Keyser-Couroux Conspiracy


Friday, October 5th, 2012

Philippe Hode-Keyser – electronics, percussions, voice
Marc Couroux – keyboard, samples, tapes, upright piano, electronics

It is our great pleasure to invite you to an evening-long music-sound/ installation/ performance by the KEYSER-COUROUX CONSPIRACY.

Philippe Hode-Keyser (chief ideologue for the underground electric big band Kappa, and luminary drum guru of the Montreal jazz scene) is in town for a week-long residency where we (PHK and MC) will be working out ways to slip the not-quite -background and the not-quite-foreground around and into each other, in the hopes of discovering hidden pockets of not-yet-captured noise (of both cochlear and non-cochlear varieties).

(Expected arsenal: horizontality of field recordings, analog  keyboards, noise-makers, bodily sounds, ambulatory boomboxes).

If this sounds at all compelling, you are welcome to spend any amount of time in our company between 7 PM – 12 AM.

325, St Johns Road (at Beresford) in the JUNCTION (one st. West of Runnymede, one st. South of Dundas W)

There will be libation and dessicated vegetable matter – feel free to bring anything you like to share.

Looking forward to seeing you all!



Wednesday, March 15, 2006 – 9 PM
Casa del Popolo, Montréal
4873, St-Laurent blvd. (below St-Joseph blvd.)

BLIND AMBITION, the remake

Philippe Hode-Keyser – drums, amplified gadgetry, moogerfooger
Marc Couroux – keyboards, samplers, no video, gates or simulacra

I think this is the right idea. And not very romantic. Sort of a reverse-spin. The material is complexified rather than dumbed-down. The out-of-control side would happen by accident. Then what? Some catastrophic patches? A sort of deus ex machina. A Karl Rove-like character, as in heres some filler material that has proven to be successful. Make it look good. This should happen entirely metaphorically. However, the use ofantiquated FBI documents from a bad time in history should be embraced. Instant replay as it were, Howard Cosell-like. Another way to distract attention away from some potential problems, using the metaphorical potential of the glitch as carrier of truth, which would in some sense save the musician from getting into structural hot water. Perhaps a couple of gross jump cuts might make a kind of gauche point. Think about the standard concert practice of dealing with screw-ups. You cover them up. Resistance? No problem. No one is going to take apart your chronology. Should there be catastrophic clues? This piece is a slab of non-excerptable music. Its not a last performance.





Casa del Popolo, Montréal
Wednesday, September 21, 2005 – 9 PM
4873, St-Laurent blvd. (below St-Joseph blvd.)

Including such time-worn standards as the “Neo-Con Shuffle”, “Tom Delayed”, “the Wolfowurlitzer”, “Robertson Crusoe” and other fragile, encrusted ditties. Expediently rendered by Marc Couroux on watergated estimates, and Philippe Hode-Keyser on standard entrapments, with an adjuster monitoring the entire event for possible loops. Both “artists”will also be “playing” the electronics. Also, expect some obscure conversions of recent history as well as concomittant historicization of obscure converts. Plainly speaking: accretions, man, accretions.

Philippe Hode-Keyser – drums, electronics, percussions
Marc Couroux – keyboard, Powerbook, tapes, electronics

“Noise prophets? New Psychedelicists? Krautrockists? Conceptual Grifters? Tricksters or Charlatans? It doesn’t matter. All the monikers in the world cannot begin to conjure up what a truly dumbfounding experience it is to witness the sonic equivalent of“hitting the floor running and getting stuck in the molasses of deconstruction”. These guys are never the same twice. In fact, I’m not even sure they’re the same people I saw last time. Their music requires radical perspectival reorientation of the most perverse kind.”

