Hello you poor abandoned readers. We are in the stages of Obohemia where I keep it alive, but only barely. Oh no! Don’t worry, it’ll stay online for a few more years just for archival giggles. Or it might return if/when I get myself to grad school (although it’s bound to take a more composerly turn). Anyway! Can I suggest for your classical/band-oriented music jokes you head over to Tone Deaf if you don’t read it obsessively already? John Bogenschutz has been drawing and writing it since 2008. It’s great! A++, recommend, good work John.
Electric Eclectics is all farms and friendly puppies, sunburns and DJs-until-dawn, weird music, less weird music, sound art, old stuffed animals, contrasts. Rolling hills and cigarette smoke, dog hair and earplugs, heavy bass and indecipherable speech, multi-way cuddlepuddles and body odour, sunglasses and hats and cutoffs, attenuation, synth-pop, more loops than anyone can count. Sarcasm and argumentation, napping and sound art. Serious and humourous. Relaxation and irritation. RVs and people sleeping in fields. Old ladies who groove. Young men who drink and swear. Thunderstorms and sweat. Expensive food and waking up. A festival with a view.
An ancient, sheeplike, yapper-type dog lopes creakily across the front of the stage while a thin woman in a white tank performing feeds her voice back and back again; another woman leans on her partner’s legs, reading a Global Justice textbook, listening.
Giant bubbles fly kamikaaze into speakers emitting psychedelic guitar and trumpet, feedback and disruption. A tiny, impossibly adorable pug puppy chews on a visitor’s shoelaces as she makes conversation with its owner.
Tony Conrad, legend, dozes on an old couch cushion, in red tulip-print pants, belly poking out from under his t-shirt, on a muddy pavilion floor while a pair of middle-aged white men improvise around an Indonesian pop tune on a suling and kacapi.
A stuffed Psyduck watches from the crook of a nearby tree.
Two men converse. One talks to the other about his father, also an electrical engineer. The latter tries several times to turn the conversation towards the artistic profession of the former.
People sprawl facedown on blankets and quilts: the smell of hay, tepid beer, white noise. Someone in a bandeau with a red parasol waits for a conversation to end, mildly perplexed.
Sweeping riffs like an electronic whale, a singer in a gas mask. Everyone’s ears are lit up with orange stoppers; a man chews corn on the cob in time with the flexing pulse. A large stuffed dog takes shelter on a table in the tent. Yellow-skirted girls with buzz cuts and bangs sit on the grass, hug their knees. A beautiful photographer and his sunburned, goateed boyfriend walk down the hill.
A crowd of hipsters dig through the toy chest, pulling out plastic pastel castles and spiky baseballs, tiny Buddhas and souvenir teeth. A woman crabwalks gracefully into position in front of the stage for a photo, striped shirt dress, energetically sprung hair. Gordon Monahan changes from short khaki shorts into a psychedelic pair of patterned pants. Synthesizers rattle the earth, the sun goes down.
Eating almonds, drinking warm Stock Ale, doing logic puzzles between sets – in which auction position is the Forrester’s cedar chest? Was it made in 1904 or 1910?
A guitarist makes decidedly non-guitar-related sounds emerge from the speakers, and our ears attract the silences. Someone’s laugh punctuates a pause. A collie cross leans on my leg while we discuss the mildly intoxicated state of the curator. Wine. Beer. Ashtrays. People on the hill watching the sunset. A DJ in a blue wig with a hamburger sits behind me and croons to yet another dog.
“How many EE’s have you done?” asks an artist, meaning the festival. “None today,” mishears a grinning man, and she laughs. “No, I meant – ” “Oh, you meant – ”
A couple of girls with a pug-mix named Esther ask if I know whether any of the upcoming acts “sound more like music” and recommend an upcoming electronic music festival. “Like this, but with ten stages.” ‘If there are ten stages it will be nothing like this,’ I think and compliment their dog’s name.
