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Volume 29 Issue 1 | September 2023

  • Text
  • Thewholenotecom
  • Musicians
  • Violin
  • Arts
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  • Jazz
  • Orchestra
  • Toronto
  • September
Bridges & intersections: Intersections of all kinds in the issue: the once and future Rex; philanthropy and music (Azrieli's AMPs); music and dance (TMChoir & Citadel + Compagnie); Baroque & Romantic (Tafelmusik's Beethoven). also Hugh's Room crosses the Don; DISCoveries looks at the first of fall's arrivals; this single-month September issue (Vol. 29, no.1) bridges summer & fall, and puts us on course for regular bimonthly issues (Oct/Nov; Dec/Jan; Feb/Mar, etc) for the rest of Volume 29. Welcome back.

as a form of apology”.

as a form of apology”. Masaki and each composer talk about their musical and technological creative process and working together in the informative Transformation Documentary Film. The music, visuals and hi-tech interactions on Transformation are indeed unforgettably transforming. Tiina Kiik ...and the Lord Hath Taken Away The Holy Gasp Independent ( ! If, like me, you had neither heard of, nor listened to, The Holy Gasp before, the mere thought of approaching this album would be to expect something spiritually inclined. After all an ensemble called The Holy Gasp… well, what other kind of music would the ensemble make? Moreover, the album is titled … and the Lord Hath Taken Away, a direct quote from The Book of Job, of the Bible’s Old Testament spoken by the afflicted man himself at the height of his long suffering. However, as it turns out, the ensemble’s frontman, Toronto-born poet, composer and vocalist of repute, Benjamin Hackman – knowledgeable as he as about scripture – is also a wonderfully free-thinking musician who can wield his impressive tenor voice and move easily between a kind of opera recitative, he’s-a-jolly-good-fellow klezmer, moaning blues-inflected vocals and any other style that his extraordinary music demands. Hackman’s multi-faceted skills and this shape-shifting music are eloquently articulated by the musicians in this large ensemble. And it is all held together as if in an enormous musical sculpture by the extraordinary Robert W. Stevenson who conducts it all. To experience a snapshot version simply skip from the darkening of The Merry Man of Uz to Who Framed Moishe Hackman? to the rollicking Everything Where It Should Be. But do that and you will be missing out on 15 other songs, each with its own evocative mystery and musical thrill. Raul da Gama Za Klavir: For the Piano Nina Platiša Independent ( ! Elemental and concise – most under three minutes – the 27 pieces of Za Klavir: (For the Piano), composed between 2018 and 2022, are subtly spiced with piquant sprinkles of Balkan folk idioms. Engagingly varied in tempo, rhythm and mood, they share unadorned melodic lines and sparse accompaniments, often only simple pedal points. Belgrade-born composer/pianist Nina Platiša, now based in Guelph, came to Canada as a three-year-old in 1994. Responding to my email query, she wrote, “When I was young, my mom taught my sister and me Balkan folk songs… As I began to compose the solo piano pieces that would eventually make up this album, the music to which I felt the closest connection was often the simplest, pieces with simple melodies and harmonies akin to those of Balkan folk music – unpretentious and transparent. They seemed to issue from me naturally.” Save for the concluding Saputnik (Companion) No.1, the pieces are numbered, not named. In an interview posted online, Platiša described three of them, beginning with the solemn No.7. “I saw an image of it being played at the funeral of my grandfather or great uncle. I pictured my family and friends dancing to No.20 at my family’s