Words come short when trying to describe Le Trésor de la Langue, as "masterpiece" can hardly express all the sweat and time put in the work, the impact it had, and the critical acclaim it received. René Lussier
's second solo album only, six years after Fin Du Travail (Version 1)
(but there had been two LPs by Jean Derome
and René Lussier
and one LP with Robert Marcel Lepage
), Le Trésor de la Langue would always remain the album to which Lussier
's subsequent efforts would be compared to.
Le Trésor de la Langue (The Treasure of Language) is built on two fundamental artistic directions. Its content is focused on the importance of speech in French-Canadian history: speaking French in order for the mother tongue to prevail against English (the conqueror's tongue) and historical speeches that shaped the political context of the late 1980s, from France's president Charles de Gaulle's "Vive le Québec libre" ("Long live a free Quebec!") to the broadcasted manifest of the Front de Libération du Québec (a 1970 terrorist organization) to René Lévesque's defeat speech after the first sovereignty referendum. As musical form, René Lussier
took his starting point from Hermeto Pascoal
's In Grupo and Frank Zappa
's "The Dangerous Kitchen" and envisioned speech as music. He painstakingly transcribed historical speeches and casual conversations recorded in the streets, arranged it all with the help of Derome
and Fred Frith
, casting guitar, trombone, clarinet or violin to "interpret" or "double" the speeches, giving them dramatic settings and contexts just like in a movie. The results are breathtaking, even for the non-francophone. Folklore and circus music intertwine with avant-rock in interlocked suites where the line between spoken word and melody is abolished. The musicality of this sound art piece and the intelligent way it deals with a sensible question (Lussier
will often deny any political implications in his work) make it a must-have. This is the road movie of one's quest to find his identity and retrace the history of his people, all set on an engaging experimental canvas. The first four parts of the piece won the 1989 Paul Gilson Award (given by the Communauté des Radios Publiques de Langue Française, an organism regrouping French-speaking public radios). Le Trésor de la Langue introduced the whole Montreal experimental music scene (the musicians but also the label Ambiances Magnétiques) to a wider audience, both local and international. The CD version contains over 20 minutes of extra material.