Alexander MacSween is a Canadian musician, composer and sound designer. He has been active as a drummer in the rock, experimental and improvised music scenes since the mid-eighties, both in Canada and abroad. He creates sound installations and composes music for dance, theatre and film. He also gives workshops in live sound processing for performing artists. He lives in Montreal, city of his birth.



Groups

Improvised music

Music for dance

Music for theatre

Music for multi-media pieces

Music for film

Solo pieces

Sound installations

Recordings

Bio

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Groups

The Extroverts 1978-79
The Attitude 1979-81
Dear John 1984-85
Hugh Ball & The Martinis 1985-87
Jerry Jerry & the Sons of Rhythm Orchestra 1987-92
The Nils 1992-94
Tinker 1992-94
Pest 5000 1996-97
Goa 1997
Bionic 1997-99
Electronic Humans Guild 1998
Detention 1998 -
Blinker The Star 1998
The Social Register 2004
Foodsoon 2006 -
Martin Tétrault's Turntable Quartet 2007 -
Bob 2008 -
Juste Claudette 2008 -
Kara Keith 2009
Topo 2010 -

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Improvised music

A.M. began playing imrpovised music in 1998 with Sam Shalabi in the duo Detention and in the group Sloth is the Love with Sam, André Arsenault, Thierry Amar and Will Glass. Detention hosted a monthly improvised music event called Rumble from 1998 to 2002 at Casa del Popolo in Montreal, where many connections with other musicians were made. Other improvising partners have included Paolo Angeli, Tim Berne, Charity Chan, Michel F. Côté, Bernard Falaise, Frank Gratkowski, John Heward, Alexandre St-Onge and Martin Tétreault.


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Music for dance

Natasha Bakht (CA)
White Space (2007)
Dafeena (2010)

Nova Bhattacharya (CA)
Calm Abiding (2006) choreography by José Navas.

Sarah Bild (QC)
Mutiny (2005)

Stéphane Déligny (QC)
Zombres & Anmnesis (2001)
Andrea Zumacker
(1999)

Gravel Art Group
Gravel Works (2012)
A.m. replaced the musician Hugo Gravel for a string of perfomances.

André Gingras - Danceworks Rotterdam (NL)
The Sweet Art of Brusing (2012)

Jennifer Lacey (USA, FR)
Our Dainty Little Tracks (1996)

Ginette Laurin/Dance-Cité (QC)
Bas-reliefs (2006)

La fabrique rouge (QC)
4 Solos (1999)

LADMMI (QC)
15 à corps (2005)
Choreography by Lucie Boissinot, Nadine Thouin, Jordi Ventura and Julie Bougard

Jane Mappin (QC)
Rouge (2001)
                             
Montéral Danse (QC) choreography by José Navas
Le ciel, brûlant des heures

José Navas - Compagnie FLAK (QC)
Portable Danses (2005)
Anatomies (2006)

Pamela Newel (QC)
Ultreya (2004)

Crystal Pite/Kidd Pivot (CAN)
Double Story (2005)
A.M. replaced Dianne Labrosse as live musician on tour.

Sara Porter (CAN)
A Contraction of Lavender (1990)

Public Recordings/Ame Henderson (CAN)
What We Are Saying (2013)

Pierre-Paul Savoie – PPS Danse (QC)
Confidences d’un corps (2006)
“et comme si l’aire allait s’embrasser” (2007) choreography by André Gingras.
Bain Publique (2009) choreography by Linda Mancini.

Naomi Stikeman (QC)
Çaturn (2008)

Chanti Wadge (QC)
Thru (2006)
100 Returnings (2007)
O Deer! (2009)

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Music for theatre

Marie Brassard/Infrarouge (QC)
The Darkness (2003)
Peepshow (2005)
The Glass Eye (2007) with Louis Negin.
The Invisible (2008)
La Fureur de ce que je pense (2013) produced by Théâtre Espace Go

Marc Beaupré/Théâtre d'Aujourd'hui
Instructions pour un éventuel gouvernement socialiset qui souhaiterait abolir la fête de noël (2013)

Interlude T/O (FR)
Le Drap (2007)

Théâtre de Quat-Sous (QC)
Comme en Alaska (2005) directed and choroegraphed by Estelle Clareton.

