Y a-t-il péril en la demeure ? « La musique contemporaine souffre d’un problème d’isolement, et il y a un grand besoin de la désinstitutionaliser, de la sortir du vase clos de l’hyper-spécialisation, explique Simon Bertrand. Composer des oeuvres nouvelles avec un outil symphonique est une occasion inouïe pour un compositeur et des musiciens d’orchestre aussi de sortir de notre zone de confort. Il faut seulement accompagner le public et lui donner des moyens de se rendre jusqu’à nos créations.»

Le clarinettiste et saxophoniste de formation, féru de jazz et de musique de chambre, n’a pas lésiné avec ses propres moyens. Après ses études musicales, il file à l’étranger et y restera… 13 ans ! « Quand je suis parti en 1989, les gens me connaissaient comme clarinettiste, et à mon retour en 2001, j’étais compositeur. » Il passe neuf ans en France où, après avoir obtenu en 1994 son Premier prix de composition au Conservatoire de Sevran auprès de Claude Ballif, il partage son temps entre la composition, l’organisation de concerts et l’enseignement. Il s’envole ensuite vers le Japon où il restera trois ans, composant de nombreuses oeuvres pour instruments traditionnels. « Entre-temps, j’ai été au Danemark où j’ai fait des contacts qui m’ont amené à composer des musiques de films, notamment avec Zentropa Productions, la compagnie de Lars Von Trier. » Cette incursion lui a ouvert une avenue qu’il compte bien développer, « par goût d’abord, et parce le support visuel permet à l’oreille, même neophyte de l’auditeur, d’apprécier des musiques très modernes ou nouvelles, celles-là mêmes qui passent peut-être moins bien pour eux au concert ».

LA RÉSIDENCE, UNE CAGE DORÉE ?
Quand il parle de sa nouvelle adresse à l’OSDL, c’est un vulgarisateur qu’on découvre. Devant lui, une liberté à l’échelle symphonique, et un public à conquérir. « À la Chapelle, j’ai composé uniquement de la musique de chambre, avec des oeuvres et des interprètes très pointus. À l’OSDL, je dois être souple, sans me travestir. On peut faire des choses extraordinaires avec un accord de Do majeur, de même qu’avec un cluster. Les musiciens d’orchestre sont des professionnels et n’ont pas de discrimination, que l’oeuvre soit tonale ou non. Ils veulent que la musique soit bien écrite, stimulante et gratifiante à jouer. »

Et un compositeur en résidence, ça sert à quoi ? « Si c’est uniquement de composer une oeuvre, de faire jouer la pièce, et ensuite c’est terminé, ce n’est pas suffisant ! C’est un travail éducatif, de vulgarisation, de découverte. Et dans mon mandat, il n’y a pas seulement le travail de creation (au moins deux par an), mais il y a aussi des orchestrations, ma participation au volet éducatif de l’OSDL et à des événements grand public ». À l’appui, Simon Bertrand a créé un blogue interactif, www.residenceosdl.worldpress.com, pour les mélomanes et les abonnés de l’OSDL. On y trouve notamment des extraits musicaux de ses oeuvres (passées et à venir), mais aussi des fiches biographiques des compositeurs du XXe siècle qui l’ont influencé, tels Debussy, Bartok, Ligeti ou Messiaen. « Si on commence par là, la table est mise pour les auditeurs qui veulent se familiariser avec les musiques nouvelles, et les classiques de la musique contemporaine.» Le ton est convivial, non-élitiste. « Il ne faut ni prendre les auditeurs de haut, ni les prendre pour des imbéciles ! Ce sera intéressant de voir ce qu’ils pensent de toutes ces musiques. »

Pour des raisons logistiques, c’est l’an prochain qu’on pourra entendre deux mcréations originales pour soliste et orchestra de Simon Bertrand, un concerto pour alto, et un autre pour pipa qui sera joué par Liu Fang. En mai, l’OSDL reprendra sa pièce Rideau et fanfare (2004) pour laquelle il avait remporté le premier Prix du concours de composition de l’Orchestre de l’Université de Montréal. Et en collaboration avec la SMCQ, le concert du volet jeunesse 2012 utilisera le Musicolateur, une table musicale permettant aux jeunes de composer de façon ludique. « Une des plus belles choses qu’on m’a dite sur ma musique est venue de mon professeur au doctorat, José Evangelista, disant que ma musique était inclusive, que j’avais plus l’attitude d’incorporer des choses que de discriminer des matériaux ou des idées. Pour moi, l’ancien et le nouveau n’ont pas d’importance, et je ne rejette rien. Tout est dans le regard que tu portes, et ce que tu en fais ensuite. »

 


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He’s known for his amazing country ballad “Trail In Life,” but British Columbia’s Dean Brody truly knows what it means to have trials in life.

