Live Synergies Between Music, Film, and Art: The Case of Montreal’s Constellation Records

Francois Mouillot, Maria Teresa Soldani

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference paperpeer-review


This paper examines specific sets of relationships and strategies that micro-independent structure Constellation Records has developed with a broad range of extra-musical artistic actors and activities. Established in 1997 by two Anglo-Canadians, Constellation Records was created in Montreal with the aim to support local ‘experimental’ music at a time when the city was largely disconnected from independent Anglo-American circuits of music production and distribution. Since its beginnings, the label has blended an ethos of independence and DIY practices inspired by both anarcho/hardcore punk and late 90’s anti-globalization movements with popular music experimentalism and artistic collaborations, events and practices. This paper analyses two types of such synergies with non-musical actors: on the one hand, those generated by the label’s engagement with ‘non-musicians’ – particularly with film-makers –, and on the other hand, those created when some of the label’s musicians adopt visual art practices. This analysis relies on fieldwork conducted at live shows hosted by music/art festivals and institutions (including the Suoni per il Popolo festival in Montreal, the Lausanne Underground Film Festival, Viennale, and concerts at the Montreal Contemporary Art Museum), interviews with Constellation Records’ founders, as well as detailed critical analysis of specific collaborations, including those between film-maker Jem Cohen and bands Godspeed You! Black Emperor/A Silver Mt. Zion – the soundtrack to the movie Chain (2004), the production of Vic Chesnutt’s North Star Deserter (2007) and the multimedia project Empires of Tin (2008) –, rare performances by the group Hiss Tracts and film-maker/live projectionist Karl Lemieux, and specific projects like Matana Roberts’ Coin Coin record series, among others. Ultimately this paper argues that these synergies by the label (and a significant number of its artists) with so-called ‘extra musical actors’ have become constitutive of the label’s identity, allowing its actors to assert their own Montreal cultural distinctiveness away from French-language tropes typically associated with Quebecois culture in Canada.


ConferenceIndependent Music Labels: Histories, Practices and Values Colloquium 2021
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