Plein Jeu


Event / 2021

For the first public event of Plein Jeu, Avatar organized an evening of sound works made for MIDI-controlled pipe organ.

Without having to touch the keyboards, seven artists made the majestic organ at Palais Montcalm resonate by using electronic devices that reimagine the language of the instrument.

The fifteen works on the program were created during three research and creation residencies at Avatar and tested at Palais Montcalm.

Plein Jeu is also an epic, a series of events that assemble artists to reflect and create together. The project finds a natural extension in a digital publication of theoretical reflections on the works and the creation of electronic and computer interfaces.

December 2 marked the start of the Plein Jeu event and publication.


Developing Methods

For the Plein Jeu residencies, we developed an interdisciplinary approach in order to integrate a MIDI-controlled organ with creative methods derived from visual arts.

To enrich the exchanges and diversify the creative methodologies and processes, we chose artists who work in a variety of mediums and created ad hoc collectives. In the long term, we hope that the research and works that have come out of this project will influence some of the concepts, methods, and practices related to the instrument and thus contribute to discipline hybridity.

For the programme scheduled for Plein Jeu in 2020 and 2021, the artists created work in trios, duos, and solos, influencing each other from one residency to the next. They found themselves in new terrain, which emerged through a combination of their respective work methods and the possible intersections offered by computer interfaces. They became familiar with new tools and materials and sought to make connections in this new environment.

For some of the works created using invented devices, the artists experimented in ways that are not physically possible to do by a human playing the instrument. For example, they explored the range of the keyboards, pedal board, swell pedals, and other components simultaneously. They surveyed combinations and changes of organ stops; modulations of trills, tremolos, crescendos; a vast array of electronically programmable possibilities, which gave them immense freedom. Although such latitude was dizzying at times, it was also highly conducive to sound creation.

The works composed in studio using various devices and the Hauptwerk software were then explored, tested, and modified by the artists on the MIDI-controlled pipe organ at Palais Montcalm. (Myriam Lambert ; Translated by Oana Avasilichioaei)

Interstices ductiles [Ductile Interstices]

Artists: Simon Elmaleh, Nataliya Petkova, Jocelyn Robert and Vincent Thériault

Avatar hosted and assisted artists in its studios for the Interstices ductiles residency from September 2020 to February 2021.

Through individual and collective improvisation based on a device imagined by another and meticulous composition, a number of contemplative and immersive pieces were created in studio, then recorded at Palais Montcalm during this residency. Josiane Roberge dove into their universe to create a video work that pulses to the rhythm of selected tracks from Interstices ductiles.


Musique pour sièges vides [Music for Empty Seats]

Artists: Bruno Bouchard, Benoit Fortier and Philip Gagnon

The Musique pour sièges vides residency took place intensively from February 23 to April 3, 2021, then periodically until November 2021. It led to a performance that oscillates between a game, scenography, theatre, and sound art.

Using approximately fifteen devices, the artists replaced the keyboards and pedal boards of the Palais Montcalm organ with microphones, distance sensors, cameras, and the seats in the Raoul-Jobin Hall. By manipulating these devices and connected seats, the performers made the instrument and the Palais hum with various harmonics.

Vicomte de rien [Viscount of Nothing]

Artist: Jocelyn Robert

The Vicomte de rien residency took place from November 2020 to June 2021 in the artist’s studio. The works were recorded by Avatar at Palais Montcalm and then edited and mastered in studio by Jocelyn Robert.

The research and creations made in collaboration with Robert as part of the Interstices ductiles residency were prolific. However, the artist also created some pieces individually, which were not going to slip under the radar of Plein Jeu.

The nine works made during the solo residency Vicomte de rien slowly express themselves in all their fullness; every sound, movement, and silence evokes indigence, melancholy, and benevolence all at once. To create the works, Robert was influenced in part by Giorgio Agamben’s thinking on the connections between monastic rules and forms-of-life developed in his book The Highest Poverty.

Julie Bouffard then offered an attentive, visual interpretation of the pieces constituting Vicomte de rien in nine delicate sequence shots.


Find the authors’ texts on the digital publication Plein Jeu.

In her text “Spelunking in the Organ’s Undulations,” Louise Boisclair describes the images suggested by each work in Vicomte de rien.

Manon Tourigny meets with the creators of Musique pour sièges vides to write about their creative process and the approaches they took to play the organ in another way. 

Philip Gagnon evokes the residency he experienced in a finely-wrought allegory.

Out of the curiosity awakened by working as project manager to set up Plein Jeu, Pascale LeBlanc Lavigne offers a technical reading of the instrument and its MIDIfication that draws a parallel between the organ and the human body.

To conclude, and in parallel with the residencies, André-Anne Laberge reflects on notions of pleasure, language, improvisation, and shared responsibility in the context of collective creation, in an essay titled “When ‘I’ and ‘We’ Meet.”

Original idea of Jocelyn Robert.

Plein Jeu has begun in earnest and will continue to develop thanks to the expertise of the various partners it has brought together. Avatar, the ORCA research group at Laval University, and the nomadic stage Athénor will continue their research, creations, considerations, and inventions around the MIDIfied pipe organ.

The creation of this project was made possible thanks to the Entente de développement culturel entre le gouvernement du Québec et la Ville de Québec, the Ville de Québec and thanks to the financial support of the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec and the Conseil des arts du Canada.

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