A man and his laptop, a woman and her memories of Berlin. Synthesized bass drum and the silhouettes of five tall pines. Slideshows interspersed with videos, storytelling in every medium. An incredibly fluffy dog chases a flashlight beam – like a cat with a laser but with additional wagging – and is disappointed when the bearer turns it off.
Danielle de Picciotto has a beautiful voice, vowels round with accent, telling not-quite-bedtime stories to the assembled appreciative. We hold our breath at the climax, applaud, hopeful for more which she does not supply.
Colin Bergh, personal legend, appears on stage: a beard, a double-necked guitar. Most of us are frozen, hypnotized. One girl is intoxicated and keeps giggling loudly, but apart from her, we are still. I watch the night while he loops haunting melodic fragments.
A small boy in a cowboy hat sits in the middle of the field in front of the stage, on his own, at midnight.
We watch a film projected on the side of a trailer, Scopitone, a music videos from the ‘sixties – and someone shoots off fireworks on the other side; crackling and coloured smoke, the tips of green sparks.
Walking back to the tent: in French, Itsy-bitsy Teeny-Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini as the soundtrack to a view of the Milky Way, pouring across the sky, the best stars you’ve ever seen.
After an appalling number of difficulties scheduling rehearsals, Ansae has finally put together a concert of the works we feel we can best represent.
MAY 31, 2011
The Music Room
FREE / PWYC (donations excitedly received to help cover our costs)
1 – New Canadian Chamber Ensemble
5 – musicians, graduates of Wilfrid Laurier University’s Contemporary Music program
7 – WORLD PREMIERES by international composers
30 – the age under which all of these composers were required to be to have their submitted works considered for performance
“Fayv” – Alexandra Fol (Bulgaria/Canada)
“Tales of the Forest” – Catherine Downton (UK)
“Broken Etudes for Consort” – Tom Coult (UK)
“4 Games for 5 Players” – Otto Muller (USA)
“Nicht Zart: Hommage a Cage” – Anthony Green (USA)
“Pebble Skipping” – Richard Greene (USA)
“Ketman Cayt” – William Greenhalgh (UK)
AND…”Resonances” – Andrew Mellanby (Canada)
More on the Ansae Ensemble
I love this list, I love it so much. It exemplifies everything I’ve come to understand as good leadership.
I’d add one thing:
1-2. Go to bat for your employees. Blaming something on an employee to a patron, donor, board member, or higher-up looks unprofessional and hurts the integrity of your relationship. In one of those “unnecessary” interventions where your opinion was different than that of the employee, you look petty and your employee looks stupid. In more disastrous situations, take responsibility, or at very least use “we”. “Shit rolls downhill” applies to all kinds of hierarchies, but it doesn’t have to. Be the umbrella, and your employees will move the world to make sure nothing falls on you.
Hello! For the first time, a guest blog. The following is a review by Wesley Austin: “Diversity educator, public speaker, gender outlaw, parent, geek, blogger”
Underneath the sunshine and happiness of childhood lies a thin thread of horror that you just can’t escape. That An ‘alien sound tube’, a kazoo and even what looked like a penny whistle were among the more unorthodox instruments found among the traditional violins, oboes and french horns should have been an indication that this was NOT going to be another revision of some Beethoven symphony or Chopin’s minute waltz. The K-W Symphony’s presentation of Frankenstein!! conducted by Edwin Outwater and narrated (yes, narrated) by Daniel Handler (known among the unwashed childhood masses as Lemony Snicket) was a musical journey back into childhood and all the terrors that lurked just out of eyesight.
The fun started right from the get go, while introducing and thanking sponsors and whatnot, the audience was directed to laugh in as dark and evil a manner a possible rather than clap. Let me tell you, that was far more enjoyable than the staid ‘thank you sponsors’ clapping that typically goes on at such events. When Mr. Outwater took front and centre stage, he immediately delcared he knowledge of the horrible and earned a place in my heart when he recited a well known rhyme from the movie A Nightmare on Elm Street I don’t know how many people in the audience caught the reference but I sure did and it set a great tone for the rest of the evening. We were advised that tonights’ program would explore how horror can move from simply terrifying to suprisingly silly in what often seems to be the blink of an eye.
