CBC Digital Archives

Composer Jean Papineau-Couture on his early years

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It's no wonder composer Jean Papineau-Couture has turned out to be a well known composer. He has deep musical roots in French Canada -- among his ancestors is the accomplished 19th-century French-Canadian composer Guillaume Couture, as well as 19th-century politician Louis Joseph Papineau. In this 1961 excerpt from CBC's The Composer Speaks, Papineau-Couture talks about his famous ancestors, his musical experiences as a child, and his formative musical influences as a young man.
• The Composer Speaks was broadcast in 1961 and early 1962. Its goal was exactly what the title suggested -- to allow the composers themselves to speak about their music. "Critics, performers and public all have their opinions, but the composers, who are really the only people who know the answers to the whys and wherefores of modern music, seldom get a chance to defend and explain themselves outside of their music," explained a 1961 edition of CBC Times.

• Both the interviewer and the interviewee varied from week to week. The interviewer in this clip, Helmut Blume, was a pianist from Germany who moved to Canada in 1940. In Canada, he became a music consultant at the CBC, and produced a variety of CBC programs during the 1950s and '60s, including a radio series called International Concert. He also began teaching at McGill University's faculty of music in 1946, and was dean of the faculty from 1963 until 1976. Blume passed away in 1998.

• The interviewee, Montreal-born Jean Papineau-Couture, has frequently been called one of the fathers of contemporary Canadian music. He started playing piano at the age of seven. After studying music at the New England Conservatory in Boston and the Longy School in Cambridge, Mass., composing became his main preoccupation. He was also an instructor the University of Montreal's faculty of music from 1951 to 1982.

• Papineau-Couture once declared, "When I am no longer composing I shall be decomposing." According to the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada, after retiring from McGill at the age of 66, Papineau-Couture continued to produce significant original compositions "despite personal ordeals which beset him." These included health problems "which, though severe, affected his morale less than the loss of his wife, Isabelle." He passed away in 2000.

Medium: Radio
Program: The Composer Speaks
Broadcast Date: Dec. 30, 1961
Guest(s): Jean Papineau-Couture
Host: Helmut Blume
Duration: 7:52

Last updated: June 14, 2013

Page consulted on May 15, 2014

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