Francisco Meirino                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Anthems For Unsuccessful Winners

SHAPING THINGS (a simple spectrum)

Shaping Things (a simple spectrum) is a composition for 10 oscillators and back tape commissioned by Nicolas Bernier for his Oscillator Ensemble in 2018.

That piece is part of the online release (released by LINE, soundart editions)


The oscillator ensemble is an ongoing project made in collaboration with scholars, students and artists. This 10 musicians electronic music ensemble stands at the antipode of the miniaturization of today's musical technologies. The post-wars oscillators that serves here as instruments are heavy machines producing only the most rudimentary signals: sine and square waves. The oscillator makes it possible to return to the basis of the sound creation with the assumption that the functional simplicity of the oscillator will oblige a reflection on the precision of thought on time and frequency structures.

• Direction: Nicolas Bernier

• Support: UdeM, FRQ-SC

The video was realized thanks to the PDS Sessions from PERTE DE SIGNAL

Director : Florence-Delphine Roux

Technical assistance : Robin Dupuis, Thomas Périvolas

Editor : Nicolas Bernier

Website screen capture - video still from F-D Roux.


2018 : Earle Brown, December 1952 (1952) var.

2018 : Francisco Meirino, Shaping Things (a Simple Spectrum) (2018) 12 m

2018 : Candas Sisman, SYN-Phon (2013) 10 m

2017 : Xavier Ménard, États altérés (2017) 7 m

2016 : Kevin Gironnay, Ignis Fatuus (Solis) (2016) 12 m


FORMAT: Digital

EDITION: Open Edition

RELEASE: October 2018


1. ‘États altérés’ — Xavier Ménard (2017)

Successive transfigurations of timbral states shaped by accumulations, substitutions, and abrupt fractures. An ongoing fusion-fission relationship between the ten oscillators, with chain reactions driving the music.

2. ‘Shaping Things (A Simple Spectrum)’ — Francisco Meirino (2018)


Francisco Meirino’s composition feels as though the end of the piece is perceivable from the start, just as the horizon: sine waves follow a path that seems to be known to us. In the process, oscillators sing and calmly respond to one another, following an inevitable slope.

3. ‘Ignis Fatuus (Solis)’ — Kevin Gironnay (2016)

Slowly gathering energy to prepare listeners and performers for a more agitated music. All of this to see the energy disseminate and fade to a pressured atmosphere. This might be what a storm would sound like in slow motion.

4. ‘SYN-Phon’ — Candas Sisman (2013-2018)

The music of constellations: lines scattering to compressed galaxies/sound clusters. Spheres growing and leaking sounds. A sporadic yet prominent dialogue between the lowest and the highest.


ID. /  Model / Frequency Range / Frequency Multipliers / Waveform

_01 / HP 201C / 20 – 200 Hz / x1 x10 x100 / sine

_02 / Olson TE209 / 20 – 200 Hz / x1 x10 x100 x1K / sine & square

_03 / HP 200CD / 05 – 60 Hz / x1 x10 x100 x1K x10K / sine

_04 / HP 200CD / 05 – 60 Hz / x1 x10 x100 x1K x10K / sine

_05 / HP 200CD / 05 – 60 Hz / x1 x10 x100 x1K x10K / sine

_06 / HP 204D / 01 – 12 Hz / x5 x10 x100 x1K x10K / sine

_07 / HP 200CD / 05 – 60 Hz / x1 x10 x100 x1K x10K / sine

_08 / HP 200CD / 05 – 60 Hz / x1 x10 x100 x1K x10K / sine

_09 / Olson TE208 / 20 – 200 Hz / x1 x10 x100 x1K / sine & square

_10 / Olson TE209 / 20 – 200 Hz / x1 x10 x100 x1K / sine & square

_11 / B&K Noise Generator 1405 20 hz – 100 kHz / Uniform spectral density white & pink noise 

Track 1 composed by Xavier Ménard (c) 2017

Track 2 Shaping Things (A Simple Spectrum) composed by Francisco Meirino (c) 2018

Track 3 composed by Kevin Gironnay (c) 2016

Track 4 is a collective arrangement of a graphic score realized by Candas Sisman and used with his permission (c) 2013

All tracks recorded and mixed by Nicolas Bernier in the digital music dept. of the Université de Montréal.

Mastered by Alexis Langevin-Tétrault.

Cover photo by Nicolas Bernier, 2018

Published by LINE 2018


When Nicolas Bernier first told me about the collection of old oscillators he had been accumulating for years, I wondered what kind of project would develop from it. It took years for these oscillators to find their place within Nicolas’ research. Accumulating quite a few of these instruments over the years, perhaps he realized that he could not play them all himself. Following the idea of curator and author Hans-Ulrich Obrist, who said “the connections and principles that produce a collection contain assumptions, juxtapositions, findings, experimental possibilities and associations. Collection-making, you could say, is a method of producing knowledge”: the Ensemble d’oscillateurs was born.

Much to my excitement, Nicolas approached me to assist him in making the whole thing possible: connecting the oscillators, designing practice exercises for performers to master their “instrument”, brainstorming staging possibilities for concerts, developing a method of notation for compositions, listing characteristics and parameters of each oscillator, and so on.

Back then, it was uncertain what sounds would come up of ten sine waves played by ten performers. The purity and simplicity of each signal, mixed with the imperfections of these old oscillators, led nonetheless to a level of complexity reachable by accumulation.