In the past three years alone, the 36-year-old singer and songwriter – a recent hat trick winner at the 2011 Canadian Country Music Association (CCMA) Awards for Album (Trail In Life), and for Single and Songwriter of the Year (both for “Trail In Life”) – has survived both life-threatening and career-threatening episodes and come out smiling on the other side.

When he was promoting his first album, the self-titled Dean Brody, in the U.S. in 2009, a waterskiing adventure on the Potomac almost killed his career before its momentum began.

“I hit my face with a waterski and had to get reconstructive facial surgery,” recalls the former sawmill worker. “They put in three titanium plates and 12 screws to elevate my face back to where it was. It had kind of caved in a bit.”

The painfully slow recovery took a few months and Brody admits there were concerns as to whether he’d be back to his old self.

“There were some scary moments,” Brody concedes. “When they’re (surgically) reconstructing, they were actually boring out and rebuilding the sinuses, so it was a pretty freaky thing. I was wondering whether I was going to have the same tone or whether my voice would change. But it didn’t. Everything worked out in the end.”

“My most inspired moments are usually when I’m not even thinking about music. »

Brody admits he was initially a little jumpy when he entered the studio for his first post-surgery session with producer Matt Rovey.

“It was funny because when I first started singing again, I could hear a rattle in my head, and it felt like maybe there was something loose, so I’m freaking out, » Brody chuckles. “I’m looking at my producer Matt and he’s saying, ‘No – there’s nothing coming through on the mic, anyways. You’re safe!’”

Brody has also shown the same resilience when it comes to his recording career. Relocating to Nashville and signed to Broken Bow Records (home of U.S. indie chart-topper Jason Aldean), Brody found his first single, 2009’s “Brothers, » breaking into the Top 30 of Billboard’s U.S. country singles charts. It was also named 2009 Canadian Country Music Association (CCMA) Single of the Year. For a while, the future looked rosy.

According to Brody, however, Broken Bow then issued an ultimatum that made it impossible for him to continue with them.

“The reason I ended up leaving the U.S. was because Broken Bow wanted me to go with their management,” Brody explains. “I said, ‘No, I can’t do that,’ and they said, ‘Well, if you don’t, we will pull funding from your singles.’ Then they said, ‘We’re going to take away your ability to work legally in the U.S.’ I told them, ‘If you do that, I have to go back to Canada,’ and they said, ‘Yeah, it’s just business, Dean.’”

After negotiating his release from the label and having his work visa cancelled, Brody, his wife Iris, and their two children relocated to Chester, Nova Scotia. He signed with Open Road Recordings, issuing the sophomore Trail In Life in late summer 2010, and is feeling re-energized.
“I have creative freedom,” states Brody. “I’m allowed to put the songs I want on my records. That means a lot to me, man. The guy at my first record label wouldn’t let me put ‘Trail In Life’ on the first album.

“I feel like I’m in a really great spot creatively, and there’s something about the U.S. market and the U.S. machine – at least the one that I was involved in – that took away that joy and that fire of creating and loving music – it kind of doused that. Whereas here, I feel like I’m alive again and ready to go.”

Broken Bow’s loss is Open Road’s gain. The title track “Trail In Life” – a tender and poetic take on reconnection that cleverly spans generations – deservedly won the aforementioned CCMA 2011 Song of the Year honour and reveals Brody’s depth as a writer.

“I think a lot of my songs are a melding of my own personal experiences and also me trying to put myself in someone else’s shoes,’ he says. “The first two verses [of ‘Trail in Life’] are a part of me. I was thinking one night of the people that have been in my life and just started feeling nostalgic.
“When it comes to the turn at the end of the song, I thought, this is about the hope of seeing those people again, wishing somehow that their life turns out well. What’s the ultimate hope? A mom who has given up her child for adoption reuniting with that child years down the road.”

What’s also unusual, yet endearing, about “Trail In Life” is its chronology. “It kind of works backwards,” Brody admits. “I think most songs go through the stages of life, and the timeline usually goes forward. This one goes backward: First love, college buddies, college friends, and then the last part, where the twist occurs, it’s going back to birth…and yet it’s still in the future. I didn’t really know it would work.”

