8 years ago

Volume 20 Issue 2 - October 2014

  • Text
  • October
  • Toronto
  • Choir
  • November
  • Concerts
  • Jazz
  • Musical
  • Arts
  • Orchestra
  • Theatre
Includes the 2014 Blue Pages Member Directory

David Dacks and the

David Dacks and the Music GalleryWhat constitutes the musical mainstream, and what’supstream of that? Who determines what fits into musicalcategories, into genre streams that guide musicians intheir careers, presenters in their programming choices andlisteners in their concertgoing? Which music is a legitimate representationof a lineage worth investigating, and what is a marginal, outsiderexpression?The Music Gallery (I’m tagging it MG in this story,)founded in 1976 by Peter Anson and Al Mattes ofthe free-improvising group CCMC – originally anacronym for Canadian Creative Music Collective –is a constantly morphing downtown music institutionthat has valiantly grappled for decades withthese and other thorny questions to do with musicpresentation. During that time it has variously beena venue for rent, a producer and co-presenter, acultural hub, a rehearsal space and concert homefor numerous musicians and ensembles of multiplegenre affiliations, an exhibition space for visual art,the home of a record label, and Musicworks magazine’soriginal incubator.Had it been situated in Soho, NYC it might havebeen long ago widely recognized as a key downtown music institution. InToronto, though terra incognita to most residents, it nevertheless remainsa vital venue for edgy performers and adventurous music seekers alike.The Music Gallery in the 1970sBefore going further I should state my personal interest: over the yearsI’ve been involved in the MG in various capacities. During its earliestyears, as an emerging musician, composer, ensemble leader and as editorof Musicworks, I often hung around its first location, the loft-ish 30ANDREW TIMARSt. Patrick St. just north of Queen St. I hobnobbed and jammed – mostlyon bassoon and piano at the time – with local and visiting musicians Idiscovered there and grew to admire, among them American jazz trumpeterDon Cherry and Dutch pianist and composer Misha Mengelberg.Toronto drummer Larry Dubin (1931-1978), to my mind the person whomost clearly exemplified the foundational CCMC group aesthetic, wasoften in the house practising with whomever droppedin during the day. For a while he had a sign on theexposed foam-covered wall on a piece of cardboard,its casual handwritten scrawl belying the potency of itsmessage. “No Tunes Allowed” it read, a message whichstill conveys a sense of the rigour of his aestheticconvictions, an intense iconoclastic artistic dedication.From afternoon jam sessions with Larry I attended,I recall saxists John Oswald and Nobuo Kubota, pianistsMichael Snow and Casey Sokol, bassist Al Mattesand many others adding their voices. It was a lively,generous, open-spirited free music scene.What was a typical couple of weeks of concerts likeat the MG in the 1970s and 1980s? A bricoleur’s viewwould have audiences listening to post-bop free jazzone night, an interspecies ensemble the next, followedon the weekend by a concert of open-form electroacoustic works accompaniedby modern dance, or perhaps Carnatic music. The next week localand visiting modernist and postmodernist concert music composers likeJames Tenney, Udo Kasemets, Iannis Xenakis, John Cage, David Rosenboom,Pauline Oliveros and dozens of others might lecture, rehearseor lead ensemble renditions of their works. Later in the evening whenall was dark and quiet, the Glass Orchestra might light a few dozen teacandles, and, during the course of their generally gentle vitreous music,16 | October 1 - November 7, 2014

