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Gilles Tremblay

Canadian composer born 6 September, 1932 in Arvida, Quebec, died 27 July, 2017 in Montreal

Gilles Tremblay was born on 6 September, 1932 in Arvida, Quebec. He first undertook private lessons with Jocelyne Binet, Edmond Trudel and Gabriel Cusson. From 1949 to 1954, he studied piano with Germaine Malépart at the Montreal Conservatory, graduating cum lauda. He also privately studied composition with Claude Champagne.

He went on to study analysis with Messiaen in Paris, graduating cum lauda in 1957, and piano/music theory with Yvonne Loriod. The following year, he was awarded a special prize by the conservatory for ondes Martenot, and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in music theory from the École Normale Supérieure de Musique (also in Paris).

In Darmstadt, he became personally acquainted with Stockhausen. In 1959, along with Amy, Boucourechliev, Ferrari, Mâche and Xenakis, he participated in a GRM workshop at Radio France with Pierre Schaeffer. In 1960, a grant allowed him to return to the Darmstadt Summer Course, where he studied with Pierre Boulez and Henri Pousseur.

Throughout the 1960s, Tremblay taught and participated in conferences, festivals and radio shows. In 1966-67, he created a sonic landscape for the Quebec Pavillion at the 1967 World Exposition, for which he was awarded the Calixa-Lavallée Prize. In 1972, with support from the Canada Arts Council, Tremblay embarked upon a study trip to the Far East. He has been a jury member on numerous international competitions, and his own works have been performed in Montreal, Toronto, Paris, London, New York, Tokyo and elsewhere.

Tremblay’s long-term research interests gave rise to a remarkable consistency of style in his musical output throughout his career. Consideration of some of the terms which he applied to his own works sheds light upon his musical universe. For example, many of his works include sections which he described as “mobile”, whereby groups of notes, enclosed in a box in the score, represent pitch sets which serve as the bases of improvisations. In order to structure such passages in time, Tremblay applied the concepts of “duration-breath,” “duration-resonance” and “duration-bow.” This categorisation of durations gives rise to a “broadening” of the sonic nature of the material comprising the work.

© Ircam-Centre Pompidou, 1998