A Swedish family's five-day Alpine vacation is the idyllic setting for Force Majeure, a caustic moral tale that would have done Eric Rohmer proud. The photogenic, seemingly perfect upper-middle-class unit is thrust into a psychodrama that's as darkly comic as it is shocking. As the apparently banal events of the holiday play out with deceptive repetition the family’s emotional reactions evolve above an underbelly of heightened tension.
“A film is – or should be – more like music than like fiction. It should be a progression of moods and feelings. The theme, what’s behind the emotion, the meaning, all that comes later.” – Stanley Kubrick
Imagine, as you walk through Stanley Kubrick: The Exhibition (October 31 to January 25 at the TIFF Bell Lightbox), that you have an iPod loaded with music from Kubrick’s films. Listening to this music as you stroll would further illuminate the artefacts from the filmmaker’s extensive archives that already comprise an extraordinary glimpse into the working habits and intellect of one of the most thorough directorial minds the world of cinema has ever seen.
Prokofiev’sNevsky: The first piece on that iPod, perhaps surprisingly, would have to be Prokofiev’s soundtrack to Eisenstein’s Alexander Nevsky (1938), which Kubrick bought after seeing the film with Alexander Singer, a friend from high school (and later a director himself). Kubrick was so obsessed with the record that he played it continually, well over 100 times, so much so that his younger sister, fed up, broke it “in an absolute rage,” Singer said. “Stanley never got over [the battle on the ice].”
If you find yourself in a music school or studio in the coming months and hear through the walls of a practice room snippets of Holst’s The Planets or of Strauss’ infamous Dance of the Seven Veils, chances are that if the musician inside is under 30 years of age, they have their mind set on summer. Not because they are yearning for long days and sunny weather alone, but because the National Youth Orchestra of Canada is as usual well under way with planning its program for the summer ahead, and the application process for participants has commenced.
The National Youth Orchestra of Canada is not your average musical summer camp. Billed as “Canada’s orchestral finishing school” for ages 16 to 28, the NYOC recruits members from across the country for its annual program and tour, coaching participants in chamber music and the orchestral classics. And with 14-hour days of training, six days a week from June to August, summer at Laurier University – where the program takes up its residency – becomes a veritable hotbed of musical activity.
In my October World Music Beat column I offered a “Polaris Music Prize Trailer,” luring readers with the promise of “a backstage pass to the avant-garde Inuk vocalist Tany Tagaq’s jaw-dropping ten-minute performance…” I’m here to deliver on that promise. I will also be weighing in on the ramifications of the thrice JUNO-nominated Tagaq’s win on September 22, 2014 for her CD Animism. It’s the “best Canadian album regardless of genre and sales” according to Polaris, and her win this year certainly marks a significant milestone. For the first time it was awarded to an indigenous musician.
When Tagaq, drummer Jean Martin, and violinist Jesse Zubot lit into their Polaris spot, it was as if an intense Arctic wind had blown into downtown Toronto's The Carlu, howling. They played sections of their superb Animism with improvised throat singing upfront in the mix. I'd seen the trio on two other occasions. But when Christine Duncan cued her 40-voice improvising choir behind Tagaq, sounding like Xenakis or Ligeti's atonal chord clusters had just entered the hall, the concert achieved liftoff, moving onto another plane entirely. The multiple musical textures and traditions blended powerfully, the Inuit with the Euro-American-Canadian (featuring rock, free improv, soundscape, classical avant-garde and yet more genres).
You can see the show for yourself in the video here. As for me, I experienced a complex and heady mix of confrontation and conciliation of social, and political issues and musical genres. The performance also hinted at the potential transcultural power of the healing force of sound.
Before the existence of public museums, gentlemen of a certain social standing would compile what they called a “cabinet of curiosities.” Like a museum in that it was a room, or rooms of artifacts devoted to culture in natural history, it differed in that the collection depended entirely on the whim of the gentleman collector and could include anything at all related to history, archaeology, geology, religious relics, antiquities and works of art. It was an approach to culture that depended on the collector’s freewheeling sense of enthusiasm.
One could feel it in the air at the annual Toronto Early Music Fair, where the wide-ranging talents of a diverse group of musicians were on display at Montgomery's Inn, along with a pile of antiques, musical scores and musical instruments, all curated as a labour of love by Early Music Toronto (EMT) and Frank Nakashima.
If you had found yourself at Stratford Summer Music this past July anytime between July 15 and July 20, you might well have spotted a sign or two pointing the way to something called “Tom Percussion Island.” Had you followed the signs, you’d have found yourself meandering among what The WholeNote’s new music columnist Wende Bartley described in our summer issue as “nine percussion-based instrumental exhibits on display for audiences to engage with, including a tongue drum made from a hollowed-out apple tree trunk, fire drums made from cut and tuned fire extinguishers, a piano dulcimer made from a 110-year-old piano flipped on its side and a Dream Gong Maze for you to get lost in.”
If you were lucky, you’d also have run into the percussion quartet TorQ there, “performing their own ‘pop-up concerts’ or joining with the public in exploring the sounds of these instruments in the outside environment.”