christina petrowska quilico - 30 - by marco grazziniOur cover story bypasses all of December to focus on a January 21 event. So I thought I’d push the envelope a day further and start by calling your attention to an event happening on January 22! On that day, at Glenn Gould Studio, pianist Christina Petrowska Quilico launches a two-CD Centrediscs recording, Visions: Rhapsodies & Fantasias, consisting of composer Constantin Caravassilis’ books of rhapsodies and fantasias for solo piano. “Visions in sound, transcending lyricism to become a dramatic opera for the keyboard,” is how Petrowska Quilico describes the works, a description which sounds considerably less flowery and vague when one notes that composer Caravassilis, like Sibelius, Rimsky-Korsakov and, some would say, Mozart before him is a “synaesthete,” someone whose perception of sound is inextricably linked to colour and movement.

Petrowska Quilico, a visual artist in her own right, entered into the world of Caravassilis’ sound palette so completely that she rendered the works into nearly 100 paintings before committing them to disc. Some of these paintings will be projected at the concert, and displayed at a Canadian Music Centre-hosted reception in the lobby afterwards.

Read more: All Roads Lead To... ?

Of all the concerts I didn’t get out to last month the one I regret most missing was Continuum Contemporary Music’s October 22 program at the Music Gallery titled “Finding Voice.”

17-morell-mackenzie“Communication, as well as the historical lens, is at the core of a concert that presents two linked theatrical works by Dutch composer Martijn Voorvelt” read the always entertaining Continuum blurb. “[It is] based on the tangled up story of Sir Morell MacKenzie, inventor of the tracheotomy, and his treatment of the mute and dying German Emperor Friedrich III.”

Because Voorvelt is a self-taught composer, drawing at will on literature and theatre, I was looking forward to an evening of music that dipsy-doodles across the line between genres, using sound in ways that are more instinctual than intellectual. It was a quality that smacked me right between the eyes last year during Vingko Globokar’s visit last season, and I was looking forward to exploring it further: the connections between the innate musicality of voice and the inherent storytelling capacity of music.

Training the ear to listen to new music by invoking the nuances of spoken work — cadence, intonation, pitch, pace — seemed like a fine topic for a rainy day, and may well still be. But I will have to proceed without my prime example, and I’m sorry for it.

That being said, there’s no shortage of material this month for an exploration of the topic. For one thing, I could revisit our cover story’s Maniac Star/Royal Conservatory November 25 co-production of Brian Current’s Airline Icarus. (Current’s final comment on the challenge of educating the new music audience’s ear is certainly a propos). But let’s look for some other examples.

Nine days earlier, on November 16 and 17, in the selfsame venue, for example, the Royal Conservatory Opera School presents a double bill of Ned Rorem’s Three Sisters Who Are Not Sisters andJoseph Vézina’s Le Lauréat. In Rorem’s work, in particular, drama and music seem always shyly (or should that be slyly?) fascinated bedfellows, without ever quite figuring out what the attraction is. Three Sisters takes for its libretto a Gertrude Stein play of the same nameand it makes for an interesting match. Bernard Holland, in The New York Times, Oct 1, 1994, writes about the Stein/Rorem work, and makes the following interesting observation: “Stein’s little game of mock murder makes sense of a sort, but making sense is not its business. It is the arrangement of her simple declarative sentences that pleases. Mr. Rorem’s terse music and its skillful, imitative ensembles ... successfully explain a literary art in which form is everything and matter matters little. Every musical gesture Ned Rorem has ever made has something of the human voice behind it.”

“Musical gesture with the human voice behind it” is a good description of the thing I am trying to describe, and it can be found across the musical spectrum. An example: a November 8 noonhour recital at University of Guelph College of Arts titled Problems with Love.” It features a consummate musical raconteur, mezzo-soprano Patricia Green, wrapping her innate storytelling skills around “songs by Canadian composers, touching on poignant and funny sides of love.” And another example: a Sunday November 18 7:30pm presentation at the Arts and Letters Club by the Toronto Chapter of the American Harp Society titledA Score to Settle,” written by K. Gonzalez-Risso, and billed as “a musical monologue for solo harp” featuring harpist and comic actress Rita Costanzi.

In entirely different ways, these performances, informed by principles as different as comedy and cabaret, offer opportunities for the willing listener to explore how an understanding of the rituals and cadences of storytelling can inform musical choice, no matter how abstract, by composer and listener alike.

Choral common ground: If music theatre is the most dramatic example of the interplay between different modes of listening, then choral music is the most pervasive. Indeed choirs, more than almost any other presenters, are at the forefront of commissioning new work, of mixing repertoire across generations in the same programs, and putting experiencing a work of music ahead of judging it as good or bad. With an estimated 20,000 individuals participating in choirs in The WholeNote catchment area, this is no small fact, especially given that choristers, more so than concert band members, for example, tend also to be avid concert-goers. Not a bad way of educating people to broaden their understanding of what makes music music!

Nowhere will you see this more clearly illustrated this month than in the November 11 Soundstreams Canada presentation of the Latvian Radio Choir at Koerner Hall, in a program ranging from Rachmaninoff to Cage, to young Canadian composer Nic Gotham and more.

Or take as another example the November 17 Grand Philharmonic Chamber Singers’ “Made in Canada” concert with music ranging from a new commission by Patrick Murray to works by Healey Willan and Harry Somers. And check out the November 10 Cantabile Chamber Singers concert titled “Lux” and described as an “a capella concert on the themes of light, love and night featuring works by L. Silberberg, C. Livingston and B. J. Kim.”

17-henderson rw at pianoOr, finally, consider the November 3 University of Toronto Faculty of Music concert titled Choirs in Concert: When Music Sounds: Celebrating the 80th birthday of Ruth Watson Henderson.”