Musiques à loft

Presented by the Montreal Biennale and ALSOP architects
part of Montréal’s installation: Creative City
250, Saint-Antoine Street West (former building of the Gazette)

Event 5 :

“The Politics of Recognition or the Recognition of Politics”

October 24, 2004 – 16 h

Music and vidéo : Free Radicals
Marc Couroux (video artist-musician) : Skulking. Peripheral insights into the downfall of Richard Nixon
Thérèse Mastroiacovo (video artist) : we’re trying to, WW (1975-2004)
Juliana Pivato (video artist) : Company
Philippe Hode-Keyser, Marc Couroux: Watergating

Admission :
Adults= $5
Students= $2,50 (including exhibitions)

L A B I E N N A L E D E M O N T R É A L 2 004
Tél. : (514) 288-0811
Fax : (514) 288-5021
Contact :


Wednesday, June 23, 2004 – 21h
Casa del Popolo, Montréal
4873, St-Laurent blvd. (below St-Joseph blvd.)

As part of the ongoing : SUONI PER IL POPOLO

Philippe Hode-Keyser – drums, electronics, percussions
Marc Couroux – keyboard, powerbook, tapes, electronics

“WATERGATING” or “Mr. Dean’s Opus” (that’s John, not Howard)

Tickets : $6 / $8

Théâtre de l'entropie

KEYSER-COUROUX presents: Théâtre de l’entropie

at La Société des arts technologiques [SAT], Montréal
305, Sainte-Catherine Street West

March 7, 2003 – 20h
part of the event: FREE RADICALS

kc radicaliberté billet d'entrée 7 mars 2003

Philippe Hode-Keyser – drums, percussions
Marc Couroux – keyboard

Cover photo by: Philippe Hode-Keyser


KEYSER-COUROUX at the Évolutions, les nouvelles percussions

Théâtre La Chapelle, Montréal
3700, St-Dominique Street

November 3, 2001 – 20h

Philippe Hode-Keyser – drums, percussions
Marc Couroux – keyboard

with special guest:

Paul Dolden – electric guitar


Philippe Hode-Keyser – drums, percussions
Marc Couroux – piano

Live at the Redpath Hall, McGill University

Montréal, March 5, 1997

Cover picture: Mer de Canada by Robert Smithson


 A Theater of Entropy

psycho-drama musical


If the theater is like bloody and inhuman dreams, it takes much more to manifest and anchor in each of us the idea of a perpetual conflict and a spasm where life is determined every minute where everything in creation rises against our state of consituted beings to perpetuate in a concrete and present manner the metaphysical ideas of some fables whose very atrocity and energy suffice to demonstrate the origin and content principles.

That said, we see that, by its proximity to the principles which poetically transfuse their energy, naked theater language, language not virtual, but real, must enable the use of magnetism nervous man to transgress the ordinary limits of art and speech, to make active, that is to say magically, in real terms, a kind of total creation, where it remains for the man to take his place between dreams and events.

Antonin Artaud, “The Theatre of Cruelty”

The system was breaking down. The one who had wandered alone past so many happenings and events began to feel, backing up along the primal vein that led to his center, the beginning of a hiccup that would, if left to gather, explode the center to the extremities of life, the suburbs through which one makes one’s way to where the country is.

John Ashbery, “The System”

On the whole I would say entropy contradicts the usual notion of a mechanistic world view. In other words it’s a condition that’s irreversible, it’s a condition that’s moving towards a gradual equilibrium and it’s suggested in many ways. Perhaps a nice succinct definition of entropy would be Humpty Dumpty. Like Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall, all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty back together again. There is a tendency to treat closed systems in such a way. One might even say that the current Watergate situation is an example of entropy. You have a closes system which eventually deteriorates and starts to break apart and there’s no way that you can really piece it back together again

Robert Smithson “Entropy Made Visible”

All right. The problem is that there is no new problem. It must awaken from the sleep of being part of some other, old problem, and by that time its new problematical existence will have already begun, carrying it forward into situations with which it cannot cope, since no one recognizes it and it does not even recognize itself yet, or know what it is.

John Ashbery, “The Recital”

A moderately gifted person who would have been a community treasure a thousand years ago has to give up, has to go into some other line of work, since modern communications put him or her into daily competition with nothing but world’s champions.