Now for those of us who’ve seen countless numbers of horror movies, it goes without saying that we understand instinctively how much the musical score can set the mood of a given scene or even film. It’s another thing entirely to have the music taken out of a visual context and then being allowed to experience it as the sole thematic element. Mr. Outwater did exactly that as he played a selection of pieces which, although very disturbing in their own rights, were very different. Whether it’s evoking images of Russian Secret Police relentlessly hunting you as you dare to put to music your experiences to the inner torment and abandonment you may feel, the evening’s first selections gave us widly differing views of terror and suffering.
Our narrator made his presence known and the audience was told that the first part of tonight’s main feature was to be a musical tour through the House of Frankenstein, a movie starring Boris Karloff and Lon Chaney Jr. From the opening title through Dracula’s resurrection, pursuit and destruction as well as Gypsies having tantrums and a jealous hunchback (it’s really not fair that the werewolf got to drive the carriage!) slithering fingers of fear danced beside wild laughter as the score moved from subtle shadows to simple absurdity. One of the highlights was the dancing Gypsies. I think they were a bit put off by the forcefulness of the narrator…either that or their hearts weren`t really in it (perhaps their hearts had been removed?) What the audience lacked in visual stimulation (afterall, there was no movie playing alongside the score) Mr. Handler more than made up for in in narration. And what narration he did. Left, right, up and down, Mr. Handler’s performance was splendidly animated. In fact, the second half of the evening, the recitations of poems by H C Artmann (with English translations by Harriett Watts) and the musical Pan-Demonium that accompanied them were simply breathtaking. Wildly funny and animated, Mr. Handler’s baritone evoked an authoritative German Herr, a sneaky and deranged scientist and nearly everything in between. At one point during the Monsterlet, I turned to my companion and remarked that what was going on sounded very much like a normal day at my house.
Folks, all I can say is if you were not able to attend this particular concert, then you have missed what is arguably the most fun one could have and still call it ‘culture’.
Valody call themselves “the vagabond of our imagination, a wanderer with extraordinary stories, and a chanting soul.” They played at The Wax on Sunday, early afternoon (which definitely still felt like morning), and can I just say that it was one of the best concerts of the weekend? I want to be in a street band so badly. The show was a premiere of an extended work called The Book of Disquiet. The instrumentation: Portuguese street band, a mix of Klezmer and folk and other things, a true Quebecois pastiche knit together with a text as romantically spectral and abstract as you can imagine.
There was a rock / country band that started playing halfway through the show in the pub downstairs ( at 1 PM on a Sunday? what is this?) but Valody kept going, and at one moment in their set they all grabbed whistles and their clarinet mouthpieces and made as much noise as they could; it was a truly triumphant moment, and I couldn’t stop smiling.
I got a lot of neat pictures; the lighting and ambience at The Wax midday is awesome:
I then ventured over to the Walper Terrace Hotel Gallery to see Veronika Krausas’ Player Piano Project which was pretty neat. See: video above. I know an appalling amount about many of the installations and artists because I wrote large portion of the festival program, but until I got to this installation and someone was asking questions of someone who did not know the answers did this learnin’ come pouring out of me. I love player pianos, though, because it’s a very obvious reading of something that you wouldn’t regularly think of as music. I think you can hear me talking in the video, but I say something like, “Imagine if you took great pointillistic art and turned it into Player Piano rolls?” Probably someone has already done this, but wouldn’t it be cool?
Anyway, after that disappointing experience, I walked through the ridiculously freezing wind and rain to get to the church where Da Capo Chamber Choir were singing the Open Ears’ closing concert. I used to be a huge choir fan (like I used to be a huge jazz fan, and played the saxophone, oh-those-crazy-youthful-phases), but it just doesn’t do too much for me anymore. I’m a tone colour freak, and choral music so often seems limited in that way. Da Capo is great in that they perform almost exclusively contemporary choral music, and in this concert there were occasional additions of other tone colours (piano, brass percussive pots, overtone singing heck yes), so that was something.
