What happens to the new when the weather heats up and the concert seasons have ended? Does the more casual atmosphere of the summer mean that presenters, performers and audiences are ready for something more out of the ordinary? From my discoveries of what lies in store for both the curious and the lover of experimental and innovative sounds, it seems that the boundary lines between musical genres and art forms become a bit more blurred. Musical concerts, outdoor installations, performance art and electronic and sound art are all happening within the traditional and not-so-traditional music, theatre and interdisciplinary festival environments. And often, the regular indoor concert hall has been tossed aside to make room for these sounds in outside spaces or to create a more participatory audience experience. The great thing is that many of these events are happening outside the Metro Toronto area, so be prepared. Your sonic summer listening will require some travelling around the province, but that’s what vacation time is for.

inwiththenew marina abramovic headshot 01 - photo by  laura ferrariStarting off in June, we are immediately plunged into a series of performances that are full of cross-pollinating and genre-crashing power. The big news is that Toronto’s multi-arts Luminato Festival is headlining Marina Abramović, a New York-based performance artist originally from Serbia who is considered to be the “grandmother” of the performance art genre. Her work explores the limits of the body and states of consciousness, while often putting herself through extreme physical pain or tests of endurance. In 2010 during a retrospective at the MoMA in New York, Abramović performed The Artist is Present during which she sat immobile and in silence all day for almost three months while spectators took turns sitting opposite her. People experienced religious-like transformations as they stared back into her penetrating presence.

You may ask — what does this have to do with music? The answer is, of course, that the story of her life, along with scenes from her performance works, has been made into an opera entitled The Life and Death of Marina Abramović. Premiered in 2011 at the Manchester International Festival and toured to sold-out audiences in several European cities, the opera will receive its North American premiere at Luminato, running June 14 to 17. Conceived and directed by the legendary Robert Wilson in collaboration with Abramović, she also performs as herself and her mother alongside Willem Dafoe as narrator and male counterpart. The music was co-composed by cult pop star Antony Hegarty and ambient minimalist William Basinski, and performed by Antony in his mesmerizing and hypnotic voice. It was his cathartic musical performances and emotional vulnerability that inspired Abramović to invite him to collaborate on this opera that she describes as “a series of births and funerals of the soul.”

Running in conjunction with the opera from June 14 to 23 will be her latest performance work/installation, MAI – Prototype. In seven interconnected pavilions in Trinity Bellwoods Park, four pre-booked participants will wear white lab coats and receive instructions on headphones as they walk through the installation for a period of two hours. Every 30 minutes a new group will begin the journey in which they will undergo the rigours of her performance practice. These encounters will be live-streamed to other locations throughout Toronto, including one at Pearson airport.

Also performing at Luminato will be the inimitable Laurie Anderson appearing as part of The Hub series of free outdoor concerts at David Pecaut Square on June 16. Anderson was one of the first performance artists to bring experimental and art-rock music to a large popular audience. Writing songs full of political edginess and performing with her invented instruments (a tape-bow violin and a computer controlled “talking stick”), she made the UK pop charts back in the early 80s.

The pop/experimental music crossover theme continues over at the Music Gallery, in the last concert of their season’s signature Pop Avant series. Curated by Tad Michalak, known for his programming of under-the-radar pop, noise, jazz and harsh electronic music, his “Burn Down the Capital Showcase” June 8 will feature three different artists. Guaranteed to set your soul on fire, the music will mix up instrumental, vocal and a wide range of electronic and ambient sounds using tape loops and synthesizers to create both an “unacceptable” and sensual evening.

Another major summer music festival happening in Toronto is the NXNE Festival that takes over the downtown streets and clubs. This year, it’s exciting to see their programmers venturing into the world of sound art and co-producing three events with NAISA (New Adventures In Sound Art). These include a sound sculpture performance at the AGO on June 6, an audiovisual machine installation that runs from June 11 to 22 at the Wychwood Barns with a live performance on June 10 and a sound walk through Trinity Square on June 13, where sounds of underwater life will be projected into the outdoor urban space. 

For July, it’s off to Stratford Summer Music. It just so happens that July 18 is R. Murray Schafer’s 80th birthday, and he is being honoured that night with a tribute concert featuring pieces from his Patria cycle of musical dramas. As part of the celebration, Schafer’s visually-based scores will be on display at the Stratford Public Library from July 17 to August 25.