The entire planet can get along nicely now with maybe a dozen champion performers in each area of human giftedness. A moderately gifted person has to keep his or her gifts all bottled up until, in a manner of speaking, he or she gets drunk at a wedding and tapdances on the coffee table like Fred Astaire or Ginger Rogers. We have a name for him or her. We call him or her an “exhibitionist”.

How do we reward such an exhibitionist? We say to him or her the next morning, “Wow! Were you ever drunk last night!”

Kurt Vonnegut, “Bluebeard”

As the techniques of the cinema and all forms of recording become better and better, so the painter has to be more and more inventive. He has to re-invent realism. He has to wash the realism back onto the nervous system by his invention, because there isn’t such a thing in painting any longer as natural realism. But does one know why very often, or nearly always, the accidental images are the most real? Perhaps they’ve not been tampered with by the conscious brain and therefore come across in a much more raw and real sense than something which has been tampered with by consciousness?

I think that Velasquez believed that he was recording the court at that time and recording certain people at that time; but a really good artist today would be forced to make a game of the same situation. He knows that the recording can be done by film, so that that side of his activity has been taken over by something else and all that he is involved with is making the sensibility open up through the image. Also, I think that man now realizes that he is an accident, that he is a completely futile being, that he has to play out the game without reason. I think that, even when Velasquez was painting, even when Rembrandt was painting, in a peculiar way they were still, whatever their attitude to life, slightly conditioned by certain types of religious possibilities, which man now, you could say, has had completely cancelled out for him. You see, all art has now become completely a game by which man distracts himself; and you might say it has always been like that, but now it’s entirely a game. And I think that that is the way things have changed, and what is fascinating now is that it’s going to become much more difficult for the artist, because he must really deepen the game to be any good at all.

Francis Bacon “Interviews with DS”

The course of this work is made up of the violent filterings of the energies liberated through the dexterity and bodily flexibility of the performer. As in Antonin Artaud’s Theater of Cruelty, each area of the work calls forth resonances from different parts of the total organism performer-instrument-context. This, for me, is “drama in music”.

Brian Ferneyhough “Time and Motion Studies”

For me, sound has always been primarily an extension of physical presence, or else physical presence has always been strongly inferred by sound. I assume that sonic contouring is, among other things, a metaphor for bodily comportment and its associated aura of emotive connotations: this makes the “grain” of sound a tremendously powerful compositional tool. Even the experience of time manifests itself to me largely in terms of degrees of resistance to the free flow of discursive energy, so it’s clear that performer mediation and articulation of this aspect of things lie at the root of the listening experience.

I’d say my music was more anti-virtuoso in intent, since it takes a very special sort of person to put both their professionalism and their “natural” approach to their instrument on the line when passing through the early stages of the sort of learning process that much of my music demands. In each case a very personal key has to be found in order to being the task of reunifying the uncoupled planes of mental perception and bodily reaction offered by the score.

I like performances in which the accumulated psychic and physical momentum of successively confronting lengthy spans of material lends the interpretation an unearthly radiance—the performers themselves are changing before our very eyes.

Brian Ferneyhough “Socratic faxes”

L’attitude d’un artiste postmoderne se définit par rapport à la structure de son discours, pas nécessairement par rapport à la surface. En musique, depuis quelques années, il y a des compositeurs qui essayent de dévoiler le squelette de leur musique, donc la structure. Pour aller plus loin, il faut accepter d’autres prémisses: pour tous les arts, mais en musique spécifiquement, il y a beaucoup de composantes. Par exemple les textures, le rythme, l’harmonie, les couleurs, l’orchestration, et, bien sûr, la forme. Mais il faut accepter le principe que ces éléments musicaux se trouvent dans un agencement combinatoire qui permet à un élément de dominer tous les autres. Et étant donné que tous ces éléments font partie de la structure globale de l’oeuvre, si un compositeur décide qu’il va minimiser les éléments 1 à 7 mais faire ressortir l’élément 8, il fait alors en sorte que cet aspect de la structure soit tout à fait audible. De ce point de vue, la musique répétive est, sans aucun doute, une musique postmoderne, car les autres éléments de la musique ont été subordonnés pour mettre en relief l’aspect rythmique comme un aspect clairement structurel. Il y a donc création volontaire d’un déséquilibre, et c’est ça qui est révolutionnaire.

