By this time, Garant was a champion of 20th-century music. In Sherbrooke in 1950 he played Schoenberg on the piano to the astonishment of his fellow citizens. A stay in Paris, where he attended Messiaen's classes in analysis 1951-2, was a decisive step. He also studied counterpoint with Andrée Vaurabourg-Honegger. As his knowledge of serial music deepened he became convinced that Webern was the greatest composer since Debussy. His meetings with Stockhausen and Boulez also opened up new horizons. Some works from this period, such as Concerts sur terre and 'Et je prierai ta grâce' show Messiaen's influence, but that influence was short-lived. In succeeding works - Caprices, Pièce pour piano No. 1, and Musique pour la mort d'un poète - the writing is unreservedly atonal, and pointillistic Webern-like passages may be observed. Even in these, however, more than a trace of Garant's own personality is apparent.
On his return to Sherbrooke, Garant worked as a jazz pianist but soon moved to Montreal, where he briefly continued his studies in counterpoint with Jocelyne Binet. Anxious to make contemporary music more widely known, he joined forces with François Morel and Gilles Tremblay in 1954 to present a concert featuring works of Boulez, Messiaen, and Webern. The following year a second concert was presented to mark the 10th anniversary of Webern's death. In it Garant presented Nucléogame 'In memoriam Anton Webern,' recogonized as the first Canadian work to combine magnetic tape and instruments. In 1956 these two ventures resulted in the formation of the group Musique de notre temps, which presented two seasons of concerts. To ensure its financial support Garant worked as a rehearsal pianist for ballet and as an arranger, accompanist, and conductor for variety programs on CBC radio and TV. He also did some broadcast work as a critic ('Revue des arts et des lettres') and wrote articles 1954-5 for the weekly L'Autorité. He castigated the public, critics, and performers alike for their indifference and hostility towards modern music and the contemporary creative musician.
His compositional output became increasingly bold and innovative. In 1958 he employed aleatory techniques in Pièces pour quatuor, a three-movement work for string quartet. He was probably the first to make use of these procedures in Canada. Even though performers often recoiled from the difficulties in Garant's scores, some of his works were premiered by the CBC on radio ('Premières' and 'CBC Wednesday Night') and TV ('L'Heure du concert'). His Anerca, premiered in Montreal in 1961 under the direction of Mauricio Kagel during the International Week of Today's Music, established him as one of the leading figures in Canadian music.
Two subsequent commissions provided him with the opportunity to write for large orchestra: Ouranos for the Quebec Symphony Orchestra and Ennéade for the Sherbrooke SO. In 1965 the pianist Claude Helffer played his Asymétries No. 1 in Paris at one of the concerts of the Domaine musical. The following year Pierre Mercure engaged him to conduct R. Murray Schafer's Loving on CBC TV, a premiere which established him as a conductor of contemporary music (see list of premieres he has conducted). When the SMCQ was founded in the autumn of 1966 he was appointed its music director and kept that post until his death in 1986. He conducted this ensemble in regular concerts in Montreal and on tour in Canada and in Europe. Among appearances of particular note were those at the 9th Festival d'art contemporain in Royan in 1972, and at Musicanada, the 1977 festival of Canadian music in London and Paris.
In 1967 Garant began teaching analysis and composition at the University of Montreal, where he gained an eager following. His pupils included Ginette Bellavance, Walter Boudreau, Marcelle Deschênes, Richard Grégoire, Michel Longtin, and François Tousignant.
Under his first Canada Council grant (1969), Garant took summer courses in conducting with Boulez in Basel; a second grant (1972) enabled him to spend some time in Bali. He spent the 1973-4 season in Italy on a scholarship from the Canadian Cultural Institute (Rome) in Rome. Garant conducted the MSO on several occasions. In 1968 he led it in the premiere of his work Phrases II, sharing the podium with Franz-Paul Decker. This work, which calls for two conductors, was repeated with the orchestra in 1979 under Garant and Charles Dutoit. Also with the MSO, in 1977, Garant conducted the premiere of Gilles Tremblay's Fleuves.