Schafer’s vision has opened up our ears to the soundscape (a term he coined), and so it’s only natural that he would create pieces for specific outdoor environments. His Music for Wilderness Lake from 1979 will be performed at 7am on July 19, 20 and 21 along the shores of the Avon River. Imagine 12 trombones spread amongst the mists of the riverbank, combined with an aria from another sunrise work — Princess of the Stars. Definitely worth an early morning rising. And if you’re up for experiencing something quite out of the ordinary, you could sign up to participate in a workshop performance of Asterion— the latest in his Patria series. The piece is an outdoor labyrinth located near Peterborough that has a series of rooms and passages participants must navigate alone as they encounter both performers and the environment along the way. Designed to be an intense and transformative soul journey, I couldn’t help but connect the dots to the Abramović installation designed with a similar intention. Happening through June and July, go to patria.org if you are drawn to join in.

inwiththenew macerollo joeReturning to Stratford Summer Music, we find that the entire cast and crew for a concert of Canadian contemporary opera excerpts has arrived via bicycle. The Bicycle Opera Project began last summer, touring from town to city via pedal power. This year, not only will they be performing in Stratford, but also in Toronto (July 4 to 7), and on tour from July 11 to 25 in Hamilton, Guelph, Elora, Fergus, Kitchener, Waterloo, Bayfield and London, arriving in Stratford for performances from July 26 to 28. This year’s repertoire focuses on telling the stories of women, featuring works from six different Canadian composers. For further details of the tour, check out bicycleopera.ca. Also appearing at Stratford Summer Music will be the acclaimed accordionist and contemporary music champion Joseph Macerollo in six weekend concerts, starting July 20 to 21 and ending August 24 to 25.

Not far from Stratford is the town of Elora, host to a summer music festival of many different styles. Works by contemporary composers can be heard on July 13 with the New Zealand String Quartet (Jack Body) and on July 14 with the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra (Philip Glass). The Elora Festival Singers will celebrate the 100th anniversary of Benjamin Britten in their concert on July 28.

August takes us back to the leading edges of sound and electronics with two festivals of sound art alongside the well-loved Ottawa Chamberfest. For the last seven years in Meaford, Ontario, over the August long weekend, the award-winning composer Gordon Monahan has been directing the Electric Eclectics festival of experimental music and sound art. With camping on-site, this year’s festival runs from August 2 to 4 and includes an extensive lineup of performances and installations, including New Yorkers Shelley Hirsch (experimental vocals) and Keiko Uenishi (laptop electronics), a long-awaited return by former Musicworks editor Tina Pearson (Victoria), a sound/light performance by Music for Lamps (Montreal) and the Sunda Duo (Toronto) with Bill Parsons and The WholeNote’s Andrew Timar. 

Over in Ottawa, musical experimentation on the long weekend at the Ottawa Chamberfest begins on August 2 with the improvisation-based Element Choir. Led by Christine Duncan, who uses a series of hand cues to sculpt real-time compositions, singers from Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal will be joined by Jim Lewis (trumpet) and Jean Martin (drums) to create a wild and energetic musical ride. This year’s festival also offers the New Music Now series with six concerts offered throughout the daytime hours on August 5 and 6. Performers and composers presented include pianist and multimedia artist Megumi Masaki, the Gryphon Trio (Lutoslawski, Ohana), Ensemble Transmission (Sokolović), the JACK quartet (Zorn, Lachenmann, Butterfield), choral works (Whittall, Kurtág, Berio) and a concert of works by Xenakis. In addition to this series, the festival is offering “snapshot” performances to ticket holders of the evening’s Siskind Concerts, including performances by Lori Freedman and the JACK quartet and presentations on the works of John Weinzweig and Xenakis. And if you are a fan of American composer Eric Whitacre, the Elora Festival Singers will perform three of his works in their concert on August 7, including Sleep — his online virtual choir hit.

