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Open Ears – Day 4

Sunday, May 1st, 2011

Apparently there are a lot of oboes in Korean music - this is a piri, which sounds a bit like an english horn with a wild reed. They also played the taepyongso, another double reeded beastie which sounded like a shawm. I would like to own and play these instruments.

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.

Is it creepy to take photos of photos of art featuring naked people? I on-purpose blurred this and took the side with the most clothing involved, but this is a question I have never faced before.

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.

PA sat in the window; a second exhibit.

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:

Greg Oh is definitely one of the stars of this year’s Open Ears (the other two being Nicole Lizée and Jascha Narveson) – involved in everything.

I really loved Toca Loca’s performances of Nicky’s Promises, Promises and Andrew Staniland’s Adventuremusic.

Halorinas get assistance from Roger "Superstar" Psutka

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:

This is Laura and Pete and me in what I am referring to as The Mirror That Shows Things As They Truly Are, i.e. not mirror image - so weird.


Black light forever!

My friend Matty plays a chillwave set in this room (which was also an installation, je pense) with lights and hanging things and pillows.

The awesome spherical glowing installation, projections behind, a pretty good illustration of what the event feels like


Open Ears: Day 5

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

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?

I also bombed up to Centre In The Square to see Althea Thauberger’s piece, but it wasn’t working! Weird! Here is a picture of the frozen demo screen to PROVE I WAS THERE:

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!


Frankenstein!! The guest blog

Monday, May 9th, 2011

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’.

The Perfect Boss

Saturday, May 28th, 2011

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.

Finally, a concert

Saturday, May 28th, 2011


Finally, a concert.

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
8 PM
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