John Rea, Qu’est-ce que le postmodernisme musical?

(in Circuit 1/1)

fluid dynamics

Following the release of their first compact disc, 3+3, a hybrid cross-section of the two members’ artistic lineage: free jazz (Keyser) and contemporary music (Couroux), the tandem confirmed their resolutely postmodern approach with the “Fluid Dynamics” event in 1994.


Philippe Hode-Keyser – drums, percussions
Marc Couroux – piano

Live at the Redpath Hall, McGill University
Montréal, November 7, 1994


Fluid Dynamics

I had been interested in the marriage of science and music for many years, hoping eventually to be able to present my findings in concert. I came across Chaos theory in 1993, while studying the music of Hungarian composer György Ligeti, who unabashedly acknowledges its influence. In particular, he was attracted to the Mandelbrot set, “discovered” by Benoît Mandelbrot, a pioneer in the area of fractal geometry. Ligeti is one of the first composers to have attempted a musical representation of fractals, present in particular in his Piano Etudes (1985-1994) and his Piano Concerto of 1988. Here, he attempts to create a world which is self-similar and recursive (without being repetitive), a complex fabric of recurring motives that are subtly different each time. Another very important influence on this project was the music of James Harley (1959-) whose computer-assisted compositions have made much use of chaos theory.

While both Whorls and Eddies and Deterministic Non-Linear Americana are inspired by chaos theory, there are other influences. We have attempted to present a non-literal portrait of self-similarity, while not rigorously rejecting other ideas that do not pertain directly to chaos theory.

At another level, Fluid Dynamics is for me now, three years later, a fitting summary of all the musics which I had been assimilating in the course of my work in contemporary music. The tributes are thus fully intentional…I was impressed by the manner in which Ligeti always took the time in interviews to enumerate his battery of influences and to situate himself at the crossroads of all of them (a strange kind of modesty?!)

Fluid Dynamics was presented for the first time in concert on November 7th 1994 at Redpath Hall at McGill University. The following summary represents only this version. Whorls and Eddies can contain as many or as few parts as are determined by the circumstances of the concerts. There exists thus no final and unchangeable version.

The general characters described will be traceable in future versions, but organized differently. This approach is “Zen-like” in its desire to not coalesce into a predictable format, and to “forget” any previous versions, reinventing the structure at each new presentation.

Whorls and Eddies

The influence of Ligeti is clear in Whorls and Eddies, the first part of Fluid Dynamics. The title Fluid Dynamics refers to the behavior of bodies of water in constant motion, one of the many branches of modern physics. The musical correlative has to be, in my opinion, merely a poetic one, based on a visual impact and understanding of the motivations of such dynamical phenomena. It is not our intention to create music with the same strict mathematical rules which are at the basis of physics but, rather, to emulate and to allude to. The title was taken from the book The Fractal Geometry of Nature by Benoit Mandelbrot as he describes the famous “wave” painting by Hokusai, which can be seen to contain a multitude of currents of different sizes, interacting in complex manners. Likewise, we have attempted to present in Whorls and Eddies a suite of movements each containing their own form of motion (fluid, static, stationary, even, jagged…), and within each movement as well, a myriad of fluctuating speed-characters. The principle of “scaling”, a locus of fractal theory, has been applied to several strong “thematic” elements: scale figures (usually non-octaviating), non-functional chord progressions, rapid alternation, etc. are repeatedly transformed and cast in new cloaks. The aim is not however to create an evolution of material in the traditional sense, but more or less to deny it, maintaining the more objective principal of contextual readjutment.