Mid-month, from August 14 to 17, it’s the Toronto Electroacoustic Symposium with multiple performances and presentations. Featured this year are two giants of Canadian electroacoustic music: Francis Dhomont (also the keynote speaker) and Barry Truax. Co-produced with NAISA, all concerts will be diffused using a multi-speaker spatialization system. And as the summer days slowly become shorter, the Summer Music in the Garden series presented at Harbourfront’s outdoor Music Garden will feature the sounds of the TorQ Percussion Quartet on August 29. Performing compositions by Steve Reich, John Luther Adams, Richard Burrows and Daniel Morphy and an improvisation on clay instruments by the ensemble, the focus is on the natural elements of earth, water, air and fire. Overall, it’s a great summer lineup for discovering what’s cooking in the experimental sonic stew.

In addition: June 20 at Gallery 345, Kathryn Ladano on bass clarinet has two sets of improvised music including electronics and special guests.

July 19 at 7pm, Soundstreams Salon 21 presents “Summer Sound Walk,” a free tour through the different acoustic spaces of the Gardiner Museum and surrounding area. The event will feature vocalist, cellist and practitioner of Deep Listening, Anne Bourne, who will lead participants in guided listening exercises and invite them to listen to the sounds of the evening mingled with improvised live music. Definitely an event not to miss!  

Wendalyn Bartley is a Toronto-based composer and electro-vocal sound artist. Contact her at sounddreaming@gmail.com.

In last month’s column, I spoke about the act of listening, and how music creators have been evolving compositional strategies that bring more awareness to the ways we listen. When we slow down and open our whole being to engage with the sounds our ears are receiving, we truly do enter into a realm of perception that transcends normal everyday life. This can, of course, happen when we are listening to traditional music, but when the creative and artistic intention is focused on creating shifts in our perception of sound, it is easy to feel as if we are slipping into an “alternative universe.” This is how Musical Toronto blog-writer John Terauds describes his experience of listening to Ann Southam’s music as performed by Eve Egoyan — a concert I wrote about in that same column in April.

1808-newThe Open Ears Festival of Music and Sound on May 31 and June 1 in Kitchener presents a perfect opportunity to stretch our listening awareness even further. This year’s festival, “Between the Ears,” offers a wide range of events including concerts, sound installations, a regatta of origami boats in a reflecting pool, performative sculptures, late night improvisations and a street market. On May 31, some wild things are in store for festival-goers, including the percussion music of Australian composer Erik Griswold. His pieces have been described as the place where music and kinetic sculpture merge. Imagine a percussionist playing an array of temple bells and bowls accompanied by the sounds and rhythms created by a cone-shaped pendulum spilling 50 pounds of rice through a large funnel. This is Griswold’s work Spill. In his piece Strings Attached for six percussionists, the gestures of the performers become a living sculpture. Their mallets are attached with nylon ropes to a lighting rig, thus visually magnifying their movements.

Other features of the Friday evening event include a performance of James Tenney’s Having Never Written A Note for Percussion— a stunning acoustic experience sure to stretch you wide open. In fact, my body can still remember the reverberations I experienced back in 2000 when this piece was performed at the Tenney farewell concert in Toronto. A single note on an instrument of choice is played as a tremelo for “a long time.” It begins at the threshold of hearing and rises in volume to an extreme threshold before returning again to silence. A simple concept yet the complex sonic results are unforgettable.

The festival evening will wind down with Hit Parade by Christof Migone. Participants lie face down and pound the pavement with a microphone. Everyone has their own amplifier positioned as far away as possible and can take breaks after each 100 hits. A sonic playground extraordinaire!

June 1 brings a performance by current and founding members of the legendary improvising ensemble CCMC (who also were the founders of the Music Gallery), and a cutting edge electronic piece, La chambre des machines, created by Martin Messier and Nicolas Bernier who digitally transform sounds made from machine gears and cranks. The night ends at the Walper Hotel with the members of Freedman (Justin Haynes, Jean Martin and Ryan Driver) performing on a ukulele, a suitcase and a street-sweeper bristle.

Xenakis and Beyond: Just preceding “Between the Ears” is another festive gathering called “Random Walks: Music of Xenakis and Beyond” running from May 24 (in Toronto) to May 25 (in Waterloo). Presented by the Fields Institute, the Perimeter Institute and the Institute for Quantum Computing in Waterloo, this two-day event will focus on the music, ideas and influence of Greek composer and architect Iannis Xenakis. Concert presentations of his string quartet, percussion and electroacoustic music will be intermingled with lecture and discussion sessions. Xenakis was a 20th-century “heavy weight,” whose ideas continue to have a profound impact across many disciplines. Part of the festival will be devoted to exploring and taking stock of the range of this influence on, among others, composers, mathematicians, architects and computer scientists.

