.
She grew up in a house full of electronics, during the time when cathode ray tubes, resistors, capacitors, and solid-state wiring were heading for extinction. She listened to an impressive collection of easy-listening and light-classical albums at home and watched the first MTV videos. “It was nothing like I had ever seen or heard before. I couldn’t look away.”
After her first decade writing music, her composition list includes thirty pieces. Her bio notes an already impressive number of commissions, collaborations, nominations, and awards. At <www.nicolelizee.com> a television is pictured with colour bars shimmering, an empty rocking chair seems to beckon to a viewer; flowered wallpaper and a girl’s portrait in shadow decorate the wall. This Will Not be Televised reads the title of her site. It is also the title of an important composition in her body of work.
Her work with turntables and DJs is singular, employing them to produce a precise sound at an exact moment, as would be done with any other instrument in ensemble playing. It is not random. In addition to this and the use of standard instruments, she has composed with a surprising array of sound sources. An overview of her work finds samples extracted from late ’70s to ’80s arcade games (Arcadiac, 2005–08); a consideration of the “effect and feelings evoked in films and their soundtracks” (Dystopia Suite, 2009); and ’50s and ’60s science-fiction films (King Kong and Fay Wray, 2004, and Left Brain / Right Brain, 2002). She has deconstructed an interpretation of the Post-Punk and Art-Punk movements in Vertigo Beach (2007), a solo piano piece commissioned by Montreal musician Brigitte Poulin.
Subversion and transformation
Lizée’s affinity for film offers an insight into her imaginative sub-terrain, for it provides inspiration, visuals, and aesthetic stimulus for her creations. The films of Hitchcock and those in the science fiction genres impress her with their craft and unpredictability, and their inventive power in convincingly portraying the purely unreal with sound and image. Hitchcock’s singularity as a distinctive auteur is a model for Nicole Lizée. His films furnish iconographic inspiration and set the stage for her anachronistic manipulations. Like him, she will, she says, “use the same material in several different pieces—maybe different instrumentation, maybe change the tempo, the harmony. Or sometimes I’ll keep it exactly the same, but the surroundings or context [will be] different, which ultimately colours the perspective.”
Re-contextualization is the term she prefers for describing a broad view of her composing procedures. She also uses the words environments and surroundings to discuss how she organizes materials and relates them to her intentions, commenting further that decontextualization, deconstruction, and reconstruction all describe her approach to composition. “The subversion and blurring and melding of genres have been major components in my artistic practice. I grew up immersed in many music genres and styles. They are all intertwined and filtered in my own musical language.”
The question of contexts in the practice of experimental music raises the question of how to consider the multiplicity of approaches, aesthetics, and definitions currently in circulation. The attempt to classify those practices within approximate categories of genres and subgenres is a common and prickly issue in the chronicling of contemporary Western culture. Artistic exploration leads to a corresponding effort, often through the process of comparison and classification, in establishing relationships to tradition.
Nicole Lizée possesses exceptional clarity of intention. Reading her composer’s notes and listening to the tracks of her music leave no doubt about her intentions, procedures, or materials. Similarly, she is succinct about her sources of influence and inspiration: “The late 1970s to mid 1980s—my formative years—was a time of particular sonic diversity and innovation. Synthetic sounds had begun to seep into the collective consciousness. The experimentation and inventiveness that took place during this period, particularly in the areas of music and technology, influence me tremendously. The contexts in which I incorporate them continue to evolve and develop. I’m always conscious about the way they shape or impact my music or the way my music twists or contorts the influence, so much so that the source essentially loses its original function and becomes something completely different within the frame of the new work.” This is key to understanding Lizée’s procedures. Examples of this kind of subversion and transformation of materials are evident in the samples from Van Halen she uses in This Will Not Be Televised (2005-2007) or the karaoke material in Karappo Okesutura (2006).