Robert Lepage/Ex Machina (QC)
Zulu Time (2002)

Brigitte Haentjens/Sybillines (QC)
Woyzeck (2009)
Douleur Exquise (2009)

Martin Faucher/Théâtre d'aujourdhui
Yukonstyle (2013)

François Girard (QC)
Le Fusil de chasse (2010)

Wajdi Mouawad (QC/FR)
Des Femmes (2011)
- music composed with Bertrand Cantat, Bernard Falaise et Pascal Humbert.

Necessary Angel Theatre Company (CAN)
Hamlet (2009) directed by Graham McLaren
Divisadero: A Performance (2009) workshop production written by Michael Ondaatje and directed by Daniel Brooks.

Imago Theatre (QC)
Divinity Bash (2002) written and directed by Bryon McDonald.

Gaétan Nadeau
Personal Jesus (2009)

Stephen Nunns (USA)
The Boys in the Basement (1995)
A Tragedy in Nine Lives (2003)
Rockaby (2013)

Brigitte Poupart/Transthéatre (QC)
Autoroute (2006)
Le jour ou l’autre (2008)

Projet Porte Parole
Seeds (2005)

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Music for multi-media pieces

Paul Litherland (QC)
Babble (2001)

Johnny Ranger/Moment Factory (QC)
Constellations dynamiques (2006)

Jerry Snell/STP (QC)
Cash (2004)
A.M. as drummer for live performances.

T.r.a.n.s.i.t.s.c.a.p.e. (BE)
Call Shop (2007)
Chambre(s) d’hôtels (2008)

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Music for Film


Dafeena (2012, 6 min. QC)
Directed by Marlene Millar and Philip Szporer
Choreography by Natasha Bakht
Produced by Mouvement Perpetuel

Cinéma des aveugles (2010, 20 min. QC)
Directed by Daniel Canty
Produced by Metafilms

Dances For Dzama (2006 13 min. QC)
Directed by Dana Gingras
Choreography by Dana Gingras
Produced by Andrea Gunnlaugson and Jim Smith

Fake Folk (2003, 15 min. QC)
Directed by Susie Ramsay
Produced by Annie Ilkow

Transit (2002, 20 min. QC)
Directed by Santiagi Hidalgo
Choreography by Anna Bozzini

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Solo pieces

Spilliaert (2007)
Solo piece for samplers, synthesizers and electronic percussion.
Commissioned by Eric Mattson

Music is like Soup (2004)
Solo piece for samplers, synthesizer, drum machine and treated guitar.
Commissioned by Gallerie B-312 in Montreal.

Vocollations (2002)
Solo piece for electronic drum set and samplers.
Commissioned by the Vasisdas festival at Théâtre Lachapelle in Montreal.

 

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Sound installations

Calice (2006)
Chapel of Love
(2009)

Two sound installations have been commissioned by the City Sonics festival in Mons, Belgium. The first, Calice (2006), was made with samples of the voice of the Belgian poet Francis Flament. The second, Chapel of Love (2009) was made using thin audio slices taken from various love songs. Both pieces were created for the acoustic environment of a chapel and both use various techniques of slicing and stretching sounds in order to create sustained textures that are evocative of sacred music. The pieces are each played in a loop over a surround speaker system. Chapel of Love was remounted for the Sonorama festival in Besançon, France, in 2009.

Ground (2008)

An installation/performance research project created with Emmanuel Madan in residence at Usine C (Montreal) in 2008. The piece was an exploration of the inductive properties of audio cable.

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Recordings

Selected Discography

 

Choeurs
Betrand Cantat, Bernard Falaise, Pascal Humbert and A.M. (2011 Actes Sud)
- drums, electronics, composition

Points, lignes avec haute parleurs
Martin Tétreault - Le Quatuor de tourne disques (2010 Oral)
- turntable

