Figures de rhétorique

Robert Normandeau

Programme notes

To Jacques Drouin

The title: rhetoric is the art of discourse, and figures of speech are the forms that language takes to articulate that discourse. The figures of speech used here are arranged by type: figures of meaning (hyperbole, litotes, metaphor, oxymoron, parable and pleonasm), of words (alliteration, embellishment and rhyme), of thought (allegory, apologue, bombast, irony and tautology), and of construction (antithesis, ellipsis, repetition and reticence). These figures determine the relationship between the tape and the piano and constitute the work’s four movements.

The subtitle: “for tape and piano,” intended to emphasize the chronological primacy of one over the other. Figures de rhétorique was composed as an acousmatic work, which required work on the material, trials, a dynamic approach, and listening — a great deal of listening. The pianist’s score was created during the final stages of composition. It is a conclusion, not a premise. It is also the result of numerous working sessions with pianist Jacques Drouin (the performer is free to interpret a number of the passages; it is his version that is presented here). This work only makes use of sounds made by the original instrument.

[English translation: Tom Carter]

Figures de rhétorique [Figures of Speech] was commissioned by the pianist Jacques Drouin with support from the Canada Council for the Arts (CCA). The tape sounds were obtained with the help of processing carried out on SYTER at the Groupe de recherches musicales (GRM) in Paris in 1994. The final tape was realized in Queen’s University in Belfast (Northern Ireland, UK) and at the composer’s studio in 1997. Thanks to Michael Alcorn and Daniel Teruggi. It was premiered by Jacques Drouin on May 23, 1998 at the Chapelle historique du Bon-Pasteur in Montréal. Thanks to Guy Soucie. Figures de rhétorique was awarded the 1st Prize for mixed music in the Musica Nova 1998 International Competition of Electroacoustic Music (Prague, Czech Republic).


  • May 23, 1998, Jacques Drouin, piano • La semaine de musique québécoise pour le piano: Carte blanche à Jacques Drouin, Chapelle historique du Bon-Pasteur, Montréal (Québec)


About this recording

… at the Chapelle historique du Bon-Pasteur in Montréal where the present recording was later realized.

  • Composer(s): Robert Normandeau
  • Year of composition: 1997
  • Instrumentation: piano and stereo fixed medium
  • Commission: Jacques Drouin, with support from the CCA
  • ISWC: T0715242526
  • Publisher(s): Ymx média
  • Duration: 13:37
  • ISRC: CAD500910006