Nicole Lizée

Called a “brilliant musical scientist” and lauded for “creating a stir with listeners for her breathless imagination and ability to capture Gen-X and beyond generation”, JUNO nominated composer and video artist Nicole Lizée creates new music and video from an eclectic mix of influences including the earliest MTV videos, turntablism, rave culture, glitch, Hitchcock, Kubrick, Lynch, and 1960s psychedelia. She is fascinated by the glitches made by outmoded and well-worn technology and captures these glitches, notates them and integrates them into live performance.
Nicole’s compositions range from works for orchestra and solo turntablist featuring DJ techniques fully notated and integrated into a concert music setting, to other unorthodox instrument combinations that include the Atari 2600 video game console, omnichords, stylophones, Simon™, 1970s and 80s board games, and karaoke tapes.
Her commission list of over 50 works includes the Kronos Quartet, BBC Proms, San Francisco Symphony, Carnegie Hall, National Arts Centre Orchestra, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Montreal Symphony Orchestra, Tapestry Opera, Powerplant, NYC’s Kaufman Center, Continuum, Soundstreams, Megumi Masaki, Gryphon Trio, SMCQ, and Eve Egoyan. Her music has been performed worldwide in festivals including the BBC Proms (UK), Barbican’s Sound Unbound (UK), Huddersfield (UK), Roskilde (Denmark), Bang On a Can (USA), Classical:NEXT (Rotterdam), All Tomorrow’s Parties (UK), Metropolis (Australia), Luminato (Canada), Other Minds (San Francisco), Ecstatic (NYC), and Dark Music Days (Iceland).
Nicole was awarded the prestigious 2013 Canada Council for the Arts Jules Léger Prize for New Chamber Music. She is a Civitella Ranieri Foundation Fellow (New York City/Italy) and recently received a 2016 Lucas Artists Fellowship Award (California). In 2015 she was selected by acclaimed composer and conductor Howard Shore to be his protégée as part of the Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards. Additional awards and nominations include an Images Festival Award, JUNO nomination, a Prix Opus, International Rostrum of Composers’ Top 10 List, Dora Mavor Moore Award nomination in opera, two Prix collégien de musique contemporaine, and the 2002 Canada Council for the Arts Robert Fleming Prize for achievements in composition.

    Contrary to digital device failure, which generally leads to an overall shutdown, analogue devices will behave erratically and unpredictably for some time. A complete shutdown is a last resort – the final breath in a long series of breaths. A great deal of my work centres on this period of erratic failure in a machine, aiming to freeze its current condition and capture it in a musical work before it finally succumbs to the stasis of total failure. The beauty that results from the damage and degradation of media (i.e. cassettes, vinyl, Betamax and VHS tapes), coupled with the resulting deconstruction of the information contained therein, is its very essence.
The malfunction of the machines and media is only the beginning. The live performers interact and engage with the media complimenting and assimilating its traits, while instilling expression and artistic interpretation to the glitch. Through this harnessing of imperfection and glitch a new kind of precision and expression is born.
    Malfunctionlieder is a song cycle that integrates manipulated voice on film with live voice. Corrupted fragments from film scenes interweave and meld with the live voice, forming duets between the living and ghosts from the past. Eliza Doolittle’s arduous pronunciation lessons from Professor Higgins, Mother Superior’s (ever widening) vibrato, a barbershop quartet created from Taxi Driver’s Travis Bickle, the rethinking and reassembling of the vocal warmup in Amadeus to update the concept of ‘the vocal warmup’: all short fragments transformed into vocal idioms and themes that the live singer and pianist engage with. The nature of the film manipulation adds a new virtuosic element for the live performers. From abrupt fluctuations between tempi and keys to the splicing of melodies and rhythms at ‘inconvenient’ moments – what results are new colours and perspectives, a new virtuosity, and even a new language as text is chopped and rearranged, creating a fictitious language.
I am honoured to have been asked to create the commissioned piece for the 40th anniversary of the E-Gré competition. Special thanks to the Canada Council for the Arts for their generous support in the commissioning of this work.