André Hamel | The Canadian Encyclopedia


André Hamel

André Hamel. Composer, teacher, born 1955. Initially a rock musician, André Hamel turned to composition in the early 1980s, when he began formal studies at the University of Montreal under composer Serge Garant; he received an MA in composition in 1993 under the direction of composer Michel Longtin.

André Hamel. Composer, teacher, born 1955. Initially a rock musician, André Hamel turned to composition in the early 1980s, when he began formal studies at the University of Montreal under composer Serge Garant; he received an MA in composition in 1993 under the direction of composer Michel Longtin.

Hamel has been very involved with the composition community in Quebec. In 1985 he founded the Société des Concerts alternatifs du Québec, which later became Codes d'accès. He was its president 1987-90 and a member of the board of directors 1985-91 and 1994-6. In 1992, with composers Alain Lalonde and Alain Dauphinais, Hamel founded Espaces sonores illimités, a collective of composers dedicated to using musical spatializatio (the technique of positioning musicians on and offstage to create stereophonic effects) in the production of concert music. Beginning in September 2000, he was a member of the artistic committee of the Société de musique contemporaine du Québec (SMCQ).


A prolific composer of instrumental and electroacoustic music, Hamel has had his work performed regularly since the mid-1980s by soloists, ensembles, and orchestras in Quebec, Canada, Brussels, Sofia, Bologna, Vienna, Miami and Lyon, as well as in Switzerland (Lausanne, Basel, Lucerne and Zurich). His music demonstrates a predominant use of sound spatialization as both a compositional technique and as a performance element. His approach is also distinctly multidisciplinary, and his catalogue lists many works that are reminiscent of other art forms. Midway between the avant-garde music of the 1970s and the contemporary tendencies of musique actuelle (a compositional approach that blends elements of concert music, improvisation, jazz, and avant-garde rock), Hamel's compositions, although strictly written, demonstrate an improvisational approach in which melodic and harmonic material unfolds freely, far from all forms of structuralism.

His catalogue includes works commissioned by the SMCQ, the CBC, the Bulgarian percussion ensemble Polyrithmia, the museum at Pointe-à-Callière ("Symphonies portuaires" series, 1997), the Canadian Music Centre, the Théâtre La Chapelle in Montreal, the Morel-Nemish piano duo, French cellist Benjamin Carat, Bradyworks, and Totem contemporain. In June 2000, with 18 other composers, he took part in the Symphonie du millénaire, a large-scale event produced by the SMCQ. In May 2004, he composed the music for the multidisciplinary show Urnos for Montreal-based La Nef.

In 2005, Hamel participated in the composition of the Symphonie des éléments, for Montréal Nouvelles Musiques (MNM), and Fanfares, for Espaces sonores illimités and the Festival international de musique actuelle de Victoriaville. In 2007, he collaborated on Spatio Lumino, presented by Espaces sonores illimités and the MNM.

In 2008, André Hamel composed a new work with students from the Commission scolaire de la Pointe-de-l'Île, presented as part of the event "On joue ensemble" and sponsored by the Orchestre Métropolitain. Several of Hamel's works have been broadcast on the CBC and on radio stations elsewhere in the world.


Hamel has been the recipient of numerous awards and prizes. In 1997, the jury of the 6th Goffredo Petrassi International Competition for Composers (Arturo Toscanini Foundation, Parma) awarded him a special mention for his orchestral work L'absurde travail. He won the Opus Prize in 1998 for his composition In Auditorium, and in 2000 he was awarded the Canada Council's Joseph S. Stauffer Prize. His work La trilogie du presto was nominated for the Opus Prize in 2006, and his saxophone octet, À huit, figured among the recommended works in UNESCO's International Rostrum of Composers in 2007. In 2003, Hamel was awarded a residency at the Quebec Studio in New York by the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec.

