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Volume 20 Issue 7 - April 2015

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Beat by Beat | In With

Beat by Beat | In With the NewMany Cooks,Tasty BrothWENDALYN BARTLEYPart of what makes writing this In with the New column sostimulating for me is getting a front row seat on what exactly isdefined as new moment by moment in the midst of our information-saturatedand cross-pollinated culture. It’s an absorbing challenge.If you’ve been following this column for a while, you’ll recallan earlier discussion here, about the Music Gallery’s XAvant series,that focussed on how to define the current impetus to combine influencesand genres within music. The XAvant series, each fall, haspresented music that highlights wildly diverse ways in which variousmusicians and artists have created their own version of this trend,and how various descriptive words and labels, such as urban abstractmusic or transculturalism arise to define this music. (As part of theXAvant series in the fall of 2013, a talk was even given on the movementtowards going beyond traditional categories and identifyingmusic as genreless.) It is through festivals such as XAvant that we aregiven the opportunity to encounter all at once numbers of artists withunique takes on this phenomenon – get to taste from the whole menuof what’s cooking in this area.This month we get to see what happenswhen you combine musicians who areexploring these edges in their own individualwork, and mix in an insatiablycurious creator who works in another artform. In Toronto-based choreographer anddancer Peggy Baker’s latest work, locusplot, which runs from April 24 to May 3,we get a glimpse of what is possible whenthis happens. Through my conversationswith the two musical creators of this piece,composer John Farah and vocalographerFides Krucker, it became evident that thiscollaboration is creating something beyondwhat we normally think of as interdisciplinaryor even music for dance. Something expanding beyond whateven interdisciplinary might imply.As a composer and pianist, Farah has been working with Baker forthe last few years. As she became more familiar with the breadth ofhis compositional style, she began planning ahead to create a piecethat would make “full use of him, and allow him to pull out all thestops,” as Farah describes it. What makes Farah’s work unique is theway in which he combines quite disparate styles and sound sourcesto create his own signature sound palette. A true creator of genrelessMURDER. MYSTERY. MADNESS.BLUEBEARD’S CASTLEERWARTUNG BARTÓK / SCHOENBERGMAY 6 TO 23, 2015Sung in Hungarian and German with English SURTITLESJohn Farahmusic, you could say. To give you a more detailed overview of his style,I refer you to a review of his most recent album Between Carthageand Rome published in The WholeNote’s February issue. It turns outthat these qualities of Farah’s music were exactly what Baker wantedfrom him – to use all parts of his toolbox in wrestling with how toco-exist musically with both Baker’s dance and the vocal soundscorecreated by Krucker.Farah’s main musical pillars for the piece include what he callssound sculpture (or electroacoustics) created through a circuitry ofelectronic software-based effects and processors alongside synthesizersounds; also quasi-tonal and modal minimalist piano music; highlyrhythmical beat-oriented electronics; prepared piano John Cage style;and elements of improvisation. Part of the challenge for Farah wasto create a large-scale work where all these quite different componentscome together to create an artistic whole that makes sense for thelistener.The result is not a series of movements that stop and start, butrather a continually evolving piece that Farah himself performsthroughout. For example, at one point in the piece there is musicfor electronic drums that has a definite rhythmical beat, which thenchanges into an atmospheric electronic sound with no specific pitchthat floats for four minutes before developing into a solo piano partthat is mic’d and processed using different effects in the computer.Work on the piece began with a math lesson by mathematician andplaywright John Mighton, hence the word locus in the title. Locusis a math term referring to a set of points plotted in space to createdifferent shapes such as a parabola or circle. During the performancea series of Mighton’s originaldrawings, diagrams and notes isprojected onto the back screen,which helps the audience make theconnection. Before any of the musicwas composed, Farah thought thatthe math focus would mean hismusic would be primarily complexrhythms, but that hasn’t necessarilyhappened. In fact, Bakerhas encouraged him to follow hisimpulses upon seeing what thedancers are doing, which at timeshas meant that the music he intuitivelywants to compose creates acontrasting accompaniment to thedancer’s movements.One example of this occurs in the first 12 minutes of the piece.As the composer describes it, “the dancers are doing what appearsto be a strange type of square dance where they look at each other,then switch places, look at each other again, and switch places again.What you see is the constant creation of geometrical forms. Each timethe way in which they switch places is different, so you’re watchingthe same thing happening with endless permutations. I began withmusic that I thought I should compose – something rhythmical toJAMIE DAY 416-363-8231John Relyea.Photo: Gary Mulcahey16 | April 1 - May 7, 2015