La note fa
Michel F. Côté & AiméDontigny (2008, & records)
- drums

All In
Li Alin  (2006 Asphodel)
- guitar, synth, sampler

Parade
Pipo Fiasco (2006 Pipo Fiasco)
- drums

Some Love
Foodsoon (2005 & records)
- drums, keybords, vocals, mixing

Six Silk Purses
Fortner Anderson (2005 Wired on Words)
- digital composition

entomologie
Urbain Desbois (2003 Tribu)
-drums

33 1/3
Pipo Fiasco (2003 Pipo Fiasco)
– drums, vocals

Entomologie
Urbain Desbois (2003, Tribu) 
- drums

Goa!
Goa! (2002 Robosapien)
- drums

The Electronic Humans Guild
EHG (2001 Robosapien)
- sampler, mixing

Les Sables Magiques
Tricky Woo (2001 Sonic Unyon)
- congas

Warp & Woof
Detention  (2001 Arrival Records)
- drums

sometimes I think
Fortner Anderson (2000 Wired on Words)
- drums

Bionic
Bionic  (1997 Sound King Records)
- drums, vocals, songwriting

Palimpsest
Pest 5000 (1997 Derivative Records)
- drums, marimba, songwriting

Interabang
Pest 5000 (1996 Derivative Records)
- drums, marimba, songwriting

Mattering / Cold Feet (45 rpm single)
Pest 5000  (1996 Derivative Records)
- drums

Don’t Mind If I Do
Jerry Jerry & The Sons of Rhythm Orchestra (1991 Aquarius Records)
- drums, vocals

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Alexander MacSween (b.1964, Montreal) is a Canadian musician, composer and sound designer. He began playing drums in punk/new wave bands in his teens and was gigging professionally by his early twenties, spending a decade and a half touring Canada and the US with various bands. Notable among these were The Nils, Bionic and Pest 5000. In the late 90’s, MacSween migrated toward improvised music, forming the duo, Detention, with the guitarist and oud player, Sam Shalabi. Detention made one album, Warp & Woof, and hosted a monthly improvised music event at Montreal’s famed Casa del Popolo. The duo frequently supported visiting musicians such as Tim Berne and Frank Gratkowski.

More recent musical projects include the rock-noise trio, Foodsoon (with guitarist Bernard Falaise and noisemaker Fabrizio Gilardino), various projects with fellow drummer and composer, Michel F. Côté, and membership in Martin Tétreault’s turntable quartet.

Encouraged by a fellow drummer in the early ‘90’s, MacSween got himself hired as an accompanist for contemporary dance classes, a job which provided a decent income between tours. This contact with dance world led to invitations to create music for dance pieces. He received is first major commission as a composer from the American choreographer, Jennifer Lacey for her 1995 piece, Our Dainty Little Tracks. Since then he’s worked with a number of dance companies and independent choreographers, including Natasha Bakht, André Gingras, Montréal Danse, José Navas, Pierre-Paul Savoie and Chanti Wadge.

MacSween’s approach to composition is based on the digital manipulation of recorded or sampled instruments and sounds, and very often on sounds of the human voice. He has created four pieces for the choreographer, José Navas, using only recordings of dancers’ voices as source material. The best know of these pieces is Anatomies (2006). MacSween has also worked with several theatre artists, including François Girard, Brigitte Haentjens, Robert Lepage, Necessary Angel Theatre Company (projects with Danile Brooks and Graham McLaren), Wajdi Mouawad and Marie Brassard, with whom he’s created and toured several shows. He often performs live in these collaborations, using a wide range of electric and acoustic instruments.

His contact with the theatre world led him to develop skills as a sound designer, particularly with regard to live sound processing. Since 2004 he has taught workshops in live sound processing for performing artists at the Belgian arts and technology centre, CECN, as well as for other centres and academic institution in Europe and North America.

Through his work teaching abroad, MacSween began receiving invitations to collaborate on productions by European companies. These have included the Lille-based company Interlude T/O, with whom MacSween performed in the Off-Avignon festival in 2007, and the Brussels-based multi-disciplinary company, T.r.a.n.s.i.t.s.c.a.p.e, with whom he has so far created two pieces.

In 2006, after receiving an invitation from the City Sonics festival in Mons, Belgium, MacSween began making sound installations. His first piece, Calice was a 25-minute composition for an 8-channel surround system in a chapel. He was invited to the same festival in 2009 and created his second in a series of surround compositions for chapels, a piece called Chapel of Love, which was remounted at the Sonorama Festival in Besançon, France in the same year.

MacSween has received several grants and awards. Most recently, he was selected for the London Studio grant of Le conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec, which allowed him to live and work in London, UK, from July to December 2010.

Alexander MacSween is a member of the Quebec Musicians Guild (AFM) and SOCAN.

(February 2012)

 

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"Chapel of Love" Photo: Philippe Franck


"Bionic" Photo: Susan Moss