7 years ago

Volume 7 Issue 10 - July/August 2002

  • Text
  • Festival
  • August
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  • Toronto
  • Jazz
  • Musical
  • Metropolitan
  • September
  • Symphony
  • Choir
  • Midst


JOHN WEINZWEIG INTERVIEWED BY PAUL STEENHUISEN PART II In Part I of our in!erview, John Weinzweig discussed some of the most important political issues he's tackled throughout his career. Part I, published in the June WholeNote, can be found on WholeNote 's web-site at · and at In this second andfinal installmen!, we move further, info conversation about his first-hand experience of the early developmen! of new music in Canada, and how his own musical thinking has developed over time. STEENHUISEN: Do you think that there's a noticeable quality to Canadian music? Is there a certain sound, a unique aesthetic? WEINZWEIG: There is something in music in Canada that is easier for the foreigner to perceive than it is for the Canadian to perceive. For example, Darius Milhaud was in Toronto and I was asked to bring some composers together. I got them together in the , concert hall of the old conservatory on College Street: Harry Somers, Harry Freedman and so on. Milhaud was very interested. He had a special interest in my Violin Sonata, which had an unusual form · in that its conclusion was a cadenza · for the violin. He found many elements· amongst us that provoked his inter~t. The conductor of the TSO at the time was doing my lwp concerto and planned to take it to Europe on tour with the· orchestra. He called me up to have a chat about the work and I went down to his office at Massey Hall' - he asked me some questions and I knew that he knew my piece, he'd done his homework. We had a very interesting conversation, and in the course of it he said, "I don't · understand Canadian music." That was the message that I got - that we have a Canadian music. He didn't understand it because it was different from what he usually did. . David TambJyn 14 Fifth Street Torot\to .:Tslat\d Ot\tario Cat\ada M532B9 Tel1 416-203-0789 NEW MUSIC/COMPOSER TO COMPOSER STEENHUISEN: How did growing up and living in Toron!o qffect you musically? WEINZWEIG: I slowly realiz.ed that I should be responding to the sounds of my environment, and my environment included the sounds of North American jazz. It also included certain subjects that influenced my music as a composer for CBC drama during wartime. I wrote over 100 scores that had to do with the war effort of course, but I also remember a series called The lWzite Empire. I was in the air force for a couple of years and when I came home I J:\ad this commission, for a 13 week Series about explorers who ventured into the Canadian north, and what happened to them. had done some research into the music of the Inuit and found a collection that was made by the government. I was fascinated by that. material and so I worked motifs from that research into my thirteen scores. At the end of the series, the CBC director of drama was very interested in the music and suggested I make a concert piece out of some of the background music. They gave me about ten days to. do it, and I did, calling it Edge of the World. It has a feeling of stillness, and coldness, and was a product of my experience in my environment that had to do with tlie history of this country. exq .. isite Bows tlat\dmade it\ the Fre t\ch Traditiot\ There was another series I did called Our Canada. The National Film Board was created in 1939 while we were at war, and they needed composers, artists, and writers. I was commissioned to do a number of film scores. The first arts project was the story of Tom Thomson called West Wind, and I wrote the music for it based on his famous painting. I had become involved in my country: I owe this to a number of factors - I owe it to the CBC. I owe it to the National Film Board. I owe it to the influence of our painters and writers. However, when I was interested in Arnold Schoenberg's twelve-tone method, I felt after a while that his music was basically extending the culture of his own country. He was really connected to Beethoven and Brahms, and I realiz.ed that this was not my rhythm. I was influenced by the composers of that time, but Schoenberg's rhythm was not the rhythm of my environment at all. That's when I began to try and merge a new technique with the influence of my environment. STEENHUISEN: And the influence was jazz? WEINZWEIG: Yes. J loved the music of the 30's - swing. That never left me. If you look at my work for bassoon and strings, Divenimen!o no. 3 (written in 1959), you'll notice the headings of the movements are called moderate swing, slow swing, then fast swing. That's when the rhythm of North America or Canada took over my music. STEENHUISEN: It must have been a difficulJ task to involve the European method of pitch and a North American feel for rhythm. WEINZWEIG: Exactly, but I gradually came to it. Remember, I was brought up with European music, especially programme music, which was a strong influence on me: Liszt, Tchaikovsky, and Beethoven of course. STEENHUISEN: Was it important for you when people such . as Stravif1Sky came to Toron!o? WEINZWEIG: It was very important for me. Stravinsky permeated my thinking when I was a· graduate student at Eastman. I did a paper on the Rite of Spring and that really turned me around. It was the sense of sonority and his powerful rhythm, but how would I reconcile them? The other music that I responded to was the music of Alban Berg. I listf;ned to a recording of his Lyric Suite, and was very moved by the emotion of it. How could I merge these two opposing sonorities, these opposing temperaments? The 30's were still the period of the Neoclassic, but the Neoclassic was a combination of some new sounds poured into old bottles. We wrote sonatas and rondos, and we , still wrote pieces called symphonies, but we hadn't found a new form for the new-sounds. Then Copland came on the scene. Here was the music that seemed to by distinctively American. A lot of mu8ic coming out of the 30's at that time in the USA was based in American folk music, because they had discovered their own music. Collections were being published and I got hold of some. There was a great similarity between the folk music coming out of the small communities in the USA and the same kind of music in Canada. The thing about Copland was the clarity of hi\ orchestration. His music was a filtering of the Stravinskll\n orchestration, simplified as well as clarified. Copland became a strong influence on me as well, eventually, and he too became illterested in jazz. When Duke Ellington first came to play Massey Hall, I was there. When George Gershwin turned up with his orchestra and was soloist in his Concerto in F and his Rhapsody in Blue, I was there. / PHILIP L. DA VIS Luthi er formerly with /./. Schroder: Runkfurt, West Germany A Fine Selection of Small and Full Sized Instruments and Bows • Expert Repairs (416) 466-9619 67 Wolverleigh Blvd., Toronto, Ontario, M4J 1 R6 16 July 1 - September 7 2002