match the movements of the dancers,but it turned out that’s not what Peggywanted. I ended up with something thatjust floats and sits there, using dronesand minimalist piano patterns withreverb and delays. It’s something I neverwould have done normally if it wasn’tfor the type of freedom that this pieceallows me. It’s a freedom within certainconstraints.”It may seem that Farah’s full toolboxof musical possibilities interacting withBaker’s choreography would make fora complete work. But that was not allthat Baker had in mind for the piece.Something had stirred in her creativemind as a result of working withmusic designer and vocalist Kruckeron Baker’s piece land / body / breath.In this work, the soundscape of folksongs that Krucker and singing partnerCiara Adams were performing was expanded to include varioussounds of bird songs and calls performed by the dancers. This madesuch an impression on Baker that when Krucker showed up for herinitial meetings to work as dramaturge on locus plot, Baker asked:“What sounds do you want the dancers to make?” Thus a surprisedand delighted Krucker became the vocalographer of the piece, a termBaker created to describe her role.Krucker’s approach to the voice has been rigorously and expertlycultivated over many years, incorporating both the traditional belcanto style along with the body/breath extended sound approachof the Roy Hart tradition. In February’s WholeNote, I wrote aboutBarbara Hannigan, another singer who combines these two traditions.Paying attention to how a sound is made in the body has becomeKrucker’s primary way of working, both as a vocal performer ofcontemporary music and as a teacher and mentor of voice practice. Soit’s completely natural that she would approach working on locus plotfrom this perspective of embodied sound.Upon seeing what the dancers were doing with their bodies, sheimagined what she would do vocally if she were capable of doingthat particular movement. She then translated her sounds into onesthe dancers would feel comfortable making within their skill set. Aseries of tightly scripted improvisations were then set up, connectingspecific movements with qualities or textures of sound and experimentingwith how one sound interacts with another. Some sounds arequite quiet, and others very loud and extended, encompassing a rangeCathedral BluffsSYMPHONY ORCHESTRANorman ReintammArtistic Director/Principal ConductorSaturday May 30 at 8 pmEstonian National Male Choir (RAM)& Toronto Estonian Male ChoirMOZART: Ave Verum Corpus | BRAHMS: Alto RhapsodyWorks by Estonian composers Veljo Tormis, Villem Kapp,Evald Aav, Gustav Ernesaks & Heino EllerSUBSCRIPTION CONCERT 5 | TICKETS starting from adult ( sr/st)P.C. Ho Theatre 5183 Sheppard Ave. East, ScarboroughPeggy Baker andAndrew Burashko of sounds that we often equate with theemotional states of “sad, mad and glad.”In the end, the dancers are makingsound more than 50 per cent of thetime resulting in an extensive nonverbalvoice score. This way of working hasalso sparked Baker’s creativity. “Becauseshe is so used to looking at movement,there’s something obvious aboutit for her,” says Krucker. “But as soonas the dancers are having to breathein a certain way to make the sounds,all of a sudden it engages her in a verydifferent way.”One interesting feature Krucker notedin our conversation was that because thepoint of departure for the piece is basedon math formulas, it creates an ambiguityas to who the dancers are in relationto each other. “We never need toknow if those two men are lovers, orbrothers for example, even though specific feelings in the body canstill arise.” The piece is not just about love or other common humanexperiences that are the usual focus of staged works, although all sortsof human stories could be made out of what we see and hear.The challenges of a three-way collaboration with two musicalcreators are met because of Baker’s respect for everyone’s contributionand creativity. To balance the two soundworlds of musicalscore and the more vulnerable vocal sounds of the dancers requiresan attentive adjustment of timing, tone and volume. The result ofthis alchemy of ingredients is, in Krucker’s words, “something thatfeels holistic, and also very new. It’s a complete melding of art forms,beyond being interdisciplinary, in a very practical, three-dimensionalflesh and bones way, and this weaving is completely held in thedancers’ bodies.”One might wonder too, how much of the math legacy was left afterbeing filtered through the creative artistic process. But after watchinga rehearsal, Mighton was beaming and reflected that it was a deeplysatisfying meditation during which he was able to feel and hear themath in it all. I suggest that witnessing this weaving and meldingof elements and forms be high on your priority list for the end ofthe month.Music Gallery Events: Continuing on with the Music Gallery’s traditionof presenting hybrid style artists, they team up with ContactContemporary Music to perform Professor Bad Trip on April 18. Thiswork, in three sections, is written for 11 instruments and electronicsViolins, violas, cellos & bowsComplete line of strings & accessoriesExpert repairs & rehairsCanada’s largest stock of string musicFast mail order servicethesoundpost.cominfo@the soundpost.com93 Grenville St, Toronto M5S 1B4416.971.6990 • fax 416.597.9923The Ontario Trillium Foundation is anagency of the Government of | 416.879.5566A treasure trove for string players& lovers of string April 1 - May 7, 2015 | 17

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