eak a few oversized brandy snifters, their shardstinkling in the candlelight.Often young Toronto musicians toeing one musicaledge or another made the MG the proving ground fortheir early gigs. Until 1980 it even had a record label,Music Gallery Editions run by Marvin Green, which injust a few ambitious years released 33 LPs – an esotericblend of the experimental and vernacular. And eachTuesday night, regular as clockwork, CCMC the residenthouse band fearlessly explored free improvisation:music in which form evolved organically andprocess was king. There was one firm rule, however:all MG concerts were recorded. The audio tapes fromthe first two decades survive, archived at York University,where a digitization project has begun.The Music Gallery Today: David Dacks, ADThat was then. To delve deeper into what the MG is today, I approachedDavid Dacks, its artistic director since January 2012. I met Dacks at theMG booth at the INTERsection “New Music Marathon and Musicircus”staged at Yonge-Dundas Square on September 6. Curious passersby oneafter another found their way to the Music Gallery table on the south sideof the square where Dacks (the webzine Foxy Digitalis called him “downrightaffable”) and MG executive director Monica Pearce genially guidedpotential audiences though their inquiries about the MG.Seeking more background on his curatorial approach, I phoned Dacksat his office on September 12. The more we spoke, the more apparent washis intimate familiarity with a wide swath of transnational musical geography.I was aware of his music journalism energizing magazines such asExclaim! and Musicworks, but not so aware of his music career pre-MG.“I have over two decades of experience as a DJ, music programmer, broadcasterand journalist,” said Dacks. “In 2011 I served on the grand jury forthe Polaris Music Prize and for ten years hosted ‘The Abstract Index,’ acommunity forum for new ideas in music on CIUT FM.”Asked about today’s MG audience, he says that they are generally“curious about music and the cultures that make [it]. They appreciatemusical virtuosity, whether it be in the form of welltexturednoise, a performance by a [West African]griot, or [embracing] a sacred, or experimental”approach. Dacks sees a healthy “increase in theMG’s audience, an upswing, over the last few years… and there’s potential for further growth as subwayconnections to York University and further afield arecompleted.”How does he define his curatorial aims? “I believe inmusic programming which possesses multiple pointsof interest, and is not necessarily confrontational, butrather fosters a community-building environment.”How does his approach differ from that of hisDavid Dackspredecessor, Jonathan Bunce, who put his distinctivebrand on the MG from 2002 to 2011? “Jonny haddifferent musical tastes [from mine],” Dacks says. “They emerged organicallyfrom his punk roots,” roots which nurtured Bunce’s rebelliousinstincts. “Jonny proposed pop music as a legitimate form of artisticexpression, as well as establishing such music streams at the MG as pop,jazz, world, experimental,” all categories useful in fundraising, programming,packaging and promoting concerts. They reflected prevailingcommercial market models, yet gave programmers and single-genrecurators a clear and useful framework within which to present concertsat the MG over the last decade.By comparison, Dacks’ background as a club DJ and in radio (he beganat CIUT in 1986) gave him an outlook which encourages “synthesis,multiple affiliations and opportunities for [genre] fluidity in music. Mywork in DJ culture is rooted in [creating] interesting music mixes andJamaican dub.”Dacks’ keystone MG fall concert-and-critical-conversation series istitled “X Avant.” Now in its ninth season, there’s plenty of opportunitythere to explore such genre fluidity, and his theme “Transculturalism:Moving Beyond Multiculturalism” underscores that fact.“But what does that mean exactly?” I ask. “At its heart,” Dacks says, “itis a challenge to expectations about culturally defined music.”new music concertsSun. nOV. 16, 2014 1 Generation 2014 The Ensemblecontemporain de Montréal showcases young Canadian composers.Co-presented with The Music Gallery | 197 John St.THuRS. DEC. 11, 2014 2 Stroppa+Sluchin Composer MarcoStroppa + trombonist Benny Sluchin + electronics + Elliott Carter’s106th birthday. Co-presented with The Music Gallery | 197 John St.TuES. Jan. 20, 2015 3 Maritime Miniatures Barbara Pritchardperforms atlantic composers’ variations on Bach’s Goldberg Aria.Music Toronto co-production | Jane Mallett Theatre, 27 Front St. E.SaT. FEB. 14, 2015 4 East + West an evening of premieres byChinese & Canadian composers. | Betty Oliphant Theatre, 404 Jarvis St.Sun. MaR. 1, 2015 * an Evening with Paul Griffithsa unique fundraising event with the famed British critic and author.Gallery 345, 345 Sorauren ave. RESERVaTIOnS 416.961.95942014 ✺ 2015Robert aitken artistic directorSaT. MaR. 14, 2015 5 Duo Szathmáry/TzschoppeVirtuoso works written for this rare organ & percussion duo.Co-presented with Organix. | Holy Trinity Church, 10 Trinity Sq.SaT. aPR. 4, 2015 6 ukrainian-Canadian ConnectionExploring the depths of our rich cultural heritage.Betty Oliphant Theatre, 404 Jarvis St.Sun. May 17, 2015 7 The Belgian ConnectionMichel Gonneville curates a concert ofHenri Pousseur and other influential Belgians.Trinity St. Paul’s Centre, 427 Bloor St. W.Subscriptions 0 regular | 5 seniors / arts workers | students | Pick 3 (or more) each reg | snr/arts | studentCall nMC @ 416.961.9594 to subcribe | visit for October 1 - November 7, 2014 | 17

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