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- What is it about Mozart's music that inspires you as a composer?
Wolfgang Amadeus seemed to possess an incredible flair for making the most
imaginative (even if at times strikingly simple) musical decisions at every
- Do you have a special musical memory from when you were very
I remember very well, at family gatherings during the holidays, us singing
all together at the top of our lungs and my grandmother trying to accompany
on the piano!
- When did you first start composing music?
I wrote down my first couple of compositions when I was 19.
- How long does it take you to compose a work? Do you have
a favourite place to compose your music?
Composing takes a lot of time; some large pieces can take more than a year
to finish. My favourite place to compose is my studio in Cologne; it's quiet,
it has a beautiful view of the garden… and the telephone doesn't ring as
often as when I'm in Montréal!
- What instruments can you play? Do you need to play all the
instruments you compose for?
I played electric guitar in a rock band when I was a teenager — since then
I have learned piano and also the violin a little bit. Of course I can't
play all the instruments, but I have learned pretty much how they all sound
and how they behave, and what each instrument is best at doing.
- Does your music sound particularly "Canadian / Mexican
/ American"? If so, why?
That's a very
difficult question! I suppose the "sound" of my
music might have something to do with my background; I have been going back
and forth between North America and Europe for more than 20 years. So maybe
my music happens at some kind of imaginary "meeting point",
where I feel free to project my perceptions and feelings.
- What is the source of inspiration for your compositions?
lot of things. Most of the time, though, I like to imagine ways to manipulate
our perception of time. The wonderful thing about music is that you can
create the illusion that time does not flow at a constant speed. How about "playing
god" for a little moment? (smile)
- What advice would you give a student who would like to compose?
is about translating your perceptions, visions, aspirations, feelings,
joys, sorrows and all those things into the "world of sound".
But this "world" has its own internal life; it is up to you
to discover it, by listening to many, many pieces, and through
the repeated experience of music-making. You might then find your own
way to enter this very special universe, and find within it a place of
- Which of your compositions is your favorite? What should I,
as a student, listen for?
Another very difficult
question! I like many different pieces for many different reasons…
If you were to listen to only one piece, I would suggest "Jeux
de Société" (1980). It is a very lively work for piano and woodwind
quintet; it has some very special exuberant passages, and also has a bit
of "tongue-in-cheek"… as if the players were trying to sound
a bit bigger than they really are!
If you prefer the large symphonic
sound, I would suggest "Le Cactus
rieur et la demoiselle qui souffrait d'un soif insatiable" (1986);
you might experience there the imaginary "meeting point" between
cultures I mentioned in question #6.