New Associates: Sophie Dupuis

October 7, 2016

The third in our series of posts about New Associate Composers, this week we speak with Sophie Dupuis. Although she is studying in Toronto, and has an affiliation with Ontario Region, she comes from the only officially bilingual province in Canada—New Brunswick. In the conversation we get to see some of the ways that her Atlantic upbringing has shaped her relationship to music, while also remembering that time in the 90s when Raine Maida was in every older sister’s record collection.

CMC: What got you excited about music at a young age?

Sophie Dupuis: I had limited exposure to music at a young age. I'm from a small town where there weren’t a whole lot of opportunities to learn an instrument. No one in my immediate surrounding really played music, except my dad who would occasionally play one of his favorite fiddle tunes. However, we were lucky to have Mgr Lionel Daigle around—a true music lover who had been in the area since 1935. He founded a few orchestras and music schools, and thus gave the opportunity for the community to get in touch with musical arts. I joined his school at age four. Sr Alda Boulay was my first violin teacher, and although she was not an advanced musician herself, she had a wonderful way with children.

As I grew older I quickly found conventional violin repertoire boring. I took up piano lessons, and that wasn't much fun either. I came to find the recordings of Mozart orchestral works that my dad would constantly play obnoxious, annoying, and dishonest in their joyfulness. The one thing that would really excite me at that time was the Jeunesse Musical concert series which included monthly productions in my town; my favorites were the operettas.

In my teens, I had my first experience playing in a symphonic orchestra when I joined New Brunswick Youth Orchestra. I remember being so impressed and fired up by the opening of Finlandia, and feeling the brass and percussion vibrate through my core. I became excited about music in a way I wasn't before. Beginning at that point I pursued piano lessons with a serious teacher and learned some fun repertoire. I would spend time at the piano improvising like "some weird music I had heard on the radio" while focusing on shape, register and rhythms rather than pitches. I would invent little studies and songs without really realizing what I was doing: I was composing! I became curious about music. My parents didn't really listen to any other type of music than classical, so I asked my older sister to lend me some albums she had in her room. I light up when I hear Our Lady Peace's Clumsy and Gravity. I discovered the music of Philip Glass and I was attracted to its rhythmic drive—I think that drive is still a crucial element in my music today.

CMC: What was the most important music concert/event you attended?

SD: Philip Glass' Einstein on the Beach. Although I ended up breaking away from Glass’ music when I got to University, seeing this work a few years ago was a game changer for me. I couldn't believe how the experience as a whole makes one lose any sense of time. The action on stage complements the music in a wonderfully weird way, as opposed to the other way around. The final scene brought me to tears. It made me realize the vulnerability of the listeners when immersed in a visual and auditory experience, and the ability of an audience to interpret a work emotionally even when intellectually it might not make much logical sense. Experimentation with theatrics in music is now a big part of my work as a result of seeing this.

CMC: What is on your personal playlist?

SD: These days, one could find Luigi Nono, Les Hay Babies and Aurora on my playlist. Our Lady Peace, some of The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin hits are staples for greyish days. I upload I Care If You Listen mixtapes as soon as they're available: I like hearing what people are up to! Brahms, Bach, Ligeti, Muhly, Bartók, Sibelius, Stockhausen, and Lizée seem to be among the composers I listen most too (according to iTunes). There's so much I'd like to list here, but I'll leave it at that!

CMC: How is the field of composition changing, and (how) do you fit in?

SD: I seem to meet more and more musicians who actively work towards making their music more accessible to a wider audience, without necessarily compromising their aesthetic. Some find interesting or casual venues to perform in, some choose to dress in a way that truly represents themselves, or others create electroacoustic music with readily available resources for instance.

Social media and the internet is an inestimable tool for addressing accessibility while pursuing your craft, and has changed the way composers can interact with music lovers.

It's an exciting time to be composing and trying different, unconventional ideas. I love to see composers dabbling in interdisciplinary arts and experimenting with technology to innovate, and I think there's an inevitable push in this direction. I believe that in the future, we'll remember composers of this era as a large influential group in which a lot of music was made and other arts workers will have taken part. I mean, there are so many of us! My goal is to be a part of this larger picture, so I try my best to broaden my horizons and step out of my comfort zone.

CMC: Is there a recent piece of yours that you can share with us that you are proud of?

SD: Here is my piece, Words Fail Me, written for accordion, piano, percussion and tape. It was performed in march 2016 at the Caution Tape Sound Collective's "Tetrad" concert.

Check the CMC community page regularly for more composer profiles! You can visit Sophie’s personal page for additional information about her career.