Collection 021 - Sonde Collection

Title and statement of responsibility area

Title proper

Sonde Collection

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  • Source of title proper: Name based on the content of the fonds.

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  • 1975-2013 (Creation)
    de Mestral, Charles
  • 1975-2010 (Creation)
    Sonde (Musical group)

Physical description area

Physical description

1,900 pieces

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Archival description area

Name of creator


Biographical history

Charles de Mestral was born in Montreal in 1944. He obtained a B.A. Philosophy and English Literature, University of Toronto in 1996; an M.A. University of Montreal in 1970; a McGill B.Mus. (composition studies with Allan Heard, Mario Bertoncini, Harry Freedman) in 1976 and a Ph.D. University of Montreal (thesis on the particularity of the aesthetic of Georg Lukacs) in 1981. In 2007-08, he studied language and ancient Chinese thought at the Asian Studies Centre of the East, University of Montreal.
Charles de Mestral was an active member of the Montreal band Sonde as composer, performer, sound sculptor, and designer of electronic systems from 1975-2010. Sonde produced more than a hundred public events (concerts, performance accompaniments, sound installations, emissions, film music) and more than a hundred electroacoustic compositions for execution (usually) live in Quebec, Ontario and in Paris, London, Berlin, Lyon, and Bristol.
From 1987 to 1990, Charles was Secretary of the Canadian Electroacoustic Community (CEC).
Charles has held several teaching positions in Montreal at the Cégep du Vieux Montreal. From 1968 to 2007, Charles was Professor of Philosophy and coordinator of the Philosophy department from 1990 to 2000. From 1997 to 2007, Charles was Professor of Arts and Letters in the Communications Program and coordinator of the program from 2001 to 2006. Retired since June 2007, he lectures as part of the People's University Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, the Montreal UPOP (the People's University of Montreal) and the University of the Third Age.
Charles de Mestral currently (2016) resides in Montreal.

Name of creator


Administrative history

Sonde was a music design and performance ensemble based in Montreal who explored the relationship between sound, music, space and time. Sonde members were inspired by Italian composer Mario Bertoncini who taught a Music Design course in McGill’s Faculty of Music in the early 1970s. Bertoncini proposed that composition begin before the instrument, requiring the composer to explore the acoustic properties of materials and structures and invent new instruments as part of the creation of a new composition.
Sonde was formed in 1975 and originally called MUD (an abbreviation of Musical Design). MUD gave their first performance in 1975 at Pollack Hall, McGill University in Montreal. Sonde’s instruments (sound sources) were designed and constructed by members of the group. The original members of MUD were Andrew Culver, Pierre Dostie, Chris Howard, and Charles de Mestral.

Custodial history

Scope and content

The Sonde Collection provides a thirty-five year span of documentation for a Montreal-based Canadian experimental musical group who were very active electroacoustic composers and performers in the 70s and 80s. Sonde (formerly named MUD, Musical Design), created and played sound sources in Quebec, Canada and Europe. Sonde’s compositions were generally conceived for live performance on original sound sculptures. Using meditative improvisation, the group produced new music with sounds created by electroacoustic amplification and transformation.
The Sonde Collection is divided into 26 series and contains approximately 1,900 items. The majority of the collection consists of correspondence, concert posters and programs, and audio and video recordings. Activities of the Sonde group are described together as Sonde Papers and the activities of Charles de Mestral, a founding member of the group as Charles de Mestral Papers.
In the Sonde Papers, whenever it has been possible to do so, each item is referenced to the events listing, a numbered, chronological listing of events created by the group, entitled: ACTIVITES DU GROUPE SONDE (1975-2010) / Sonde Activities (1975-2010). The Sonde Papers include posters, programmes, scores, photographs, audio and video recordings.
The Charles de Mestral Papers are the personal items of Charles de Mestral, a member of the Sonde group from its inception. Whenever it has been possible to do so, each item is referenced to the events listing entitled: RÉALISATIONS DANS LE DOMAINE DE L’INSTALLATION SONORE (1985-2013, Charles de Mestral) / Sound Installations (1985-2013, Charles de Mestral) a numbered, chronological list of activities of Charles de Mestral. The Charles de Mestral Papers include scores, correspondence, installation plans, clippings, audio recordings and publications.

Notes area

Physical condition

Immediate source of acquisition

Gift from Charles de Mestral, composer and Sonde musician.


The Sonde Collection is organised into two categories: the Sonde Papers and the Charles de Mestral Papers and their contents have been divided into 26 series.

Language of material

  • English
  • French

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Location of originals

Availability of other formats

A brief description can be found in the Library catalogue at:

Restrictions on access

Open, except for series 26, which contains confidential information about the members of Sonde which cannot be viewed.

Terms governing use, reproduction, and publication

The Sonde Collection is open to research. Certain restrictions on use, copying and/or publication of materials may apply. Researchers are advised to contact the Marvin Duchow Music Library prior to visiting.

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Uploaded finding aid

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Further accruals are expected.


The status of copyright on the contents of the Sonde Collection is governed by the Copyright Law of Canada.

Preferred citation

Researchers wishing to cite this collection should include the following information: The Sonde Collection, box number, folder number, series number, Marvin Duchow Music Library, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec.

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Finding Aid prepared by Sharon Rankin Revision: 16 November 2016; updated and entered into AtoM by Geneviève Beaudry, May 2019.

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