Orchestral Quarantine: NEM – Reflection and Renewal

by Marie-Pierre Brasset

Cancellation, postponement, de-quarantining, a possible second wave… What will autumn look like? How to reconcile concerts and social distancing? In our new dossier series, we’ve asked the artistic directors of Quebec classical ensembles and orchestras a few questions, to get a sense of what’s in the works. First topic in our series: Normand Forget, artistic director of Nouvel Ensemble Moderne.

Is an online performance recorded with a phone camera appropriate for ALL works? Of course not. According to the artistic director of Nouvel Ensemble Moderne (NEM),, the recognition of the impasse of the confined concert came early enough. “You can’t play online, it’s impossible. The works in our repertoire are far too complex to try to synchronize them live on screens at home.”

According to Normand Forget, artistic director of Nouvel Ensemble Moderne (NEM), a longstanding institution of contemporary music in Quebec, concert music is fundamentally a living art. He points out the following paradox in passing. “Our music is not made for the digital transition, and that’s completely strange because we’re considered modern!”

The artistic director also maintains that “it is a mistake to associate digital with video capture and production: digital art encompasses a whole range of practices requiring specialized knowledge that the performing arts do not possess. »

The NEM has done what most performing arts ensembles and organizations have done: “we have made a whole section of our repertoire and highlights of our journey accessible on the web. “The Artistic Director says he is taking advantage of this break to pursue a broader reflection, which has been underway for some time now, on the role of modern music, its accessibility and the dialogue between creator and performer.

Photo: Eva Lepiz

“This crisis makes the question of art more relevant. Composers will have no choice but to write works so that the musicians and people in the hall appreciate their experience, which will lead to initiatives, changes in codes. It will take strong works to bring people back into the concert halls,” notes Normand Forget in passing.

As for next season, many unknowns remain.

Like all performing artists, the NEM is first and foremost subject to government directives. “Also, we are in residence at the Université de Montréal, which brings other challenges. We have to follow the administration and collaborate with all the staff to pursue our mission there as much as possible. »

The artistic direction of the NEM has therefore been juggling for the last few months with several scenarios as well as postponements and cancellations on the calendar, “depending on the rules, which is quite difficult to imagine because it changes almost on a daily basis. Silence, a concert with 100 artists on stage, will certainly have to be cancelled. »

However, collaborations and new projects are emerging, no longer conceived in terms of concerts, but of events that can be broadcast online. And of course live concerts, but imagined with little or no audience in the hall.

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