Dennis Ellsworth was working in a restaurant kitchen when he realized he was ready to launch his solo music career. The Prince Edward Island native had already cut his first album (Chesterfield Dweller of the Year) while living in Toronto, the city he had relocated to in order to pursue his chef’s training. Returning home to work in Charlottetown, he began writing songs, singing and playing guitar with the alt-country band, Haunted Hearts, recording two albums, winning a slew of awards, and building a solid fan base.

But it wasn’t until he found himself feeling both disenfranchised with the restaurant industry and saddled with the weight of performing with a band that Ellsworth realized it was time to strike out on his own as a musician. On a whim, he decided to send an e-mail to musician and producer David Barbe (Drive-by Truckers, Bob Mould/Sugar) in Athens, Georgia, asking if he’d be interested in working together. “In my mind I’d already decided that if he said alright, I would make an attempt at an honest solo career,” recalls Ellsworth.

Ellsworth embraces a flexible approach to songwriting.

Barbe’s answer resulted in Ellsworth’s 2012 award-winning album, Dusk Dreams, which not only cemented his reputation for honest and contemplative songwriting, but also confirmed that he’d found the right musical path.

Ellsworth, who embraces a flexible approach to songwriting that leaves lots of space for inspiration and collaboration, says he knows within the first few minutes of working on a song if he’s on to something. “If I’m not I’ll go and do something else,” he says with a laugh.

While it’s a far cry from the kitchen, making music allows Ellsworth to tap into the creativity that first drew him to cooking. It’s why he prefers going into the studio with his songs incomplete, allowing his hired players and producers to weigh in with their ideas.

“I try to let things happen naturally because I feel like something is guiding us,” he says about the process that allows him to release his work into the unknown. When he’s onstage, however, Ellsworth, is free to keep the reigns firmly in hand. “When I perform live,” he says, “that’s my chance to be in control.”

Track Record

  • Though he didn’t grow up in a musical family, Ellsworth recalls being drawn to music at an early age. He began writing songs at 15, while playing in rock and punk bands.
  • Ellsworth won Album of the Year and Roots Contemporary Recording of the Year (both for Dusk Dreams) and SOCAN Songwriter of the Year (for the song “Electric Stars”) at the 2013 Music PEI Awards.
  • Thanks to two recent tours, Ellsworth is starting to build a fan base in the U.K., most recently sharing the stage with English folk artist John Smith. The two, who have since co-written songs, met when they were paired through a program run by Music PEI.

Discography: Solo Chesterfield Dweller of the Year (2010), Strange Boat (EP) (2011), Dusk Dreams (2012), Hazy Sunshine (2013) With Haunted Hearts Thank You, Goodnight (2009), Howdy (2010)
SOCAN member since 2000

Paroles & Musique: Take us through Intermède Music’s creation and evolution until now.
Françoise Morin: Christopher J. Reed created Les Éditions Intermède in 1973 to fill a need in the Quebec music publishing industry. With a mission to comply with and enforce its represented artists’ financial and moral rights, the company rapidly acquired a solid reputation and was joined over the following years by many prominent artists including Gilles Vigneault, Robert Charlebois, Jean-Pierre Ferland, Diane Tell, Sylvain Lelièvre and Jim Corcoran.

In 1980, Christopher J. Reed created Intermède Média, a production music company assisting communication professionals working in film, advertising, video, television, radio and multimedia, while also providing interested producers with a music consultancy service. As a music consultant, Intermède PikMusik provides clients with search and music selection services while supplying them with the music they are looking for. The company also guarantees the granting of the duly authorized synchronization licences producers need in order to be able to sell their programs.

In 1986, Intermède Communications was created to bring together all Intermède publishing companies and for the administration of the catalogues acquired over the years. Intermède Communications puts together and produces internationally distributed instrumental music recordings that are not retailed, but specifically meant for   audiovisual producers.

Now that Christopher Reed is no longer with us, do you think that your company might be looking to more original music publishing projects or increased sub-publishing or other activity?
We are now carrying out Christopher’s decisions while continuing to convey his values. We emphasize the production of original works created by Canadian composers while incorporating new musical genres and styles. We also continue to develop our international profile. As our catalogue is now being distributed worldwide, we’ve realized this is an excellent way to promote Canadian musicians’ talent and production.

“I believe there will always be a need for music publishers.”

We remain active as a sub-publisher in Canada and have signed agreements with more libraries to provide users with access to a very broad choice of quality music being produced on every continent.

What are your short and medium term plans for your publishing company and its authors? Are you now signing new authors, for instance?
To support Canadian composers at home and around the world, we continue to emphasize the search and discovery of new talents for our new productions. We are also negotiating with sub-publishers working in territories we are not yet covering, once again with the goal of promoting our artists.

We are also facing the new challenge of going all out to help music regain its true value. It is very important that composers be aware that it is not in their interest, nor in the industry’s interest as a whole, to give their music away for free. What now looks like a short-time benefit will become a long term loss. There is a lot of work to be done in that area.

Can you tell us about the repertoire you represent, and how this is being developed and tapped here and around the world?
Of course, we embrace technological developments and benefit from the digital world, particularly the Internet, which makes it possible for users to access our repertoire at all times. Our catalogue has been accessible online for a few years now on our search and download engine for our domestic clients. We can control access and follow up easily thanks to a particularly efficient back office system patterned on our specific needs. May I add that it is a Canadian system that we are proudly promoting to our domestic and international colleagues.