slava (saint’s day) and I saw myself playing No.25 for a newborn baby.” I was particularly enchanted by the delicate, melancholy beauties of Nos.5, 11, 14 and 19, reminiscent of Satie’s haunting Gymnopédies. I found Za Klavir compelling listening throughout; you may, too. Michael Schulman Emilie Cecilia LeBel – field studies Jane Berry; Cheryl Duvall; UltraViolet; Ilana Waniuk Redshift Records TK530 ( discography) ! Prolific Canadian composer Emilie LeBel has roots in the contemporary concert music scenes in Toronto and Edmonton. Recorded in both cities, field studies features five chamber works composed between 2016 and 2022. It’s tempting to describe LeBel’s accomplished and mature compositional language as postminimalism. On closer listening however, it’s in turn austere, serene and sonically challenging, but also lush and lyrical. It embraces solitary long tones as well as complex harmonies and microtonal gestures. This complexity questions any neat “minimal” pigeonholing. Another sonic signature is LeBel’s ingenious use of coloured noise, exploiting the vast spectrum between conventional instrumental tone and white noise. In even if nothing but shapes and light reflected in the glass for alto flute, baritone sax and electronics, “tactile transducers on prepared snare and tom drums” supply the sonic grit. They provide a textural counterpoint to the two wind instruments’ built-in wind sounds as well as to their more typical lyrical voices. Nor is LeBel afraid of boldly combining inherently contrasting instruments. For example, evaporation, blue is scored for the unlikely paring of piano and harmonica, both played with conviction and delicacy by Toronto pianist Cheryl Duvall. LeBel’s considerable orchestration chops are aided by her close attention to the strengths and limitations of instruments and voices. Beautifully played by Ilana Waniuk, further migration for solo violin illustrates the former, while drift for voice and chamber ensemble animated by Jane Barry’s relaxed voice, the latter. I wouldn’t be surprised if an opera is in LeBel’s future. Andrew Timar Sources Louise Campbell Redshift Records (redshiftmusicsociety. ! Ambient soundscapes can be fascinating. It’s a mystery to me that some can also be as listenable, out of context, as the material on this new disc. That’s a long-winded roundabout compliment to the creator of Sources, multi-disciplinary clarinetist Louise Campbell. Full disclosure: I too am a Campbell, of the Irish variety, so call me biased at an odd angle. The clarinet on these four tracks is rarely heard without many layers of electronic manipulation applied. Campbell’s playing is equal to the material she writes without ever being showy. The point is not to highlight the instrument nor the player, but to distill the sounds she generates into evocations. The first track, Songbird, is a psychedelic dawn chorus set in Georgian Bay. Swirl (an elegy to her late father) evokes tiny watery movements at the edge of Le Fleuve St. Laurent. Briefly, Campbell allows her sound to stand unclothed by electronic reverb and echo, a breathtaking moment. Playing Guitar Gear rocks on about Campbell’s hometown of Montreal. It’s the most dynamic piece, and while I don’t get what it’s about, it’s fun. The first three tracks each last around ten minutes, and the fourth, People of the Sea, balances the length almost exactly at 33 minutes. Also a music therapist, Campbell allows one to wander about within the sounds. I found myself hearing it accompanying my thoughts on a range of things (including editing other reviews) and when I checked in it was mostly finished. At some point a single line became several, and a stationary colour became something like a melody. The texture is pebbled, not granular but bumpy, like distressed beach-glass. The 46 | September 2023

