Jacques Hétu’s compositional process in Suite pour guitare, Op.41




Dias, Michael Gregory

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The National Library of Canada houses 3.5 meters of textual documents related to the celebrated Quebecois composer, Jacques Hétu (1938-2010). Among the working documents and biographical material donated in 1997 to the Jacques Hétu Fonds are autograph compositional documents relating to Hétu’s Suite pour guitare, Op. 41, written in 1986 (10 folios of sketch material and the composer’s fair copy). After deciphering, transcribing, and ascertaining the chronology of the sketches, an examination of the documents yields a new understanding of Hétu’s compositional process for Op. 41 (including the discovery of an unpublished movement entitled “Prelude II”) and the work’s form and structure. In addition, unpublished writings and correspondence by the composer are explored regarding Hétu’s life, musical style and his reception in Quebec. The study differs notably from traditional sketch studies in its adoption of a theoretical framework and methodology borrowed from critique génétique, or genetic criticism, a French movement of literary criticism originating in the 1970s. As opposed to traditional approaches to “genetic” documents, critique génétique dismisses the notion of a singular definitive text in favor of textual plurality by elevating the status of variants produced during the creative process (i.e. rough drafts or discarded versions). The advantage of a “genetic” approach is that it allows for the preclusion of fundamental theoretical problems associated with the use of a composer’s sketches to analyze a musical work. The extent to which the approach of critique génétique can be applied to music sketch is examined along with the consequences of adopting such a theoretical framework (including those regarding performance, editorial practice, and the ontology of completions of fragmentary works).



Jacques Hétu, Quebec, guitar music, twentieth-century music analysis, sketch studies, genetic criticism, critique génétique, textual criticism, literary criticism