We are also working very closely with our sub-publishers in a number of countries while continuing to expand our reach. Some of the relationships that were established at the time Intermède was created remain operational, and these publishers show a deep respect for composers and empathize with their current situation.

Where do you think music publishing is headed in light of today’s technological changes?
I believe there will always be a need for music publishers, and also that we must never forget about our primary objective of promoting authors and composers while advocating and enforcing their rights. A lot of work has already been done, notably to make sure that the creators whose works are being distributed online can collect royalties either through collective societies or through music producer and publisher associations, but also thanks to the great work of APEM (Professional Music Publishers’ Association), of which we are a member. We are slowly beginning to see results, but a lot remains to be done considering that, as a medium, the web stands to replace television.

In my opinion, our composers too have a major role to play. We must work together to make sure the next generation of music creators are fully aware of their rights. We’re here to protect and support composers. I am convinced that, with patience and hard work, things are going to settle down, and quality music will be restored to its formal glory.

From the infinitely small to the infinitely… resonant. This could be an apt description of Louis Dufort’s compositional approach. Pinpointing this electro-acoustic music creator’s inspiration would be almost as daunting a task as unravelling the mystery of the Higgs Boson particle, but is worth a try since, for Dufort, the process itself often seems to matter more than the result.

The fact that Dufort has never been out of work since obtaining his degree in electro-acoustic composition from the University of Montreal in 1997 (the year he won a SOCAN Award for Concept 2018957) is no accident. Having written some 60 commissioned works for local and European contemporary music ensembles, joined the faculty of the Montreal Conservatory of Music, and collaborated for nearly 20 years on a variety of projects with modern dancer and choreographer Marie Chouinard, Louis Dufort has become a major force on today’s cultural scene.

His newest creation, Les corpuscules agglutinés, his fifth commission from Ensemble Contemporain de Montréal (ECM), provides us with a perfect window on the maelstrom of his creative mind. As he prepares to premiere this piece for 10 acoustic instruments on January 24, 2014, Dufort, who works at a high level of abstraction, explains that, these days, he is “much more likely to speak in terms of energy and matter than in terms of plain notational structure. There was a time when I was writing program music, like on my first album, CONNEXIONS, or dramatic pieces (like the 1999 work Zénith) where a developing story could be heard. These works provided listeners with very strong, easily identifiable perceptual elements – pretty much like a soundtrack does. That’s where I was at then, but things have changed in a big way.” Dufort’s move to music composition 2.0 took place in early 2000. “What really changed,” he explains, “is that I started seeking beauty in structure rather than in any extra-musical aspect of my compositions.”

Organic music

“I get right into the sound,” the composer continues, “in order to access the sound’s inner matter and use it to create more sounds. Thanks to the computer, we are now able to get inside any note. If you analyze a trumpet note, for instance, you realize that the initial milliseconds are comprised with noise, but that this noise is part of the sound.” Dufort’s new inspiration starts at the infinitely small level, and calls for a new kind of responsiveness. His music is now patterned on natural structural models to be found at a subliminal level in biological organisms (as seen through the lens of a microscope) or in the naturally chaotic organization of natural elements.

“When you spend enough time playing on your computer in real time, you end up literally engaging in a symbiotic relationship with matter – involving the composer, the way he listens to sounds, his perceptions and his parametric control of the sound. As I actively control the sound’s parameters, a perceptive image appears, helping me control the parametric changes I am about to make.” Dufort goes on to point out that he also applies this same process to mixed works and videos as part of a syncretic, non-literal approach to music: “The video’s forward motion is triggered by the wave motion produced by the sound. Placing two media in the same dynamic relationship makes it possible to effect a direct physical connection between sound and image as the visual elements follow the sound’s dynamic curb to achieve synchronicity.”

Inside the sound spectrum

With Les corpuscules agglutinés, Dufort is planning to apply the process just described to acoustic elements instead of computer-generated sounds. “I’m noticing that my writing for acoustic instruments is becoming much cleaner as part of my harmonic search for a more spectral or modal music reminiscent of ancient modes. The same approach can also be observed in the work of today’s young composers, as they show a lesser interest for the discordant writing of the 1960s and the 1970s. The dissonances have become milder. One of my dreams (and I don’t know if it will ever happen!) is one day to write a whole composition on a single note,” Dufort smiles, “and focus on nothing but tone and colour.”

Although Les corpuscules agglutinés is still a work in progress, the placement of performers in the chosen venue has already been determined with musicians being positioned around the audience rather than onstage. “With this work,” Dufort explains, “I want to continue to operate at the microscopic level and make sound particles audible, and placing the musicians in a large circle around the listeners is the positioning that best suits the piece’s overall concept in terms of sound particles, corpuscles, agglutination and mass.”

Before the end of the school year, Dufort is planning to complete a handful of personal audio/video projects that he would love to show as part of European international festivals. As a board member of the Elektra Festival, he is in an ideal position to promote the type of technological musical and visual productions he is increasingly interested in. “This coming May, I’m pulling the plug so I can start working on new works for an upcoming album to be released on empreintes DIGITALes. Plus, I really want to start traveling now that my son is 18!” His dance music compositions for Marie Chouinard (Gymnopédies and Henri Michaux: Mouvements) continued to be performed overseas in November and December 2013, and was heard in January in France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Hungary. Also part of Louis Dufort’s work as a contemporary music creator is the documentation of his research activity as described in the papers he contributes to a number of specialized magazines on the general topic of pure music creation.