As the first composer who had the chance to compose for the ensemble, I had the chance to have the keys of the studio where the oscillators were kept. I spent hours there, alone, going back and forth between the oscillators, notating each adjustment, each manipulation, and imagining how one sine wave—one thin line—can become surrounded by a cluster of moving lines, when the oscillators are simultaneously being manipulated by multiple performers. The main challenge was to make this information readable by performers the same way a classical music score would. I managed to come up with a simple way of notating the limited available parameters, while notating the usable flaws in several oscillators that I wanted the performers to recreate.

The ensemble then began weekly rehearsals for what became its first “commission”. Experiencing the interpretation of my score, along with feedback from the performers, led me to improve the notation. During these rehearsals, the ensemble also improvised by following a guiding software that I was programming: this main section of the piece allowed them to improve their playing, forced to respond quickly to the events proposed by the software, enhancing their listening, with Nicolas controlling the mixing mixing desk onstage.

Following Nicolas’ interest in primitive technologies, history of electronic sound and the evolutions of its aesthetic, the Ensemble d’oscillateurs became a laboratory in search of a sine wave aesthetic: the ensemble took an interest in pieces from the repertoire (‘Jar Piece’ by Pauline Oliveros, 1966), but also in graphic scores (‘December 1952’ by Earle Brown, 1952; ‘SYN-Phon’ by Candas Sisman, 2013). The latter, which closes this album, was actually not written for one specific instrument. A collective work has been accomplished around the interpretation (literally) of the graphic notation: assigning a line to an oscillator, while some others are shaping the sound of a circle or quickly stepping in to give a sonic life to an array of connected dots.

“Listening” is the key word for the Ensemble oscillator. An absolute control of the musical material is not the primary goal. Performers are indeed guided by notation but due to its nature of purity and simplicity, an active listening is required. Just like in musique concrète, it is the matter that makes the music; the accumulation of this matter is the music. Forcing a deep listening—a heightened awareness of the sonic environment, significant to Pauline Oliveros’ work and theory—the listener will necessarily perceive micro-changes, subtleties, and fine details. Even if the music of the ensemble is more gestural than drone music, a strong link does exist in the way of absorbing this music made of non-extravagant musical matter.

With the aim to create a repertoire made specifically for the ensemble, to forge relationships between the new and the old, and to explore new ways to make music with these old devices, two more composers were invited to write music especially for the ensemble: Xavier Ménard and Francisco Meirino. This album consists of performances of three pieces custom-made for the Ensemble, and one arrangement of a graphic score.

Being part of the creation of the Ensemble d’oscillateurs and composing its first piece was as challenging as it was stimulating. I could only foresee its potential back then. The work the ensemble has accomplished since is already significant. Following Nicolas’ vision, the ensemble has had workshops with some important artists like singer/saxophonist/director Joane Hétu, experimental DJ Martin Tétrault, producer Jean-Patrice Rémillard, and stage director Sébastien David. And this is just the beginning as already a lot of new projects are on the go.

With many interesting research-creation productions on the horizon, this unusual ensemble is certainly an exciting musical act to be followed.

— Kevin Gironnay, July 2018


Under the artistic direction of Nicolas Bernier the Montréal-based Ensemble d’oscillateurs delivers some compelling sonic sinewaves. On États altérés the lows are so sunken it makes the floor quake a little. This work, composed by Xavier Ménard(2017), it reminds me of dial-up tones for internet access that we left in the 90’s. The atmosphere is minimal and quite spare – though this resonates in a sneaky way. Translated from the French this refers to ‘altered states’ and by the way in which the soundwaves are being split it does feel like an experiment on the human psyche. The final minutes shifts with a layered feedback, static, white noise – drawn in parallel lines. Testing….testing.

Kevin Gironnay‘s 2016 piece Ignis Fatuus (Solis) explores the coastering waves of a single note, a bit animated and bright. The reverb is mostly kept to a minimum as he layers two frequencies upon each other, along with a low rumbling drone. It instantly makes me think of sounds that would be associated with modern dance for some unexplained reason. The movements, up and down, slowly shrinking like a flower after sunlight. An industrial flutter enters as surface noise but slowly starts to obliterate the other layers in its mass. He’s tuning in and out from various playful frequencies, awkwardly bending tones into sinewaves that only non-human species might perceive. The sounds of falling from above, simply falling are provocative.

Next is a brand-new work from Francisco Meirino titled Shaping Things (A Simple Spectrum). Instead of falling, his tonal acoustics are rising high. The listener is made to feel both at a distance and brought right upon the velocity of the action. It reminds me some of fireworks, the type the rise and fall in droopy bright patterns across and black sky. All the microsounds here set this apart from the typical ear-splitter by balancing the ultra vibrant highs with the active muffled bottom end. This is not the record for the casual listener, best appreciated by those who can understand composed noise. Goin’ up!

Lastly is SYN-Phon by Candaş Şişman (2013-18), it’s a collective arrangement of a graphic score used with his permission. This one is a bit brassy in the low range, as in that sound made by many jazz drummers when using the very fine edge of a symbol to conjure a sound. Though here there’s this sizzling electronic wave of feedback and revved purr that is incredibly infectious. By and far my standout track of these selections as it mimics computer bleeps and controllers – keeping a certain circumstantial human vs bot feel. It’s where technology is headed, so we must face the reality of the future now. ‘Syn’ which is short for synthetic I’d guess in this case seems to be a play on artificial sounds, invented, and synthesized. The tiny sounds and silences are like explorer units set to do, or mimic for or like humans. It’s an animated, at times spat out, computated set of manufactured sounds that’s also a cerebral mix offering this unique percussive, vibrating tickle.