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Volume 20 Issue 8 - May 2015

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  • Choir
  • Toronto
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  • Choral
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  • Festival
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Beat by Beat | In With

Beat by Beat | In With The NewCreatingCourageousMusicWENDALYN BARTLEYIn the end, listening and creating with sound is totally intertwinedwith the ear – that part of human anatomy that is always active.It’s not so easy to close our ears when we don’t want to hear something,unless we use earplugs or noise-cancelling headphones. Incontrast, it’s relatively straightforward to shut out visual images – wejust close our eyes. But just because we’re always hearing something,doesn’t necessarily mean we are actually listening. What happenswhen we are truly listening is complex, and the stakes can get reallyhigh when we’re exposed to sounds that are unusual, unfamiliar oreven shocking.21C: Starting fromSkratch. This is exactly oneof the driving forces behindthe upcoming 21C MusicFestival – to create opportunitiesfor the presentationof courageous music, musicthat stretches the ear beyondwhat it’s used to. Now in itssecond year and presentedby the Royal Conservatory ofMusic with its partners, thefestival runs from May 20to 24 and offers 60 workswith 34 world, Canadian orOntario premieres. One ofthe distinguishing featuresof this festival will be thebringing together of artistsand creators from differentgenres and backgroundsto generate a lively onstagedialogue of new sounds and ideas.One of the more fascinating collaborations of 21C is happeningon May 23 between Afiara (the Royal Conservatory’s resident stringquartet), four composers and DJ artist Skratch Bastid. Afiara violinistTimothy Kantor told me that at the heart of this combination is ameeting along the borders, a place that Bartók believed provided themost fertile ground for innovation. This particular meeting groundseeks to create a remix of what makes Toronto sound unique, given itsunique cultural mix.What is a Toronto sound? is the question under investigation. Allfour composers, each coming from their own distinctive backgrounds,were originally commissioned to write new works for string quartetthat were influenced by popular styles. But what makes this projectstand out is that things don’t stop there.Each of the four pieces was then recorded and handed over to therenowned Maritimes-born, Toronto-based Bastid, who has created aworldwide following based on his versatility in different dance musicstyles and his capacity to always stretch himself in new directions.He remixed the string quartet recordings using all sorts of sounds,songs and genres as part of his response, including recording snippetsof string sounds he needed from the Afiara members. To keepthe musical conversation going, his remixes were then given back tothe composers, who then created a new piece for string quintet inresponse. This step gave the composers an opportunity to listen to”theBastid’s” sonic imaginings and then take specific ideas even furtherto create a live performance piece for the quartet and Bastid. All threestages of the process will be presented at the concert, so the audiencecan listen in to how the whole project developed. All twelve pieceswill also be available on the upcoming CD Spin Cycle scheduled forrelease in mid-May.21C: Saariaho. One of Europe’s leading composers, Finland’s KaijaSaariaho will be the featured artist this year, with five Canadianpremieres of her works in two different concerts. Saariaho will alsobe involved as a mentor in Soundstreams’ week-long EmergingComposers Workshop with the final pieces performed as part ofthe festival. Saariaho’s music is distinctive for its ability to take thelistener deep into the terrain of the subconscious through the use ofsound colours or timbres. In an email correspondence I had with herrecently, she talked about how different sounds, and the sounds ofnature, as well as the acoustics of specific places, have always beenimportant to her, beginning when she was a child. Her brilliance liesin how she has translated environmental sound, as well as aspectsof human behaviour such as dreaming, into musical form. Becauseher sound palette encompasses both instrumental and electronicallybased sounds, she has devised ways of creating seamless connectionsand transformations between these two worlds. Her approachis to use the results of a computer-based analysis of how specificsounds are constructed to createharmonic and timbral structuresfor her music.You can hear how this alchemicalmix of scientific analysisand creative imagination comesalive on the Koerner Hall stageon May 21 at 8pm. This concertincludes three solo instrumentalpieces as well as the NorthAmerican premiere of her pianotrio Light and Matter. Saariahodrew inspiration for it whilewatching the continuous transformationof the colours andlight visible on the leaves andtree trunks in a nearby parkoutside her window. Her vocalwork Grammaire des rêves (tobe performed May 23 at 5pm)translates research on how ourSkratch Bastid with the Afiara Quartetmoving body affects our dreamsinto musical sounds and form.It will also be interesting to hear the results of her mentoring thefour composers chosen to participate in Soundstreams’s EmergingComposers Workshop in the After Hours concert on May 22. Saariahosees her role as encouraging composers “to search for their personalcompositional voice, without trying to calculate what could be themost successful path to take.”21C: At a Glance. Other collaborations that promise stimulatingresults include the opening 21C concert on May 20 which features aRCM-commissioned work from drum legend Stewart Copeland ofThe Police – a duet between himself and Canadian pianist Jon KimuraParker. This work presents another approach to the remixing idea,with Copeland and pianist Kimura Parker combining their own pieceswith renditions of the likes of Stravinsky, Prokofiev, Bach and Ravel.And yes, this theme of the mixing up of elements continues on May 22with the 70-minute multimedia work Illusions, which combines newcompositions from three different composers (Nicole Lizée, GabrielDharmoo and Simon Martin), Ives’ Piano Trio and visuals (projectionsdesigned by Jacques Collin, a longtime associate of RobertLepage).The festival concludes May 24 with a concert of music influencedby Latin American musical styles and rhythms presented inpartnership with Soundstreams. Acclaimed guitar virtuosos GrishaGoryachev and Fabio Zanon, Argentine bandoneon player Héctor delCurto, Colombian singer María Mulata and pianist/composer SeroujKradjian will be setting the tone on stage, along with two world14 | May 1 - June 7, 2015