Brody, the writer of such other hits as “Dirt Road Scholar,” “Wildflower,” and “Roll That Barrel Out,” is something of an anomaly when it comes to country songwriters: he prefers working solo rather than partnering up, although he’s perfectly capable of co-writing. “I wrote my first song when I was 15, and I had no real opportunities to co-write, so I did it all by myself, just because I had to,” he recalls. “My first song was obviously my first girlfriend. Then I just kind of messed around with it, and it was just for fun. It was always just for fun until Nashville, and then it became like a job.”

Brody was working at a B.C. sawmill camp when he received the initial invitation to Music City, U.S.A.

“I’d gotten some interest from a publisher but I didn’t have a large enough repertoire,” he recalls. “He said just keep sending me songs. So I’d record them on CD and send them down. All we had for communication at the forestry camp was a CB radio, and I’d check for messages. And eventually, one message said, ‘Send your song ‘Brothers’ down. A week later, I got a call and the message on the CB radio was, ‘Yeah, I’m in. Let’s do this. C’mon down and let’s talk terms. That was it – I spent six years in Nashville.”

Brody started out in Nashville like everyone else – writing as often and with whomever he could. « It’s quite expected, when you work with a publisher, that you co-write,” he says. “For two years, I really did try. I wrote every day and I forced myself in an office to write every day for at least six hours. And that burned me out.

“But I write a lot differently than most people do when it comes to writing. It’s a real personal thing for me – something that I can’t really plan. It just kind of happens. So to have a structured songwriting regimen was probably one of the worst things I could have done for myself. After those first two years writing, I had to take a year off. I just couldn’t stand it. I was so burnt out.”

Usually, extended time away from your craft can prove to be frustrating. For Dean Brody, it was just the opposite. “Actually, it was a real relief, » Brody chuckles. “It sounds crazy, but because I had kind of been forced to write every day for two years, I needed some space. I find that for me to write a song, it’s always been a formula: there has to be space and time, and my most inspired moments are usually when I’m not even thinking about music.

“I don’t have a guitar in my hand. I’m out by the ocean or in the mountains or somewhere quiet. For having that year off – I dabbled a bit, I wrote, but I didn’t force any regimen – it really helped me get my feet back under me as a songwriter.”

Today, Brody says his inspiration is chiefly triggered by something visual.
“I do write a lot from imagery,” he admits. “When I sit down and write a song, usually it’s not a feeling at first. I usually see a picture and I try to paint it so that other people can see it.”


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Though he’s already got four full-length albums under his belt, David Myles says that in many ways his most recent, Into the Sun, feels like his first.

“I feel like it’s uniquely me,” he explains enthusiastically, describing a songwriting and recording process that was far more intuitive and organic than in the past. “Before, I didn’t know the studio well enough. I wasn’t confident enough to take risks,” he says.

But with a significant handful of accolades now under his belt and experience playing to larger and larger audiences, Myles, who hails from New Brunswick but is based in Halifax, now stands confidently on his musical feet.

His 2010 album Turn Time Off won the East Coast Music Award for Folk Recording of the Year, while his song “Need A Break” was named Creative Group Single of the Year. In 2010, he won the Nova Scotia Music Award for Male Artist of the Year, and, in 2009, his song “When It Comes My Turn” won first prize in the Folk/Singer-Songwriter category of the International Songwriting Competition.

So when it came to making Into the Sun, Myles decided he was ready to try something different. He decided to avoid his folk and jazz inclinations and head into the studio with an eye towards creating something more experimental. Instead of having the songs pre-written and arranged, as before, he started to think in terms of how he wanted the album to sound.

“I’d been listening to albums from Brazil and West Africa from the ’60s and ’70s,” says Myles, explaining that he wanted to find a way to incorporate the same kinds of rhythms into his own music. He began working closely with producer Charles Austin, and the two started layering vocals and adding rhythms to his newly-penned songs, while staying open to surprises. “If you close all the doors before you go into the studio, you aren’t able to get that stuff,” says Myles, who’s very happy with the results of keeping the doors open.

“I think it’s the coolest thing I’ve ever done.”

Track Record
• Myles didn’t begin to make music a career until 2004, after he completed a political internship at the Ontario Legislature.
• His 2011 album Live At The Carleton was made during four consecutive shows in Halifax, though at the time he had no idea they were being recorded.
• Myles wrote and sings the chorus on « The Day Doesn’t Die » by hip-hop artist Classified, who returned the favour with a remix of Myles’ « Simple Pleasures. »


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