Eventually all these things came together and I discovered the rhythm of my environment. You hear it in my music and you hear it in the choral works I wrote, such as Hockey Night in Canada, and others in which I use common speech. When I became interested in music theatre, I would write my own text. I found my own way to choose words and phrases that articulate well. STEENHUISEN: How did your career develop? WEINZWEIG: I had a very slow development because compositidn was not taught at the University of Toronto. I was on my own. I'd only had one year as a student of a composer and that was with Bernard Rogers at Eastman. That was it. I'm almost a self-.ffiade composer, I simply learned from other composers. I would say that it was a slow career. I think it took me longer as a composer. STEENHUISEN: Wasn't that the reality of the time? WEINZWEIG: No, that was me. ·For example, Jean Coulthard was a contemporary. She traveled abroad and managed to get lessons with about eight or nine different composers, such as Darius Milhaud, Vaughan Williams, and Bart6k. I had none of that. I couldn't afford to travel. I think the generation of composers after . me developed much earlier than I did, and developed their craft much earlier than I did. STEENHUISEN: So you've seen things flourish. .. WEINZWEIG: Yeah. I tell you, generations of composers that grew up in this country, from the 60's, 80's and today, they reveal a fine craft, and they've written many fine works that deserve more than just a premiere. There's also evidence of composers being influenced by other Canadian composers. I 'would say that Jean Papineau-Couture influenced a number of composers in Quebec. Certainly Murray Schafer has had an influence on other composers, and Harry Somers as well. There's a tradition developing in the creative work and I want to see more of a performance tradition develop. I think Canadians,have to realize that we do have a tradition. It's not very long, but we have it, and it's there for us. JAZZ&BAND number of people who attend festival performances never see the inside of a jazz club the rest of the year. The clubs are the backbone of jazz in Toronto; astonishing numbers of really fine musicians by Jim Galloway can be found in any given week Summertime, and the festival sea- contributiro.g to the very active club son goes on its merry way with the programme. If you are wary of Beaches Festival in July and jumping in at the deep end, look Markham .jn August. Does any- for a name you recognise, perhaps body know of any other city that someone you enjoyed at one of the has four jazz festivals within a couple 'festivals - but just do it! And then, of months? Not to mention the fes- having ventured out for something tivals in the surrounding area which familiar, venture back out and hear includejazz intheirprogramming. someone you don't know. They A look at the listings shows just might open your ears to a different how extensive that is - Dave Young, style of the music - who knows, Terry Clarke, Kevin Turcotte & you might just enjoy it. :Bernie Senensky at the Festival Of Bottom line is that if you like The Sound, Lorne Lofsky at the this music called jazz you should Kincardine Summer Music Fes- support it, not just take it for granted iival and Phil Nimmons at Strat- until next year's festivals roll ford Music, to name only a few. around_. Listening to your CD col- There was a time when summer lection - or your old LPs may be was a 'down' season for jazz _ a great, but there is something about few gigs at the c.N.E. but not much hearing live music that simply can- . else. Then, the festival phenomenon not be reproduced. -- making summer high season for The jazz audience, like the clasat least some musicians, even the sical, is minute by comparison with opportunity for a few of them to pop music where the pressun: t?· tour across Canada. (Meanwhile, . pander. to lowest comm.on denom1- of course the c .N.E. dwindled to nators mcreases all the tIIDe. A coua handful' ~f engagements, ensur- pie of hours in a jaz~ club might ing that playing jazz, along with well cost less than a .. mght at a not.~ acting and selling refrigerators in so-g~eat sui_nmer blockbuster the Arctic remains a hazardous way movie and give you a pleasant opto pay th~ rent. portunity to int~ract with some other In the glow of all the festival fire- people. . . works: let us not forget there is still ~y the time yo~ read this, I shall a strong local club scene worthy of ?e m ~scon~, Switzerland, follo':"­ support. For all of you who come. m~ a httle.b1t ?f the Eur~pean Clfout for the stars at festival time I cu1t, runmng mto old fnends and suggest this: go out to a local jdz.z. perhaps finding something new to club at least once before the end of enjoy· Happy listening and ?on't September. As I mentioned last ~org~t - ma~e some of your hstenmonth, Iamquitecertainthatahuge mg hve music. DAVID JENSEN Harpsichord Maker CUSTOM MADE HARPSICHORDS, VIRGINALS & CLAVICHORDS Repairs, Restorations, Tuning and Regulation since 1976 (905) 973-1314 & (905) 529-2527 Free Jazz Concerts Saturdays, 8pm Island Club, Ontario Place Jun·e 8th - Rick Shadrach Lazar & Montuno Police June 15th - I Bi ll King's Saturday Nite Fish Fry June 22nd - Shift Bfg Band June 29th - Kirk MacDonald Quintet July 6th - Shirley Eikhard July 13th - Michael Pickett Band July 20th - Kalabash > July 27th - Absolute Faith Orchestra August 3rd - George Gallus Sextet August 10th - Jim Galloway & Friends (416) 599-5299 Bay Bloor Radio Barrymore Furniture ]"11y 1 - Septe mber 7 2002 17

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