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Denys Bouliane


Area Coordinator/Co-Chair, Composition, Associate Professor - Department of Music Research

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514-398-4535 Ext. 00302
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Denys Bouliane was born in 1955 in Grand-Mère, a small town in the Province of Quebec. His first musical experiences occurred in the 1960s playing guitar in an amateur rock band. After studies in a liberal arts college he began his first musical training in 1972 at Laval University (Quebec City) where he studied piano and violin and completed a Master’s degree in composition in 1979 (composition with Jacques Hétu and music analysis with Roger Bédard). With grants from both the Quebec and Canadian governments he first attended in 1980 the Darmstadt Summer Courses, settled down in Cologne and then continued his studies with György Ligeti at the Hochshule für Musik in Hamburg from 1980 to 1985.

Bouliane was a lecturer in harmony, counterpoint and instrumentation at Laval University from 1978 to 1980. He has since been guest lecturer at several Canadian universities, European conservatories and international festivals, as well as a regular contributor to radio programs and specialized periodicals. In September 1995 he was appointed Professor of composition at McGill University in Montreal. He is currently Music Director of the McGill Contemporary Music Ensemble.

During the late 1970s he was program director of l’Association de musique actuelle de Québec and between 1990 and 1993 on the board of directors of the KGNM (Kölner Gesellschaft für Neue Musik—Cologne’s new music society—). In the 1980’s he has toured Europe extensively as Sound Regisseur for Ensemble Köln. In 1991, Bouliane has founded the group Série B, a Cologne-based ensemble of 9 musicians who extend the acoustic potential of their resources through an array of new electronic instruments. From 1992 to 1995 he was Composer-in-Residence at the Orchestre symphonique de Québec (OSQ) and in 1995-96 at the Heidelberg Philharmonisches Orchester in Germany. He is has been regular Conductor of the Ensemble XXe siècle of the OSQ (of which he is the initiator) as well as a Special Counselor to the orchestra. He was with his colleague Walter Boudreau Artistic Coordinator and Principal Conductor of the new music festival Québec-Musiques-au-présent held annually in the spring in 1998, 1999 and 2000. He has also been co-Artistic Director with Boudreau of the Millennium Symphony, a large-scale work for 19 composers and 350 performers premiered at Oratoire St-Joseph in Montreal on June 3, 2000. He has founded in 1995 the Rencontres de Musique Nouvelle (New Music Symposium) held every August at the summer resort of Domaine Forget in the Charlevoix County, northeast of Quebec, of which he is currently co-Artistic Director with Lorraine Vaillancourt, from Nouvel Ensemble Moderne. Since 1995 he has been member of the Artistic Committee of the SMCQ (Société de musique contemporaine du Québec). Bouliane has also worked in close collaboration with Director Denis Marleau since 1993 and written stage music for Büchner’s Woyzeck (Belgium’s Théâtre National and Centre dramatique Hainnuyer, 1993) as well as for Wedekind’s Lulu (Théâtre du Nouveau Monde, in Montreal, 1995-96).

Bouliane is currently Artistic Coordinator of the MusiMarch Festival (McGill University, SMCQ and Orchestre symphonique de Montréal) as well as co-Artistic Director with Walter Boudreau of the new international biennale Montréal-nouvelles musiques (first edition in March 2003). He is also Composer-in-Residence (until 2006) and guest conductor at the National Arts Center Orchestra in Ottawa, working in close collaboration with Pinchas Zukerman. He has lived primarily in Cologne between 1980 and 1991; he now shares his time between Montréal and Cologne. Bouliane is also very active as a conductor, he has worked with the McGill CME, the Ensemble Modern, New Music Concerts, Soundstream, the Symphony Orchestras of Québec, Montréal and the National Arts Center.

Many of Bouliane’s works have been awarded prizes in national and international competitions (Prizes from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and from the Gaudeamus Foundation in Holland in 1982 for Jeux de Société, Prize of the Performing Rights Organization of Canada, for Douze tiroirs de demi-vérités pour alléger votre descente, among others). He was named composer of the year by the Canadian Music Council in 1983 and in 1987 was awarded the Léger Governor General’s Chamber Music Prize for A propos... et le Baron perché?. In 1985 the City of Cologne awarded him the “Förderpreis für Musik” and in 1989 Le cactus rieur et la demoi-selle qui souffrait d'une soif insatiable won the orchestral prize of the international “Forum junger Komponisten” of the West German Radio (WDR). In 1991 he was the first composer given the Serge Garant Award of the Nelligan Foundation in Montreal for his musical achievements. In December 1999, he received the Opus prize “Musical Personality of the year” awarded by the Quebec Music Council.

Bouliane’s original stylistical approach, described by German musicologist Peter Niklas Wilson as the Music of Magic Realism, is akin to a virtuoso game of criticism bordering on stylistical mystification, following in the footsteps of Jorge-Luis Borges, Italo Calvino and Boris Vian. A subject of controversy in so-called avant-garde milieus, his music seems to lie at the crossroads between America and Europe, and at the center of debates on modernity and postmodernity.

His music is regularly played, recorded and broadcast in North America and throughout Europe, commissioned and interpreted by such Canadian ensembles as the SMCQ (Société de musique contemporaine du Québec), the NEM (Nouvel Ensemble Moderne, Montréal), New Music Concerts, Soundstream (Toronto), by European ensembles such as Ensemble Köln, Ensemble Modern, MusikFabrik, the Stuttgart Windquintet, the Calamus Quintet (West Germany), the Delta Ensemble and the Nederlands Blazers Ensemble (Amsterdam), the London Sinfonietta, the Ensemble Nash, Lontano and Continuum (London), l’Itinéraire (Paris), the Studio-Ensemble (Budapest), orchestras like l’Orchestre symphonique de Québec, l’Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, the Toronto Symphony, the Winnipeg Symphony, the National Arts Center Orchestra (Ottawa), the Philharmonia Orchestra (London), the Heidelberg Philarmonisches Orchester, the Bochumer Symphoniker, the WDR Sinfonieorchester, a.o.

Schulich School of Music faculty since 1995.