The idea of linking Lizée’s work to a specific geographical influence such as the Canadian Prairies, is, according to her, unrevealing. Still, everyone comes from a time and a place and as such, “the fact of a small town, an electronics repairman’s daughter, all provided context,” she admits. She also recognizes that there are situations that she necessarily responds to—for example, a commission or festival programming. “The programmer uses frames to justify and promote events or to link things together. A composer doesn’t think of that too much in the composing process. If I’m given a theme for an event, I find my own ways to connect it all. It will happen on its own, and I don’t know if an artist can control that, since it often happens after the fact.”
She possesses a keen intuition about making things fit. Awkwardness, obscurity, and isolation are absent in the collection of pieces available for listening on her Web site and on her 2008 Canadian Music Centre Centrediscs CD. So far, the diversity, innovation, and creative intuition all work. Scoring for a DJ turntable solo onstage next to the first violin is an example of how she both crosses lines and creates within tradition. “Conductors and orchestras have been very open to working with it and making the required adjustments because I treat it as an instrument exactly like the others.” Some adaptation is necessary so that the directives and expectations can fit. There are also logistics to consider. “You have to treat it a certain way. Tempi, for example have to be modified because of the nature of the instruments. Raising the tone means making the turntable go quicker and thus the rest of the orchestra has to adapt to it.”
The net effect of hearing 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. It’s not surprising that response was positive even to her first compositions, such as the string quartet she wrote as an undergraduate. Her thesis piece RPM (1999, revised 2005), which incorporated turntable, received similar immediate and strong recognition, and sparked further exploration with the instrument. In the 2005 revision she expanded two sections of the piece and strengthened the ensemble writing.
Though singular in her focused, intentional approach to composition and manipulation of materials, Lizée composes adroitly in and with many environments, and as such her work is diverse. If there is a single notion that might capture the context for viewing her work, it is time: historical, metered, and anachronistic. She filters through icons of the past, makes selections, and recasts them in new surroundings. She skews rhythm and twists tempo in surprising fashions, inviting the listener to attend to the notions of forwards and backwards. Like her cinema mentors Hitchcock and von Trier, she does not escape time, but discovers and hones her own ways of manipulating it, inviting us to hear it her way.
Make it (re)new
“The artist is always beginning,” Ezra Pound wrote in his seminal 1934 essay on modernism, “Make it New.” “Any work of art which is not a beginning, an invention, a discovery, is of little worth.” This declaration can be interpreted as part of the fissure in the aesthetic continuity that sends us seeking illumination about contexts sixty-five years later. Pound, an early twentieth-century literary Lars von Trier, a wild man, a brilliant innovator, and a controversial figure, speaks to us across the millennium break in his brittle voice. Heady with the fumes of their creative power, Pound’s modernists and their kids, the postmodernists, created abundantly, stuffing the twentieth century with an overwhelming production of objets d’art and ideas about themselves and their time. Along comes the twenty-first century, gasping for air, overwhelmed by the crowd—the music lover asking, ‘So what do you call this?’ By filling up space, you create a void. By reconsidering existing materials you make space. Maybe this sharpens the picture on Lizée, the twenty-first-century composer. Perhaps the aesthetic world is so cluttered with frames, ideas, inventions, and aesthetic positions that she and others of her generation recycle sonic elements, making them (re)new as Ezra Pound might insist. Generation X’s way of staking territory. This is not to subtract from the inventiveness or originality of Lizée’s process of re-contextualizing sounds to create new ideas. “The surroundings for these found elements are new. They are my language. It’s a lot of work to write a piece. Why would you write one that has already been written?”
