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Serge Garant: Biography

Serge Garant
1929 - 1986
Region: Québec

Serge Garant

SERGE GARANT was born in Québec City in 1929. Between 1946 and 1950, he studied piano with Sylvio Lacharité and Yvonne Hubert, harmony with Paul Robidoux and composition with Claude Champagne. Later, in Paris, he audited courses on analysis given by Olivier Messiaen. From Messiaen he learned much, and above all that "music is not the product of instinct alone: it must be validated by the intelligence." He also worked on counterpoint with Andrée Vaurabourg-Honegger and met Stockhausen and Boulez.

In 1954 Garant organized Montréal's first contemporary music concert in which he participated with François Morel and Gilles Tremblay. He was the first Canadian composer to introduce tapes into a musical composition (in Nucléogame, 1955), and he made a first attempt at aleatoric technique in 1959 with Pièces pour quatuor à cordes. Garant was one of the founders of the Société de musique contemporaine du Québec (SMCQ), the oldest organization of its type in the country, which he directed from its establishment in 1966 until 1986. This experience as a conductor helped him to avoid "composer's traps", and he succeeded in getting the results he wanted from his musicians by using extremely simple and clear notations.

Both as professor at the Faculty of Music of the University of Montréal (beginning in 1967) and in his role as host of CBC Radio's "Musique de notre siècle", Garant worked unceasingly to advance contemporary music. Among his most important works are Phrases II, Offrande II, Cage d'oiseau, and... chant d'amours, which won him the Jules Léger Prize.

Following his death in 1986, Pierre Boulez paid him this tribute: "In Serge Garant I remember a companion of the early days, a man who devoted himself totally to the cause of contemporary music. He was not content to decide and to choose for himself alone. Once he made up his own mind, based on his reflections and his view of common interests, he wanted to have others share those views, which he correctly considered as best adapted to our times, as the most likely to discover new landscapes for music, new landscapes that music will always need."

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