Xenakis’ music is often quite physically demanding on the performer, requiring a high level of technical prowess. That should bode well for some extraordinary concert experiences. Performers include the JACK Quartet, renowned for its “explosive virtuosity,” and an extensive list of percussion soloists and ensembles, including Montreal’s Aiyun Huang and Toronto’s TorQ Percussion Quartet. For a great essay on Xenakis’ string quartet music, I recommend the article written by James Harley, accessible through a weblink on the festival’s home page (google “Random Walks”). Noted speakers include musician and author Sharon Kanach who worked closely with Xenakis for many years, and composer/computer programmer Curtis Roads, former editor of the Computer Music Journal who also pioneered a form of computer sound creation known as granular synthesis.

More on string quartets: May seems to be the month not only for experimental music festivals, but also for string quartets specializing in contemporary music. Besides the JACK Quartet mentioned above, the Mivos Quartet from New York will be offering two concerts with slightly varying programs on May 24 at Gallery 345 and May 25 at Heliconian Hall. The young players of this quartet came together in 2008 after graduating from the Manhattan School of Music and set out to expand the quartet repertoire by commissioning and collaborating with a wide cross-section of contemporary composers. A third quartet — the Toronto-based Magenta String Quartet — will be presenting works by Toronto composers Eatock, Gfroerer and Vachon on May 25 at Eastminster United Church.

1808-new2East and West: The East and West musical dialogue continues in two extraordinary events this coming month. First up is a production by the Toronto Masque Theatre of The Lesson of Da Ji written by two of Toronto’s own: composer Alice Ping Yee Ho and librettist Marjorie Chan. Traditionally, masque is a fusion of music, dance and theatre which flourished in Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries. This new work, which runs from May 10to 12 at the Al Green Theatre, will be a contemporary take on the older form based on the true story of the Shang dynasty concubine Da Ji and the King who took revenge on her secret lover. The music will blend European baroque instruments with various eastern instruments including the pipa, erhu and guquin, which Da Ji learns to play as part of the narrative. A traditional Peking Opera dance performance will complement the blending.

The second East and West event will be Soundstreams’ season finale concert, “Music for China,” on May 14, which also happens to be their first stop on the way to touring in China. Featuring music for chamber orchestra written by Chinese, North American and European composers, the concert will include performances by the Canadian Accordes String Quartet and the Chai Found Music Workshop — an ensemble from Taiwan that specializes in contemporary classical as well as traditional Chinese and Taiwanese music. I do have to note a heartening feature of this concert program, even though it is not mentioned in any of the media releases (which is not to be taken as a criticism, but rather a sign of progress). All works on the program are written by women, with the exception of the piece composed by Murray Schafer. This fascinating lineup includes composers Dorothy Chang (USA), Fuhong Shi (China), Alexina Louie (Canada) and Kaija Saariaho (Finland).

Contemporary choral: Four concerts of contemporary choral music are in store for lovers of this genre. The Oriana Women’s Choir celebrates the 80th birthday of Ruth Watson Henderson on May 25 with a concert featuring several of her compositions along with premieres by emerging composers. On June 1 the Amadeus Choir joins with the Bach Children’s Chorus to present Henderson’s Voices of Earth and a premiere by Eleanor Daley. And on May 10, the Upper Canada Choristers sing music of the Americas, including pieces by Astor Piazzolla (Fuga y misterio) and Eric Whitacre (Lux Aurumque) sung by their highly accomplished Latin ensemble Cantemos. If you haven’t yet heard the virtual choir version of Lux Aurumque — it’s a must. Go to YouTube and search it out. Whitacre’s music is also included in the Da Capo Chamber Choir’s concerts on May 4 (Kitchener) and May 5 (Waterloo), along with works by Leonard Enns and Glenn Buhr.

Emerging: New sounds by young composers can be experienced at two events, both happening on May 25. At the Music Gallery, the ∆TENT ensemble performs works by emerging local and international composers, while the group called “(insert TITLE)” showcases works for the marimba. Arraymusic presents their annual Young Composers’ Workshop Concert with premieres by four emerging composers who have spent the month workshopping and experimenting with members of the Array ensemble to create their new pieces.

