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Volume 19 Issue 3 - November 2013

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Beat by Beat | World

Beat by Beat | World ViewOn Livingwith DyingANDREW TIMAREl Dia de los Muertos (The Day of the Dead) has been celebratedby Mexicans for centuries as a time for families to remember andhonour the departed. It’s a pre-Columbian custom grafted ontothe Christian triduum consisting of All Hallows’ Eve (Halloween tothe secular world), All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. Many Mexicansbelieve that the spirits of the dead dutifully visit their descendantson October 31, returning to their accustomed resting places onNovember 2. To properly receive their spectral relatives, families makealtars and place ofrendas (offerings) of food such as pan de muertos(bread of the dead) baked in shapes of skulls and figures, yellow marigoldsknown as cempazuchitl, photos, candles, and incense.This practice may sound a touch morbid to some Canadians but toMexicans death is approached with joy, celebration and playfulness,as well as with mourning. It’s not uncommon for Mexican children toplay “funeral” with toys representing coffins and undertakers. The fearof death is transformed through mocking it, as well as by living alongsideit, accepting it as a fact of everyday life.Larry Lake: Day of the Dead rituals have slowly been seeping intoour secular Toronto collective consciousness over the past decade orso — see my mention of the Harbourfront events further on in thiscolumn. What better time to celebrate influential musicians amongus who have recently passed? Larry Lake, the influential Torontocomposer, radio broadcaster and record producer, died in Septemberof this year (and was remembered in the October WholeNote by DavidJaeger). As he was a friend I’ll call him Larry here, and this is mywritten mini-ofrenda.As a composer Larry was best known for his electronic music. Muchless well known however is Larry’s support of the early career ofthe Toronto world music group, Evergreen Club Gamelan (of whichI am a member). ECG is Canada’s first performing gamelan groupand this season we are marking our 30th anniversary. Larry was an“early adaptor” of the gamelan as a brand new medium for expressionamong established Canadian composers. “Larry’s support wasCelebrating the Day of the Dead.critical to the fledgling group,” notes Jon Siddall, ECG’s foundingartistic director. In the mid-1980s when Siddall commissioned Larryto compose a new work for ECG, the notion of a set of Indonesiangamelan instruments performing contemporary music written andplayed by Canadians was a brand new — even a radical — proposition.The gamelan ensemble and its music was barely known in the TrueNorth. Larry’s open ears, open mind and generous spirit helped thefledgling ECG, among Canada’s first wave of world music groups, togo from strength to strength. In the space of a few years it went on tocommission John Cage, as well as dozens of Canadian composers, andto tour internationally.Larry completed composing his Three Bagatelles for ECG in 1986. Itsrecording was released on the LP/cassette (later CD) North of Java onthe Arjuna label in 1987, the first commercial recording of Canadiangamelan music. I re-auditioned Three Bagatelles recently. I heard acharming three-movement work effectively layering the brash soundsof 1980s electronic music synthesis with the eight-musician acoustic16 | Novemberr 1 – December 7, 2013

