Graduate of and associate professor in music analysis
An encounter with Sylveline Bourion, graduate of and associate professor in music analysis at the Université de Montréal Faculty of Music.
- Could you talk to us about your area of research?
At the Faculty of Music I teach analysis. Meaning, I’m pretty much the music anatomist! I seek out recurrences in language or stylistic features: what decides that a musical era possesses characteristics that are peculiar to it, or that a composer “sounds” the way he sounds. That was why, among other reasons, I got interested in Debussy, whose manner of composing I studied to dig out highly personal elements in his way of handling notes and forms. It’s a bit like a police investigation, but in the very particular framework of the musical score!
- What prompted you to focus on this area of research?
I discovered analysis, or rather I discovered myself in it, at the beginning of my studies at the Faculty of Music, where I’ve done all my degrees (bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate). From the start, finding the “logic” of a work, understanding its workings, its mechanisms, was something that attracted me, because there was the investigation angle, but also because that investigation was endless, in a certain way. We never wholly cover the question, when we look at a work of art, because its meaning is constantly being renewed. In addition, my first training was scientific, and in analysis I rediscovered a taste for precision, for math games that I’d practiced for a long time before.
- How do you define your teaching approach?
I enter with my students into a huge number of works from the repertoire. Rather than bringing in theoretical instructions, what I really like to do is immediately illustrate the notion I’m talking about with some excerpts from the repertoire ‒ piano, chamber music, orchestra, etc. In that way we become aware of the diversity of composers’ approaches, of the incredibly varied possibilities that, for example, a final cadence has of appearing on the page.
- In what way does research modify your teaching practices and methods?
I like to endlessly enrich my teaching with the discovery of new works, to refine the notions I teach by putting them to the test of the real, by confronting them with new situations, in works that I haven’t studied yet. Analysis, the vision we have of analysis, is never a finished thing; a new situation arises that hadn’t been understood, a new problem that hadn’t been anticipated...