Take as an example Lizée’s 2007 Vertigo Beach, dedicated to Tom Verlaine, composer, guitarist, and lyricist, best known as a front man for the New York rock band Television. In the fifteen-minute solo piano piece, the composer, seeking to interpret the Post-Punk and Art-Punk movement that took place in New York City from 1977 to 1984, structures her acoustic reinterpretation of the genre as a series of études. No amps, just one acoustic piano and ten fingers. “It’s my distorted interpretation of a genre,” explains Lizée, “and the materials that make up the work are my own. One idea gradually unfolds into the next, emphasizing the qualities that distinguish the genre to the point of exploitation.” From the haunting and sparse opening to its hard-driving and full-chord finish, Vertigo Beach relentlessly dashes through low-register metric modulations, the weaving in and out of streams of material, unexpected shifts of character, and tempo variation which she uses for colour. “Showcase the grit and dirty it up with the pedal,” she says. Her tour de force is an iteration of the music movements she refers to and yet is something completely different: a Vertigo Beach.
Depth and surface
She knows the trick of making her music very accessible while unfolding an uncompromising complexity and richness. She has the tune and a vision of the world that it sings about. “An artist,” she declares, “should be able to talk about what they do, even if only in their own words.” Nicole Lizée likes discussing semiotics and the displacement of a music icon with historic reference where it’s not expected. “Certain sounds have become iconic to me, and I want to capture and manipulate these icons within a particular framework.” The Atari piece, Arcadiac (2005–2008), is a work for computer-game music and orchestra. The musical material grows from the pitch in the video game, a dead icon. “Take something with a precise and identifiable meaning and connotations,” says Lizée, “and place it in different surroundings from its natural one.” Someone in the audience recognizing the reference and making a new connection to their memory of the game via contemporary music is in the bull’s-eye of her intention. Imagining the original emotional connection to the sound is part of the charge that she seeks, if not also an element of neatly hidden nostalgia.
“The only way to capture this very particular sound,” Lizée believes, “is to go straight to the source. I want to manipulate this specific colour within a new sonic environment or context, to twist and distort the sonority and subvert it within the live ensemble. The ensemble will take it over and engulf it in a new surrounding. This also applies to the inverse scenario—the presence of the pre-recorded fragment will bend and twist the perspective of the live material. It’s about destabilization at both extremes.”
Is sampling stealing? she asks. It’s not a new question. But for Lizée, re-contextualization adds new meaning and identity to the original elements. She sees them all as materials available to her compositional ear: colours, sound sources, instruments. And what about the Karaoke tapes, the records, and the DJ? Are these sources somehow fresher? “They are both freer and more bound,” she says, “because of their connotations, and because they are more recent than traditional instruments; but I want to find my own way with all this. I knew what I didn’t want to do with turntables: definitely not as a novelty. The idea was to take it out of its context and find what was possible.”
Following a recent performance of her work at a festival in New York, Nicole Lizée was referred to as a “surrealist collagist.” The tag suits her more than any other. Time, that whimsical observer, will eventually attempt to name and group this creative vision.
“I write experimental or concert music, but that doesn’t mean much. Whatever it is, I have to have a strong connection to the project and the materials.” In all new work, for Lizée, the challenge is how to convey the sense of music that possesses other technology, extending the extra-musical ideas into experimental music using just the purest and simplest instruments.
The variety of music worlds in which she works are complicit zones rather than conflicting ones. While challenging the formal contexts in which her pieces are played (club, concert hall, festival venues), she views it all as broadening possibilities rather than as acts of rebellion. DJs approach her and so do classical conductors like Yannick Nézet-Séguin. Her use of the turntable in orchestral work is an example of new technologies used for traditional purposes, re-situating a contemporary icon in an anomalous environment and creating extended techniques to establish the sound and create the effect she wants. She insists on the live element. “The turntable, treated as an instrument, needs a turntablist to control it, as with any traditional instrument. The turntablist follows the conductor—pushing, pulling, and manipulating the record according to his specifications. Dynamics, gesture, timing, feel, etc.—these are all performed by the turntablist in the same way they are performed by a violinist. So to tape the turntablist would be the same as taping a violin soloist. You need the attack and execution.”
