6 months ago

Volume 28 Issue 5 | April & May 2023

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April and May is Canary Time in the world of WholeNote -- the time when choirs in larger than usual numbers refresh the info in our online "Who's Who" to inform prospective choristers and audiences what they have to offer. Also inside: There's a new New Wave to catch at Esprit; Toronto Bach Festival no 6 includes a Kafeehaus; another new small venue on the "Soft Seat Beat" (we assume the seats are soft!); an ever-so Musically Theatrical spring. And more.

merged with classical

merged with classical and contemporary selections curated and performed by Hlusko and a select few musical contributors. There are so many wonderful readings and performances, the collection of 26 tracks takes time to fully appreciate, and though the text and music are paired like wine to food, they each stand out on their own. The reading of Blue Head by Asisipho Malunga with dancer/choreographer Mthuthuzeli November is a standout moving tribute to loneliness and the self as home. Pairing it with the Sarabande from J.S. Bach’s fifth solo cello suite makes an interesting and introspective communion, and provoked thoughts on home through a colonialist lens, (whether intended or not). Another standout for me was transgender choreographer Sean Dorsey’s reading of his original poetry, excerpted from the sound score of his full-evening production Uncovered: The Diary Project. This powerful work is both heartbreaking and illuminating and was informed and inspired by a year-and-a-half long community research process researching diaries of transgender and queer people, with original music composed by Alex Kelly. This track is so perfectly delivered it’s worth the album alone. With readings chosen by the movement artists themselves, from dance legend Peggy Baker and a long list of award-winning dancers and choreographers, each selection is thoughtfully tied to wonderful music, reimagined as if walking through the text while listening. Whether or not you delve deeper, it’s a beautiful album. One caveat: the album notes included do not seem to contain more than the basic credits or tracklists; for full notes, including the composers and text translations, you will need to go to the album’s website. It is worth the time to check them out properly. Cheryl Ockrant I and Thou VC2 Leaf Music LM255 ( ! Toronto cellists Amahl Arulanandam and Bryan Holt have been the busy and well-loved duo V2 since meeting in 2008 while at the University of Toronto; after both completed their master’s degrees at McGill, they reconvened to continue their musical partnership. Their latest album I And Thou sets out to explore what has become the post-pandemic theme of relationships between humans and the world around us. Including several Canadian commissions, the album opens with composer Jocelyn Morlock’s (2016’s Juno for My Name Is Amanda Todd) Violet Hour, a lush and picturesque sound painting of the time just before sunset, written in three short movements for cello quartet and featuring guests Andrea Stewart and Paul Widner. Vincent Ho’s Heist 2, a motoperpetuo duet inspired by the duo’s improvisations, was expressly written to highlight the individual characteristics of both cellists and is dynamically accompanied by drummer Ben Reimer. Laura Sgroi’s Discord paints a painful portrait of not belonging in one place, beautifully depicted by blending classical, jazz and pop sensibilities with pianist Stephanie Chua. Chris Paul Harman’s Suite for Two Cellos, with seven powerful movements styled after Bach, is a subtly organic and energetic re-interpretation of traditional early harmonies that solidly anchors the middle section of the album. Followed by Duet for Two Cellos by Youell Domenico, and the final duet I And Thou by Kati Agócs, based on a book by Martin Buber, a fusion of both cellos