Also, the WORLD PREMIERE of Gerard Yun’s The Silence
And just like that, Open Ears is over for another two years. It was a great festival, though, I loved almost every show, piece, installation and had some pretty radical ideology shifts. I hope I’m around next time, and hey, you should come out, we can be friends!
The day started with Noreum Machi – a mindbogglingly talented ensemble from South Korea who play “New Wave” traditional Korean music. My friend Narim (who is Korean) was telling me he wasn’t sure what to expect, but A) they are actually very, very skilled, from the teacher to the four ‘apprentice’ types; B) they perform two disparate genres of music simultaneously (a singing and a drumming), and despite being reeeally hard it works astonishingly well; and C) he was surprised. It takes a lot to surprise Narim, so A++ Job Well Done Noreum Machi. As for me and my opinion: I found they had the energy of a traditional percussion ensemble, but with the artistry and in-ensemble communication found in chamber music. The dancing was incredible, and had an improvised quality (although there’s no way they could be that coordinated and be making it up). They did a spoken demonstration, a different syllable for each of their instruments, which began as a tutorial and turned into a great sounding piece. It was Capital-E Engaging, a Talking With.
Turn down your speakers; this was loud and my camera’s mic is awful.
In between performances I visited a few of the installations. Matt Rogalsky’s was called Discipline, a set up of 12 Fender Strats wired to pick up frequencies from a radio station, resulting in a flickering shadow of the broadcast.
Stillnessence and Whisperfield were a binary installation – the former a projection of photographs of people, clothed and unclothed, fading between states and then into other people. If that makes sense. It was startling and continued to be so (effective communication, flrrr); we were asked by the artist (John Oswald) to be a part of it – a number of Open Ears people were taking part. I said, “No thanks, I’m a coward, it is amazing though” to which he replied, “I’m a coward too” at which point I probably smiled awkwardly and shrugged. Socially awkward composers, hooray!
Snow Drift was a piece made up of old TVs, their screens displaying static and dead black in different configurations – walking through them was interesting, the sound changed. I heard a rumour that Paul Walde (the artist) can’t hear the high pitched sound that old TVs make? I don’t know if that’s true or not, but was pretty overpowering.
Jascha curated a set of electroacoustic works for an installation in the Kitchener City Hall Rotunda. There were three playing at different schedule times, so I only caught a bit of a piece by Seth Cluett called Moraine Shoal which imitated the progress of a fast-moving glacier. The note said:
Sustained tones move forward mimicking the speed of this glaciers movement picking up speed slowly and stopping to build again from a place of stasis over this three-hour installation. The sound scrapes slowly across architecture, repeat visits expose new sounds where listening at any one moment presents stillness.
…and I am willing to testify that this is a True Fact.
Hearing Eve Egoyan’s perform Anne Southam’s Simple Lines of Enquiry in a church is to experience briefly what it is to be old. Pews creak and pop like brittle bones; every cough and sniff, exhale and shift is amplified; there is a sighing Doppler of traffic outside, occasionally punctuated by air brakes or a siren or a few rhythmic beats with a melisma from a pop tune on a radio cranked. All these things are fleeting, are a part of the passage of time; a solo performance of quiet music is never truly solo. And then there’s the piano – again, like an old woman, careful and cautious, every note chosen and necessary and slow and backed by dozens of harmonics: a history in the architecture of sound, every phrase making the organ pipes sympathetic and leaving my fingertips resonating.
We then saw The Rent (a band dedicated to playing the music of Steve Lacy) perform at The Registry. I was hesitant about this (I am not a jazz girl), but it was okay! There were lots of interesting moments and colours, and I appreciated the containment of solos. Also, Susanna Hood is the greatest; her singing and dancing completely made the performance.
Had some great curry and pad thai at Northern Thai, and then bombed back to the Conrad Centre for Toca Loca! These guys are so great. I caught the entire performance of Sean Griffin’s Pattycake on camera. Virtuosic and memorized, nostalgic and humourous, 100% brilliant, check it out:
I really loved Toca Loca’s performances of Nicky’s Promises, Promises and Andrew Staniland’s Adventuremusic.
