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Volume 9 Issue 10 - July/August 2004

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Coalition of New Music

Coalition of New Music Presenters I NEWS AND VIEWS Keith Denning Heart of the Matter? tluzt on June 28th!) This column usually covers in a Arts are barely a part of the agensemi--0fficial kind of way the affairs da, but there are two excellent arguof Toronto's new music communi- ments for the stable and increased ty. But it's a slow month, so I hope fundirtg of the arts sector. you'll indulge this entirely personal The economic. argument (which rant instead. requires repeated hammering) is that It is with consternation that I re- government money spent in the arts late the announced demise of sector creates more jobs per dollar Quebec's new music show, le Na- spent than in any other sector oflhe vi re Nigh!. Effectively, this is economy. It's a good invesunent. The Quebec's counterpart to the nation- annualfederalgrantthatHarbourfront wide Two New Hours. That yet an- receives is more than paid back in other part of Canada's arts commu- taxes to the government by all those nity is in crisis isn't news: it is the who participate in some way in Harnorm in ouf lives as musicians, as . bourfront's activities. The Canada artists. This atmosphere of crisis is~ Council allotted slightly more than simply put, the background noise that million in 2002 for its entire we strive to be heard above. music program. That's for every Le Navire Night is an important composer, performer, band, venue, part of Quebec's cultural scene, re- ensemble, songwriter, orchestra, cording, for example, the Victoria- community choir, etc. across the ville Festival. I urge concerned read- country. It's chickenfeed, when you ers to write to Sylvain Lafr~ce and rfalize the truly huge number o! en­ Christiane Leblanc at Radio-Cana- deavours that money attempts to fund. da. For more detailed info visit To paraphrase an essay I recently · read: the major donors to tl1e arts Why is this program being cut'? are not the taxpayer or the private The most depressing thing is that citizens, but the artists themselves, ilie announcement is not surprising. who willingly work for little or no Just as it is not surprising iliat ilie 0 money, spend meir time and their major symphony orchestra in Cana- savings, to create mose mings iliat da's largest city has, in recent years, enrich and inspire all our lives. lurched fr:om financial crisis to fi- There may be a good argument nancial crisis. Or mat me Music - I may even be persuaded by it - Gallery, one of me country's most for giving Bombardier a cheque for important new music institutions, is 0 million, as happened not so sinlilarlybesetbyproblems. many years ago. But if I had •to The arts in mis country are badly guess, increasing me Canada Counand chronically underfunded. It is cil's music budget by a fraction of scandalous, of course, but it is not mat whopping amount would be of surprising. Especially when you greater long-term economic benefit. note mat ilie four major party lead- The second argument is simply ers can debatd on television for four mat me arts make our lives vibrant hours (two in Englis.h, deux en and remind us ihat mere are wormy Frarn;:ais) and ilie arts get mentioned pursuits mat are not preceded by once, fleetingly. (This occurred in dollar signs. Nietzsche said that ilie French debate.) "Without music, life would be a It is, of course, difficult to raise a mistake." But many of our leaders great deal of sympathy for ilie crea- don't seem to feeLiliat way. tors in tllis country when so many In Uganda and Cambodia, musioilier essential parts of our society cians were actively persecuted by !di - healtll care, social services, edu- Amin and Pol Pot, respectively. cation, tlle military - are also cash- Fearing someiliing enough to want starved. It's almost embarrassing. to kill it is proof of its power. What Isn 't it' wrong to demand funding should we infer ilien about govern- - for tlle arts when Johnny can't read'? ments iliat allow it to die from ne­ When iliere's a sixteen-week wait glect'? for a diagnostic MRI'? We need more social workers in Arts are barely a part of ilie l\:d- tllis country, certainly, but Beethoven era! agenda. (A brief aside: Stephen would have made a lousy one. And, Harper has, in tlle past, argued in because iliis was recognized, our favour of ilie elirru·m1ion of ilie Can- hves are enriched. ada Council. Hope you remembered COMPOSER TO COMPOSER INTERVIEW WITH Howard Bashaw JUNE 2004 The work of a composer is often in- 1ensely soli1ary, and few composers embody !his more so 1han Howard Bashaw. 