Nicole Lizée’s music fits in the ear newly and very neatly. Its startling personality, broad scope, and pungent mix of iconic elements trick you into familiarity then lead you off on a seductive adventure. Close listening will reveal many worlds, some with shards of familiarity, but she seems to be singing for us in a region of her own devises, leaving the door wide open for our immediate pleasure and for memory. The only real mystery is where she will take us next. - Richard Simas
In Death to Kosmische you have the string quartet use a stylophone and an omnichord. In the past you’ve used an Atari 2600 games console. Is your fascination with the sound of these old electronic instruments, or with the technology, or both?Both. My fascination with old electronics stems from my childhood. My father is an electronics collector/retailer/repairman and our house was always filled with various incarnations of electronic devices, many of them not working properly. By the time I came around the house was already full of vintage machines and this collection continued to grow throughout the 70s and 80s as we’d receive the latest device to test drive (Betamax machines, video disc players, video game consoles, etc.). I was always surrounded by these sounds so they became part of my subconscious. For me the sonorities generated by these machines feel very natural placed within an otherwise ‘traditional’ acoustic ensemble. Certain sounds have become iconic to me and I want to capture and manipulate these “icons” within a new environment. For example, the sounds from the first video games from the late 70s/early 80s: 8-bit, unrefined, gritty. When these are fused with orchestra they take on a new dimension. Or the voice: Slim Whitman sounds like Slim Whitman, Rob Halford’s falsetto scream is one of a kind – he’s done this for a long time and it’s been in my brain for 25 years. The only way to capture this very particular sound is to go straight to the source: on vinyl. I want to use these colours.
There’s also something very appealing about taking something that’s associated with a particular function and a particular period in history, and creating new contexts for it. Similarly: is there something particular about the stylophone which you like? It always reminds me of Rolf Harris.The sound of the stylophone is so distinctive – you’re not sure what it is at first, it’s like nothing else. When it doubles an acoustic instrument it can create this kind of sinister undertone to a melody – a fuzziness. I like that it has different connotations for different people – for some it’s different aspects of the 60s – Bowie, Rolf Harris, sci-fi, retro-futurism. Some mention Dr. Who, A Clockwork Orange.
Are there other persistent sources of inspiration for you, besides early electronic instruments?I am enormously influenced by films and directors. Hitchcock, Kubrick, Polanski, Von Trier, Lynch, Cronenberg, Coppola. I read a lot of books by and about film and film directors. I love reading interviews with directors. They describe their work in much the same a way a musician does – orchestration as it pertains to scenes, cutting/splicing, form, pacing and timing, patterns, rhythm, meter and flow. I just recently finished two great books: one on Saul Bass, the acclaimed graphic designer/film titlist (he also directed some scenes in films, i.e. the shower scene in Psycho). Definitely inspirational. The other is a book of interviews with film editor/sound designer Walter Murch.
My parents have a huge record collection – most of which are Easy Listening/Adult Contemporary and film soundtracks along with some classical records – and these were on rotation during my formative years. I still listen to some of those records to this day. Simultaneously, in the early 80s I became obsessed with MTV so pop/rock/metal had a huge impact. This continued as the 80s progressed into the early 90s and I started getting into the subgenres, experimentation and counterculture that MTV rejected.
Your compositions have an amazing sense of open-endedness and spontaneity about them, but you’re notationally precise, even in your compositions with turntables. Do you think of your pieces as ‘Improvisations’ à la Boulez? Is that a tradition you identify with?Absolutely. It’s what I love about the challenge of writing for instruments like turntables and even drum kit. These are traditionally associated with improvisation or are part of an oral tradition (with minimal notation). I want to capture and preserve the spirit of their spontaneity while pushing their capabilities and distorting their original function – and at the same time control when and how something happens.
