Golgotha, Messiaen and Boudreau

Feb. 26, 2023 at 11:00 a.m.

Salon Orange – Centre Pierre-Péladeau – UQAM
300 Boul. de Maisonneuve E, Montréal
Métro Berri-UQAM

Study day as part of the Montreal/New Music Festival



11 a.m. Yves Balmer

12 p.m. Coffee break

12:15 p.m. Jean Boivin

12:45 p.m. Sylvain Caron

As part of the scientific activities surrounding the Montreal/New Music Festival, this study day organized by Sylvain Caron explores the mechanisms of influence and transmission in spiritually inspired music. Special attention will be paid to the figure of composer Olivier Messiaen, whose work played a significant role in the birth of musical modernity in Quebec.


Yves Balmer (Conservatoire supérieur de musique et de danse de Paris)

Olivier Messiaen: A syncretic approach

The technique of borrowing lies at the heart of Olivier Messiaen's compositional approach. Not only did he retain the musical traits of composers of his time, but he also opened up his inspiration to sources far removed in time - Gregorian chant - and geography - such as India, the Andes, Bali and Papua New Guinea. Nourished by non-European cultures, and even birdsong, Messiaen thus achieves a kind of musical syncretism oriented towards themes of Christian theology: La Nativité, Les Corps glorieux, Les Visions de l'Amen, Saint François d'Assises... His music is thus universal, interreligious and intercultural.

Yves Balmer is a musicologist, composer and teacher. He is professor of musical analysis at the Paris Conservatoire and a permanent member of the Institut de recherche en musicologie (Paris). A specialist in Olivier Messiaen and twentieth-century French music more generally, he is the author of six books including Le modèle et l'invention: Olivier Messiaen et la technique de l'emprunt (Symétrie, 2017) with T. Lacôte and C. Murray and Un siècle de musicologie en France, (Société française de musicologie, 2018) with H. Lacombe. He has also written some forty academic articles published notably in the Journal of the American Musicological Society, Twentieth-Century Music, Musicalia and Revue de musicologie. He was editor-in-chief of the Revue de musicologie (2012-2019) and co-directs the collection of books on music and musicology at the Presses de la Sorbonne (SUP). He is a member of the steering committee of the Fondation Olivier-Messiaen (Fondation de France). Since 2018, Yves Balmer has been developing his activity as a composer: his fascination for sound, its fragility and its transitory states has led him to work on the sculpture of resonance, which he associates with a calligraphic musical gesture in his cycle Piano Material (2018-2020), like his solos La Voix intérieure, for alto saxophone (2019), Dark Energy, for bassoon (2020) and Faire surgir la lumière, for cello (2020). His works are published in Paris by Billaudot.


Jean Boivin (Université de Sherbrooke)

Messiaen's class: the antechamber of Quebec musical creation

Messiaen's class at the Paris Conservatoire (1941-1978) was a veritable breeding ground for musical modernity in the second half of the 20th century. The originality of his compositions inspired young composers such as Pierre Boulez, Pierre Henry, Karlheinz Stockhausen and Iannis Xenakis, who went on to define the post-war musical avant-garde. Many Quebec composers, including Serge Garant, Clermont Pépin, Gilles Tremblay and André Prévost, also benefited from his teaching, opening up new musical perspectives. A humanist of great culture and a fervent Catholic whose faith permeates all his work, Messiaen forged lasting friendships with several leading Quebec personalities, including Gilles Tremblay and Maryvonne Kendergi. This lecture, intended for a music-loving public, aims to highlight the crucial role played by Olivier Messiaen in the development of Quebec musical creation.

Jean Boivin holds a Diplôme d'études approfondies from the Université de Paris IV-Sorbonne and a doctorate in musicology from the Université de Montréal. He is interested in various aspects of twentieth-century musical history, both in Quebec and Europe. His book La classe de Messiaen (Paris, Bourgois, 1995) won several awards and was translated into Japanese in 2020 (Tokyo, Artes). He has been invited to take part in several international colloquia, and has contributed to various collective works (published by Garland, Einaudi, Actes Sud, Ashgate, Vrin and Symétrie, among others) and musicology journals, including Cahiers de l'histoire de la radiodiffusion (France). The prize for "Article of the Year" has been awarded twice by the Conseil québécois de la musique (1999 and 2002). Since the fall of 2013, he has been editor-in-chief of the Cahiers de la Société québécoise de recherche en musique, an association of which he was president from 1998 to 2001. He is preparing a monograph on the history of modern music in Quebec (1930-1967). In 2022, the Canadian University Music Society awarded him the SOCAN/MusCan Foundation Award for Excellence in Advancing Canadian Music Research.


Sylvain Caron (Université de Montréal)

Golgotha: Narrative, image and imagination

Deeply rooted in the Western Christian imagination, the crucifixion of Jesus and Golgotha have inspired a wide range of artistic creations. This lecture aims to unify the spiritual, theological, pictorial and musical dimensions that intertwine in works based on this theme. In The Three Crosses (1653), Rembrandt opens up the biblical story to more universal dimensions through a play of light and shadow. Inspired by this engraving, Frank Martin composed his oratorio Golgotha (premiered in 1949), highlighting the lethality of religious fundamentalism through music that exalts free vocality. Closer to home, Walter Boudreau's Golgot(h)a (1990) follows in the footsteps of the Stations of the Cross, echoing a 16th-century Victoria responsorial, a poem by Raôul Duguay and contemporary instrumental and sampled sounds.

Full professor at the Université de Montréal's Faculty of Music, Sylvain Caron conducts research in performance musicology, focusing on the links between musical interpretation, analysis and expression. He is co-editor of two books: Musique et modernité en France (PUM, 2006); Musique, art et religion (Symétrie, 2009). He has also given lectures and published articles on the Fauré writing (Canadian University Music Review, 2002), the melodies of Daniel-Lesur (PUPS, 2009), Fauré (PUM, 2006) and Chausson (forthcoming), the relationship between painting and music in Denis and Caplet (L'Harmattan, 2011), the religious music of Koechlin (Mardaga, 2010), Caplet's Le Miroir de Jésus (Vrin, 2021) and Tremblay's Vêpres de la Vierge (Cahiers de la SQRM, 2011). With Erica Bisesi and Caroline Traube he co-edited the chapter "Analyser l'interprétation: une étude comparative des variations de tempo dans le premier prélude de L'Art de toucher le clavecin de François Couperin", published in Musique et cognition, a collective edited by Philippe Lalitte at Éditions universitaires de Dijon (2019). Finally, Sylvain Caron is a member of the editorial board of Musurgia: Analyse et pratiques musicales, and a board member of the Société française d'analyse musicale.


Organizing committee

Coordination committee