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Volume 7 Issue 5 - February 2002

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FEATURE: COMPOSER TO

FEATURE: COMPOSER TO COMPOSER Linda Catlin Smith interviewedbyPaulSteenhuisen Composer Linda Catlin Smith has been an active contributor in Toronto's new music scene since her arrival in Toronto in 1981. While developing a consistent oeuvre of pieces for diverse, sometimes unusual instrumentations, she has also explored music as concert presenter, Artistic Director of Arraymusic, and as a member of the collaborative, multidisciplinary URCE ensemble. Whenever I speak with her, I leave thillking about topics I hadn't considered before, or having to reconsider an issue. With the release of her new CD Memory Forms, (reviewed in the December WholeNote) I was compelled to attempt a more formal discussion, and glean some ideas to pass on and ponder. STEENHUISEN: Scanning your CD, the titles of your pieces are very evocative. What is your intention when you name a piece? SMITH: It's usually just a name - you have to call it something. It's not really a huge clue, or mapping on of meaning, but the words are usually something that can resonate with the "tenor" of the piece in' some way. Three of the pieces have titles that I borrowed from within novels by the American writer, Cormac McCarthy. The titles just jumped out while I was reading those books at the time I was composing the music (Among (he tarnished stars, Through the low hills, and with their shadows long). The three pieces have similar instrumentaiions, and something similar going on -perhaps tone. In fact, all the pieces have this . aspect of tone, or what I might even call "mood", and are circumscribed within that mood, never venturing out. They are very interior. STEENHUISEN: What is the tone of the pieces? SMITH: I think that's tricky, because then you'·re getting into adjectives. I find trying to describe music in words somewhat troubling. WhenTm working, I'm finding a soundworld or an atmosphere that is compelling to me, one that draws me in, and keeps drawing me in. If there's a sensibility at work there, I'm not manipulating it, but rather observing it, staying within it. That's why there is a palette that one could refer to as a tone, a mood, or 16 a sensibility. In the realm of painting, you might have a kind of glow that you try to set up with what you're doing, and you take it right to the edges .... STEENHUISEN: Glow suggests emanating from or off something else... like the music is beside the figure. SMITH: It's very difficult to talk about, and it's something that I don't quite understand yet. What I'm looking for is always something beyond what I actually know about. So when I'm working, I'm observing, and extending. Often, I write material and then strip some of it back, or take ~ome of it away. Each piece is how I understand the insti:umental possibilities at that time, and how I extend my thinking. It'~ my way of creating continuity. This idea of glow, which just came up in this conversation, is something that comes out of the sounds I'm working with - it's the "something else" that happens beyond gesture, melody and harmony. STEENHUISEN: You often mention painters. Who has i(ifluenced you, and how? SMITH: Painters who do "still life", such as Giorgio Morandi, and my friend Nancy Kembry (whose painting is on the cover of the CD), ~so Chardin. More recently I've become interested in the paintings of Mary Hiester Reid. It's the way they use light around the objects, the shadows and the background- it's quite mysterious. I like the quality of sombre thought in this genre of painting. They're not action paintings, and they're not fully abstract either. I look at a lot of abstraction also, by painters like Agnes Martin,_ Mark Rothko, and Cy Twombly. What I get from painting is things to do with form, texture, layering, and transparency. Looking at painting is a kind of sustenance, just like listening to certain kinds of music - it's somec thing I take into myself. Nature does 'the same thing for me. I like observing the small details. STEENHUIS EN: draws you in? · What music SMITH: For a long time I was drawn to music of the Baroque era, people like Lully, Rameau, and Couperin, becaus~ of the transparency in the sound, and the emotional restraint. I've also been pretty fascinated by French music at the end of the 14'1i Century, composers such as Solage and the music of the Ars subtilitas. What I like about it is the kind of weave of the music. The music is quite continuous, and in its own way, complex. I like the · sense of .nondirectedness. It's not about big moments -I'm not interested in big moments, I'm interested in being within an experience, staying with it for a while. I like when a composer oi- artist of any kind gets really caught up in something. The deeper someone goes with something, sticking with it, I want to go with them, with their concentration. I've been trying·to look for a deeper concentration in what I'm doing, I want to go with something for a long time, in music and in life experiences. That's why I like the beautiful, slow films, like those ofTarkovsky- things that unfold. SMITH: It's not a question I ask myself while writing, I'm not using those terms. I often think of LaMonte Young saying "draw a line and follow it". I'm kind of following the material, investigating it, seriously questioning it all the time, but never with a sense of a large solution that resolves everything. It's more experiential than that. I want to make something that keeps me involved or interested in it, and at the same time maintains its own sense of "necessary-ness", without losing focus. It's like being suspended in a certain place, for a while. . STEENHUISEN: You said that STEENHUISEN: Technically, how you 're not into big moments. Does do you maintain that sense of suswhat you 're seeking necessarily have pension? · to exclude them? SMITH: There's drama, and there's drama. The drama inherent in what I do is more of an interior sort. I'm interested in internal drama, where the changes that happen feel big within that context, but aren't, in the larger context of high drama, or high contrast. It's not about making important statements. STEENHUISEN: How do you attain your aesthetic goals? SMITH: I have to listen so deeply while I'm working, questioning all the while. When I get to a point where I seem to make a rhetorical choice, I try to avoid it, because then it's talking about music, and is no longer the experience of the music. STEENHUISEN: laJely, every time we talk, the word "melody" comes up. STEENHUISEN: Important state-· SMITH: Christian Wolff said that ments in what sense? in the end, everything is melody. SMITH: In terms of a big sense of I've become more melodic, and part arrival, of having said something of of the reason for that is pleasure. major importance to the world. I There is great pleasure in sound, and don't think of art in that way. I think for me, part of it is melody, which of it as an intimate engagement with might move in ways one wouldn't material. expect. The way I use melody is quite simple, only using a couple of different notes, which may be the Continued on page 44 www.thewholenote.com February 1 -- March 7 2002

