Yves DaoustIntroducing kids to music by letting them get their hands on, and create contemporary tracks; such is the challenge to which composer Yves Daoust has committed himself for the past decade. It all started with Musicolateur, at first an actual wood plank, which morphed into a mobile app, both based on a unique principle: using pre-recorded sounds, which the user can modulate them at will, thus liberating their inner John Cage or Gordon Mumma.

First launched in 2005 by Daoust and his multi-disciplinary artist friend Alexandre Burton, the project made the educational circuit throughout Québec, and was highly successful with audiences of all ages – who were allowed to discover a rich universe too often reserved for a relatively closed coterie of initiates.

“There’s no doubt that its ease of use is a great democratizing tool,” says Daoust. “Anybody can do it, and its access is limitless. That allows it to become part of people’s lives to the point where kids won’t even be surprised anymore… I remember this young girl, at the end of a workshop who told me: ‘I’ve discovered that it’s possible to make music with any sound, even with this!” she said while clapping her hands. That’s precisely our fundamental mission, our goal. We never mention any label when we talk to them, we don’t talk about electro-acoustic or contemporary music, we just create,” says Daoust , over the phone, on the day after the launch of his tool’s most recent incarnation, the fonofone, at Montréal’s Centre Phi.

The Result of a Long Process

FonofoneAs the outcome of 15 years of research, and partly financed by the SOCAN Foundation, the fonofone is both an electro-acoustic music studio and a digital chamber-music instrument.

Obviously, Daoust is conscious of the fact that targeting a young audience is especially relevant because of that audience’s capacity to absorb new information. “Young people are still relatively ‘pristine,’ and are therefore a rich soil,” he says. “Each workshop is an occasion of wonderment. Besides, it’s based on a technology that this new generation was basically born with, so we gradually left the hardware behind to focus solely on the software… We see how kids are perfectly comfortable with these technologies on a very instinctive level. Adults are hesitant to touch it, but kids are fearless and dive right in! They’re incredibly fast, and have impressive manual dexterity! Might as well make the most of it, and introduce them to something educational and interesting.”

And Music for All

To fulfill their desire to meet ever more curious, open minds, Daoust and his team made the fonofone available to everyone through the App Store last week.

So far, so good. “We got a lot of reactions, people are passionate about it,” says Daoust. “I don’t think anyone has seen anything like this before on iOS. It was initially designed with educational intent, but as far as creating music goes, there’s nothing else like it. What draws people in is its purely intuitive side: everything is in real time! But it’s also a performance tool. The beta versions were purely educational, but when we developed the current version, it became just as interesting from a creative perspective, and Kid Koala is a great example of that. It’s a tool that anyone can use!”

From school to stage, there clearly is only one app. Despite delivering his tool, which he uses for his own professional compositions, to a wider, less homogenous audience, the breadth of his commitment towards future generations is unimpeachable. “I believe the best way to discover a medium, and introduce young people to music, is to invite them to create some,” says Daoust. “It develops their imagination to an unbelievable degree, and that is not important, it’s essential! All one needs to do is come at them with respect and intelligence.”