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: