Denys Bouliane

Grand-Mère, Québec, 1955

  • Composer
  • Conductor

Bouliane is one of those Québécois performers who has looked deeply into cultural difference. Trained in the European tradition as a student of Ligeti, he remains to this day eminently conscious of his North American roots, in all his freshness and all his paradoxes. Without recourse to citation, his music is inspired and testifies to what he perceives as sonic, and musico-linguistic “attitudes” in Québécois culture. With this in mind, we might speak of a “Québécois Ives”.

Born in 1955 in the little village of Grand-Mère in Quebec, Bouliane is considered one of the nation’s most internationally visible composers. Performances of his music have been given at major European and North American festivals for the past two decades, and are regularly broadcast in North America and throughout Europe, including works commissioned and performed by such Canadian ensembles as the SMCQ (Société de musique contemporaine du Québec), the NEM (Nouvel Ensemble Moderne, Montréal), the Fibonacci Trio and the Bozzini Quartet, New Music Concerts, and Soundstream, as well as by European ensembles, including the Ensemble Köln, Ensemble Modern, MusikFabrik, KlangForum Wien, the Stuttgart Windquintet, the Calamus Quintet (West Germany), the Delta Ensemble and the Nederlands Blazers Ensemble (Amsterdam), the London Sinfonietta, the Nash Ensemble, Lontano and Continuum (London), l’Itinéraire (Paris). Bouliane’s music has also been given by major orchestras ranging from the Orchestre symphonique de Québec and the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, to the Toronto Symphony, Esprit Orchestra, Winnipeg Symphony, National Arts Center Orchestra (Ottawa), Philharmonia Orchestra (London), City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Heidelberg Philarmonisches Orchester, Bochumer Symphoniker, and the WDR Sinfonieorchester amongst others. He is currently Composer-in-Residence at the National Arts Center Orchestra in Ottawa, a position he occupied from 1992 to 1995 at the Orchestre symphonique de Québec and in 1995-96 at the Heidelberg Philharmonisches Orchester in Germany.

In 1995, Bouliane was appointed professor of composition at McGill University in Montréal, and director of the McGill Contemporary Music Ensemble in 1996. He has given guest lectures at several universities, conservatories and international festivals. As a conductor, he has worked with the McGill CME, the Ensemble Modern, New Music Concerts, Soundstream, the Orchestre symphonique de Québec (OSQ), Orchestre symphonique de Montréal and the National Arts Centre Orchestra. During the 1990s, he was the regular conductor of the OSQ’s Ensemble XXe siècle (which he founded), as well as a special counselor to the orchestra.

Artistic coordinator of the MusiMarch Festival (McGill University, SMCQ and Orchestre symphonique de Montréal), Bouliane is also co-artistic director, with Walter Boudreau, of the new Montréal/New Music international biennial festival (inaugurated in March 2003). In the 1980s he toured Europe extensively as sound manager for the Ensemble Köln, and in 1991, founded Série B. With his return to Quebec in 1995, Bouliane founded the Rencontres de Musique Nouvelle, which he currently serves as co-artistic director with Lorraine Vaillancourt, and subsequently became a member of the artistic committee for the SMCQ (Société de musique contemporaine du Québec). With Walter Boudreau, Bouliane was artistic coordinator and principal conductor of the new music festival Québec-Musiques-au-présent (1998, 1999, and 2000) as well as the Millennium Symphony. Outside music, he has also worked in close collaboration with director Denis Marleau (Büchner’s Woyzeck, 1993 and Wedekind’s Lulu, 1995-96).

This composer’s achievements include numerous prizes for individual works, including awards from the CBC (1982), the Gaudeamus Foundation in Holland (1982), the Performing Rights Organization of Canada, the Canadian Music Council (Composer of the Year for 1983), Governor General Jules-Léger foundation (1987), the City of Cologne (1985), the WDR’s Forum junger Komponisten (in the orchestral category for 1989), the Fondation Emile Nelligan (Prix Serge Garant in 1991), and the Conseil québécois de la musique (Personality of the Year for 1999).

Bouliane’s original stylistic approach, described by German musicologist Peter Niklas Wilson as “music of magical realism, akin to a virtuosic game of criticism, bordering on stylistic mystification, following in the footsteps of Jorge-Luis Borges, Italo Calvino and Boris Vian.” A subject of controversy in so-called avant-garde milieux, his music appears at a crossroads between North America and Europe, and at the center of debates on modernity and postmodernity.

Source: Documentation Dr. Hermann Conen (Cologne, January 2004)