Matter and Emotion: Myriam Boucher’s Waves of Sound and Light
It is possible to feel wind and water upon your skin in the stillness of a concert hall.
This article has been updated.
And it is possible to ride such drifts up into the air, down into the earth, and through its crust to another world altogether — through the frame of sound art, that is.
I have expressed my opinion about the subliminal potential of electroacoustics before in an article on Akousma. I am not outside myself, though, when immersed in the work of Myriam Boucher.
Rather, I am very much within my body. I experience something intangible, yet so mesmerizing it feels real.
I’d like to see the substances around me similarly: those fragments of ice outside my door, or those grey clouds about to release snow, that drop of water in the bottom of my glass —- but they do not exist as pixels or sound waves.
Boucher, however, transforms natural and banal objects into fantastical, living phenomena. They shake your eardrums, make your skin tingle, and fill your heart with warmth. I had the opportunity to see her latest video-music piece, Nuées, at Akousma XIII in October. It delivered the textures and momentum of birds in flight.
Boucher began with classical piano, then jazz, and finally post-rock.
“We played a lot with timbre, instruments, effects and synthesizer guitar pedals,” Boucher said. “I told myself, “Wow! It’s really fun, to play with sound this way, more so with textures and effects.”
That’s when she heard about electroacoustics. She began researching the field, listening to notable electroacoustic musicians like Louis Dufort and Hans Tutschku.
Her interest only grew, leading her to pursue a BA in electroacoustics at Université de Montréal, studying video art creation through visual music courses. This caused Boucher to leave behind post-rock for a time.
Boucher feels no ambivalence about fusing video with sound pieces.
Creating video entailed the use of similar programs as those used in post-rock and electroacoustics. Boucher was able to approach video as she did musical composition, through a visual interface. She adopts the same approach today as when she began, fleshing out timelines concurrently, and by placing elements into digital frames side by side.
Surprisingly, Boucher denies the title of cinematographer or visual artist. “It’s like matter for me,” she said.
There is an enormous fluidity to Boucher’s work that is mesmerizing to the eyes. Elements within her pieces move in synchronisation with the waves of sound.
Her work, evocative in its dynamism, brings its audience close to something akin to feeling multiple emotions all at once. Forms within her pieces will shift from solid to liquid, fragment to wave, their digital origins easily forgotten. They become organic, relatable.
“What I want to do is to kind of evoke emotions,” says Boucher. “I’ll be drawn to a material, for instance last year with birds. I was really drawn by the sound of flapping wings and was observing birds a lot and altogether this evoked a lot of emotions for me.”
Structure, form and matter are not limitations for Boucher, however. She uses what she needs until the path presents itself to her.
“In electroacoustics, it always begins with a flash, a sound,” Boucher explained. “Something that I love or like that is truly evocative for me — and I begin from there.”
Boucher said that she records sound and gathers video footage, not knowing what her end result will be. Her unpredictable process reveals its gems by the end, though.
“Approaching visual and audio material is very experimental,” Boucher said. “It’s not planned out in advanced. Sometimes I film and strange things emerge and I tell myself, ‘This is really beautiful.’”
Boucher reacts with us, prior to our experiences with her work. She takes in the world and brings aspects of it to the foreground of our mind.
Dec. 8th // 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. // Tanna Schulich Hall, New Music Building // 527 Sherbrooke St. W.