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The journal Circuit is turning 30!


This year, the journal Circuit is celebrating having been publishing for 30 years. Founded in 1989 by Lorraine Vaillancourt and Jean-Jacques Nattiez, the journal publishes articles in both French and English on contemporary music in Quebec, North America, and elsewhere. Its title is a tribute to Serge Garant (1929-1986), preeminent figure in Quebec’s musical landscape who composed three pieces bearing that very title.

On music first and foremost

In addition to showing an interest in the questions raised by contemporary musical and artistic creation, the journal follows many trails into aesthetic reflection to rethink its discipline, which over time is continuously evolving. It thus fosters the confrontation of information, stances, and points of view —showcasing the perspective of North American French speakers— on all of today’s musical forms, in Quebec and beyond. It features aesthetic debates, accounts from composers and musicians, unpublished material, musicological research, and much more. Published continuously since 1990, the content of the journal stands out for the richness of its cultural value, but also for the depth of the reflections it brings to its disciplinary field. All issues are available on the platform.


To celebrate both its anniversary and the importance of journals like Circuit within Quebec and Canada’s cultural landscape, we asked the current members of the editorial board to select the article closest to their heart. Each of the nine editorial board members chose a text that has stuck with them.

Bouliane, D. (1998). L’image fécondante du silène. D’une incursion du doute, du rire et de l’ironie dans le musical: souvenirs, réflexions, « autoréflexions ». Circuit, 9 (2), 25–60.

Speaking up as a composer, situating one’s self in relation to world history and to the history of ideas, trying to capture one’s own reality, seizing the opportunity to share one’s thoughts on the trade, the craft, the vocation, the technique, opening a dialogue with one’s own generation, but also, through the written word, with those that will follow… Questioning appearances, aesthetic preconceptions and dogmas, retracing the multiple paths that meet in what is a deeply personal approach, this piece by Denys Bouliane shows great freedom of thought as well as a vibrant artistic response to the musical questions of his time. It provides a good illustration of one of the aspects of Circuit’s role, i.e. to follow closely and in depth the evolution of the musical world, including as it is told by its creators.
Jimmie LeBlanc, Canadian composer and guitarist.

Bouhalassa, N. (2002). Electroniquoi? Chronique de la naissance d’une nouvelle constellation sonore. Circuit, 13 (1), 27–34.

Introducing musical forms that are unknown, or too little known. Providing our mind with the chance to steep in their essence, discovering where they come from and what is going on in the minds of those creating these sound architectures, different from those we are used to encountering. This article illustrates one aspect of the great richness of the journal Circuit: its ability to arouse our musical curiosity and to introduce us to new forms of music rarely documented in academia. This is the achievement of the vivacious writing of Ned Bouhalassa, with his clear and evocative wording. We want to (again) listen to the works emanating from these musical trends, keeping in mind the tangible avenues to understand them and to truly “hear” them. I underscore the word bearing in mind Pierre Schaeffer who, in his Treatise on musical objects, distingues so aptly between various “meaningful” ways of listening: to listen (écouter), to perceive aurally (ouïr), to hear (entendre), to understand (comprendre).
Cléo Palacio-Quintin, Belgian-born flutist-improviser-composer.

Buch, E. (2007). L’avant-garde musicale à Buenos Aires : Paz contra Ginastera. Circuit, 17 (2), 11–33.

In 2007, I had just started my Master’s at the University of Montreal after having left Columbia the previous year. I had left behind my professional activities with the Ensemble CG entirely dedicated to the Latin American repertoire. My interest was as eager as ever, searching for the first time on my own for this repertoire. What surprise and joy to be greeted at the University of Montreal with an issue entirely dedicated to the musical forms of Latin America. It came with a conference which Esteban Buch attended, and thanks to which I had the opportunity to talk to him. I do not have a copy of this issue, even though I bought it three times, because I always end up gifting it to someone when I travel to South America!

Daniel Áñez, Colombian-born pianist.

Rigaudière, P. (2011). De l’esprit au spectre : mysticisme et spiritualité chez les compositeurs du courant spectral. Circuit, 21 (1), 37–44.

I recently read this text as I was conducting personal work on Scelsi and Xenakis and, though it concentrates on the spectral composers (especially Grisey), Rigaudière develops paths of thought that were particularly enlightening to me, notably on the “spirituality of immanence.”
Sharon Kanach, American-born musician and Co-Vice President of the Iannis Xenakis Center.

Abenavoli, L. (2013). Le son tactile ou la sensorialité excentrique dans les performances solos de Magali Babin. Circuit, 23 (1), 26–32.