With such an eclectic mix of concerts representing widely diverging aesthetics to choose from, this month offers the perfect time to open your ears to something you may not have encountered before. And in so doing, you will be right in step with the stimulating forces spring offers. 

Wendalyn Bartley is a Toronto-based composer and electro-vocal sound artist. sounddreaming@gmail.com.

In With The NewWhen we attend any sort of concert, listening is automatically assumed. That’s what we go for — to listen. But the question can be asked — how do we listen? What happens to our attention while the musicians on stage are busily engaged in their performance? Do we watch their body movements, analyze the audience around us, listen to the thoughts inside the music, or wonder about what we’ll do after the concert? What do those sounds we are hearing have to do with the actual soundscape we are experiencing? How do we distinguish between hearing and listening?

One composer who has spent her lifetime creating and reflecting on the question of listening is Pauline Oliveros. She sought a balanced approach that includes both attention and awareness. Think of a circle with a dot in the middle. “Attention is narrow, pointed and selective — that’s the dot in the middle. Awareness is broad, diffuse and inclusive — that’s the circle. Both have a tunable range: attention can be honed to a finer and finer point. Awareness can be expanded until it seems all-inclusive.” [Pauline Oliveros “On Sonic Meditation” in Software for People, 1984, Smith Publications, p. 139]

It is a heightened and pure experience when suddenly attention and awareness meld together in concert. That is what comes to mind when I think of the music of Ann Southam, a pioneering soul who was passionately committed to creating music that opened up the listening ear, creating that wide expansive field of both inner and outer reality of which Oliveros speaks. Southam’s aesthetic was influenced by the minimalist ideas of drawing the listener’s attention to a gradual unfolding process of change, which allows space for the perception of subtle modulations and alterations in the music.

In Southam’s works written specifically for Toronto pianist Eve Egoyan, the elements of simplicity and mystery abound. On April 19 at a concert presented by Earwitness Productions at the Glenn Gould Studio, Egoyan will be launching her ninth solo disc, and her third of Southam’s compositions. The album, 5, will certainly raise interest internationally, as it features world premiere recordings of five posthumously discovered pieces composed by Southam. As a performer specializing in performing the works of contemporary composers, Egoyan’s repertoire covers a wide range, and this concert is no exception. Egoyan will be premiering Southam’s Returnings II which she describes as filling our ears with its magnetic pull, alongside the complexities of SKRYABIN in itself by Michael Finnissy. Works by composers Claude Vivier (Canada), Taylan Susam (Netherlands) and Piers Hellawell (Ireland) are also included in the program.

Another opportunity to hear an outstanding ambassador for contemporary concert music on the piano will be Continuum Contemporary Music’s presentation of UK pianist Philip Thomas in back to back concerts titled “Out of the Apartment,” on April 24 at Gallery 345, and “Correlation Street,” on April 25 at the Music Gallery. The first of these concerts will feature four specially commissioned works by Canadians Martin Arnold and Cassandra Miller and English composers Christopher Fox and Bryn Harrison.

Thomas is drawn to both freely improvised music as well as the experimental music of John Cage, and those working within a Cageian aesthetic such as Morton Feldman and Christian Wolff. He is known for designing concert programs that create connections between different composers, and when looking at the repertoire of the upcoming Continuum concert, one can definitely see his curatorial interests in action. In addition to the composers mentioned above, Thomas will be performing works by Canadians Michael Oesterle and Linda C. Smith.

Cage, of course, is renowned for 4’33” in which the pianist sits in silence on the stool, thus drawing the attention of the listener to the sounds in the room. As an aside, I made a fascinating discovery this past fall in one of the presentations made at The Future of Cage: Credo festival in October, 2012. Apparently, the premiere of that work took place in late August in an outdoor venue with the late summer tree-frog concert in full chorus. Thus Cage’s intention was not so much that we experience the coughs, shuffles and hums of the concert hall, as is the usual experience of hearing this work, but to bring attention and awareness to the rich soundscape in the natural environment and to include these sounds as part of what we consider to be music. I mention this because the act of creating this piece by Cage was a revolutionary step in expanding our conception of listening and one that continued to evolve in Oliveros’ work.

