A drawing of a young boy with an oversized head, a character from BLA BLA, an interactive website produced by Vincent Morisset in 2011.

Press Releases & Media Kits

LE CHANT DES ONDES – Sur la piste de Maurice Martenot directed by Caroline Martel in its world premiere at the 15th Rencontres internationales du documentaire de Montréal

Press release


Montreal, November 1, 2012 – Director Caroline Martel's film LE CHANT DES ONDES – Sur la piste de Maurice Martenot ( Wavemakers) ( artifact productions | NFB) will have its world premiere at the Rencontres internationales du documentaire de Montréal (RIDM) in the Canadian Feature Competition category. After Phantom of the Operator (artifact productions, 2004), an art film on the history of telephone operators, Martel's new documentary brings the story of mysterious musical instrument the Ondes Martenot to the big screen for the first time. The film will be released in theatres on January 25, 2013, at Cinéma Excentris.

The fascinating story of a unique instrument

LE CHANT DES ONDES – Sur la piste de Maurice Martenot takes us on an intriguing human and musical journey to discover one of the most expressive of electronic instruments, the Ondes Martenot. A group of Martenot aficionados pursues the legacy of Maurice Martenot (1898–1980), inventor of this rare, fragile and little-known instrument. Musicians, artists and scientists—the protagonists of this ensemble film shot in France and Quebec—strive to unravel the mysteries of the “Stradivarius of the electronic age.”

Integrating vérité, never-before-seen archival footage and an entrancing soundtrack, the film reveals the Martenot as an important missing link in our understanding of 20th-century music.  Caroline Martel has created a cinematic exploration of the origins of the Martenot and the spirit of its inventor, who sought to turn electricity into music with a distinctly human touch. Featuring Jean-Louis Martenot, the inventor's son, Montreal ondists Suzanne Binet-Audet, Jean Laurendeau and Marie Bernard, and Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead.

The Ondes Martenot

Invented in 1918 and demonstrated in public for the first time at the Paris Opera in 1928, the Ondes Martenot transforms radio waves into music. Comprising a keyboard, a control drawer and a ribbon with a ring worn on the finger, the instrument is able to produce an incredibly wide spectrum of tones and timbres; indeed, composer Olivier Messiaen counted some 10,000 of them.

A pioneering electronic instrument maker, Maurice Martenot worked his whole life to perfect the Ondes Martenot. Upon his death in 1980, fewer than 300 instruments had been made, only 70 of which are playable today. Martenot's death halted production of this unique instrument, leaving its future uncertain and its mysteries unresolved.

Several ondists are still active in Quebec, including members of the Ensemble d'ondes de Montréal, whose mission is to perform music composed for the Martenot and raise the profile of this rare instrument. The Martenot can be heard in songs by Beau Dommage, Harmonium and Diane Dufresne. Important musical figures such as Darius Milhaud, Jacques Brel, Maurice Ravel and Olivier Messiaen have written for the instrument, and it is still played throughout Europe, in North America, and in Japan.

About the filmmaker

With LE CHANT DES ONDES, Caroline Martel has once again created a poetic film that reflects a fascination with our relationship with technology, qualities that garnered attention for her first feature documentary, Phantom of the Operator. Over the past dozen years, she has married research, theory and practice in her work on documentary films and the media arts. Her work has been presented at TIFF and IDFA, on SRC, SVT and NHK, and at MoMA, the Centre Georges Pompidou and the Robert Flaherty Film Seminar. Her first exhibition, the installation Industry/Cinema, was presented at the Museum of Moving Images in New York City in 2012. 

About artifact productions

The mission of artifact productions is to produce creative, high-quality documentary projects about unusual topics that will touch audiences around the world. Founded in Montreal in 1998, it is working to redefine the concept of independent production in the complex world of an industry that is perpetually changing. Artifact productions believes in the importance of meaningful collaborations on a human level and of using the documentary medium as a means of exploration, whether for cinema or for new media.

About the NFB

The National Film Board of Canada creates groundbreaking interactive works, social-issue documentaries and auteur animation. The NFB's award-winning content can be seen at NFB.ca and on apps for smartphones, tablets and connected TV. Canada's public producer and distributor since 1939, the NFB has created over 13,000 productions and won over 5,000 awards, including 6 Webbys, 12 Oscars and more than 90 Genies.

LE CHANT DES ONDES – Sur la piste de Maurice Martenot

Quebec, 2012, original version in English and French with French subtitles, 95 minutes

Two screenings at RIDM 2012:

Thursday, November 8 at 7 p.m. at Cinéma Excentris (Cassavetes Room)
Screening will be followed by a reception at the Cinémathèque québécoise, with Martenot performances by the Ensemble d'ondes de Montréal, with guitar and turntable.

Tuesday, November 13 at 9:15 p.m. at the Cinémathèque québécoise (Claude-Jutra Room)

Theatrical release, January 25, 2013, at Cinéma Excentris



Marie Marais
Telephone: 514-845-2821 
Cell: 438-933-2821
E-mail: marais@cooptel.qc.ca

Lily Robert
Director, Corporate Communications, NFB
Telephone: 514-283-3838
Cell: 514-296-8261
E-mail: l.robert@nfb.ca