Whorls and Eddies is divided into eight sections (the titles of which have been established for the sake of clarity alone): Introduction-Descent-Discourse-Impulse-Clocks-Presto-Apocalypse-Blues

The Introduction begins, solo piano, with a very narrow range of pitches, in the very centre of the keyboard, with an extremely fluctuating rhythm; there is no perception of downbeats, only one extremely long sustained line. Gradually, the register expands and triadic chords puncuate the continuous fabric rendering it gradually mountainous and jagged. This principle emulates the idea of the Koch snowflake, which has a boundary apparently fluid but, which reveals at close scrutiny an extremely jagged edge whose length is infinite. The piece recapitulates with an extremely metric theme, reminiscent of the Player-Piano music of Conlon Nancarrow, one of the great pioneers of American music.

Descent is more direct in approach. A sequence of major and minor thirds begins at the top of the keyboard and descends three-quarters of the way, gradually acquiring a “grittier” consistency (including other intervals, fifths, fourths and later tritones and major/minor seconds) and including a non-octaviating descending scale, punctuating the regular rhythmic discourse. The descent is halted and then begins a descending chorale in 7th harmonies (major, minor, dominant) which begins over and over again.

Discourse presents an alternating series of fragments, in a dialogue format between piano and drums. These fragments are either two-part melodies, with varying modes of attack in each hand, or irregular chord progressions (or in combination). The guiding principle is one of resolute non-thematicism but also a fractal sort of recursion, i.e. similar patterns seen from a quasi-infinity of different angles (the piece needs to be long enough to allow for the scaled character of the fractal music)

Impulse is a personal attempt to transfer pure electrical energy onto the keyboard without recourse to musical constructs (structurating bodies). The piano figurations are at once reminiscent of Cecil Taylor, whose inspiration seems rootless, and Italian composer Claudio Ambrosini (1948-) who sees music as existing in one of three states: solid, liquid or gaseous. The latter state is explored by the use of cluster-glissandi (played with wool gloves) and dense masses of undifferentiated sound-noise. This technique was introduced in Klavierstück X by Karlheinz Stockhausen in 1960. Impulse ends with a series of fractal-chords (with equally fractal dynamics) played at both extremes of the keyboard.

Clocks fuses the approaches of Conlon Nancarrow (1912-) and English composer Harrison Birtwistle (1934-), whose music is often an expression of ritual, layering pulses of different speeds to create a consistently changing rhythmic profile. Clocks is the longest section and creates contrast (against the backdrop of a mechanical pulsation) by alternating strings of chord-qualities, creating fields with a certain harmonic halo (though distinctly a-polar). A recurring dominant-7th chord (invariant) returns regularily announcing a change of halo. This chord is one of the most potent signals in Western tonal music, however, this chord never resolves to the tonic! Different levels of density alternate but always suddenly, without recourse to mediating transition.

Meteorologist and “chaos pioneer” Edward Lorenz’ term Sensitive Dependance on Initial Conditions and the work of Mitchell Feigenbaum on chaotic behavior has been the main inspiration.

The shortest movement, Presto, is an anticipation of the Apocalypse. It is simply based on a series of triadic harmonies, which is presented pianissimo in a chorale fashion beneath the murmuring drum activity near the end of the movement. This full-frontal presentation, bare tonality without the scumbling effect encountered earlier, is surrounded by rapid tremoli which activate and deactivate central harmonies. The quivering mass is “overdubbed” with a loud non-octaviating scale traversing the entire keyboard, attempting to unify the whole progression.

The minor-chord premonition, or “pre-echo”, is given full body in Apocalypse, an extended “fantasy” based on the juxtaposition of recurrent elements: fortissimo minor chords and hesitant pianississimo fragments (atonal) or melodies, which are first presented in rather regular alternation, a study in extremes. Gradually throughout the piece, the hesitant aspect becomes suppressed, leading the way for a more continuous assertion of the dramatic minor-chord presentations, in a sense, allowing for a deeper exploration into one region of the initial design, a fractal “penetration”. Apocalypse ends with a somber reassertion of the main progression.

