6 years ago

Volume 23 Issue 3 - November 2017

  • Text
  • Toronto
  • November
  • Jazz
  • Arts
  • Musical
  • Theatre
  • Symphony
  • Performing
  • Orchestra
  • Bloor
In this issue: conversations (of one kind or another) galore! Daniela Nardi on taking the reins at "best-kept secret" venue, 918 Bathurst; composer Jeff Ryan on his "Afghanistan" Requiem for a Generation" partnership with war poet, Susan Steele; lutenist Ben Stein on seventeenth century jazz; collaborative pianist Philip Chiu on going solo; Barbara Hannigan on her upcoming Viennese "Second School" recital at Koerner; Tina Pearson on Pauline Oliveros; and as always a whole lot more!


REMEMBERING DEEP GRATITUDE Listening for Pauline Oliveros Wendalyn Bartley in conversation with Tina Pearson November 24 2017 will mark one year since the passing of Pauline Oliveros, a beautiful soul who brought to the world the practice of what she called Deep Listening. To mark this occasion, there will be an event on November 28 Tina Pearson at Array Space titled “Gratitude Listening for Pauline Oliveros” for people to gather to listen and sound in gratitude for what Pauline offered. I spoke recently with Tina Pearson who has had a personal connection with Pauline since the late 1970s, and whose inspiration it was to have this event. Pearson was active in the new music community in Toronto during the 1970s and 80s, as a performer with the New Music Cooperative, a collaborator with TIDE (Toronto Independent Dance Enterprise) among others, and as the editor of Musicworks. Currently living in Victoria, Pearson was here this past summer as composer in residence with Contact Contemporary Music, offering an intensive workshop on Deep Listening at the Canadian Music Centre as well as a community-based Deep Listening workshop that I organized. She also facilitated the creation of a new work titled Root, Blood, Fractal, Breath for the Contact Ensemble performed at Allan Gardens. Pearson is a Deep Listening Certificate holder. I began by asking about her first encounter with Pauline Oliveros and the impact Pauline had on her as a composer and performer I first heard of Pauline through Jim Tenney (who taught composition at York University from 1976 to 2000), but met her in person when she came to the Music Gallery in November of 1979, where she was invited to present her Sonic Meditations. Experiencing her practice was quite powerful and validating. Suddenly the world opened up. Pauline seemed untethered from the masculine contexts of contemporary Western European art music and jazz-based free improvisation. She was a brilliant, strong, compassionate and attentive woman presenting an opportunity to everyone to listen in a complete and deep way. One of the remarkable things about Pauline was that she could be in the same moment so absolutely connecting personally as well as globally. During her visit, I recorded and transcribed the interview that Andrew Timar conducted with Pauline for Musicworks. In those days [when I transcribed] I transcribed everything – every pause, nuance and emphasis. Listening so deeply to her voice and her expression while transcribing that interview was quite significant and I think some resonance of that stayed with me. Afterwards, I kept in touch with her. Pauline was incredibly encouraging and generous with her time and support, especially of women. I started working with her Sonic Meditations, and incorporated her ideas about listening and attention in collaborations with the New Music Cooperative, with TIDE and in a project with David Mott titled Oxygen Tonic. I also started teaching Sound Studies at OCAD in 1983, and used the Sonic Meditations in those classes each year. Looking back now, I’m aware that there was an opening up in the thinking that many of us had about our approach to music which were in part influenced by Pauline’s ideas of embodied listening as performers and creators. I was already considering the separation between audience and performer in concert music, for example, so one of the welcome revelations, among many, about Pauline’s approach was her absolute commitment to taking into account the experience of everyone: the witnesses, the audience, the participants, and the performers.” I then asked Tina to relate these earlier experiences to her recent experiences in Toronto this past summer facilitating Deep Listening Workshops: Facilitating the Deep Listening intensives this summer was heartening. The participants were very open and able to quickly understand and take in this practice. The capacity for listening was there, and as Pauline believed would happen it is continually growing and deepening: The more listening there is, the more listening there will be. I then asked her to say more about the focus and intention for the upcoming “Gratitude Listening for Pauline Oliveros” event happening on November 28 at Array Space: The idea for this free event is to acknowledge the one-year anniversary of Pauline’s passing and to give gratitude to her. The quality, depth and acuity of Pauline’s sensibility about listening is rare. There’s nobody else who has embodied a listening practice like she has. Her courageous approach to listening and attention, and letting that guide where one goes and how one approaches life and one’s work, is something that’s so essential, and quite a beacon. The deep compassion that comes when one is attending to listening is important right now – the notion that listening can be a response to anything. There will be a performance by several local performers of Pauline Oliveros’ work Arctic Air, which includes the text The Earth Worm Also Sings, written originally for the 1992 Glenn Gould Technology and Music Symposium held in Toronto. In addition, everyone will be able to participate in two of her Sonic Meditations, and there will be an opportunity for people to speak about their memories and Pauline’s impact. And of course, everyone is welcome. Wendalyn Bartley is a Toronto-based composer and electro-vocal sound artist. 64 | November 2017