final minute or so is an open harmony, a major sixth resolving gradually to an open fifth over an evocation of surf. Amen. Quite beautiful. Max Christie Describe Yourself Christopher Whitley Redshift Records TK529 ( track/describe-yourself) ! Six contemporary pieces for violin by living composers who also happen to be fellow Canadians make an interesting artistic choice. Add to that remarkable Canadian violinist Christopher Whitley performing on the 1700 “Taft” Stradivarius violin and we get an album that is beaming with adventure, potency, depth and ingenuity. Multi-talented Whitley interprets, collaborates, vocalizes, contorts, draws and carries the various extended violin techniques and melodies with the outmost conviction, all the while staying centred in the resonance and beauty of the pure sound. He is a sound magician with a deep understanding of composer’s intentions. Some of these pieces are oriented toward exploration of the fundamental violin sounds, others more experimental. What they have in common is the array of open spaces left for existential sound. Kara-Lis Coverdale’s Patterns in High Places is successful in creating a continuum of musical pathways that are both soothing and probing. Nicole Lizée’s Don’t Throw Your Head In Your Hands is a pure joy to listen to; a beautiful cinematic canvas underneath violin solos is created through unconventional sound manipulations using old karaoke tapes. The album closes with In Bruniquel Cave by Fjóla Evans, its atmosphere so mysterious and dark that we might feel we entered a secret chamber to hear the time passing. A violinistic and compositional chamber of curiosities, Describe Yourself makes its mark through a grand execution of imaginative writing. Ivana Popovic Difficult Grace Seth Parker Woods Cedille CDR 90000 219 ( ! The work contained in cellist Seth Parker Woods’ Difficult Grace almost defies classification. This is an album of live theatre, performance art, electronics, spoken word and poetry, political awareness, storytelling, ambient music and gorgeous cello playing. The overall cohesiveness contained is a theme of commitment to art, and if you were lucky enough to catch Woods’ March 2022 Toronto performance of this album you will be familiar with what a great work of art it is. The scope of the works contained is wide and deep. Beginning with Frederic Gifford’s 2019 Difficult Grace, one is immediately captured for the entirety of the album. Based on the poetry of Dudley Randall’s Primitives the verbal and musically sonic transformation is easily accessed. The delivery by Woods is a performance on its own. Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson’s third movement Lamentations from his Black/Folk Song Suite reflecting the African-American experience is solo pizzicato throughout and aptly described in the title Calvary Ostinato. Monty Adkins’ 1972 Winter Tendrils is a luscious melodic track, followed by Nathalie Joachim’s 1983 The Race 1915, one the album’s most powerful works. Inspired by visual artist Jacob Lawrence’s images of the historic African-American migration beginning in 1915, it features excerpts from issues of the important Black newspaper The Chicago Defender, published in that pivotal year citing the oppression and atrocities facing millions compelled to travel uncertain journeys. The spoken text and solo cello rise above the undercurrent of the train-like electronic ostinato, driving the piece to its powerful conclusion. Alvin Singleton’s 1970 work Arogoru (from the Twi language meaning “to play”) is a motivic, gestural piece followed by another of Joachim’s, Dam Mwen Yo. The final piece is Ted Hearn’s Freefucked (2022). A complex and yet straightforward suite of songs showcasing poems by Kemi Alabi, from their poetry collection Against Heaven, which really completes this fantastic journey with the use of electronics, vocal processing and solo cello. The suite is dynamic and full and could be listened to in parts or in whole. Each movement is stunning. It helps to follow the poetry included in the accompanying booklet but the music stands without it. This whole piece is awesome. Cheryl Ockrant Recesses Lee Weisert New Focus Recordings FCR366 ( ! The album Recesses is a fantastical sonic journey of melting ice, acoustic piano, degraded tape and voices, a kind of hustle and bustle mixed with water droplets and electronic fuzz. Layers of time, stratus clouds shifting, streaks of water moving through air, frost on metal, children speaking. Colours of purple, grey and green. Sparkle and dust. Layer under layer under layer. Windows open and close, breezes blow through, curtains move. Empty walls fill up with images and empty out again. Conversations rise and fall. This album is a masterful creation, a demonstration of visually listening peripherally with a third eye, of noticing and letting go. Never feeling preachy or heavy, these four beautiful tracks morph between mindful and wild, a flowing sonic movement that feels unrushed but is never still. This is a magical space to enter without the wastefulness of extraneous noise or volume. The fourth track, Similar Speeds, is a rather mesmerizing visualization of subtle stretching of mis-timing, reminiscent of the metal ball toy Newton’s Cradle. Professor of composition at Northwestern University, DMA pianist and multi-instrumentalist Lee Weisert has collected a brilliant team of collaborators to build his journey with. Allen Anderson on modular synth, Nicholas DiEugenio, violin, Jonathon Kirk, electronics and Melissa Martin, vocals. This is an album to listen to while doing nothing else. Cheryl Ockrant JAZZ AND IMPROVISED Live at the Village Vanguard Kris Davis Diatom Ribbons Pyroclastic Records PR 28/29 ( ! Émigré Canadian pianist/ composer Kris Davis here commemorates a landmark appearance at New York’s Village Vanguard with this two-CD set by a quintet form of her group Diatom Ribbons, ranging through a program that includes both compositions by celebrated jazz composers and several of her own works that sometimes incorporate the voices of a few singular influences. Essentially heterodox, broad-based and witty, the music is anchored by drummer Terri Lyne Carrington and bassist Trevor Dunn, while Val Jeanty contributes turntables and electronics and Julian Lage, perhaps the leading jazz guitarist of the day, matches the blistering virtuosity and manic playfulness that Davis brings to piano, prepared piano and arturia microfreak synthesizer. The occasion is clearly one to celebrate and the performance is carnivalesque in mood and variety. The opening Alice in the Congo, composed by Ronald Shannon Jackson, has roots in both funk September 2023 | 47

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