Guy Thouin, Rien ô tout ou linéaire un

Born in Montreal in 1940, Guy Thouin is a true original. He played drums in a variety of small bands prior to enrolling at Montreal’s School of Fine Arts where he studied sculpture and refined his understanding of the contemporary art world. By 1965, he had acquired a taste for all things experimental. Around then, he turned to collective improvisation – an experience that led him to explore free jazz and other forms of experimental music. He helped cofound Quatuor de jazz libre du Québec (1967) and l’Infonie (1969) while also accompanying rock singer Robert Charlebois in his efforts to transform Quebec’s musical landscape (including on stage during the numerous editions of l’Osstidcho). At the turn of the 1970s, Thouin studied percussion with Pierre Béluse at McGill University. It is at that moment that he composed “Rien ô tout ou linéaire un,” a sound environment created for a laser sculpture designed by Quebec visual artist Roland Poulin. Presented at the Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art — from October 21 to November 7, 1971 — as part of the Structure immatérielle exhibit, this piece transports us to an immersive environment born out of early 1970s countercultural happenings. Thouin then spent many years studying tabla in India. Today, he continues to explore new sounds – with HeArt Ensemble and other projects – with the complicity of a younger generation of improvisers and experimentalists.

“Rien ô tout ou linéaire un” – Excerpt

Rien Ô Tout Ou Linéaire Un nods somewhat towards the sororities one might expect of free improvisation, however the results have clearly been ordered and composed. Even when individual elements can be quite abrasive, there is an apparent order and restraint guiding its perpetual movement. The primary sound objects consist of screeching vibrato pitches and crashing percussion, ornamented with the occasional staccato notes on a dismantled piano. Not quite electroacoustic music, as most of the sounds are untreated, the use of magnetic tape is nonetheless central Rien Ô Tout‘s aesthetic. The screeching pitches originate from a modified koto, a stringed instrument that is the national instrument of Japan. The koto has moveable bridges, for tuning, and as one plucks with one hand one can modify pitch by bending the string with the other. Here, rather than plucked, the koto seems to be bowed, producing a sound more akin to a kokyū or erhu, seemingly without any attempt to produce a pleasant tone. A cloud of percussion comes and goes, generally mallets beating symbols with the occasional crash. Reverse tape noises and the general constructed quality of the piece suggests extensive tape editing and manipulation. … [T]he result is powerful and evocative, drawing attention to itself and disrupting the listener’s attempt at peaceful contemplation.” – Joseph Sannicandro (A Closer Listen)

“The power of the piece [Rien ô tout ou linéaire un] is contagious, as it ebbs and flows, casting a hallucinatory aura that distorts one’s sense of focus. This is a true psychotropic music, meant to spark a voyage inward. Kudos are in order for the Tenzier label; in their quest to reveal the hidden beauty of Québec’s experimental underground, they’ve added another stellar LP to the canon.” – Bryon Hayes (Exclaim!)

“[A] visionary, previously unreleased, 1971 work by Guy Thouin. Between electro-acoustic music and free improvisation, it is of its time but reaches far beyond. It is no mere time-capsule, but a timeless piece of innovation, by one of the last original voices of the 1960s.” – Palomo Julien (Improvising Beings / Other Matter)

“Je sais pour lire mon grisli que Guy Thouin [aka Yug Thouin] est batteur, du Quatuor de jazz libre du Québec, oui. Alors je tends l’oreille, la pousse vers la batterie. Et j’y trouve des percussions. Un peu. Aussi des chants peuls, ou vénézuéliens, mais pas vraiment en fait. On n’en est pas là. Des femmes dans l’aigu mais peut être des archets… Des cymbales cette fois c’est sûr. En fait : du magnéto et des bandes magnétiques, un koto tripatouillé, un piano ‘démonté’ (cette fois c’est pas moi qui le dis). Et all of a sudden me voilà au milieu d’une sculpture de Roland Poulin. Et c’est joli, les sculptures de Robert Poulin. J’aimerais bien me rendre compte maintenant de la musique qui les environnaient à l’époque. Si un disque sort un jour, et qu’il soit bien présenté, alors je suis preneur.” – Pierre Cécile (Le son du grisli)