premieres by Canadiancomposers AndrewStaniland andMark Duggan.Because the list of newpremieres and featuredperformers is extensive, Irecommend checking outthe complete schedule forthe festival.Subtle TechnologiesFestival. Returning tothis article’s openingtheme of the human ear, Dafydd Hughesit’s inspiring to see howthe scientific world isexpanding its reaches into sound. Now in its 18th season, this year’sSubtle Technologies six-day festival, “3rd Ear: Expanded Notions ofSound in Science and Art,” runs May 25 to 31. Combining speakerand panel sessions with performances in sound, music, film andother multidisciplinary works, the festival is exploring the mind- andbody-altering properties of sound, including a look at how we canwork with sound as a resource for better living and social progress.Toronto’s Continuum Music is a major partner in this endeavour, andwill be hosting an evening of team collaborations on May 28 betweenleading Canadian composers, scientists and contemporary artists.An example of the nature of these collaborations is the piece titledIce, an immersive mixed-media and sound installation created bymedia artist Fareena Chanda, composer Jimmie LeBlanc and scientistStephen Morris. To experience the full sensory process of water slowlytransforming into ice, audience members are invited to completelycommit their mind and body to the installation space. Other musicalperformance events include an algorithm-based improvisation pieceby Ian Jarvis, and a collaboration of computer music and live videoprojections with Dafydd Hughes and Rob Cruickshank on May 29.Other highlights include the participation of composer/performersKathy Kennedy and Nicole Lizée. Again, I encourage you to check outthe full listings for the complete lineup.Other New Music concert and opera events: May offers newlistening ground for innovations in instrumental music and opera.Tapestry Opera presents a new twist on the traditional Medea mythwith a world premiere collaboration between librettist Marjorie Chanand Scottish composer John Harris. Presented at the revamped industrialspace Evergreen Brick Works, M’dea Undone runs from May 26 to29 and offers a gripping investigation into power, influence and identityfor the 21st century.Over at the Music Gallery, the Emergents series continues onMay 8 with a concert curated by Ilana Waniuk from the Thin EdgeNew Music Collective. She offers us an evening that combines a newwork by Icelandic cellist-composer Fjóla Evans and a performanceby Architek Percussion. Evans’ piece combines Icelandic folk songs,found sound, extended cell, and rímur, a unique way of intoningpoetry. Architek Percussion specializes in theperformance of experimental, minimalist, multidisciplinaryand electroacoustic chamber music.The veteran New Music Concerts series winds upits concert season on May 17 with a concert curatedby Montrealer Michel Gonneville who brings togetherthe music of Henri Pousseur, with whom Gonnevillestudied in the 1970s, and other influential Belgiancomposers. One aspect of Pousseur’s legacy was thevision he had for composition – that it will need to gobeyond the production of finished objects and movetowards a process that is more collective in nature.Improvisation and Beyond: Certainly the riseof improvisation embodies the spirit of collectivecreation, and Toronto is becoming increasinglyknown as a hub for such activities. In May alone, several eventsdemonstrate this trend, many of which are happening at theArraymusic space and are ongoing monthly events: ArraymusicImprov Sessions on May 5 and June 2, Somewhere There on May 10,Audio Pollination on May 12, coexisDance on May 16, eVoid onMay 22, and Toronto Improvisers Orchestra on May 31. Other concertevents at the Arraymusic space include a multimedia performancework by Linda Bouchard on May 8, a Martin Arnold CuratedConcert on May 18, and the Toy Piano Composers performing withTorQ Percussion Quartet on May 23 and 24. The Arraymusic ensemblepresents their own events this month as well: the “Cathy LewisSings” concert on May 4, the Arraymusic Ensemble in their fundraisingconcert on May 6 and the annual Young Composers’ WorkshopConcert on May 30 featuring premieres of electronic works withoriginal projections by OCAD students.Over at the Canadian Music Centre, there are two piano-focusedevents this month: JunctQin Keyboard Collective with premieres fromCanada and around the world on May 3; works by Fung, McIntyreand Murphy on May 13. More Canadian piano works are part of AdamSherkin’s concert at the Jane Mallet Theatre on May 9, with worksby Gougeon, Murphy, Coulthard, Eckhardt-Grammaté and Sherkin.And a special evening of improvisation making use of Gallery 345’sbeautiful grand pianos happens on May 7 with Marilyn Lerner, CaseySokol and others.New in Choral: To close out this very busy month, I note severalcontemporary works included in a variety of choral concerts:May 4: Elmer Iseler Singers: Canadian and international composers.May 9: Bell’Arte Singers: Hatfield, Somers, Sirett and others.May 9: Orpheus Choir of Toronto: Enns and Gjeilo.May 24: Oriana Women’s Choir: Luengen, Chan Ka Nin,Freedman, Healey.May 29: Exultate Chamber Singers: Henderson, Enns, Somers,Freedman, Healey.Wendalyn Bartley is a Toronto-based composer and electrovocalsound artist. 27 - june 6LULAWORLD 20151585DUNDAS W416-588-0307LULA.CALULAWORLD.CACELEBRATING THE MUSIC AND DANCE OF THE May 1 - June 7, 2015 | 15

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