Global Neighbourhood (posted Jan. 14, 2017) 

In the documentary Félix dans la mémoire longtemps, another Québec great Jean-Pierre Ferland states, 

Dans c’temps là, on était pas connu ici tant qu’on était pas connu ailleurs. 

“Back then, we weren’t well known here until we were well known abroad.” 

He was speaking about how Félix Leclerc’s fame really only started growing after he returned from a successful stay in France in the early 1950s. I have heard this stated from other great Montreal artists over the years and find myself wondering... why? Why do the residents of a city, a province, a country seem to pay little attention to local artists unless they have experienced success elsewhere? Could it be that we as Montrealers, Quebecers, Canadians are art snobs? Or is it something more profound, more psychological, suggesting that we do not believe that our own place of residence could house someone with talent worth the price of a concert ticket? I am reminded of a particular artist friend of mine, known worldwide as an act well worth paying for, filling concert venues with a capacity for thousands of spectators. Last summer, after being asked if she was still performing (she had recently returned from a European tour!) she was asked to perform to fill in for a canceled act. This was the second time she was to perform at this festival in 25 years. 

I think of my mother explaining to me that when she was growing up, it was common for adults of that generation to ignore children and their efforts. High standards were expected, but not praised. It seems that this may be one of the sources of the above issue. Don’t get me wrong, as a passionnate working musician, I am willing to travel anywhere in the world to share my passion (yes, anywhere!). However, as a husband and father of young children, I would like to be able to work close (-ish) to home and make a decent living. To make a decent living playing original music, one must have fans who are willing to pay to see you play in quality venues. In order to gain fans, seemingly, one must be recognized as having been accepted by a wider global audience. Of course talent and skill are very important, but travel seems to be an important aspect of being able to meet financial obligations. That seems a little strange to me. I often here that conditions for artists are better overseas than right here at home! 

To offer a counter point, I will reflect now on a different era. In our very own city, right here in Montreal, during the early 1900s, Mary Travers Bolduc (knows as La Bolduc) became a huge local celebrity after releasing 2 original songs written in her kitchen (Monast, La Bolduc: Le violon de mon père). Her neighbourhood loved her, not only for her musical talent and comical timely songs but also because she gave back to the community, helping to feed those in need. She was already well known in her neighbourhood due to her playing at local parish dances. Once the church decided these dances were no longer appropriate, she continued hosting musical social events in her Montreal apartment. She has been credited as being Quebec’s first working musician. 

So, does this snobbery or psychological disbelief in local talent stem from globalization? Is the global neighbourhood threatening the neighbourhood artist? Certainly, La Bolduc would not have had many opportunities to travel so early in the 1900s and music was not as widely shared as it is now. But is there more to it? I will not get on the high horse of pessimism at this point, but I will say that perhaps there is room in the local market for consumers of art to pay attention to what is going on right outside their windows, sometimes even right next door. Perhaps there is room for us to embrace and learn from the past while we welcome the future, all the while encouraging local, talented creative types to spread their art in a viable manner. For without art, we become consumers of replication. There has to be more to life than that; life is beautiful! 

Watch the Félix Leclerc documentary here:

To learn more about La Bolduc: 

Photo of Mary Travers Bolduc credit in header:

Musique d’une autre époque (posted Dec. 15, 2016) 

Photo de Caroline Bergeron

On m’a dit cette semaine que mes chansons semblent venir d’une autre époque - qu’on a l’impression de reculer dans le temps. La critique est venue de juges d’un concours pour auteurs/compositeurs. Ce fut une explication pour laquelle mes chansons n’étaient pas convenables pour le concours en question puisque l’industrie de la musique vise à avancer. Comment dois-je réagir en vers cette critique? 

Dans un sens, je me suis dis, “Ils ont compris mes chansons!” Je suis nostalgique de la musique d’une autre époque c’est sûr, mais je vie en 2016. Je ne crois pas qu’un style de musique fait partie ou ne fait pas partie d’une certaine époque. La musique c’est la musique! Et la bonne musique résiste à l’épreuve du temps. Si je tente d’expliquer les origines de cette passion pour les styles de musique qui m’influencent et qui m’inspirent, je risque de parler en rond sans rien dire... Des fois, on en dit plus sans rien dire! 

Un autre commentaire des juges: je me cache derrière les chansons d’une autre époque. C’est un peu lourd... Pour la plupart de notre conversation qui a eu lieu au téléphone, j’ai écouté le juge très attentivement sans me défendre et sans juger (Ha ha! Je ne voulais pas juger le juge!), mais à ce point j’ai du partager mon opinion. “Mais monsieur, je suis dans la chanson. Dans le texte, la mélodie, dans chaque note, je suis là.” C’était peut-être un peu trop philosophique pour un mercredi après-midi. 

C’est clair que ce n’était pas le concours pour mes chansons. Et c’est correct. Ce fut une expérience et ceci m’a fait réfléchir à plusieurs aspect de ma composition. Je n’ai pas l’impression de reculer ni d’avancer mais simplement de créer. C’est sûr que j’espère qu’un certain auditoire appréciera mes créations puisque l’étape final de la création est le partage et la réaction que est née de ce partage. 

Tout cela pour dire... merci aux juges de ce concours de m’avoir fait réfléchir et d’avoir partagé avec moi la création de leurs opinions!

Repetitive, Rhythmical and Tonal (post from Dec. 10, 2016) 

It’s amazing how momentum can pick up steam seemingly on its own. Sometimes it’s like there’s a great wind passing by and I have the choice to take a deep breath, brace myslef and let it sweep me away, or to simply allow it to move right passed me. Either way, something happens. It always does. 

I love music. I love it when I am on stage with my bandmates and I am aware that some great force has brought us all together. With a quick glance, I know they feel it too. That’s the power of music. I would be terribly arrogant if by that statement I was suggesting that I understand the power of music. Of course I can only talk about my experiences, at least those I am able to put into words. Regardless, I have been affected by the power of music enough that I have decided to keep a blog about my experiences in musicianship, which I will define as my attempt at becoming more connected with the frequences created when a living being intentionally sets an event into motion causing a sound to occur in a repetitive, rhythmical and tonal way. Oh yeah baby... gimme some of that R.R.T. ! 

As I approach the end of my first research and creation grant application, I find myself seeking this deeper connection. Why am I drawn to certain types of music? Why do certain melodies occupy the entirety of my mind sometimes, sending positive vibrations into my whole body, when I should be getting some rest - seeing as I have to make breakfast for the kiddos in 2 hours! And what role does the music play in helping humans understand where they came from, how this music got here in the first place, and why it is important to keep it alive.

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