Montreal-based musician Jean-Michel Blais dropped his third solo album called aubades via Arts & Crafts.
Pushing boundaries on this beautiful spring-like album with a more fuller orchestral sound.
About the album:
aubades marks the Montreal-born musician’s transition from pianist to composer, as he writes for an ensemble for the first time in his career. Written during the pandemic and following a breakup, Blais has used his distinctive musical voice to create a defiantly uplifting record with glistening instrumental textures and warm major tonalities.
The album’s title refers to the “aubade”, a Middle Ages morning love song about lovers separating at daybreak, a dawn serenade.
Despite the difficult global and personal backdrop, Blais described the time writing this album as a “fruitful moment of creativity for me. We started having hares in the park, beautiful butterflies flying everywhere.
It was a time of lots of blossoming, and also a moment when I blossomed from being a pianist into a composer.” Musical ideas captured in over 500 recorded piano improvisations were transformed by Blais into 11 compositions performed by a 12-person ensemble. During the composition process, Blais collaborated with Alex Weston, former music assistant to Philip Glass. The musicians were recorded with close-up microphones, creating a richly intimate atmosphere that captures the human behind each instrument, from the mechanics of the woodwind keys to the snap of a double bass string.
Blais also consciously found himself leaning towards major tonalities, which he believes are surprisingly rare in modern classical piano music. “With this album, I was definitely responding to certain trends,” Blais reckons. “For example, the fact that the solo piano tends to sound melancholic. That’s good, but I’ve done that already, I wanted to go beyond that.”
In aubades, every instrument is given moments of expression to an extent that took the players by surprise. Blais says, “there’s often been this dominant idea in classical music that one instrument is the chief, the king of all the instruments, and the others are in the background merely supporting.” He was inspired by more democratic musical textures from the Renaissance and Middle Ages, as well as the social democratic artistic ethos of the English 19th century poet, designer and activist William Morris and the Arts and Crafts movement.
aubades gets: 📷📷📷📷📷📷📷📷📷/10.