Serge Garant

IntroCanadian composer
Was Musician 
Radio personality 
Film score composer 
From Canada 
Type Film, TV, Stage & Radio 
Birth 22 September 1929 
, Quebec City
Death 1 November 1986 
, Sherbrooke
(aged 57 years)

Serge Garant, OC (September 22, 1929 – November 1, 1986) was a Canadian composer, conductor, professor of music at the University of Montreal and radio host of Musique de notre siècle on Radio-Canada. In 1966 he cofounded with Jean Papineau-Couture, Maryvonne Kendergi, Wilfrid Pelletier and Hugh Davidson the Société de musique contemporaine du Québec. In 1979, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada.The Prix Serge-Garant was created in his honor by the Fondation Émile Nelligan. Among his notable pupils were Ginette Bellavance, Walter Boudreau, Marcelle Deschênes, Denis Gougeon, Richard Grégoire, Anne Lauber, Michel Longtin, Myke Roy, and François Tousignant.

Early life

Serge had a very early musical initiation, through culture and interest for music from his mother. From a young age, he attended the Sacred Heart of Jesus Elementary School located in Quebec City, where he spent three consecutive years (1936-1939) . Upset by the events of the economic crisis ranging from 1929 to 1939, the Garant family moved successively from Quebec to L’Ancienne-Lorette in 1940, L’Ancienne -Lorette to Verdun in 1941, and eventually settled in Sherbrooke in 1941. Continuing his academic learning over these moves, Serge Garant finished his ninth year at St. John the Baptist school Sherbrooke in 1945. During his studies, Garant develops a particular interest in the clarinet, one of several instruments that he came to master over his life. In 1946, Garant, always captivated by the wind instruments, learns self-taught saxophone.

Exploring many aspects of the music industry, Garant decides to turn to piano, a sinuous path where he will be in the first place under the supervision of one of the founders of the Symphony Orchestra Sherbrooke, Sylvio Lacharité. This is also Lacharité who initiate Garant to the sumptuousness of the literature and its inherent link with the musical sphere, a legacy that will greatly influence his writings and compositions throughout his career. Enjoying a stay in the school orchestra Pierre Monteux through his contact with Lacharité, Garant found interests in writing music. In 1946, he wrote Conte (version for strings, flute and clarinet), a work which will also be presented at the Youth Festival in 1949. Thereafter, Garant, while continuing practice and writing music for saxophone and clarinet, continues his piano studies in Montreal with Yvonne Hubert . In 1951, having learned the basics of music theory and widely explored the practical field experience as interpreter and maestro, Garant sets sail for the French capital. In Paris, Serge Garant followed lessons of Andree Vaurabourg-Honegger and Messiaen.


The first experience of teaching for Serge Garant probably go back to the summer of 1951, when he was invited to participate in the camp musical Knowlton. But it was not until 1967 that Garant was invited by the Dean of the Faculty of Music of the University of Montreal to teach the twentieth century composition analysis class. The inauguration of the famous composer of Anerca (1961) at the Faculty of Music is a matter of clabauderie for many, probably because he doesn’t have a graduate degree, that he never taught at university before and that he values a more structuralist approach to music, serial music and atonal music, in an environment where they are not particularly valued. Despite this seemingly unfavorable context, Garant gets tenure in 1971.

As part of his academic musical education, Garant found particularly difficult the task to evaluate the work of his students. He wanted to be as objective as possible and not judge their compositions according to his own values, but rather in terms of what students wanted to do and what they did. These comments are supported by a student who attended his classes : “You could come up with any crazy idea , […] Read in any style , as long as we knew what we wanted. “

In 1986, it is a tragic situation that Garant terminate his teaching duties. Weakened by illness, he feels now too exhausted to teach. However, Garant will care for his students until his last days, since he communicates by telephone from the hospital the grades of his students to another professor of music from the University of Montreal.

Radio Host

Serge Garant participates in several radio programs as an expert, but his career as a host itself to CBC began in 1955 with “Do- Mi -Sol”, and will continue through “Sur nos ondes” (1957-1958 ) and “Musique de notre siècle”( 1969-1985 ) . The latter radio program will be for him an extraordinary means of diffusion allowing him to hear and comment on works, among others, belonging to the serial and electroacoustic music. In addition to his writing in specialized periodicals and in some newspapers, speaking at a radio program was for Garant an extension of his work in pedagogy. It was a way to put forward modern music too, a style that he defended tooth and nail until the very end of his life.

For Garant, musical work of the early twentieth century should be classified as “classic”, in contrast to the more recent works of his contemporaries he takes tirelessly defense. He refuses to settle in the ease and comfort of a predictable intellectual and chewed music.

Garant considers the actual transformation of contemporary musical language, focusing on instrumentation, orchestration and all electro technological methods now available to modern composers. Contextualizing his thoughts often done through comparisons with easily identifiable landmark works, as far back as Bach, he gives to his listeners musicological meaningful benchmarks .

Among the many styles of modern music, Serge Garant clearly identifies himself as a “serial music” composer. He tries to explain to his audience the nature of this new musical language that sweeps all the old conventions of sound reference acquired in previous centuries.

He admits the difficulty of approaching this new music, but draws the fact his passion to explore the renewed sound world, he says, is already in the new musical backgrounds. As an objective teacher, he describes and analyzes some critical composers he considered dissidents, staying on position very encamped against them. In this sense, he admits to being baffled as to compositional techniques and composers who create works that may seem because of their atypical structures sealed and inaccessible to those who refuse to supply a substantial intellectual contribution to the reception this modern music.


  • 1971 – Canada Council of Music Medal
  • 1979 – Prix Calixa-Lavallée from the Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste in Montréal
  • 1979 – Officer of the Order of Canada
  • 1980 – Prix Jules-Léger for new music
  • 1984 – The Canada Council for the Arts music prize
  • 1986 – Member of the Royal Society of Canada

Selected works

  • Concerts sur terre
  • Caprices
  • Nucléogame
  • Trois pièces pour quatuor à cordes
  • Musique pour la mort d’un poète
  • Ouranos