Yet another leading pianist in the interpretation of 20th-century music to visit Toronto this month will be Louise Bessette from Montreal. She will be performing works by fellow Montrealer Gilles Tremblay in New Music Concerts’ tribute to Tremblay on April 27. Bessette has cultivated an international career performing contemporary works from leading composers throughout Europe, Asia and the Americas, while releasing 20 recordings. She will perform two of Tremblay’s piano works from the 1950s among others.

Taking a leap beyond the solo pianist in concert, Soundstreams will be bringing together nine Canadian virtuoso pianists in “Piano Ecstasy,” its April 26 concert. These artists will perform in a wide range of styles: from Cage’s The Beatles to minimalist Steve Reich’s Six Pianos, as well as a newly commissioned work — Two Pieces for Three Pianos by Glenn Buhr. Cage and Reich come together again in TorQ Percussion Quartet’s concert “New Manoeuvers” for percussion and dance on May 3. Reich’s Mallet Quartet and Cage’s Third Construction will be complemented by new works from composers James Rolfe and Daniel Morphy.

April marks the end of the university school year and there is one noteworthy event: composer Cecilia Livingston presents her doctoral composition recital at the University of Toronto on April 14. Given the focus that composers such as Southam and Cage place on awareness as integral to the listening process, it is interesting that this young composer has titled her topic of compositional research “A Still Point: Music for Voices.”

And finally, the Canadian Opera Company will join with Queen of Puddings Music Theatre in presenting a new vocal work by Chris Paul Harman on April 30. Earlier this year, Queen of Puddings announced the closure of their company as of August 31, 2013. Their inventive way of staging chamber opera and music theatre works incorporated elements from physical theatre as well as placing the instrumentalists on stage. In reflecting back on their legacy, founding co-artistic directors Dáirine Ní Mheadhra and John Hess had this to say: “With Queen of Puddings, we’ve achieved what we set out to do, which was to commission and produce original Canadian opera to a high artistic standard, and to develop an international profile for this work.” Certainly one of their highlights was the launching of soprano Measha Brueggergosman in the 1999 production of Beatrice Chancy. For their swan song, Queen of Puddings will stage La selva de los relojes (The Forest of Clocks), Harman’s vocal work based on texts by Federico García Lorca. Lorca was a Spanish poet, dramatist and theatre director who died during the Spanish Civil War in 1936. It will be fascinating to see how Queen of Puddings stages what will most likely be an intensely dramatic work.

Additional concerts featuring contemporary piano music

April 13: Works by Hétu, Sherkin, Steven and Vivier. Canadian Music Centre.

April 23: “The Unruly Music of the Present.” Gallery 345.

April 27: Works by Gougeon, Morlock, Jaeger and Schafer. Canadian Music Centre.

May 3: Works by Mozetich, Kenins, Weinzweig, Behrens and Baker, performed by Mary Kenedi. Canadian Music Centre.

May 4: “Signposts.” Poetry and improvised music. Music by Gilliam and Ringas. Gallery 345. 

Wendalyn Bartley is a Toronto-based composer and electro-vocal sound artist. She can be contacted at sounddreaming@gmail.com.

1806 In With The NewReflecting on the nature of time and how we ultimately have no choice but to surrender to its rhythms is an activity that eternally captures the human imagination. One of the great gifts of Japanese culture to our understanding of time is found in the principle of Wabi-sabi, which finds beauty in the imperfect, impermanent and incomplete. Things in a state of transience, of coming and going — such as a flower coming into bloom or decaying — demonstrate this ideal. Wabi-sabi honours the process of change and those effects that the passage of time creates. Awareness at this level requires a quiet mind and cultivated human behaviour, which, in the Japanese worldview, can be instilled through the appreciation and practice of the arts.

Since January of 2013, the city of Toronto has been enjoying Spotlight Japan, a four-month, city-wide, multidisciplinary celebration of classic and contemporary Japanese culture in theatre, dance, film, visual arts and of course, music. On March 5 at Koerner Hall, Soundstreams will be presenting their contribution to this “spotlight” in their concert “Fujii Percussion and Voices.” Since the act of listening to music offers a very refined way of experiencing movement through time, this concert will present an opportunity to be transported into a deeper engagement with these ideals of transience and impermanence.

