The Canadian composer, François (d’Assise) Morel, studied with Champagne at the Conservatoire de Musique du Québec à Montréal (1944-1953). Unlike many of his contemporaries who continued their training in Paris, Morel remained in Montreal, though his contacts with Varèse in New York in 1958 were decisive.
During that same year François Morel helped to found the association Musique de Notre Temps for the promotion of contemporary music and began to work as a composer for the CBC (composing incidental music, popular songs, etc.), a position he held until his appointment to Laval University in 1979. He also founded the Ensemble Bois et Cuivres du Québec. His honours include the rank of Chevalier in the Order of Quebec (1994) and the Quebec prize (1996).
His concert works, almost all instrumental, can be divided into three phases: the first culminated with L’étoile noire for orchestra (1962), which also marked his development towards the second, a period characterized by greater individuality, restraint and attention to organization; Départs (1969) and Radiance (1971-1972) initiated the third phase, a period of greater maturity.
Several works of François Morel’s first period show the influence of Champagne, who advised him to liberate himself only gradually from his chosen models. The orchestral Esquisse (1947), for example, was inspired by Debussy’s Images, the Quatre chants japonais (1949) are reminiscent of Ravel, and the rhythmic experiments of the String Quartet No.1 (1952) were influenced by Béla Bartók and Igor Stravinsky. In Antiphonie for orchestra (1953) he used a Salve regina plainsong to give continuity to the music, treating it in an austere modal style that owes something to Messiaen. His spatial manipulation of the relatively static theme, however, shows that he was already moving in a direction that would be encouraged by Varèse. The impact of Varèse on Morel's style is demonstrated most obviously in Boréal for orchestra (1959) and Nuvattuq for flute (1967); it also led to the composition of L’étoile noire (1962). During his second period, Morel explored dodecaphonic principles and Varčsian ensembles of wind and/or percussion instruments. L’étoile noire derives its 12-note series from L.v. Beethoven’s Op.135; the Second String Quartet (1963) is constructed on a mirror series based on the B–A–C–H motif; the Sinfonia for jazz band (1963) also uses a mirror series; and Nuvattuq (1967) is built on two series, one a permutation of the other. Prismes-anamorphoses (1967) is notable for its alternation of strict sections, based on a series made up entirely of tones and semitones, and freer, often non-serial, passages. Morel’s third period saw a continued subordination of serial organization in favour of motivic refinement. With Radiance (1971-1972), which derives a serial rhythmic structure from the intervals of the pitch set, he returned to writing for full orchestra after a gap of 10 years. Works composed after 1980 exhibit great lyricism and a mastery of orchestration.
Bernard Lagacé: ‘François Morel, musicien canadien’, Liberté 60 ii (1960), 66–71
R. Richard: ‘François Morel’, Vie des arts (1977), winter, 64–65
P. Cadrin: ‘Aus couleurs de François Morel’, Sonances, viii/4 (1989), 2–14
P. Cadrin: ‘François Morel: a Composer in Action’, SoundNotes, v/fall–winter (1993), 14–21