spun into a single, tightly wound rope. My favourite track is Kelly-Marie Murphy’s challenging Final Glimpse, a fantastical exploration of the 1937 crash of the Hindenburg. Her experimental addition of recorded materials and sounds flows seamlessly with the duo’s interpretation and personal style, creating one of the strongest pieces on the album. Cheryl Ockrant Frank Horvat – From Oblivion to Hope Odin Quartet I Am Who I Am Records ( ! Frank Horvat has been successfully exploring states of the human condition in contemporary times; with each new album this exploration takes on a different musical form/genre. This prolific composer keeps surprising us with diversity and an extent of musical expression, language and themes. From Oblivion to Hope, as performed by the Odin Quartet, is a gorgeous collection of Horvat’s string quartet music and his ideas. Here his message is clear: music is an important tool in raising the level of positivity and hope on this planet as well as in our individual lives. Change is possible. Horvat’s string quartet music, covering a span of over 20 years, features compelling rhythmical elements and engaging melodies. The album follows a trajectory of personal growth – from oblivion and anxiety through awareness of the preciousness of time and love of nature to the final destination of hope. Each piece tells a story, and none has a traditional form. String Quartet No.2 is a percussive, textural ball of high energy seeking more stable expression. Four Seasons…in High Park, inspired by the seasons in High Park in Toronto and Vivaldi’s iconic Four Seasons, contains many literal quotes but its strength lies in dismantling the original ideas into building blocks of unique compositional language. The album closes with Hope, a peaceful, harmonious rhapsody with bright colours. Odin Quartet, a strong ensemble with close-knit synergy, is a perfect collaborator. Their sensible interpretation of Horvat’s music highlights the composer’s ingenuity. Ivana Popovic Theory of Becoming Evgueni Galperine ECM New Series 2744 ( ! Minimalist in nature and deeply personal, Theory of Becoming reveals a turn in Evgueni Galperine’s musical direction. Primarily known for his gorgeous film music, Galperine turns inward on this album, shifting from compositions inspired by cinematic images and stories to music that brings in focus shades of the human condition through inner experience. This new world is grandly rich in depth and variety of ideas. Galperine uses both real and virtual instruments to create an architecture of sound, expanding colours, textures and possibilities of acoustic instruments and establishing a mixture of textural, exciting and somewhat oracular elements with electronic and manipulated sounds. This world is so visceral that each composition feels like a minimalist diorama. It is rare to hear such a strong emotional expression in the realms of electronic music and Galperine recognizes the power of that rarity. There is a strong imaginative element in all compositions and threads that involve magical settings supported by electronic sounds. In Loplop im Wald, inspired by Max Ernst’s paintings, we meet a magical bird called Loplop that inhabits a mystical forest humans cannot cross. Oumuamua, Space Wanderings is a sonic exploration of travelling through space in search of answers. This Town Will Burn Before Dawn, describes the aftermath of a war, destruction embedded in deep ominous sounds coming from the belly of the beast (war) and hope floating above in the string’s layers. While Galperine creates and directs the electronics and sampling, the guest artists, Sergei Nakariakov (trumpet), Sébastien Hurtaud (cello) and Maria Vasyukova (voice), each leave their signature marks. In some aspects, Theory of Becoming is a musical/ philosophical treatise on the depth of the human experience. Ivana Popovich 68 | April & May, 2023