One table, four contact microphones glued under black cardboard, a console, and various little thingies brought along by the audience, itself circling the artist, Magali Babin. We are back in November 2009 in the Studio d’Essai of the Méduse Coop. The audience awaits, tense and silent, for the improvisation to start. And then, as Babin touches key chains and plastic pipes, light friction between skin and object, they “transmute” themselves “from tangible matter to sound” to fill the space “up to our very skin, softly atomizing the solid world”. This vivid memory that has stayed with Abenavoli serves as the starting point of this article, which holds a special place in my heart. The author paints a fascinating portrait of the artist, a major figure of Montreal’s alternative scene. She illustrates at the same time one of the beauties of Circuit: displaying how local practices flow into international ones and vice versa as well as situating them in a current artistic “sonosphere.”
Emanuelle Majeau-Bettez, Canadian pianist and doctoral student in musicology and feminist studies.

Plouvier, J.-L. (2014). Chute libre : souvenirs et remarques sur mon travail avec Fausto Romitelli. Circuit, 24 (3), 21–35

In these pandemic times, I simply had no choice but to go to Jean-Luc Plouvier’s article dedicated to Fausto Romitelli: he enjoyed describing himself as a “virus” of art music. The pianist and musical director of the Ictus Ensemble looks back on his years collaborating with the Italian composer. In so doing, Plouvier reminds us how Romitelli managed to create a “sound” so peculiar by infusing art music with the universe of rock, among others. Just like Romitelli’s music, this piece plays with hybridization, sitting on the edge between a citation-rich academic article, a personal testimony, and a journalistic account. The stirring homage to a composer who left us too soon is a magnificent invitation to (re)discover the musical world of Fausto Romitelli.
François-Xavier Féron, holder of a master’s degree in musical acoustics and a doctorate in musicology.

Besada, J. L. & Zubizarreta, A. (2018). Gernikaren itzalpean: Propaganda, Appropriation, and Depoliticisation of Basque Art Music. Circuit, 28 (3), 25–38.

Like the entire issue in which it appeared, this article addresses a topic which is of particular interest to me: the relationship between music and politics. The two authors explore the musical evocation of the bombing of the town of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War through the works of three Basque composers: Pablo Sorozábal, Francisco Escudero, and Ramon Lazkano. In addition to introducing us to a repertoire little known in the French-speaking world, this study shows that the same bloody episode can inspire musical works with widely divergent political implications. It is a beautiful window into the complexities of the political functions music can perform!
Marie-Hélène Benoit-Otis, musicologist and specialized translator.

Tan, A. (2019). Reality Sounding: Annesley Black’s not thinking about the elephants. Circuit, 29 (3), 73–90.

In my opinion, Anthony Tan’s “Cahier d’analyse” of Annesley Black’s piece not thinking about the elephants illustrates what Circuit does so well: to present a sophisticated point of view on recent and important compositions that musicological literature does not yet cover. Tan’s analysis appeared only a year after the 2018 creation of not thinking about the elephants by Montreal’s Quasar Saxophone Quartet. The article combines an interview with the composer, a close reading of the score, and a philosophical reflection on the ways in which Black’s ideas cross paths with those of other composers, such as Matthias Spählinger and Helmut Lachenmann. The piece is a rich excavation site, with its subtile work on differential sounds and a complex spatial counterpoint in which sounds are transmitted from the instrument of one musician to that of another through speakers integrated in the saxophones’ bell. The long series of “Cahiers d’analyse” in Circuit has been invaluable to my work as a musicologist and a professor, with its priceless analyses of important works from both Quebec and Canada.
Robert Hasegawa, music theorist and composer.

Bernstein T. et Hannigan, B. (2020). Interview to be published. Circuit, 30 (3).

As the journal’s Editor-in-Chief, the complete collection of Circuit is of great importance to me and I consult it nearly everyday. I often view with singular fondness our collaborations with people from disciplines other than music, for instance writers or visual artists who illustrate our issues. However, it is usually in forthcoming articles that I am most intensely invested. Thus, at the moment, I am very much immersed in Tamara Bernstein’s interview with the soprano, conductor, and mentor Barbara Hannigan; it should appear in December 2020. The multifold and creative intelligence of Hannigan transpires with striking simplicity and vitality. Her major redefinition of the notion of leadership is actively and intrinsically embodied in her musical practice, and with such relevance that she ipso facto takes part in fundamental changes that go beyond this single art form.
Maxime McKinley, Canadian composer and Editor-in-Chief of Circuit.