1-Wzen no! busy al !he University of Alber/a, where we both leach corriposilion, he works long hours in his basemen! on an old, refurbished, and sleadfasl grand piano. Recenily, he traveled io Toron- 10 to attend !he premiere of his new work Minimnlisms (wrinen for New Music Concer1s and pianisl Roger Admiral). Upon his return to &lmonlon, I was able 10 corral him for an inlerview, frying to get to !he heart of the mailer. STEENHUISEN: Morion Feldman wrole a piece entilled The Viola in my Life. Using the title alone, ii would be appropriale for you lo wrile a piece called The Piano in my Life. Why do so many of your pieces fealure !he piano? BASHAW: I recall mat long ago, in a composition lesson, I expressed a great reluctance to write for the piano. It had to do wim me simple fact that I wasn't a pianist - not to mention the dauntingly enormous range of repertoire for me instrument, and the extraordinary compositional minds behind mat repertoire. It was a very large world that I didn't feel comfortable getting into. But when I was at the Banff Centre, I had a specific opportunity to write for piano. I worked in one of those secluded huts, just me, the piano, and the great outdoors, and it was there that I first really came to terms with the instrument. I realized then that it wasn't so much a problem of writing for piano as it was about tea~hing myself new ways to compose. It . was an important time for me. The piano connected me to things that I wanted to do and say as a composer, things I hadn't reached, or formalized yet. I was searching for certain types of harmony, certain technical ideas, reaching thought processes that had been swinlming around in the back of my mind. It was at this time that I really started to find my voice as a composer. And iri a sense, the piano actually became my composition teacher. It was then that I wrote the piece Hosu for Barbara Pritchard, . and there has been no turning back BY p AUL S'IEENHurSEi'i since. That work generated my interest in the instrument, and it certainly generated interest in my music from other pianists. And now my solo piano music has been performed in national and international piano competitions. Twenty years ago, I would have been the last to even inlagine this possible. Looking back, I have this strange feeling that I didn't choose the piano so much as that pivotal piece chose me. STEENHUISEN: You didn '1 have 10 agree to the requests for more piano music. BASHAW: True. But why leave it? In retrospect though, the piano may have replaced what nlight have been an interest ip the electroacoustic medium. Given my sense of focus and direction, .and my position at the time as an emerging composer, I very well could have gone in that di- . rection, but I went to the piano instead. I could never have predicted that. I suppose it was the result of circumstance, but it also has to dci with the way I work. I enjoy working in complete isolation, working directly with the instrument that becomes the voice of expression. It's very meaningful for me, and I think there's a parallel here with those working in the electroacoustic medium Returning to the subject of Feldman, I recall him speaking about how important it was for him when he bought his piano, having just the right instrument to get the sounds he needed, the sense of time and space he wanted, and how the instrument itself is so important for the compositional process. That made a very big impression on me. Taking the sense of how you're composing, and what you're composing for, to a very refined, specialized space. Paul, it's not just about the piano, it's about a sense of focus, and a real sense of association with the medium you're working with. I can't inlagine getting away from this medium now. I've even considered writing only for the piano for a number of years, and nothing else. I communicate one-toone, directly with the instrument and its performers, which for ~ Is more effective than working and rehearsing T4 WWW.TllrWHOLENOTE . CO.\ JULY 1 - SE PT 7 2004