Selected Compositions

L'absurde travail. 1988. Orchestra

La trilogie du presto. 1989-97. Solo percussion, solo cello, solo piano

Environnement 240. 1990. 17 spatialized musicians

Deux pièces pour cornemuse (Two Pieces For Bagpipes). 1991

L'esprit ceint dans son corset (The Spirit Tightens In Its Corset). 1991. Tape

Théâtre navrant (Regrettable Theatre). 1991. Soprano, clarinet, electric guitar, 7 spatialized musicians

Environnement 239. 1993. 2 trumpets, small percussion, spatialized strings

La quête (The Quest). 1994. 2 multi-instrumentalists, 2 conductors, 24 spatialized musicians

In Capella. 1996. 23 spatialized musicians, 2 conductors

Le chant des grandes coques (The Song of the Large Shells). 1997. 5 fog horns, locomotive, bells, fire bells, various sirens

In Auditorium. 1998. 31 spatialized performers

À six. 1999. 6 spatialized percussion

Symphonie des éléments. 2000. Collective work composed with Alain Dauphinais, Michel Gonneville, André Hamel, Alain Lalonde. 85 musicians

Symphonie du millénaire (Millennium Symphony). 2000. Collective work composed with Serge Arcuri, Walter Boudreau, Yves Daoust, Alain Dauphinais, André Duchesne, Louis Dufort, Sean Ferguson, Michel Gonneville, André Hamel, Alain Lalonde, Estelle Lemire, Jean Lesage, Luc Marcel, Marie Pelletier, John Rea, Anthony Rozankovic, Gilles Tremblay; Denys Bouliane, arrangement; Vincent Collard, booklet. 333 musicians, 2,000 carillonneurs, 15 bells, organ, carillon of 56 bells, two fire trucks

À huit. 2001. 8 hidden and spatialized saxophones

Maëlstrom. 2001. Spatialized winds

Propos sur Rachmaninoff. 2001. 2 pianos

L'heure bleue. 2003. Harpsichord and processing in real time

Musiques D'Urnos (Music of Urnos). 2004. Voice, percussion, reconstructed instruments

De l'aube claire... (The Dawn of Light...). 2004. Cello and processing in real time

Musiques pour fanfares (Music For Bands). 2004. Collective work composed with Alain Dauphinais, Alain Lalonde and Claude St-Jean for 3 moving bands

Musiques pour un étranger (Music For a Stranger). 2005. Electroacoustic work for a dance presentation by Guylaine Savoie

Intérieur nuit (Inside Night). 2006. Electroacoustic work for a dance video by Guylaine Savoie

Musiques au fil de l'eau (Music Over Water). 2006. 6 brass, 2 percussion

Sonarium. 2006. Collective electroacoustic installation composed with Roxanne Turcotte and Diane Labrosse

Brumes matinales et textures urbaines (Morning Fog and Urban Textures). 2007. Saxophone quartet and processing in real time

Fanfare in situ. 2007. Collective work with Alain Dauphinais, André Hamel, Alain Lalonde, Michel A Smith. 30 trumpets, 30 trombones and/or tubas, 40 saxophones, 8 bass drums

Spatio Lumino. 2007. Collective work composed with Alain Dauphinais, Alain Lalonde, Michel Smith. 6 improvisers

Continuum Interruptus. 2008. Clarinet, viola, piano

Petit prélude. 2009. Recorder ensemble, Orff xylophone ensemble, concert band

L'heure suspendue. 2010. Flying can and processing in real time

Selected Discography

La trilogie du presto. Quatuor Arte, Quasar Quartet, Julien Grégoire, Catherine Perron, Angela Tosheva, Catherine Perrin. 2008. Atma Classique ACD2 2396

Donate to The Canadian Encyclopedia this Giving Tuesday!

A donation to The Canadian Encyclopedia today will have an even greater impact due to a generous matching gift from an anonymous donor. Starting November 28 until December 5, 2023, all donations will be matched up to $10,000! All donations above $3 will receive a tax receipt. Thank you for your support of The Canadian Encyclopedia, a project of Historica Canada.