René Lussier | The Canadian Encyclopedia


René Lussier

Lussier, René. Composer, guitarist, bass guitarist, percussionist, bass clarinetist, singer, b Montreal, 15 Apr 1957.

Lussier, René

Lussier, René. Composer, guitarist, bass guitarist, percussionist, bass clarinetist, singer, b Montreal, 15 Apr 1957. He began his career in 1973 in Chambly, Que, with Arpège, a progressive-rock band, and was a member 1976-80 in Montreal of Conventum, a string ensemble (violin, two guitars, and bass) led by the composer and guitarist André Duchesne and devoted to French Canadian reels and waltzes and to original music based in the same tradition. This material would remain a part of Lussier's performing and compositional vocabulary - eg, he has used the rhythmic 'clogging' patterns of the traditional instrumentalist in conjunction with his own, post-Hendrix guitar improvisations.

Concurrent to Conventum, Lussier began to participate in the activities of EMIM - eg, le Quatour de l'Enmieux and les Reins solides with the pianist Pierre St-Jacques, and Nébu with St-Jacques and Jean Derome, in the late 1970s, and La G.U.M. (Grande Urchestre de Montréal) and Jonas with Derome during the 1980s. He completed his first film score, a collaboration with André Duchesne, for an NFB short, Tanobe, in 1979, and by 1991 had written music (with Duchesne, Derome, the clarinetist Robert M. Lepage, and/or others) for more than 35 films, including L'Albédo, Riopelle, Beyrouth à défaut d'être mort, Shoot and Cry, Trois pommes à côté du sommeil, and the animated films of Pierre Hébert (Étienne et Sara, Le Métro, etc), all for the NFB, as well as the independent documentaries Painted Landscapes of the Times: The Art of Sue Coe, Night and Silence, and The Forbidden Land.

Although Lussier played guitar 1982-4 for the chanteuse Pauline Julien, he continued to work outside the pop mainstream in what was coming to be called musique actuelle. The release of his first album, Fin du travail, (version I), in 1984, signalled the emergence of a provocative composer, whose originality, humour, and visual (indeed cinematic) sense of musical play carried through the recordings that followed, whether heavily improvised in content (Chants et danses... and Nous autres) or carefully assembled (those with Derome, and Le Trésor de la langue). Lussier has worked extensively with ambient sound and human speech, in the latter instance extrapolating and orchestrating the melodic patterns of the conversational voice into pieces of music while retaining their original narrative text; Le Trésor de la langue, of which a part won the Prix Paul-Gilson 1989, awarded by the (European) Communauté des radios publiques de langue française, creates a social and political history of contemporary Quebec in this manner; his Zone grise (1990, for flute and tape), and commissioned by Lise Daoust, also employs this technique.

With 1984 the turning point in his career, Lussier began performing with Derome in a vocal and multi-instrumental duo, latterly known as Les Granules (see Derome for details), giving full play to his theatrical and comedic flair. He also worked 1984-7 with Robert M. Lepage in Chants et danses du monde inanimé, in concert (eg, the FIJM in 1984, and on tour to Vancouver, Seattle, and Bellingham, Wash, in 1985) and as collaborator with Pierre Hébert (further assisted by Derome) in mixed-media performances centered around Hébert's live animation. With Hébert and Derome, Lussier and Lepage performed in 1985 at the FIJM and in Holland, France, and Belgium. Lussier and Lepage were reunited in 1991 for a performance with the SMCQ Ensemble. Lussier was a member 1986-90 of Duchesne's 4 guitaristes de l'Apocalypso Bar and in 1988 joined Fred Frith's multinational Keep the Dog, which subsequently performed in the USSR, Europe, and the USA.

Lussier has been a mainstay of the Festival international de musique actuelle de Victoriaville where Nous autres was recorded (with Frith) in concert in 1986 and where Le Trésor de la langue (originally created in studio) was given its concert premiere with Derome, Richard Desjardins, and others in 1991.


All for Ambiances Magnetiques, except as indicated

Fin du travail (version 1). 1980-3. AM-000

Le Trésor de la langue. 1987-9. AM-015

With Lepage Chants et danses du monde inanimée. 1984. AM-001

With Derome Soyez vigilants... restez vivants!. 1985-6. AM-005

- Le Retour des granules. 1987. AM-006

With Frith Nous autres. 1986. Victo 01

With Martin Tétreault and M.F. Coté Des pas et des mois. 1991. AM-017

Others with Conventum (LPs for Le Tamanoir and Cadence, reissued as Conventum 77 + 79 = Réédition, 2-AM-003/4), Duchesne (Le Temps des bombes, 1984, A.D. 7777/AM-002), Duchesne's 4 guitaristes de l'Apocalypso-Bar (Tournée mondiale/été 89, 1987, AM-010; Fin de siècle, 1989, AM-014), and Nébu (see Derome)

Further Reading