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Volume 25 Issue 3 - November 2019

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On the slim chance you might not have already heard the news, Estonian Canadian composing giant Udo Kasemets was born the same year that Leo Thermin invented the theremin --1919. Which means this is the centenary year for both of them, and both are being celebrated in style, as Andrew Timar and MJ Buell respectively explain. And that's just a taste of a bustling November, with enough coverage of music of both the delectably substantial and delightfully silly on hand to satisfy one and all.

Canadian League of

Canadian League of Composers, 1955 Front (L-R): Jean Papineau-Couture, John Weinzweig, John Beckwith Back (L-R): Louis Applebaum, Samuel Dolin, Harry Somers, Leslie Mann, Barbara Pentland, Andrew Twa, Harry Freedman, Udo Kasemets Stephen Clarke. Ensemble U: is the most active contemporary music ensemble in Estonia. Touring widely, it has gained recognition for performing very demanding works without a conductor. This celebration of the eclectic compositions of Udo Kasemets has another aim: to build musical bridges between Kasemets’ Estonian heritage and his Toronto career. The program features four works by Kasemets from the 60s, 90s and 2000, but also includes works by outstanding Estonian composers Märt-Matis Lill (b. 1975) and Tatjana Kozlova-Johannes (b. 1977), compositional voices unfamiliar to most Toronto audiences. An unusual programming touch for a contemporary music concert is the inclusion of Giovanni Palestrina’s sacred motet Tu es Petrus (1572); it directly addresses a Kasemets comment: “When studying Palestrina I sensed that musical order was larger than the sum of its components, however cleverly, imaginatively, and systematically they were put together.” It reflects the Kasemets view that composing music is a human approach to grasping the vastness of the multiverse and to creating order from its constituent parts. “I’ve heard Kasemets sometimes referred to as Canada’s John Cage. Well, okay, but concerning his compositions, in my humble opinion, Udo Kasemets did it better.” — Tarmo Johannes Array Music: Udo Kasemets @ 100 November 23, Array Music presents Udo Kasemets @ 100 performed by the Array Ensemble at the Array Space. This concert also pays tribute to “a towering figure in Toronto’s experimental music scene” with a program of his lesser-known chamber works curated by Array pianist and longtime Kasemets collaborator Stephen Clarke. The inclusion of the 1948 Kasemets work, Sonaat in E, Viiulile ja Klaverile, Op.10, in the concert reveals a relatively conservative compositional style in his 20s, an aesthetic he brought to Canada. During the first decade of his career here, Kasemets performed, directed and organized concerts not of the experimental music of the day, but rather European high-art music of past centuries. Proof: he was the founder-director of the Toronto Bach Society (1957/8), and also of Musica Viva (1958/9), a pioneering Toronto organization in that it performed both new compositions and early music. Clarke’s case for programming the 1948 work? “Udo’s earlier activities with choirs and traditional classical music aren’t so surprising given his inclusive views on what music is and can be. His Violin Sonata might be the most shocking piece of Kasemets anyone has ever heard: precisely because it’s not shocking!” Kasemets at Estonian Music Week Toronto’s Estonian Music Week (EMW), November 14 to 17 this year, partners with Latitude 44, an Estonian digital conference being held in Toronto for the first time. I’d be willing to bet that if Udo Kasemets were in his prime today, he’d be dreaming of fresh experimental music-tech interfaces for Latitude 44 and organizing performance events for it. (For more on EMW, see the sidebar to this story.) November 14, we can hear a prime example of a music-tech work at EMW when American composer Scott L. Miller’s immersive audio-visual concert work Raba is performed three times by Ensemble U: at the WE Global Learning Centre. Raba (“bog” in Estonian) is experienced by the audience wearing VR headsets. Audience members visually explore a 360-degree film while Ensemble U: performs the synchronized music. The ensemble and playback speakers physically surround the audience, providing each audience member with their own individual audio, as well as visual, experience. November 17, the outstanding Toronto accordionist Tiina Kiik performs the 1993 Kasemets composition Kuradi Kiik (Satan’s Swing) for solo accordion at the EMW’s wrap party at Tartu College. Kasemets wrote the work especially for Kiik, a well-known musician in the Estonian community, whose repertoire includes classical, folk and improvised music. The party headlines the Estonian singer-songwriter Vaiko Eplik, a pop music star in his country, who has released 21 albums and produced music for many other artists. Udo Kasemets: outsider or scene builder? Let’s conclude our Kasemets centenary overview with one of his common declarations: “I’ve always been an outsider.” Strachan feels it’s not simply an off-handed statement of self-deprecation but rather speaks of a generation whose “attachments to place is far more grounded in displacement, dislocation and rupture – a diminished sense of rootedness” – one of modernism’s conditions. Although Kasemets vigorously maintained his self-perceived outsider status to the end and questioned the lasting impact of his earlier accomplishments with cool skepticism, Strachan however assesses his legacy rather differently. Strachan’s 2014 Array Space lecture, Udo Kasemets: Uncompromising Experimentalist, ends with an optimistic appraisal: “The activity we see happening in Toronto today: with experimental music thriving ... new performance spaces opening as quickly as other ones close, and a sense of community among performers which is intergenerational, dynamic and always renewing itself – to me, that’s the promise that Udo saw in the 1960s, fulfilled.” HARRI ROSPU Tarmo Johannes Andrew Timar is a Toronto musician and music writer. He can be contacted at 14 | November 2019