Garant conducted in Toronto, Vancouver, Quebec City, and other Canadian cities. He was in charge of the orchestra class at the Camp musical de Lanaudière, near Joliette, Que, in the summers of 1977 and 1978 and conducted the OJQ in 1979 and the University of Montreal orchestra 1978-9. He was musical director of the Série contemporaine of the Orchestre métropolitain in 1986. Between 1971 and 1986 he was the host for 'Musique de notre siècle' on the CBC French network. In 1979 the CBC telecast the half-hour program 'Portrait de Serge Garant' on the series 'Les Beaux Dimanches'. In 1981, he wrote what was to become his last work, Plages, which was premiered by the OJQ on 26 November of that year.
Garant's output spanned three decades and was remarkably steady. Early influences, in particular Messiaen and Webern, quickly faded, giving way to what Raoul Duguay calls an 'open structuralism' (Musiques du Kébèk, Montreal 1971), which displays a remarkably personal writing technique stemming from the establishment of a series of proportions or ratios which govern durations, tempi, registers, and timbres. Notwithstanding the rigour of the writing, in which Garant demonstrates his concern for questions of structure and for organizing each work on its own terms, his music allows the performer freedom to participate creatively, on the one hand offering the possibility of improvising within a relatively defined framework, and on the other allowing a choice in the order of performance of the various sequences of a work.
As for Garant's musical language, it evolved into a style which, in certain respects, approached that of Boulez in its serial rigour combined with a penchant for lyricism. Particularly noteworthy in this regard are such works as... chant d'amours and Rivages. Beginning with Anerca, Garant displayed an astonishing virtuosity in his instrumental writing and a marked originality in his handling of timbres. Far from becoming exhausted along the way, these qualities reasserted themselves ever more strongly, and they may be found as much in the small ensemble works as in those for large orchestra.
Garant's work as a whole displays elements of proportion, harmony, sensitivity, and precision rarely found to such a degree in one composer. There is in it a balanced mixture of intellectualism and expression, which together produce an art always vital and full-bodied. In an interview given to Pierre Rolland, and reproduced in RCI's Anthology of Canadian Music (4-ACM 2, issued in 1978), he said: 'Whether a work is mediocre or great, it must first exist in the mind of its creator... but the work will only take shape when I begin to struggle with the technical problems it raises. I must resolve these problems as skilfully as possible, and with as much elegance and authenticity as I can muster. It is at this very moment, I think, that the work is born, and even the composer may not be aware of it... But the composer mustn't concern himself too much with emotion. If he has someting to say, and if he manages to produce a work which is coherent in form, intelligently written and not too clumsy, then, providing he has the technique to express himself, that innermost part of him will be able to find expression... The emotion must come from that kind of mysterious magic which is produced when the technical problems are so well resolved that one cannot imagine that there ever were any... A Bach fugue!'
Serge Garant received an Etrog for Vertiges at the Canadian Film Festival in 1969, the Canadian Music Council Medal in 1971, PRO Canada's Wm Harold Moon Award in 1978 for his contribution to the promotion of Canadian music abroad, and the 1980 Prix de musique Calixa-Lavallée. Also in 1979 he was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada, and the following year he received the Jules Léger Prize for New Chamber Music for his Quintet. In 1984 Garant was named performer of the year by the Canadian Music Council, and two years later he was elected to the Royal Society of Canada. He was a member of the CLComp and his status as associate composer is maintained at the Canadian Music Centre. His personal papers have been deposited at the archives of the University of Montreal. The Émile-Nelligan Foundation has instituted a Prix Serge-Garant for music, valued at $25,000, which will be given every three years. The first winner of the prize was Denys Bouliane in 1991. The periodical Circuit created a music analysis prize in his name in 1991, the first winner to be announced in May 1993.