Essentially, the intention with my turntable scores is to give details on what and when something is to occur on the turntables in order for it line up precisely with specific acoustic material. The same way one would notate a vocal line to line up with the orchestra to achieve a certain sonic result – for me it’s the same thing. It’s not just the presence of the turntables, it’s about the turntable as an instrument – another timbre and sound source within the ensemble that is capable of very specific articulations. Gestures, dynamics, intensity, pushing and pulling tempo in sync with the conductor, changing pitch, touch, feel, vibrato – like any other instrument. I want to emphasize the textures, colours, rhythmic and harmonic complexity, etc. that can result when turntables and acoustic ensemble join forces. What the turntables can do within the framework of concert music and vice versa.
There’s a growing trend in the UK for ‘classical club nights’, where ‘classical’ music is played – either live or by a DJ, or both – and people can dance a bit and drink. Is this something you’d like to see more of? Do you think classical music needs this sort of makeover?I do think classical music needs a new way to reach people. I also think the promotion of classical music needs an overhaul. Classical music presented in new spaces (like clubs and warehouses) has been going on for a few years. I’ve been to some really good shows in these venues and some shows that were not so good. I don’t think it’s enough to program a classical music concert in a club. As important as it is to frame art in unexpected ways, the frame is still just that – a peripheral decoration. Some of the most interesting and inventive concerts I’ve seen recently have actually been in a concert hall. That said, I think it’s a very good thing that people are thinking about classical music in new ways and pushing forward. - Paul Kilbey www.icareifyoulisten.com/2012/02/5-question-to-nicole-lizee-composer/
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.
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.
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”, Montreal based composer Nicole Lizée creates new music from an eclectic mix of influences including the earliest MTV videos, turntablism, rave culture, Hitchcock, Kubrick, 1960s psychedelia and 1960s modernism. She is fascinated by the glitches made by outmoded and well-worn technology and captures these glitches, notates them and integrates them into live performance.
Nicole’s compositions range from works for orchestra and solo turntablist featuring DJ techniques fully notated and integrated into a concert music setting, to other unorthodox instrument combinations that include the Atari 2600 video game console, omnichords, stylophones, Simon™, and karaoke tapes. In the broad scope of her evolving oeuvre she explores such themes as malfunction, reviving the obsolete, and the harnessing of imperfection and glitch to create a new kind of precision.
In 2001 Nicole received a Master of Music degree from McGill University. After a decade and a half of composition, her commission list of over 40 works is varied and distinguished (the Kronos Quartet, BBC Proms, l’Orchestre Métropolitain du Grand Montréal, CBC, Radio-Canada, the Kaufman Center, Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society, So Percussion, Eve Egoyan, Gryphon Trio, MATA Festival, TorQ Percussion, Fondation Arte Musica/Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal, ECM+, Continuum, Soundstreams, SMCQ, Arraymusic, Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony). Her music has been performed worldwide in renowned venues including Carnegie Hall (NYC), Royal Albert Hall (London), Muziekgebouw (Amsterdam) and Cité de la Musique (Paris) – and in festivals including the BBC Proms (UK), Huddersfield (UK), Bang On a Can (USA), All Tomorrow’s Parties (UK), X Avant (Canada), Luminato (Canada), C3 (Berlin), Ecstatic (NYC), Casalmaggiore (Italy), and Dark Music Days (Iceland).
Nicole was recently awarded the prestigious 2013 Canada Council for the Arts Jules Léger Prize for New Chamber Music. She is a Civitella Ranieri Foundation Fellow (New York City/Italy). This Will Not Be Televised, her seminal piece for chamber ensemble and turntables, was selected for the 2008 UNESCO International Rostrum of Composers’ Top 10 Works. Her work for piano and notated glitch, Hitchcock Études, was chosen by the International Society for Contemporary Music to be featured at the 2014 World Music Days in Wroclaw, Poland. Additional awards and nominations include a Prix Opus (2013), two Prix collégien de musique contemporaine, (2012, 2013) and the 2002 Canada Council for the Arts Robert Fleming Prize for achievements in composition.