Puuluup The National Youth Orchestra of Canada and the European Union Youth Orchestra join forces for ESTONIAN MUSIC WEEK – NOVEMBER 14 TO 17 In addition to the two EMW concerts already mentioned here is another concert pick, providing a taste of the rest of the festival’s several performances. On November 15 (Artscape Sandbox, Toronto) and November 16 (Cotton Factory, Hamilton) you can hear the quirky duo Puuluup (“wooden magnifying glass” in Estonian), from Viljandi, a town in southern Estonia. They’ve developed a unique musical hybrid variously dubbed “Estonian neo-folk” and ‘folktronica.” Their talharpas – horse-hair four-stringed bowed or plucked lyres – featured in the Estonian folklore revival, provide essential textures in their music, along with live electronic looping, electronic pedal effects, alternative bowing and amplified drumming techniques. Finnish jouhikko (a closely related bowed lyre) are also part of the mix. The duo’s catchy vocal melodies, harmonies and raps in the Estonian language draw inspiration from the village leiks (songs) of Vormsi island, Russian or Ukrainian chastushkas, and from more distant global music traditions. The tone is wry and unconventional, with lyrics about wind turbines, Polish TV heroes, fat cakes, and the “uncomfortable feeling that your neighbour’s dog might try to bite you while you take out the trash.” The old mashes with the new in their live performances and music videos, or as described in seasonally appropriate Baltic imagery, “sticking together like water and sleet.” Estonian Music Week is co-presented with Latitude 44 a digital conference which introduces Estonia as the “world’s first digital society.” How did this Baltic country, about 24 times smaller than the province of Ontario, become such a digitally advanced society? Estonian e-engineers and managers share their success stories at the WE Global Learning Centre, 339 Queen St.E. Toronto. “Estonia, a small country, big traditions.” This country with a population of 1.3 million has over two million yearly concert visits. Massed national song and dance festivals have played an important role in the development and preservation of Estonian identity. During the “Singing Revolution,” for example, many thousands of Estonians gathered for massed choral demonstrations between 1986 and 1991, putting pressure on the USSR government to end decades of Soviet occupation. In 1991 Estonia achieved independence, nonviolently. World music fans double the population of the town of Viljandi during the Viljandi Folk Music Festival which presents world music acts from all over the world. Jazz is prominent in the popular Tallinn Music Week and at the Jazzkaar Festival. Estonia also boasts a number of top composers, such as Arvo Pärt, among the world’s most performed living composers, and Veljo Tormis, who based some of his successful works on ancient regi songs. The country has also produced several fine conductors such as Neeme Järvi, Tõnu Kaljuste and Paavo Järvi, the latter having conducted Canadian musicians on a 1994 all-Kasemets CD on the Koch International label. Tuesday, November 12, 7:30 pm Koerner Hall, 273 Bloor St. W Blake Pouliot, violin Tickets - / Sascha Goetzel, conductor Tickets available at or 416-408-0208 Music by Stravinsky, Wagner, and John Estacio’s Frenergy for orchestra Made possible by the European Union Delegation to Canada FOR MORE INFO VISIT NYOC.ORG November 2019| 15

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