MUSIC AND HEALTH Life After Injury VIVIEN FELLEGI She will always remember those moments of perfection during her best performances. Eyes half closed, she sways to the beat, blonde mane swinging back and forth. Her fingers dance effortlessly over the frets of her guitar. Time and space shrink to a pinpoint and only the music is real. It didn’t happen at every concert. But when she got in the zone, nothing else could beat that rush. “It’s an out-of-body experience – it’s like being in love,” says 68-year-old Canadian guitar legend Liona Boyd. But in 2000, these moments of bliss stuttered to a stop. While her technique once flowed almost effortlessly, Boyd began struggling to control the movements of her right middle finger. For the first time in her career, her smooth tremolos, once deemed the best in her business, became jagged. Her arpeggios followed suit. At first Boyd was hopeful that the mysterious ailment could be fixed. She quit playing and trudged from one health practitioner to the next, enduring hypnotherapy, botox injections, and even an immersion into Scientology. “Every therapy you think will work, then your hopes are dashed.” Eventually Boyd was diagnosed with musician’s focal dystonia, an overuse condition caused by mindless and frequent repetition of movements, which burn out the brain signals controlling muscle function. The diagnosis forced her to confront the bitter edge of reality. “I would never be the guitar virtuoso I once was – it was heartbreaking.” Boyd is not alone. Eighty-four per cent of musicians will face a significant injury during their lifetimes, says physician Dr. John Chong, medical director of the Musicians’ Clinics of Canada. Musicians make extreme demands on their bodies, practising the same notes up to six hours without a break. “There is no off switch in the excellence-driven process,” says Chong. Chronic stress also plays a role in generating injuries. Workplace conditions, including job insecurity, ramp up muscle tension amongst performers, making them more prone to strains. The emotional fallout can be disastrous. Musicians’ injuries are devastating because music is not just a livelihood, it’s their identity, says Lynda Mainwaring, registered psychologist and associate professor of kinesiology and physical education at the University of Toronto. Injuries also deprive performers of the joy brought about by the flow state, a transcendent experience where they lose themselves in concentration. “Flow can be a way of coping and forgetting problems – if musicians can’t get there, they’ll be frustrated.” For some musicians, injuries rupture the harmonious relationships with their instruments, says osteopath Jennie Morton, wellness professor at the Colburn School in Los Angeles. Many view their violins and oboes as almost human, even going so far as to name them. “But when things go wrong, their former friends can turn into enemies,” says Morton. Boyd was devastated by her condition, shedding tears every time she tried to coax her guitar to cooperate. “The joy was robbed – that was the worst thing.” It was almost as if her beloved guitar had turned against her. “You feel your best friend has let you down.” Liona Boyd Denial compounds injuries. Half of injured musicians play hurt, says Chong. From a young age, musicians are trained to sacrifice their well-being for the greater good of the audience. They are also reluctant to draw attention to their health issues because they fear losing solos as well as job opportunities. But playing through pain worsens the problem. For a while Boyd too tried to combat her wayward finger. She ramped up her practising, but that only worsened the dystonia. Later, after her diagnosis, Boyd kept it under wraps. “I didn’t want people feeling sorry for me.” Fortunately, there are constructive ways to deal with injuries. Rapid diagnosis and treatment by a physician trained in musicians’ health will resolve many conditions, says Chong. But in one study, 50 per cent of injured musicians felt they had never fully recovered, says Morton. When injuries impact their careers, musicians need to allow themselves to grieve, says Mainwaring. “The loss of that part of life is like a death.” Some benefit from expressing their feelings through writing, while others prefer talking to a therapist. Deep breathing, mindfulness meditation, yoga and exercise can all help to relax tense muscles, says Morton. Reaching out for support, especially from other musicians who have gone through similar crises can be reassuring, says Mainwaring. “It helps them feel they’re not alone.” As injured musicians begin to reconstruct their lives, it’s important for them to dig down deep and figure out why they picked up their instruments in the first place, says Dr. Chase McMurren, MD, medical director and psychotherapist at the Al & Malka Green Artists’ Health Centre at the Toronto Western Hospital. Most just wanted to make beautiful music, not caring if they made mistakes. But over the course of their careers, many have internalized the expectations of their teachers and families, and absorbed the competition for fame and money. Injured musicians need to discard the weight of these burdens and try to recoup the pure thrill of their artistry. Even if they’ve stopped playing, musicians can still participate in their craft, says Mainwaring. Sidelined artists can contribute to their profession by sharing how they dealt with their own setbacks. Teaching music can be another fulfilling option. But injured performers can also find solace outside their métier. If music has always been the driving purpose in their lives, they need to unearth new sources of meaning, says Mainwaring. This could mean spending more time with family, or possibly switching to a new vocation. “They will be more fulfilled if they have other satisfying outlets.” Toronto Symphony Orchestra viola player, Daniel Blackman, had to reconstruct his life after a career-threatening injury. In the summer of 2010 he was struck by a car while cycling and left for dead. He woke up in St. Joseph’s Hospital with a collapsed lung, a concussion and multiple fractures. But the worst problem for his career was nerve damage and reduced flexibility in his left, instrument-holding arm. It wasn’t until he was home that the impact of his accident sank in. He feared he might never regain his top form. “If you have a career and it’s taken away, you feel like your life as you knew it has come to a close.” Blackman lay in bed, day after day, riddled with self-pity. DEAN MARRANTZ November 2017 | 65

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