gamelan degung sounds of the ECG. It was in turn declamatory, lyricaland incisively percussive.Larry’s geniality was often tinged with an endearingly gentle wrysense of humour. When I met him for the first read-through of mysuling (bamboo ring flute) part for “Andrew’s Song,” movement twoof his Three Bagatelles, I was discouraged by the primitive dot-matrixstaff notation printout he presented. I made a comment disparagingwhat to me seemed an overly simplistic, unchallenging score. Unfazed,Larry gave me some memorable advice: “Treat the notation only as aguide ... go ahead and ‘Eastern it up!’” In other words, play it expressively,where appropriate using idiomatic suling ornaments, articulation,phrasing and dynamic shadings.From then on whenever I am challenged by a score which appearsmusically too “square” for its own good I smilingly recall Larry’s challengeto “Eastern it up.” You can hear me heeding Larry’s advice some27 years ago in the recording of Andrew’s Song, streaming on ECG’swebsite. When time came to produce a CD from the original LP tracksof North of Java, ECG called Larry. Then in 1994 the group commissionedLarry for Sanft (Soft) another work for pre-recorded electronicsounds and gamelan degung. The collaboration continued with the CDPalace (Artifact Music: 1996) which he co-produced, also streamingon the ECG site.Through his own compositions in which he dared new culturalmash-ups, his record producing, and his advocacy via his CBC radiomusic show Two New Hours, Larry did more than introduce generationsof listeners to the latest trends in Canadian and internationalavant-garde concert music. He also introduced them, as I’ve begunto illustrate here, to world music voices which challenged receivednotions of cultural hierarchies and aesthetic boundaries.PICKSSicilian connection: Let’s start this chilly month off with warmingsouthern sounds on November 2 at the Royal Conservatory’s KoernerHall when two Toronto groups the Vesuvius Ensemble and the SicilianJazz Project collaborate. Led by Francesco Pellegrino the VesuviusEnsemble’s mission is to preserve and stage the music of southernItaly. The Ensemble’s repertoire is anchored in the songs of theNeapolitan region. Moreover they perform on some of the instrumentsfrom the region including the tammorra (frame drum), chitarrabattente and colascione (plucked lute), and the ciaramella, a shawm.Michael Occhipinti’s Sicilian Jazz Project takes Sicilian folk songs andrhythms and interprets them through the harmonic and improvisatorylens of contemporary North American urban jazz, world music,funk, blues and chamber music. Its stellar lineup starts with theeight-time JUNO Award-nominee Michael Occhipinti on guitar, andcontinues with seven other leading Toronto jazz musicians.Harbourfront: As I hinted earlier, on November 9 and 10Harbourfront Centre hosts what it calls “Toronto’s longest runningDay of the Dead festival ... two days of family-friendly programming.”There will be public ofrendas both large and small, plus a wide rangeof films, mariachi music, songs, dance, food, storytelling, crafting andperformances, all with a Dia de los Muertos theme. Some of the musicevents are listed in The WholeNote pages. For a complete listing of allscheduled events please check the Harbourfront Centre’s website.York and U of T: York University and the University of Toronto havehad world music studio programs running continuously since theearly 1970s, I know because I dabbled at them in both places back inthe day. Every fall both institutions showcase faculty, students andvisiting scholars in public concerts that are well worth exploring. I’vebeen invariably delighted by these events and they’re at a price everystudent can afford: gratis.November 5 at 12:30pm the York University Department of Musicpresents a rare demonstration of Azerbaijani mugham by JeffreyWerbock, a leading expert of this modal music, at the Accolade EastBuilding. The same evening at 7:30 the University of Toronto Facultyof Music presents its “World Music Ensembles Concert” at Walter Hallfeaturing the Balinese gamelan ensemble, the Klezmer ensemble, andthe Japanese taiko ensemble.MacArthur‘Genius Grant’RecipientVijay IyerIn ConcertMusic CareConferenceSaturday, November 9Edward Johnson Building, U of TInfo: 905-852-2499www.musiccareconference.caNimmons N’90The U of T Jazz Orchestra, DavidBraid and others perform in abirthday concert for Phil’s 90th.Thursday, November 147:30 pm, Walter Hall, U of TAdmission by donation.’Legacy of BrittenU of T Choirs perform choralworks by Benjamin BrittenSaturday, November 167:30 pm, *Church of theRedeemer. Admission bydonation. *new venueThe MacArthur Fellow, Harvard Professor and newDirector of the Banff International Workshop in Jazzand Creative Music is in residence at the Faculty ofMusic as the Wilma and Clifford Smith DistinguishedVisitor in Music, November 20-22.Thursday, November 217:30 pm. Walter Hall. Free admissionPaulin & PhilcoxSoprano Nathalie Paulin andpianist Steven Philcox presenta vocal recital of 20th centuryart songs.Monday, November 187:00 pm, Walter Hall, U of TSuyadnyani& HatchAn evening of Gamelan andDance with founders of Bali’sMekar Bhuana Conservatory.Monday, November 257:30 pm, Walter Hall, U of T. FreeDonizetti:Don PasqualeThe Faculty of Music premiere ofDonizetti’s beloved comic operaNovember 28-30, 7:30 pmDecember 1, 2:30 pmMacMillan Theatre, U of TCall .SEASON OF November 1 – December 7, 2013 | 17WN-U of Toronto Nov half page.indd 113-10-17 12:08 PM

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