with large ensembles. STEENHUISEN: ITTuzt is it thnt keeps cnlling you lxzck? BASHAW: The instrument is inspiring on a munber of levels. Take the technical a~pects of the keyboard itself, composing through a direct connection with finger patterns or chord structures - discovering those patterns, and their physical relation to the instrument, and how that, in itself, becomes part of the creative process. For me, that was very interesting and inspiring. Or take the deep and diverse sound resource of the instru- , ment, one you can't renlly know about until you start working with it. It's aboutunderstanding shades of pianissim:> or forte, or balancing textures through discovery. It's the kind of composing whereby musical ideas are extracted from the instrument rather than imposed upon it. And I'm speaking here as a non-pianist. I don't have any classical piano training to speak of, but I think not studying the piano has freed me to find my own way around the instrument. I don't have a pianist's defnult setting in my hands or ears, as it were, and I'm grateful for that. STEENHUISEN: So you were initinlly reluctnnt lo write for pinno bemuse you weren '[ (l pinnist, nnd now you feel thnt not being n pianist 'becnme your ndvnntnge. BASHAW: Exactly, but I had to get through the difficult stage of composing to find that out. STEENHUISEN: You mentioned the vnst piano repertoire. ITTuzt do you extmct from thnt nnd involve in your music? BASHAW: If you're asking whether or not I d~liberately model my pieces on specific piano works, then the answer is no, or at least not intentionally so. But I would say genre and idiom in the general sense can be seen as influences. For example, I regard bagatelles, preludes and other short keyboard works as a genre, and one that has inspired me. STEENHUISEN: VWzy hnve you written so mnny short pieces? BASHAW: I've always found it appealing to have information compressed, focused and stated within a very short time span. To make a singular statement where emphasis arises through brevity itself. STEENHUISEN: Over the course • of your cnreer, your music hns chnnged quite n lot. Initially, there wns n physicnlity, or mwness to the pieces. BASHAW: Parts of them, yes. Perhaps I was just an angry young man. STEENHUISEN: Now, it's icier, more mensured. BASHAW: There is certainly an imposed ratiorui.lity on the physicality, but I look at it as refining that musical energy, and directing it in different ways: STEENHUISEN: In thnt sense, there could be n relntion to the mnrtinl nrts.- Controlled physicnlity. BASHAW: I've studied martial arts, and I thiTik that's an interesting parallel. There is so much energy and concentration underlying the effectiveness of each action. I think that also speaks t6 my interest in short forms. Everything can be brought into a quick, brief, concentrated - (smps fingers loudly). For a while, I became deeply, deeply interested in the works of Leonardo da Vinci. In particular, The wst Supper. There are intense, diverse and complex energies within that fresco:Consider its immediate impact, its emotional dimensions, its sheer drama, but all coordinated with that day's underlying science of perspective and geometry. Studying and researching that fresco likely becarre the biggest single influence on my compositional perspective. Taking what I may have felt, as what you call the raw, physical composer, and recognizing the potential of sti.11 using that level of energy and impetus - · but now through strategic kinds of filters, controls, structures, or just CONTI NUES NEXT PAGE November 21; 2004. The Music Gallery Generation 2004 !:Ensemble contemporain de Montreal I Veronique Lacroix, artistic director Four young composers from . across Canada present new works developed over a sjx month period with ECM January 9, 2005 Glenn Gould Studio Japanese Sh6 virtuoso Mayumi Miyata with the New Music Concerts Ensemble and Accordes Including works by Toshia Hosokawa and Toshi Ichiyanagi January 22 fX. 23, 2005 The Music Gallery Three Cities in the Life of Norman Bethune a chamber opera by Tim Brady featuring Bradyworks with Michael Donovan, baritone ~~I programs and artists subject to cba11ge April 1, 2005 Glenn Gould Studio Heinz Holliger In conjunction with the Faculty of Music, University of Toronto New Music Concerts presents music by the Michael and Sonja Koerner Distinguished Visitor in Composition Heinz Holliger May 1, 2005 Glenn Gould Studio Jorg Widmann The rising young German clarinetist and composer performs his music 1 with the NMC Ensemble May 27, 2005 The Music Gallery Keith Hamel Chamber music with computers curated by Keith Hamel, featuring a. newly commissioned work by Paul Steenhuisen Two Additional Concerts To Be Announced I~~ to rontda rt sbou n ci I )ULY 1 - SEPT 7 2004 WWW. THEWHOLENOTE.COM

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