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Autour d’une Musique portuaire

Hélène Prévost, Claude Schryer

Programme notes

“In the symphonic density of our city, a song emerges from the port, anchored in ice. A naval call, like heavy cargo from our consciousness, abandons itself on our shore. The Harbour Symphonies resonate and invite us to vibrate along with them.”

Jessica Jodoin, video artist, Symphonies portuaires 1996 à Montréal

Transcription of dialogue near the beginning of the piece:

Mario Paquet: Producer Hélène Prévost is in front of me and she is giving the ten minute signal to Claude Schryer.
Claude Schryer: Claude to everyone: one minute!
MP: Claude Schryer, composer-electroacoustician. I won’t disturb him now. I know that he can hear me at this moment.
CS: Everything is going well.
MP: Everything is under control. He will give the countdown and will in a way conduct the five boats, the two locomotives and the bells of the Notre-Dame Basilica. There is also a team of volunteers on each boat…
CS: Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one. Go!

Transcription of dialogue near the end of the piece:

MP: Harbour Symphony by Claude Schryer. Claude, I know this moment belongs to you. Hey, we can hear the crowd. We must not forget them. I am still inside but I can hear them outside.
CS: Should I salute them?
MP: That’s a nice idea. Claude will go salute the crowd. I remind you that we are still at the top of the tower at Pointe-à-Callière, musée d’histoire et d’archéologie de Montréal…

Autour d’une Musique portuaire (Around Harbour Music) is an electroacoustic composition based on Musique portuaire pour sirènes et cloches (Harbour Music for Horns and Bells), an original environmental composition by Claude Schryer for six boats, two trains and the bells of the Notre-Dame Basilica. Musique portuaire pour sirènes et cloches was commissioned by the FM cultural network of Radio-Canada and was broadcast live on March 3rd, 1996. The premiere of the piece took place as part of a special broadcast from Pointe-à-Callière, musée d’histoire et d’archéologie de Montréal. At 2:30pm on this Sunday afternoon, six boats imprisoned in the frozen port of Montréal, two trains in motion and the bells of the Notre-Dame Basilica performed this 9-minute 30-second piece, conducted with the composer communicating to the performers by walkie-talkie.

Hélène Prévost writes about this piece:

Schryer’s sensitive and powerful composition created breathing space for nature, sound, listeners, metaphors, and music of matter. It was a perfect opportunity.

The musical and sonic energy generated by this work/event inspired me to invite musicians to improvise with and around the Harbour Symphony. With the consent and participation of Claude Schryer, a virtual score was conceived. Musician/improvisers Jean Derome, on baritone saxophone and Tom Walsh, on trombone, joined by Claude Schryer, on bass clarinet, combined talent and experience in a working session held a few days later in Studio 12, a large digital multitrack studio at Maison Radio-Canada in Montréal.

The acoustics and vastness of the studio placed the musicians in an open space in which to improvise, thus amplifying the paradox of locations: the natural theatre of the port (the Harbour Symphony events took place in a space ranging over one kilometre) combined with the ‘natural’ theatre of the studio (900m2). In the post-production mix of the composition various boat horn, train, bell and musician soloists were highlighted in an intriguing game of hide and seek. Autour d’une Musique portuaire invites the listener to engage in games of timbre, space, dimension, time, transparency and intention.

Our initial effort was also to conserve the real-time flow of the original performance. The present recording is the result of a few minor temporal manipulations.”


Autour d’une Musique portuaire was awarded the Prix de la création radiophonique 1996 as part of the Radio Prizes of the French radio service of Radio-Canada. Thanks to Francine Labrosse and Sylvie Durand of Pointe-à-Callière, musée d’histoire et d’archéologie de Montréal, to all the volunteers who participated in Musique portuaire pour sirènes et cloches and to Tom Walsh and Jean Derome for their precious collaboration. Thanks also to Don Wherry and Paul Steffler of the Sound Symposium. Musique portuaire pour sirènes et cloches was recorded by Société Radio-Canada live from Pointe-à-Callière, musée d’histoire et d’archéologie de Montréal on March 3, 1996; Hélène Prévost, producer, Pierre Léger and Michel Larivière, technicians.

About this recording

Autour d’une Musique portuaire was recorded in Studio 12 of Maison Radio-Canada in April, 1996; Hélène Prévost and Claude Schryer, co-producers, Yves Lepage et Marc Fortin, technicians. The piece was mixed in May, 1997 in the home studio of Claude Schryer and in Studio 30 of Radio-Canada; Denis Frenette, technician.

  • Composer(s): Hélène Prévost, Claude Schryer
  • Year of composition: 1996
  • Instrumentation: baritone saxophone, trombone, bass clarinet and stereo fixed medium
  • ISWC: T0702956599
  • Publisher(s): Ymx média
  • Duration: 12:26
  • ISRC: CAD509712970