photo by Tammy Raybould

Composer Sophie Dupuis presents dazzling, profoundly eclectic compositions inspired by visual art on COMME BON LUI SEMBLE. Dupuis’ musical language is measured, almost minimalist, but the colors she weaves into bright tapestries of sound certainly aren’t. Pop culture or high culture, she draws inspiration from numerous sources — leading to compositions that are at once highly abstract, yet highly descriptive. It’s a tightrope to walk, and at dizzying heights, but thankfully, Dupuis is not susceptible to musical vertigo.

Today, Sophie is our featured artist in “The Inside Story,” a blog series exploring the inner workings and personalities of our composers and performers. Read on to learn about the performance that showed her the intrinsic power of art and the sound pieces of advice she’d share with her younger self…

If you weren’t a composer, what would you be doing?

I’d likely be an MD. I’ve always loved science and would have happily followed in my parents’ and older siblings’ footsteps. It’s a series of coincidences, life-changing encounters (positive and negative), and naïve decision-making that changed the course of my studies from science to music. I say “naïve” because I’d never fully consider the long-term implications of what I was choosing to do. I’m one of those people with a myriad of interests who work hard on what they end up doing, whatever it may be. I’d stay open-minded and would go from one opportunity to the next. It’s the way people reacted when I’d tell them what I did with music that made me want to stick to it even more: something about going against expectations, convention, and the “logical” career choice, and the profound desire to express myself, show up with full integrity and prove that it was the right choice.

If you could collaborate with anyone, who would it be?

There’s this great young screenwriter and film director from Québec, also named Sophie Dupuis. She seems genuine and very down to earth. It would be amazing getting to write for one of her films, or hearing my music on the soundtrack. I’d quite enjoy the confusion it’d create in the process! There’s quite a bit of music from pop culture in her movies, but I think my music could fit some of the more suspenseful and dramatic scenes. So you never know!

What advice would you give to your younger self if given the chance?

Don’t wait for someone to give you permission to take your dreams seriously. Ask for help to get to your goals, and ask until you find someone who can actually help you and help you well. No one has complete authority over something, so don’t let one’s opinion determine the rest of your journey. Their opinion really doesn’t deserve that much importance!

What emotions do you hope listeners will experience after hearing your work?

It depends on the piece and on the people! Since we’re all different, with different life experiences, backgrounds and likes or dislikes, I try to let go of specific outcomes. I just hope that I’ve listened to my own feelings well enough for my art to be human and make it possible for other humans to connect to it on some emotional level.

Roméo Savoie, a visual artist from New Brunswick (Canada), uses black in his paintings to portray light. Of course, not knowing this, one could perceive his paintings to be dark, while in his world, it’s actually the opposite.

Likewise, I get comments about my music being emotionally dark, even when my main focus has been on portraying something funny or simply playing with interesting sounds. The dissonances that I find create the most interesting textures seem to have that effect. I think it’s an inevitable risk to take, having our art interpreted differently by others than how we meant it, when using a technique or a sound in an “unconventional” manner. But breaking ties with convention is necessary to try something new, and to me, experimenting with this is the most interesting thing about art and artists.

How have your influences changed as you’ve grown as a musician?

I find that I used to be able to source my inspiration from thin air and pour it straight onto paper, but now I feel like I need to work for it, to fill the inspiration well with something. It forces me to be curious, to do research and find topics that I find exciting to learn about. This can range from naturally occurring phenomena to artists I didn’t know anything about.

What’s the greatest performance you’ve ever seen, and what made it special?

I always reference the production of Einstein of the Beach by Philip Glass that came to Toronto in 2012. First off, it was beautifully rendered. Second, I cried during the final scene. After four hours and a half of repetitive fragments of nonsense (in the best, most exciting, virtuosic possible way), the continuous storytelling in the last scene moved me in a way I cannot understand and can only attribute to the several-hours-long cognitive conditioning that preceded. I might have to do research on this phenomenon at some point! It made me understand the intrinsic power of art, whether it is understood or not, on emotions.

What musical mentor had the greatest impact on your artistic journey? Is there any wisdom they’ve imparted that still resonates today?

I wrote a piece that was good technically and got me praises from professors. I didn’t know why, but I really didn’t think it was that good! I played it to James Rolfe, a composer that I admire as an artist and a person for his genuine kindness. He responded, in a matter-of-fact but kind way, that the music seemed cold. The comment struck me, as I wouldn’t consider myself a cold person! But it was true that I had forgotten to think about what the piece represented, and what I was communicating with it. I learned to go back to the basics, follow my instincts a bit more and create with integrity, with my heart.

  • Sophie Dupuis

    Sophie Dupuis (b.1988) is a francophone composer from New Brunswick, Canada, interested in acoustic, electroacoustic, vocal, and interdisciplinary art music. She finds her inspiration in the picturesque scenery of the Maritimes where she grew up, as well as in various performance and visual art forms. Her work has been commissioned and performed by soloists and groups including Duo Holz, Made in Trio, Din of Shadows, Ballet-Opéra-Pantomime, Thin Edge New Music Collective, ECM+, the Naden Band of the Royal Canadian Navy, Quasar saxophone quartet, and Esprit Orchestra.