The concert features the virtuosic Fujii Trio from Japan performing on five-octave marimbas, vibraphone, glockenspiel and a variety of other percussion instruments along with Canadian performers Ryan Scott on percussion, Gregory Oh on piano and the Toronto Children’s Chorus. Because writing for percussion instruments is central to the work of many Japanese composers, this concert offers an extraordinary opportunity to experience the subtle workings of instrumental colour by four of that country’s outstanding composers: Tōru Takemitsu, Akira Miyoshi, Maki Ishii and Yasuo Sueyoshi. The concert will include the Canadian premiere of Miyoshi’s Yamagara Diary featuring the Toronto Children’s Chorus and a rare instrument called the sanukite, as well as a newly commissioned work from Canadian Michael Oesterle.

The sanukite is a uniquely Japanese instrument made from black volcanic stones that originate from the Kagawa Prefecture area. Known locally as kankanishi or “cling-clang rocks,” they produce a unique ethereal tone when struck, which, in the words of Japanese drummer Masashi Tomikawa “reveal the spirit of time itself.”

Oesterle’s piece Carrousel references the spiral motion of time and is scored as a quartet for glockenspiel, vibraphone, marimba and piano. The three percussion instruments will surround the piano and function as a way of preparing the piano as they reflect back the piano’s gestures, creating a type of “blurred vision.” This is similar to how “as we pivot around the sun, all bodies acquire a natural rhythm or pulse, tuned to the return of sunshine and darkness, becoming captives of a solar carrousel.” The other Canadian work is Claude Vivier’s Pulau Dewata (Island of the Gods) for percussion ensemble of varying instrumentation dedicated to the people of Bali.

The ending of a legacy: In spite of the virtue of embracing impermanence, it is still an unfortunate turn of events that the immensely successful series run by the Canadian Music Centre — New Music in New Places — will be coming to an end. This nation-wide series has forever changed the landscape of how contemporary music is perceived and received in this country, and even though it is being terminated due to federal funding changes, it’s absolutely essential that this innovation of placing new music listening experiences within community venues be taken up in different ways in the future. This month offers three opportunities in southern Ontario to experience music in the places where people gather — from eateries, to breweries, to retail stores.

The first such event will happen March 1 at the Academy of Lions General Store featuring the Music in the Barns Chamber Ensemble performing works by Richard Reed Parry, Rose Bolton and Scott Godin. The venue is part café, part gallery and part fitness store. Post-concert events include a performance by baroque folk duo Tasseomancy, and a chance to party with DJ Adam Terejko.

Not in our concert listings but of interest, Guelph and Kitchener-Waterloo residents can visit the Happy Traveller Bistro, 40 Garden St., Guelph, 519-265-0844, on March 8 to hear performances by the Kitchener-Waterloo Guelph New Music Collective. The Bistro offers a welcoming environment for local artists, musicians and community projects while serving up vegetarian and vegan food.

And on March 21 and 22 it’s off to the recently opened Junction Craft Brewery tap room and retail store for “Junction the Dry,” to hear music by Derek Johnson, Emilie LeBel, James Rolfe, Caitlin Smith and Healey Willan.

As these events demonstrate, New Music in New Places has made the experience part of our evolving consciousness.

1806 In With The New 2The emerging collectives: There’s much talk these days about “emerging artists.” It’s become a buzz phrase and even the arts councils have categories for such creatures. But beyond the labels, one characteristic I’m noticing amongst younger composers and musicians is the movement towards the creation of collectives. Not that this is necessarily a new strategy, but it’s a healthy sign of creating space not only for new voices and artistic visions, but also for new ways of collaborating. This form of partnership is another reflection of changes in the creative process that I spoke of in February’s column in the context of the upcoming New Creations Festival running March 2 to 9. More about that festival below, but first, here’s a look at opportunities to see what’s happening in three of these local collectives.

The Thin Edge New Music Collective is inspired by how new music can impact contemporary life. Their March 13 concert at the Canadian Music Centre will feature works using innovative instrumentation: melodica, thumb piano, toy piano, autoharp and auxiliary instruments alongside violin, piano and cello.

The second collective is Vox Novus that gathers together composers, musicians and music enthusiasts. In their March 10event at the Al Green Theatre, they will be presenting electroacoustic compositions from 60 Canadian composers with 60 one-minute dance works.

The Spectrum Music collective is a group of jazz-trained musicians and young contemporary classical composers. Their upcoming concert “What Is Toronto?” on April 5 will focus on intimate snapshots of the history, languages, people and places of the city. The concert will include a panel discussion on the subject of Toronto’s identity and history featuring local writers, politicians and thinkers.