The Halo Ballet (which is exactly what it sounds like, video gamers – a bunch of people using Halo to perform a ballet rather than to shoot eachother) was almost as good the second time through – I really liked getting a chance to listen more closely to Aaron Gervais’ score.
The climax of Open Ears is always a giant art party called Blue Dot. It is held in an abandoned local space, there are DJ sets and installations (most of which glow), projections and so much dancing. Valody (the Portuguese street band of all your dreams) played a set (after briefly going missing).
A picture is worth three hundred words:
Apparently there was Morning Music again today, but I had a rehearsal with my quintet this morning (hooray!) instead, so my Open Ears Experience began at noon for “Electroacoustics in the Rotunda” which featured a bunch of chairs with people in them, a large quantity of hanging quilts, and 8 speakers in a circle around the chairs. And there were also some pieces by Scott Smallwood (“Casimo’s Stars” delicate clicking, recommend*), Freida Abtan (“She Swings the Hammer” if I say standard issue electroacoustic eight-channel do I sound facetious? I certainly can’t make any such thing, but you probably know what I mean. I’ve heard some of Freida’s other work and this is not her Best), Natasha Barrett’s “Kernel Expansion” (ditto), a piece by Mark Applebaum called “Pre-Composition” which was hysterically funny (and a vivid use of the 8 channels), and a piece by Jascha called “Doors” which! I definitely heard in performance in my second year of university. I was all “I’m so cool”, like “oh, of course, this piece”.
And then, and then: a second symposium, this time about Garage Band versus MAX. It was interesting just to listen to the language the panelists (considerably varied in their interaction with both platforms) used to talk about it. Paolo (DJ P-Love) and Matt Rogalsky were the best – Matt read a brief essay on the subject of the relation of the tool to the art over an old electronic piece of his, and Paolo told us stories about turntables and their evolution.
What I’m finding is the most revealing about these symposiums is how resistant the younger participants are to engaging with the older participants (and older audience members asking questions) in the ‘old chestnut’ discussions: high art vs low art, the value of mastery, is ____ dead, these kind of things. There’s an attitude of “serrrrriously?” with those panelists that I find encouraging – I fight the pointless button-pushing, fear-mongering, “back in the old days” too, and thank goodness I’m not alone. I actually almost threw up in my mouth when someone (not naming names) was like, “Is traditional music notation dying?”
Anyway! Went home, ate soup (it is so cold in KW this week, why), had a nap, was dealt an ego-crushing blow via email, and went back to the festival to see Tanya Tagaq. She is adorable and personable and hilarious! Some quotes:
“I’m a – what’s that term – idiot savant. It means I don’t know my multiplication tables, but I can sing.”
“I just had all-you-can-eat sushi and now I have to hyperventilate for an hour.”
“Thank you for being weird enough to like things.”
I think she and Dan Deacon should collaborate. Anyway, not only does she have the best banter, but she’s incredibly talented. She begins with a monologue; rhythmic, gutteral vocalizations which are frankly hypnotizing, and after a while Jesse Zubot (who has the best last name) enters on violin with high pitched patterns which he processes and loops and Tanya imitates…and Jean Martin plays kit with bass drum mallets which sounds amazing – and it’s all improvised. I was blown away with how integrated the three of them are, how they’ve figured out ways to imitate eachother’s timbres, how transitions are seamless and many, how it is beautiful and it communicates something unspeakable.
Next up: TONY CONRAD, the legend
His performance is drone music; it doesn’t go anywhere. (I kept thinking “Music is not a train or a bus – it does not have to go” thanks, Linda.) Regardless of the motion or lack thereof in this music, it isn’t still or stagnant it isn’t something that ought to be moving which isn’t. It’s sort of a…sound-solid, a stable thing. It fills space, but without the pretension of function – like a monument, like a mountain. This is the scientific constant, the cogito ergo sum – quite a contrast from the rapid evolutions of Tanya Tagaq’s set. I like that there is no pretension and no excuses in Mr. Conrad’s music, that he knows just exactly what concept he is putting into the world. It’s making me reconsider my “art is communication” thing a little. Maybe it can be a constant, too?