Hear&Now CONTINUED FROM PAGE 15 Esprit returns to orchestral action March 1 and 2, with a weekend festival of composers from Canada and the Netherlands. Films, . conce11S, and discussions will include the work of Brian Current, Jose·Evangelista, David Lammers, David Dramm, Yannis Kiriakides, Esther Eva Darnen, Laurie Radford, Paul Frehner, Geof Holbrook, Chris Paul Harman, Paul Steephuisen, and Ron Ford. Music Speaks is an,outreach initiative of New Music Concerts that provides opportunity to get "up close and personal" with some of Canada's finest musicians, in infonnal, non-traditional settings · such as art galleries and community centres. Two "Music Speaks" concerts take place in February. Sunday F~b 10 (4 pm MacLaren Art Centre, 37 Mulcaster St., Barrie), accordionist Joseph Macerollo; arid Saturday · Feb 16"(1 :30, Auditorium, . University Settlement Music and Arts School, 23 Grange Rd.)' 'cellist David Hetherington, with a youth-oriented introduction to contemp~rary sblo repertoire. AFRICAN ODYSSEY Celeprating African Heritage Month, and as part of the Diversity Project, Ensemble,Noir will present an ambitious cycle of ·concerts and discussions over a four-day period. On Feb 25 at the Music Gallery, Liberian-born lyric soprano, Dawn ~admore and pianist Stephen Clarke perform African art songs and spirituals from the African Diaspora. Feb 26, at the U of T Faculty there will be a free seminar by South African born composer/pianist Michael Blake (http://www. bardicmusic.com/Blake.htm). On the 27th at 8 pm (Music Gallery), pianist Jill Richards performs music by African composers who gave birth to "African Pianism". And the celebration concludes on the 28th, with African Odyssey, a musical journey through Africa with guest artists Jill Richards & . r~ The New Guitar · Concerts 2002 February 22 2002 Brown• Katz James Brown "The Home, Fields" CD -release concert Also featuring Ernie Tollar and Jim.Vivian , Brian Katz performs original compositions Heliconian Hall 35 Hazelton 8 PM March 22 2002 The Montreal Guita.r Trio Gismonti New Piece Senoir Momentary Follies Dufour Garam masa/a. Heliconian Hall 35 Hazelton 8 PM Tickets for all concerts / The SOCAN Foundation www .newguitar.net 416 224-5858 torontdartsbounci I An arm's l•ngth boCSy of tt~• City ol Toronto Michael Blake performing music for two pianos. Hear the infectiousrhythms and melodies that invoke the sights and sounds of a vast, ancient continent. Don't miss the pre-concert discussion on the subject of postcolonial, postapartheid new'art music in Africa. Visit www .ensemblenoir.org/ concerts.shtml for information. by Jim Galloway Feeling the Winter blues? Well, February may not be a month for big name concerts, but there is lots of activity in clubs and smaller concert venues, demonstrating yet agaifl just how lively that scene is. Among concerts that catc11 the eye (and doubtless the ear), are a couple at the Glenn Gould Studio where, Feb 16, OnStage Studio . Jazz showcases vocalist Jeri . Brown, Ken Werner, piano and Don Thompson, bass & vibraphone, and Feb 23 the Renee Rosnes Quartet are featured. Also of note, Feb 4 at 8pm, Jazz.FM91 and host Ted O'Reilly present Quinsin Nachoff at the Ontf!rio Science Centre Auditorium. And Lee Pui-Ming will challenge the boundaries Feb 23 at the Music Gallery (St. George-the­ Martyr Church). While for fans of trad jazz, the big event is another in the series of concerts presented by the Classic Jazz Society at the February 1 -- March 7 2002 ~ ana ~ ~ (and clos€r to hom€) Sunday March 3, 2002 • 8:00 pm du MauriefTheatre Centre, Harbourfront an evening with the Evergreen Club Gamelan and German composer Dieter Mack Dieter Mack Angin** for wind orchestra Wantilcm** for flute & percussion Crosscurrents* for gamelan Linda C. Smith A Light Snow for gamelan Michael Oesterle all the green around you* for ,violin, brass ensemble and gamelan featuring Mark Fewer Admission / Introduction@ 7: 15 pm Tickets 416-973-4000 *World premierel**Canadian premiere Tha~COUflll!IL 11.aCmi•ui.~/ul'U tOll'l:fU~ Sl'1C4Ju.Jllo, ltHCl. IJr. l*l'UU J9J7 www.thewholenote.com 'ONTARJO ARTS COUNCIL : ONSEJl DES ARTS 0£ L'ONTARIO Music Sp€aks at the MacLaren Art Centre 37 Mulcaster St., Barrie /5 Sunday February · 10 at 4:00, Joseph Macerollo • accordion Saturday March 9 at 4:00 Robert Aitken • flute Music Sp€aks at the University Settlement Music and Arts School Auditorium 23 Grange Rd.(off McCau_I, S.of Dundas)PWYC Saturday February 16 at 1:30 David Hetherington • cello Music Speaks Info416-961~9594 to rontda rtsbou n ci I An a rm's length body of the City of Toronto 17

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