Aitken, Robert Shadows II: Lalita, SMCQ 1973
Arcuri, Serge Prologue, SMCQ 1985
Beecroft, Norma Rasas I, SMCQ 1968
Bell, Allan Gaia, SMCQ 1984
Bouliane, Denys À propos... et le baron perché? SMCQ 1986
Burke, John À la source d'Hypocrène, SMCQ 1981
Charpentier, Gabriel Orphée I, NAC 1969
Cherney, Brian Chamber Concerto for Viola and Ten Players, SMCQ 1975
Daoust, Yves Trois fois quatre, SMCQ 1978; Valse, SMCQ 1981
Deschênes, Marcelle Talilalilalilalarequiem, SMCQ 1974; Moll, opéra lilliput pour six roches molles, SMCQ 1976
Evangelista, José Consort, SMCQ 1978
Garant, Serge Phrases I, Expo 67 1967; Amuya, CBC Summer Festival 1968; Jeu à quatre, Stratford Festival 1968; Phrases II (with Franz-Paul Decker), MSO 1968; Offrande I, SMCQ on CBC TV 1970; Offrande III, SMCQ on CBC radio 1971; Circuits II, SMCQ 1972; Circuits III, CBC Summer Festival 1973;... chant d'amours, CBC TV 1975; Rivages, Vancouver New Music Soc, 1976; Plages, OJQ 1981
Gonneville, Michel Variations 'auras,' SMCQ 1979
Gougeon, Denis Éternité, Orchestre métropolitain 1986
Gouin, Jacques Distorsions, SMCQ 1977
Hambraeus, Bengt Relief - haut et bas, SMCQ 1980
Hartwell, Hugh Kâmê'a, SMCQ 1971
Hawkins, John Two Pieces for Orchestra, 7th annual symposium for student composers 1971
Hétu, Jacques Cycle, Opus 16, SMCQ 1970
Hunt, Richard Nimbus I, CMM 1972
Joachim, Otto Illuminations II, SMCQ 1969; Uraufführung, SMCQ 1977
Lalonde, Alain Espaces, SMCQ 1981
Lapointe, Rémi Écarts, SMCQ 1977
Longtin, Michel Deux Rubans noirs III, SMCQ 1979; Kata :San Shi Ryu, SMCQ 1977
Louie, Alexina Music for a Thousand Autumns, SMCQ 1983
Mather, Bruce Madrigal V, SMCQ 1973
Morel, François Radiance (4 movements), CBC Vancouver 1971; IIKKII (Froidure), SMCQ 1972
Oliver, John Dévolution, Orchestre métropolitain 1986
Papineau-Couture, Jean Nocturnes, University of Montreal 1969; Obsession, SMCQ 1973
Pépin, Clermont Interactions, SMCQ 1977
Rea, John Treppenmusik, SMCQ 1982
Saint-Marcoux, Micheline Coulombe Ishuma, SMCQ 1974
Schafer, R. Murray Loving (Toi), CBC TV 1966; Patria II, Stratford Festival 1972
Steven, Donald Images (Refractions of Time and Space), SMCQ 1977
Tremblay, Gilles Souffles (Champs II), SMCQ 1968; Fleuves, MSO 1977
Trochu, Pierre Miracrose, SMCQ 1977; Tangente, SMCQ 1984
Vinet, Michel Acousmie, 7th annual symposium for student composers 1971
Vivier, Claude Lettura di Dante, SMCQ 1974; Liebesgedichte, SMCQ 1975
Fantaisie. 1950. Cl, piano. Ms
Musique pour saxophone et harmonie. 1950 (rev orch 1951). Ms
Ode 'Ta forme monte comme blessure du sang'. 1950. Str orch. Ms
Sonatina. 1950. Pf. Ms
Also a Quartet for 4 saxophone (lost); Adagio et Allegro for piano and orch (incomplete); other compositions written in Sherbrooke and Paris. All manuscript
Ennéade. 1963 (Sherbrooke 1964). Full orch. Ms
Ouranos. 1963 (Quebec City 1963). Full orch. Ms
Phrases II (Che Guevara). 1968 (Montreal 1968). 2 orch. Ms
Offrande II. 1970 (Toronto 1970). Full orch. Quebec CMCentre 1978. RCI 626 (Orch métropolitain, Garant conductor)
Plages. 1981. (Montreal 1981). Dob-Yppan 1986. RCI 626 (NACO, Garant conductor)
Musique pour la mort d'un poète. 1954. Pf, strings. Ms
Nucléogame 'In memorian Anton Webern'. 1955. Septet, tape. Ms
Canon VI. 1957. 10 perf. Ms
Pièces pour quatuor. 1958-9. Ms
Asymétries No. 2. 1959. Cl, piano. Ms
Phrases I (P. Bourgault). 1967. Mezzo, piano, celesta, percussion. BMIC 1969. RCI 240/4-ACM 2 (see Discography)
Amuya. 1968 (rev of music for the film L'Homme et les régions polaires). 20 perf. Ms. RCI 655 (SMCQ)
Jeu à quatre. 1968. 4 instr ensemble (16 perf). Ms. RCI 300/4-ACM 2 (SMCQ, Garant conductor)
Offrande I (originally titled Cérémonial du corps). 1969. 18 perf, pre-recorded soprano. Ms. RCI 368/4-ACM 2 (SMCQ, Garant conductor)
Offrande III. 1971. 3 violoncello, 2 harp, piano, 2 percussion. Sala 1973. RCI 368/4- ACM 2 (SMCQ, Garant conductor)
Circuits I. 1972. 6 percussion. Ms. McGill University Records 77003 (Béluse)
Circuits II. 1972. 14 perf. Ms. RCI 368/4- ACM 2 (SMCQ, Garant conductor)
Circuits III. 1973. 18 perf. Ms
... chant d'amours (Salomon, Shakespeare, et al). 1975. 16 perf. Ms. RCI 422/4-ACM 2 (SMCQ, Garant conductor)
Rivages (A. Grandbois). 1976. Bar, chamber ensemble. Ms. RCI 475 (B. Laplante bar, SMCQ, Garant conductor)
Quintet. 1978 (Vancouver 1978). Fl, oboe, violoncello, piano, percussion. Ms. Dob-Yppan 1990. RCI 527 (SMCQ)
See also Anerca.
Voice and Piano
Concerts sur terre (P. de la Tour du Pin). 1952 (no. 1-2), 1956 (no. 3-5). Ms. RCI 201/4-ACM 2 (Jeannotte tenor, Garant piano)
'Et je prierai ta grâce' (Saint-Denys Garneau). 1952. Ms. RCI 201/4-ACM 2 (Jeannotte tenor, Garant piano)
Caprices (F. García Lorca, transl P. Darmangeat). 1954. Ms. RCI 201/4-ACM 2 (Jeannotte tenor, Garant piano)
'Cage d'oiseau' (Saint-Denys Garneau). 1962. BMIC 1968. 4-ACM 2 (P. Vaillancourt)
Pièce No. 1. 1953. Ms. RCI 465/4-ACM 2 (L.-P. Pelletier)
Musique rituelle. 1954. Ms
Variations. 1954. Ms. RCI 135/4-ACM 2 (J. Dufresne)
Asymétries No. 1. 1958. Ms. RCI 465/4-ACM 2 (L.-P. Pelletier)
Also music for the films L'Homme et les régions polaires (1967, manuscript), Vertiges (1969, manuscript), and for several television shows.