Words and music: In their concert entitled “Time & Tide” on March 5 and 6, the Talisker Players will perform compositions by Canadians Walter Buczynski and Scott Good alongside readings of texts from various English authors. At Gallery 345 on March 14, the words of poets Roger Greenwald, Sheniz Janmohamed and Jacob Scheier will provide inspiration for the musical improvisations of Kousha Nakhaei on violin and Casey Sokol on piano.

Music in story is as old as humanity itself. At the Toronto Storytelling Festival, which runs from March 16 to 24, a composition I wrote eight years ago, The Handless Maiden, for soprano, storyteller, vocalizations and electroacoustics will be performed March 24. Another storytelling-focused concert will be happening at Kingston Road United Church on March 24. “The Storied Harp” will feature works by Marjan Mozetich (Songs of the Nymph) and Murray Schafer (The Crown of Ariadne).

Celebrating anniversaries: Since anniversaries are a way of marking time, there are a few important ones to note this month. Esprit Orchestra is presenting their 30th anniversary season finale concert March 28 with two newly commissioned works by Torontonian Erik Ross and Montrealer Denis Gougeon. These new works will serve to bring attention to Esprit’s ongoing tradition of presenting and commissioning Canadian music.As a special audience treat, the orchestra will also be presenting repeat performances of two audience favourites: Purple Haze and the theme from The Twilight Zone.

Two unique events complete the anniversary motif. Six different composers, all born in 1912/13, will be toasted in a fundraiser for New Music Concerts at Gallery 345 on April 6 to honour their 100th birthdays. Included are small works by Weinzweig, Pentland, Cage, Nancarrow, Brant and Lutoslawski. And to further celebrate the legendary Weinzweig, Soundstreams will be presenting a concert of his works March 11 at Walter Hall, followed by the unveiling of a plaque to be placed at Weinzweig’s family home.

The New Creations Festival: As mentioned above, I wrote at length about the Toronto Symphony’s New Creations Festival in February’s issue of The WholeNote, so I won’t repeat myself here, other than to say don’t miss out on this, and in particular the premiere on March 9of A Toronto Symphony: Concerto for Composer and City. The two other concerts in the festival are on March 2 and 7. Given that the Spectrum collective is also featuring Toronto’s sounds and places in their April 5 concert, our ears should be primed for engaging in new ways with the place in which we live. Who knows where this might lead as a follow-up to the ending of the New Music in New Places series?

Additional quick picks

Music Toronto. Discovery Series: Trio Fibonacci. Works by Radford, Onslow and Sokolović. Jane Mallett Theatre, St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts, March 14.

Toy Piano Composers. Threshold/Le Seuil. Works by Pearce, Thornborrow, Denburg, Tam, Correia and Ryan. Artword Artbar, Hamilton, March 21. Repeat performance March 23 in Toronto at the Heliconian Hall.

Canadian Sinfonietta. A Visit from Lviv. Works by Vasks, Paderewski, Royer, Pepa and Laniuk. Glenn Gould Studio, March 23.

Diana McIntosh. In Concert. Featuring a retrospective of works composed and performed by McIntosh. Heliconian Hall, April 4. 

Wendalyn Bartley is a Toronto-based composer and electro-vocal sound artist. She can be contacted at sounddreaming@gmail.com.

For the adventurously minded, the act of music making can be all about paving the way for the future of music to unfold. If you were to think 50 years ahead or even 25, what would your prediction be for how music will be created, experienced and listened to?

new music photo - feb 2013This year’s New Creations Festival presented by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra from March 2 to 9 will be an opportunity to catch a glimpse of what may be in store for the music lovers of 2050. When the TSO invited American composer and technology wizard Tod Machover to both curate the 2013 festival and compose a new work for it, Machover began dreaming big.

He started with the question — what does the city of Toronto sound like? He added to that question the vision of opening up the creative process to anyone who wanted to participate. This new symphonic work was to be a collaboration on a massive scale with the citizens of Toronto, resulting in something that could not have been done by any one individual. And with this mandate before him, Machover stepped onto the road of future music making where he envisions collaboration at the core of each piece, and professional musicians moving beyond teaching and mentoring people to the act of “making things with them.”

Read more: Musical Futures
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