Susurrus Anthony Tan gengseng records GS004 (anthonytan. ! How does one listen to music that is not meant to be listened to? This question may seem rhetorical, if not absurd, but it is one that is presented to us when faced with the genre of ambient music. To many, ambient music is equivalent to elevator music, easy listening pop or soft jazz that pads the other ambient sounds of shopping malls, elevators and airports. In fact, the concept of ambient music was first used by Brian Eno in his 1978 album Ambient 1: Music for Airports and has since grown to encompass a range of electroacoustic compositions. According to Wikipedia, ambient music “is a genre of music that emphasizes tone and atmosphere over traditional musical structure or rhythm.” Anthony Tan’s Susurrus embodies this description very well, augmenting fragmented pianistic passages with real-time electronics. This is atmospheric music at its finest, and is simultaneously foreboding and calm, never resolving, but also never developing the tension that necessarily needs a resolution. Both pieces on this recording, endlessnessnessness and sublime subliminal sublimate are constant paradoxes, the net result being equal to the effort put in by the listener: focusing on the small scale reveals minute repetitions and rhythmic patterns, while listening to the larger forms provides a rather vague overview of works that forgo conventional structures in favour of constantly shifting acoustic events. If this review appears inconclusive, that is because ambient music, much like the minimalist works of Glass, Reich and others, is so highly subjective and the experience of it so dependent on the individual. I encourage everyone to explore Tan and Susurrus, whether one is familiar with this genre or not, and explore how you listen to and experience music that is not meant to be listened to. Matthew Whitfield I Had a Dream About This Place No Hay Banda No Hay Discos NHD 002 ( ! Love of language but incapacity in more than two meant I had to look up a translation of this disc title, and guess what? No Hay Banda means “there is no band.” Their two-disc release from No Hay Discos is titled I Had a Dream About This Place. No Hay Banda is made up of five instrumentalists and a soprano (apparently they exist as individuals) from Montreal. Their debut recording features four works, and you’re on your own in terms of liner notes. No Hay Discos chose instead to provide poems in French and English respectively, by Françoise Major and Donato Mancini. I suppose they are responses to the music, but I dare not attempt further parsing. Mancini’s text is also featured, often indistinctly in Andrea Young’s A Moment or Two of Panic, which at 32 minutes is more like several moments of ennui and angst. Anthony Tan’s half-hour is curiously titled An Overall Augmented Sense of Well-Being. I only get the augmented part. Also included are the somewhat briefer Rubber Houses by Sabrina Schroeder and Mauricio Pauly’s The Difference is the Buildings Between Us. A large letter “O” goes rogue on the playfully designed CD jacket, displaced from titles and composers’ names. That adds some sorely needed fun, but maybe it’s intended as a serious meditation on the difference between an oval and a circle, as suggested by the granite-shaded cover art. There’s an average of 25 somewhat static minutes per cut. Whew. No hay tiempo. As the saying goes, less is sometimes more, but the reverse can also be true. Were we a civilization where meditation was taught from the cradle, perhaps this would be the music we all craved. Or rather preferred, since in that society there’d be no craving? Perhaps we wouldn’t be headed for environmental collapse. Perhaps the length of these pieces would evoke a kind of joy, like what one feels at the prospect of a free summer afternoon or a hot bath on a cold night. I admit to none of these responses. Instead, I become astoundingly furious as I listen to the patient clouds of sound drift out of my stereo. I’ve performed music by some of this compositional cadre, not these four but others of a similar school. Some folks like it. It takes great focus to do well, as the players do here. And even so, there will be those who, like me, would like their two hours back. Max Christie Eren Gümrükçüoğlu – Pareidolia Conrad Tao; JACK Quartet; Mivos Quartet; Ensemble Giallo; Deviant Septet New Focus Recordings FCR343 ( ! Two suppositions: music is only music to the extent that it elicits recognition and response, and not all music (not all art) is good for one. Consider these as you read why I recommend this disc. Think catharsis. Composer Eren Gümrükçüoğlu makes brilliant use of acoustic and electronic media, with strong collaborators including the excellent JACK Quartet. His ideas, once you settle into the terrain, make sense. There is pitch and sound contoured into melody, and there is rhythm, lots of it. The opening track is frankly scary. Pandemonium comes to us via Milton What we're listening to this month: Symphonie de la tempête de verglas Maxime Goulet, Orchestre classique de Montréal, Jacques Lacombe Commemorating the 25th anniversary of one of the worst natural disasters in Quebec’s history, the album takes the listener into a whirlwind of music. I and Thou VC2 Cello Duo I and Thou is a pensive rumination on the power of relationships to undergird the foundation for a person’s well-being; the need for meaning. Pareidolia Eren Gumrukcuoglu Turkish born composer Eren Gümrükçüoğlu's Pareidolia presents seven of his kinesthetic works for chamber ensembles, with and without electronics, as well as fixed media. Killdeer Guy Barash Composer/performer Guy Barash teams up with poet Nick Flynn for this affecting work featuring spoken word and structured improvisation April & May, 2023 | 69

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