'Dire une musique d'ici,' Cahier pour un paysage à inventer, 1, 1959
'Un esprit de genèse,' Liberté 59, vol 1, Sep-Oct 1959; repr in Visage d'Edgard Varèse (Montreal 1959)
'Chronique musicale,' Cahiers d'essai, 3, Jan 1961
'Musique 1961,' Liberté, vol 3, Mar-Apr 1961
'Music in Montreal 1961-62,' Canadian Art, Jul-Aug 1962
'Un mal nécessaire,' Montreal La Presse, 30 Dec 1967
'Anerca,' Document d'information à l'intention des professeurs de musique, Ministry of Education (Quebec City 1968)
'Phrases I,' Parti pris, vol 5, Apr 1968
'Notes sur Anerca,' Musiques du Kébèk, ed Raoul Duguay (Montreal 1971)
'Une lettre de Rome,' CMB, 9, Autumn-Winter 1974
'Serge Garant Offrande II (1970),' Variations, vol 3, Sep-Oct 1979
'Le revendicateur,' Presentation to the Royal Society of Canada, 40, 1985-6
Also several reviews and reports in Jmc (1955-68) and in CMJ (1956-62)
The complete list of his writings can be found in Serge Garant et la révolution musicale au Québec (1986)
Music of Today, vol 4: Gellman Mythos II (Aitken fl, Husaruk violin, Goodman violin, Kudlak viola, J.-L. Morin violoncello) - Grégoire Cantata (MacKinnon soprano, L.-P. Pelletier organ, Romandini guitar, Lachapelle percussion, 12 singers). 1970. RCI 301
Garant. Phrases I. Chiocchio mezzo, Lachapelle percussion, Garant piano and celesta. 1967. RCI 240/4-ACM 2
See also Discography for Jeannotte
Author Hélène Plouffe, Gilles Potvin, Marie-Thérèse Lefebvre
Gingras, Claude. 'Ils diront ce qu'ils voudront, mais c'est nous qui faisons la musique,' Montreal La Presse, 4 Jan 1964
Germain, Jean-Claude. 'Les musiciens québecois pardonnent tout, sauf le péché de compositeur,' Montreal Petit Journal, 15 Sep 1968
Gingras, Claude. 'Serge Garant: la musique qui se fait,' Montreal La Presse, 25 Apr 1970
Kendergi, Maryvonne. 'Entrevue avec Serge Garant sur "Phrases II",' Musiques du Kébèk, ed Raoul Duguay (Montreal 1971)
Fleuret, Maurice. 'Rencontre avec Serge Garant,' CMB, 9, Autumn-Winter 1974
Morel, François. 'Serge Garant, structuralist and lyrical musician,' Variations, vol 2, Dec-Jan 1978-9
PRO Canada Ltd. 'Serge Garant,' pamphlet (1980)
Tannenbaum, Peter. 'Garant,' MSc, 348, Mar-Apr 1986
Guertin, Marcelle, ed. 'In memoriam Serge Garant,' CUMR, 7, 1986
Lefebvre, Marie-Thérèse. Serge Garant et la révolution musicale au Québec. (Montreal 1986)
- 'Serge Garant, le provocateur,' Sonances, vol 6, Jan 1987
Prévost, André. 'La vraie présence de Serge Garant,' ibid
Beaudin, Jean Philippe. 'Serge Garant: an impassioned life, an aggressive champion of new music, the soul of a generation,' Mcan, 59-60, Jan 1988
Nattiez, Jean-Jacques. 'Serge Garant, une voix exigeante qui nous vient du Québec,' Entretemps, 6, Feb 1988
Dansereau, Ginette. 'Serge Garant: au-delà de la structure,' Sonances, vol 8, Autumn 1988
Margles, Pamela. 'Serge Garant remembered,' Music, vol 12, Oct 1989
Boivin, Jean, ed. Circuit, issue devoted to Serge Garant, vol 7:2, 1996
Dauphin, Claude, ed. Cahiers de la Société Québécoise de Recherche en Musique, issue devoted to Serge Garant, vol 1, Dec 1997
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