The Blues for Conlon is a tribute to Conlon Nancarrow, the basis of whose music was American jazz and blues, a fact evinced by a close study of his first ten Player Piano Etudes. This blues is also fractal, providing several leaps into increasingly jagged territory. It is intended that the listener perceive cycles (much as one hears verses and choruses), by the use of a cut-and-dry textural identity. These cycles can be summarized thus: 1) left hand quasi-tonal basis, blues quality, 2) same underlying harmony with the addition of a non-concordant melody, independant, 3) sustained chords are introduced in the right hand moving at a different speed as the left, which has now become more jumpy and less predictable. The schismic tendencies of both hands is amplified until we reach a point when the beginning and end of cycles are no longer perceivable and we seem to be in the presence of an increasing number of seperate “blues” strands. We have been experiencing scaling once again! 4) Splice. Sudden progression of lower register chords, the quality of which is fractal, i.e. seemingly infinitely variant and non-directional. The tone is laidback. The bass gradually seperates from the top (schism). 5) Suddenly fff, expanded register and glowing luminous conclusion to the blues on a major chord (again reminiscent of early Nancarrow.)

There is a certain post-modernist quality to Whorls and Eddies; the apparent reintegration of tonal conceptions into a chaotic fabric can easily pass for pastiche or quote music. However, what remains the central focus is the interest in reexamining certain shared signals and experiences, and incorporating them into a more austere, scientifically minded structure. What is fascinating is the degree to which these elements retain or relinquish their identity depending on the factors they are multiplied by, or the grid they are passed through and seperated into components. Whorls and Eddies represents a starting point for a greater investigation into fractal-chaotic territory.

Deterministic Non-Linear Americana

In 1994, I became an American citizen and was surprised to confront a great deal of Americanism in myself. It turned out to be fortunate, because I had long been fascinated by the tradition of American artists who pushed the boundaries of new music: Charles Ives, Henry Cowell, John Cage, Conlon Nancarrow, Harry Partch, Steve Reich, Morton Feldman, Roger Reynolds, Cecil Taylor, Anthony Braxton, Glenn Branca, Ornette Coleman, Frank Zappa. Their rich tradition of folk music, first exposed to me through the music of Ives, also began to touch me

During the first rehearsal sessions of Keyser-Couroux, we were both equally surprised at the frequency of references to American folklore that came up in the maelstrom of free improvisation. What had previously slipped my attention during 24 years of exposure to American folk music were certain ramifications of the minimal use of stock functional harmonies, within any given key. It was a Fractal moment. I began to realize the potency of triadic harmony (and how it related to every American on an across-the-board gut level). The first experiment we realized consisted of continuously varying, subtly, a three or four chord progression, with corresponding tunes, also varied. The result, after ten minutes was similar to a fractal design: minimal material, maximum differentiation. It became impossible to remember any particular version of this “gospel-tinged” tune, but one could always recognize it and relate to it immediately. It seemed that our piece had nudged its way into a strange region of the mind: Fractal Americana.

– Fluid Dynamics [Redpath Hall, McGill University, Montréal] [November 7, 1994]

– Theatre of Entropy [Redpath Hall, McGill University, Montréal] [May 5, 1997]

– Évolutions, les nouvelles percussions [Théâtre La Chapelle, Montréal] [November 3, 2001]

– Théâtre de l’entropie [Radicaliberté] [Société des arts technologiques [SAT], Montréal] [March 7, 2003]

– Watergating [Suoni per il Popolo] [Casa del Popolo, Montréal] [June 23, 2004]

– Watergating [Biennale, Montréal] [October 24, 2004]

– Mr. Chavez Goes to New-York [Casa del Popolo, Montréal] [September 21, 2005]

– Dude, The Seventies Are Over [Casa del Popolo, Montréal] [March 15, 2006]

– Keyser-Couroux Conspiracy [House Music, Toronto] [October 5, 2012]