Anyway, the best moment of the show for me was wandering around the Museum space while Tony was playing. It’s open, and there are stairs to a second level. We were encouraged to move around and listen to the music within the space, and I happened upon a hallway with a bunch of pipes in the low ceiling, sympathetic frequencies all over the place, in harmonies, encroyable.
*Witness: a few dozen people
sitting neatly in rows surrounded
by speakers from which
emit clicks and hums, lows
All around, about their business, others go
Pausing only to wonder:
ritual? spectacle? punishment?
Noon: Went to see Maryem Tollar & co. who were quite good – I sat under the church balcony, which was a less-than-great idea, but did get some really strange frequencies bouncing around in there. Regardless, Tollar and her company are excellent news, highly recommended. I particularly enjoyed the piece she wrote, from which the following clip was recorded:
2 PM: Symposium on “Appropriation 2.0: The Pop-Politic”
Here is a picture! (More on the symposiums in the Day 3 post.)
8 PM: This is a combined NUMUS/Open Ears show, and while I think NUMUS is great, all their concerts start with a lot of talking. To be fair, tonight was the launch of their 11/12 season*, but it is hard to listen to chat when there is a tantalizing circle of laptops on the ground.
The concert opened with D. Andrew Stewart - an artist who works primarily with the “T-stick” – a brand new kind of instrument which is an electronic stick that must be manipulated physically to make all different sounds. And the range of sounds is everything you’d hope and dream from a “synthesizer” instrument – lightsaber sounds and engines and multi-pitched bells and beeps and slap tongue articulation sounds and so much more – but far more organic, due to the mode of sound creation. There were two extended pieces, and they both are the kind of atmospheric pure-noise which can be extremely satisfying. Combine electronic sounds with organic production and the incredible choreography of using one of these amazing T-sticks** – it makes for a great show.
The second half of the performance was the Princeton Laptop Orchestra (PLOrk) Sideband – 6 composers from Princeton who make music with laptops. But it wasn’t computer music in the traditional^ sense of the word, it was far more active; it was playing in ensemble, and truly playing, not just watching tracks roll by. They made use of peripherals – joysticks and this crazy contraption with strings which is apparently intended for virtual golf practice and so on – but also used the laptops physically, tilting them and hitting them. It was really interesting to watch without even going into the music.
A little on the music and stuff: Jascha Narveson is a sort of Wilfrid Laurier University Legend – to alumni he’s “that guy”, to my classmates he’s “the guy whose first year Skills section showed up until most of the way through fourth year on our online course resource, even if you hadn’t been in that class” (there was much mourning when it was finally removed). Anyway, every piece on the program was good - several were great (especially the final piece they played by Dan Trueman based on Clapping Music, SO GOOD). I am very impressed and intimidated by Princeton composers.
We all trekked over to see the PSQ and DJ P-Love at The Wax following PLOrk: Sideband – the PSQ played a piece by Kotoka Suzuki which was okay, and then Different Trains by Steve Reich (the first contemporary classical recording of any kind that I ever owned – and it was the first time I’ve heard it played live. Happy!). They were joined by a bassist, a couple of percussionists, and P-Love himself for a performance of Nicky Lizée’s This Will Not Be Televised which is an awesome piece! P-Love ended the night with some solo sets and I made it on the last bus home and crashed into bed.
*Very Glenn Buhr – old “new music” (Schoenberg, Mahler, Philip Glass) and like, the Beatles. There is one concert in the season I would go see, and that is because I am a huge Peter Maxwell Davies fan. Sorry NUMUS dudes! I guess it is good I am moving away from KW. On the other hand! Go check it out for yourselves.
**”Andrew Stewart’s T-stick”: hilarity ensues
^the people in front of me were like, “heh, traditional laptop music?” and: fair point. We live in the future!