Biography (short version)
Patrick Saint-Denis is a composer and intermedia artist based in Montreal. He focuses on musical robotics, digital lutherie and interactive design. Somewhere between concert, audiovisual, robotic art and physical theatre, his work are regularly presented both in Montreal and abroad. He has been awarded several prizes, including the Foundation for Emerging Technologies and Arts (FETA) Prize in 2017 and the Canada Council for the Arts (Prix Jules-Léger) in 2004. He his currently lecturer at the University of Montreal.
Statement (short version)
I am interested in interactive design in its ability to project on music a set of symbols that enrich listening. My work is essentially multidisciplinary while being rooted in music. My work is also marked by a connection between the living and the non-living, between flesh and metal bodies. I am interested in anthropomorphism and affective relation to objects, especially technological objects.
Biography (long version)
After studies in composition (conservatories of Quebec, Montreal, and The Hague) and mathematics (UQAM and Laval University), Patrick Saint-Denis (1975) obtained a doctorate in composition from the University of Montreal in 2014. Serge Provost, Clarence Barlow and Louis Andriessen are among his principal professors while Jean Piché directed his thesis titled On music beyond the borders of sound. Between 2000 and 2008 he had a prolific career as a young composer during which he received commissions from ensembles including ECM + (2002, 2005, 2009), Continuum Ensemble (2006), E27 (2008), the Onix Ensemble (2008), the Fibonacci Trio (2013) and the Wapiti Ensemble (2018). He founded the E27 ensemble in Quebec City in the late 90s and the webzine cetvilleetrange.org in 2011. He has won numerous awards including five first prizes in the SOCAN Foundation’s Young Composers Competition, the Robert Flemming Award (2004), the JB-C Watkins Award (2004), the Marcelle Prize (2014) and the Jules Léger Prize in 2004. His music has been presented at music festivals in North America, Europe and Asia such as the Gaudeamus International Music Week (Netherlands, 2003, 2004), Montreal News Music Festival (Canada, 2005, 2009), ISCM World Music Days (Croatia 2005, Slovakia 2013), Mois Multi (Canada, 2008), Cervantino Festival (Mexico, 2009), Currents (USA, 2013), Cluster (Winnipeg, CA) and ICMC ( United Kingdom, 2011). He has participated in many creative residencies around the world including CMMAS (Morelia, Mx, 2014, 2018), CENART (Mexico City, Mx, 2008), CCA (Glasgow, SCT, 2009) Ars Bioartica (Kilpisjärvi, FN, 2017) and Visby Center for Composer (Visby, SE, 2009).
During the 2000s his practice gradually changed and fed on the dissemination of creative computing happening on the Internet. Having migrated from musical composition to new platforms of expression, he has presented works in various formats ranging from sound installation to audiovisual performance to large-scale robotic performative installation and choreographic projects. His projects have been shown at Elektra (Montreal, 2014, 2016), In-Sonora (ES, 2016), Phenomena Festival (Montreal, 2015), TIES (Toronto, 2018), Tangente (Montreal, 2018), Studio 303 (Montreal, 2014, 2018), Accès Culture (Montreal, 2019), MNBAQ (Quebec, 2013), Musée de la civilisation (Quebec, 2017) and Akousma (Montreal, 2017). He received nominations at the Japan Media Arts Festival (Jury Selection for Wave, 2015), at the Lumens Prize (long list selection for Sway Array, 2015, UK), at the Arte Laguna Prize (in 2014 for Lungta and in 2015 for Sway Array, Venice, IT). He has also worked in dance with choreographer Karine Ledoyen (Danse kpark, 2012, 2016, 2017, 2018). As a programmer, he has worked with many artists including Herman Kolgen (2012, 2016, 2018, 2019), Jean-François Laporte (2019) and Walter Boudreau (2012).
He teaches as lecturer in digital music at the Faculty of Music of the University of Montreal since 2010. His teaching tasks are divided between audiovisual composition, digital lutherie and digital music creation. He also regularly teaches workshops on creative coding in artist centers, notably on the openFrameworks platform. He was vice-president of the Canadian League of Composers in 2014 and member of various artistic committees including the SMCQ (since 2017) and the Akousma Festival (2014-2018). He has been on various boards of directors, including Projections libérantes (2014-2016) and Productions Totem Contemporains (since 2018). Recently he founded fullSD Productions, an artistic structure dedicated to the realization of collaborative projects exploring the links between living arts and digital lutherie. His current research is marked by the use of various technologies (biometrics, computer vision, robotics) as well as interdisciplinary research rooted in music.
Statement (long version)
I am interested in interactive design in its ability to project on music a set of symbols that enrich listening but I am also attached to the idea that music exists outside of language. There is a sort of paradox in me, both a desire to account for the world and ideas, coupled with a strange resignation, an acknowledgment that music is a vehicle limited to that end. To this paradox we must add a second. I am attached to the idea that music is an invitation to perceive more than to think. I believe that there is only too little opportunity to seize reality outside the spectrum of ideas and reason and music seems to operate in this direction. But at the same time, I believe that this idea of music and the unspeakable also reveals the difficulty for music to address what is the most noble part of us: reason. This tension surrounding the idea of meaning is in a way the driving force of my work.
I feel close to those who work on the edges (musique concrète and acousmatic music) or around (sound art) the idea of meaning in music. This connection sheds light on the visual and physical aspects of my work. Engaged in play on meaning itself rather than conceptual work, I use elements that can guide reception, but my work is not message-centric; I open the door to certain types of reading while inviting the viewer to give up the need to produce meaning.
It is within this paradox that my work with technology has gradually developed. The possibility of connecting sound forms with images, robotic objects or the body makes it possible to bounce on music a spark of intelligible discourse, the beginning of an idea. I am interested in sonification of landscape and body, computer vision, biometrics and robotic objects displaying human morphologies. By creating interactive links between the body, images, sounds and objects, I weave networks that revolve around the relationship between the living and the non-living. I explore the idea that we live among a set of objects and machines on which we project and attribute human feelings and behaviours. I transpose on stage this co-presence and this interdependence between flesh and metal bodies, between men and machines, through scenic devices and interactions with performers, musicians and dancers. It is with this in mind that I designed various robot instruments (robot speakers, robot accordions, robot leslie, robot TV, etc.) around which I developed performances and installations.
Because of the nature of the questioning and the materials I use, my work is essentially multidisciplinary while being rooted in music. I create assemblies with computer programming as central pivot. The rootedness in music manifests itself among other things in the importance of craftsmanship, the choice of collaborators and also in a certain conception of time. My works, even those declined in installation, are essentially performative and in the end quite close to concert. I consider that creation is integrated at every stage of project development, from the implementation of ideas to machine design or coding and execution. I am constantly revisiting my approach to creation in order to facilitate an integrated practice including various collaborators with whom I share creation and authorship of my works. (08/2019)