Jorane: The You and the Now


Before I go on with the review, let me remind you that the new season of Doctor Who starts tonight at 8 p.m. with the episode New Earth.


As I may have mentioned, when I write, a lot of the material that’s inside my head is actually visual. I “see” the story, in many was as if it were a movie, including camera angles. During my Toronto reading this past Wednesday, I explained this, and had a student ask me, “why aren’t you a director, then?”. Well, I like working with words, and I have far more control over the finished project by writing it instead of directing it. Also, if you direct movies, you need a camera and expensive actors. You can write with a pad of paper and a pen bought for under $2.

This hasn’t stopped me from visualizing the story before I write it. And some of my best stories, I think, come with their own soundtracks. Music is important for setting the mood in my mind, though the music itself never comes across on the page. Sometimes I just listen to songs which capture the general mood of the story, but other times certain songs (especially instrumental pieces) work with specific scenes, as if it were real incidental music.

The Unwritten Girl was written with a lot of Tori Amos and some Pink Floyd in the background (especially Shine on you Crazy Diamond). The book feels like it needs haunting electric guitar. On the other hand its sequel, Fathom Five, with its watery themes, goes better with cello and voice. Further, the book’s soundtrack was a lot more developed as I wrote the story. If Fathom Five is lucky enough to be adapted for the screen, I would honestly suggest that the composer hire Quebec singer Jorane to do the music.

Erin and I first encountered Jorane during the live taping of the 2001 CBC Literary Awards, in which Erin was awarded first prize in poetry for Ghost Maps. The hour-long presentation was hosted by the Vinyl Cafe’s Stuart McLean, with music between the presentations and readings performed live on stage by Jorane and her band. The young Quebecois singer sat with her cello, flanked by three other band members, themselves playing a synthesizer and two double basses respectively. Their music shocked us. It wasn’t your mother’s classical ensemble; far from it. They burst into our senses with an ethereal wail, Jorane’s soprano mouth-music providing the high notes to the cello/double bass counterpoint. It was bizarre, it was surreal, and as the presentation continued, we found it quite compelling.

Jorane burst onto the Quebec music scene in 1999 with her debut album Vent Fou. Her deep and angsty (French) lyrics and her unusual, but classically-based playing style earned her comparisons with Tori Amos. She followed this up with the even more experimental 16 mm. As a Quebec singer/songwriter, her first album did not get much play in North America outside of Quebec (though she did find success in Europe). Her second album made a pitch for a wider audience by removing the lyrics altogether and using her voice simply as a musical instrument. Her efforts were met with limited success, though she retains the respect of her fans for her bold, innovative style.

Her 2004 release, The You and the Now steps back from the experimentation of 16 mm, but tries to widen her audience with more songs written in English. She remains true to her roots, however, with songs counterpointing her lovely voice to her deep cello tones. Now 28, and with three albums under her belt, her style has matured. Her tempos are slinky, seductive, occasionally downbeat. There is a brilliant remake of the disco hit, I Feel Love, but Stay is my favourite, showcasing Jorane’s ethereal voice with her deep cello tones. I also like Come Back Again, which starts out with a twangy, old western sounds, before bursting into a rush of cello and vocals that would not be out of place on a movie trailer.

There is something sirenesque in Jorane’s singing, a reminder of swimming in deep water. It’s full of mystery and longing, and despite the comparisons to Tori Amos, quite distinctive from anything around her. I may be two years too late in reviewing this album, but it’s still worth checking out.

Further Reading

Baseball Developments

Go Detroit!

I’m following the baseball playoffs as I enjoy this game far more than I do hockey, and it’s always wonderful seeing an underdog team beat the Yankees. (Bear up, Yankee fans: any team can have a bad century. Just ask the Chicago Cubs). It’s been a while since the Tigers were in playoff contention. I still remember the time they stymied the Toronto Blue Jays during one of their first runs for the AL East pennant, and then for a while they were the worst team in baseball. That’s enough of an underdog for me; so, Detroit, all is forgiven.

I’m also cheering for the New York Mets, mostly to taunt uncle Shannon, who’s such a Yankees fan, he sleeps in pinstripes. That year that Boston came from behind to topple the Yanks, we gave him red socks for Christmas. He took it rather well, all things considered.

I Get E-Mail

Brendan Hodgson of Hill and Knowlton dropped me a line the other day. He’d previously contacted me about an advertising campaign his company was doing for Kokanee beer. It’s flattering to have perfect strangers e-mail me out of the blue and ask me opinions about anything. Anyway, this is what he wrote:

I am particularly interested in your personal view - based on your September 25 blog post - on bloggers and corporate Canada, and whether the two can comfortably interact… and if so, what do you consider the new protocols for this kind of interaction - ie. transparency etc.

I cautioned him that if he wanted to consider me a blogging expert, then he’d better put the word “expert” in quotes. However, I did say that there were no hard-and-fast protocols as far as I could see about corporations using blogs to push their wares. Just be open (don’t try to hide who you are and what you are doing; people will figure it out and hate you for being deceptive) and be creative. I personally had fun with the Rocky Mountain Truth site, and there was also that stealth promotion McDonald’s ran which featured an “artificial intelligence” machine that answered questions cryptically and offered you a coupon when you entered in enough keywords.

I’ve decided I’ve nothing against advertising. I’m just against bad advertising; stuff that isn’t particularly effective, or tries to break down your defenses by being loud or obnoxious. Advertising itself can be an art form, and some of the best ads in the world are showcased at a Cannes film festival. Think of the goodwill we give Ikea; most of that is due to the quality and the value of the products they offer, but that’s complemented by the fun advertisements they tend to run. I mean, those of you who are familiar with those ads can’t read, “Please, let us deliver it” without a chuckle.

Brendan goes on:

Secondly, Stella Artois is playing host to a shindig on October 11, 2006, and we’re hoping you and a guest might want to check it out. Basically, Stella’s unveiling the “Trap”, a 5-metre tall, two tonne… ‘thing’… influenced by the mechanical moving works of sculptors such as Jean Tinguely ( and Masato Tanaka ( Built in the UK and shipped to Canada in pieces, the Trap will be making its debut at the Gardiner Museum (111 Queen’s Park) on October 11, 2006.

Might be worth checking out.

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