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Radio ›› Joane Hétu

Artists ›› Joane Hétu

For over 25 years, throughout an unusual career, Joane Hétu has carved her own place on the Canadian creative music scene. A woman of reason and passion, she mostly expresses her art through the voice and the alto sax, two instruments she approaches in a similar way, bringing into a unique symbiosis the flexibility of one and the urgency of the other. She is self-taught and played in the cutting-edge groups Wondeur Brass, Justine and Les Poules, whose resolutely avant-garde rock carried her throughout North America and Europe. Later she reinvented the sensual song format through the prism of musique actuelle with her own band Castor et compagnie. Since then, she has left rock music behind, but still flirts with song, particularly with the duo Nous perçons les oreilles, in which she continues to explore the narrow line between laughter and tears.

Since the mid-90s, Joane has been more and more focusing on abstract composition in works that combine text, texture and vocal experiments. This research is at the core of her solo album Seule dans les chants and the triptych Musique d’hiver, of which the first movement (Musique d’hiver) is available on CD, the second (Nouvelles musiques d’hiver) received its live premiere in March 2003, and the last movement is in progress. In recent years, she also began to create improvisation structures that have been performed in Italy and Canada, by small groups of improvisers or by the Ensemble SuperMusique, in which she plays.

Joane Hétu may have come to music through rock (a feminist, jagged, avant-gardist form of rock but rock nonetheless), but improvisation has been a crucial part of her life for over a decade. Her unique techniques and crude sax playing make her a fierce improviser with a strong personality. Her acoustic experiments often emulate electronic textures, without ever actually resorting to electronics or getting trapped in a strictly intellectual level of abstraction. Joane’s music has one foot in human emotion and the other firmly planted in the atavisms of primitive thought. She is a member of the improv trio Les Poules and has recorded with Lee Pui Ming, Mélanie Auclair and Ireneusz Socha, in addition to performing on a regular basis with Martin Tétreault, Lori Freedman and Jean Derome, among others. With the latter two, she co-organizes the improvised music series Mercredimusics. As a musician, she has taken part in numerous projects with such performers as Diane Labrosse (Petit traité de sagesse pratique), Danielle Palardy Roger (L’oreille enflée) and Jean Derome (Canot-camping). Since 2003, with Danielle Palardy Roger, she has given introduction to musique actuelle workshops for children in grades 4 and 5.

Since Wondeur Brass’s first concerts, in which rock music and theatre intertwined, Joane Hétu has been actively seeking contexts calling for art forms to meet and interact. She has participated in a number of performances combining improv music and dance (Double-Sens, L’instant de l’instinct) or music and film (with Pierre Hébert and more recently Jean Detheux). Presented live in the winter of 2006, her latest major project Filature brings together music, dance and video art. Joane’s goal is to give music a role equal to that of the other arts, thus creating a true form of sharing between the art forms involved.

Parallel to her musical activities, Joane Hétu has been a member of the Ambiances Magnétiques label since 1985, co-director for the past 25 years of the concert production company Productions SuperMusique, and president of the DAME record label and distribution service, which she founded in 1991 and whose catalogue now offers over 450 CDs of new music. She has also recorded some 15 albums - you can’t say she hasn’t been busy!

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