Henderson, one of Canada’s pre-eminent choral composers, talks about the links between text and music in a recent interview (on the Choral Canada website), with Dean Jobin-Bevans, president of Choirs Ontario.

“It is all about taking a text that I find inspiring and thinking about how it can be presented in a way that can express some important feelings and ideas to a large number of listeners” she says. “The most important thing for me when I am writing is the text; if I get a good text, then all of my ideas come from the text. I am not very good at putting things into words, I am much better at hearing things musically, and so when I cannot express myself when speaking with words, I find that I can express myself much better through music; by putting ideas down on paper and writing choral works.”

Follow the Bob! Regular readers of this column will know that I often pick a particular venue and catalogue what’s happening there as a way of providing a cross-section of what is happpening. It’s sometimes equally instructive, though, to follow an individual musician through a month’s worth of perambulation from one venue to another.

17-veronique-lacroix-photo-by-pierre-leveilleTake New Music Concerts’ Robert Aitken for example. The evening of November 11 will find him at the Music Gallery, albeit in the capacity of genial host rather than performer, for a New Music Concerts presentation of Ensemble contemporain de Montréal, Véronique Lacroix, conductor, in a program titled GENERATION 2012: ECM+.

Four days earlier, he features as flutist, along with musical chameleon, accordionist Joseph Macerollo, in a Canadian Music Centre/New Music Concerts event titled “Secret of the Seven Stars.” It’s a CD launch, featuring works by Hope Lee and David Eagle, and providing an early opportunity to check out the new and improved Chalmers House performing space, one which one hopes will join the array of fine little performance venues for cutting edge music.

And, going from little to large, Sunday November 18 Aitken will appear as flutist in Esprit Orchestra’s second Koerner Hall Concert of the season, titled “Exquisite Vibrations,” in a work titled Concerto for Flute and Orchestra by French composer Marc-André Dalbavie.

The universities: mind you, you can’t go wrong by familiarizing yourself with the key venues for new music either. Starting with the universities, I count no fewer than ten concerts at the University of Toronto this month that could be of interest to new music followers, most of them at Walter Hall: November 4 there is a concert, “In Memory of Gustav,” dedicated to the works and legacy of Gustav Ciamaga, composer, educator and electronic music pioneer; composer/teacher Norbert Palej shows up as a composer on November 5 (in another concert featuring accordionist Macerollo), and then on November 21 as conductor of the U of T Faculty of Music’s gamUT Ensemble ... and the list goes on, for U of T as for its Philosopher’s Walk neighbour to the north, the Royal Conservatory. Same goes for York and others.

Small venues: as for the smaller venues, check out the Music Gallery (November 10, 15, 17; December 1 and 7); Gallery 345 (November 4, 8, 10, 16, 18, 22, 23 and 27); the Tranzac (November 7, 8 and 9) for the 416 Toronto Creative Improvisers Festival; and the Wychwood Barns (November 10, 24 and December 1) for New Adventures in Sound Art (NAISA)’s 11th Annual SOUNDplay Series.

And make a special point of checking out the newest intimate space on the map, the Array Space at 155 Walnut St. On November 19 at 7pm, it’s a concert titled “Passport Duo,” featuring works by Hatzis, Wilson, Forsythe and O’Connor. And on November 26 it’s the 14th in a series of evenings of improvised music, with Array director Rick Sacks and a roster of always interesting guests.

Subversion: I started by talking about how spoken language potentially provides different, sometimes less daunting and even enriching access points to new music. It’s not the only tool in the shed, though. There’s also the thoroughly mixed program (such as that promised by Scaramella on December 1, in the Victoria College Chapel, which offers “animal-themed music, from baroque to the 21st century”). Or perhaps even more to the point, consider a November 9 offering from a collective, group of twenty-seven, called “The Subversion Project” which on this occasion, at Grace Church on-the-Hill, offers works by Beethoven, Prokofiev, Zorn and Buhr in a deliberate effort to enable listeners to hear the familiar anew, and to modulate the strange through the familiar.

Sounds like a fine idea, don’t you think? 

David Perlman has been writing this column for the past season (and a bit) and is willing to entertain the notion that it’s someone else’s turn. He can be reached at

in with the new alex pauk 1  1 Now that september’s TIFF-induced somnolence has receded from the new music scene, October starts to take on more of the shape one might hope for, with the emergence of new ensembles, an entirely new series of instruments, a major John Cage conference, almost back-to-back Koerner concerts by two heavyweight ensembles, both celebrating their 30th anniversaries and a plethora of inventive smaller presenters taking advantage of an ever-increasing range of intimate venues far and near.

It’s a particularly nice coincidence for me to have this column kicking off the Beat by Beat section of the magazine in the very month that Richard Marsella’s Regent Park School of Music moves into its new digs in the spectacular new Regent Park Arts and Cultural Centre (this month’s cover story). It was Marsella, you see, who gave the column the name “In With The New” when he served, energetically and all too briefly, as The WholeNote’s new music columnist. I wish him, and the school, momentum and luck.

Newest of the new:It is always interesting at the start of a new season to look at ensembles at the opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of longevity — at the ones celebrating significant anniversaries and at those just embarking. In the latter category, a group called the Thin Edge Music Collective probably takes the prize as the newest of the new. This time last year the collective was nothing more than a good idea in the minds of pianist Cheryl Duvall and violinist Ilana Waniuk.

“TEMC believes that contemporary music is a powerful medium which has the ability to comment and reflect on modern society in a unique and poignant way,” their manifesto reads. “We recognize that the broad range of musical idioms which new music encompasses functions as an important touchstone for contemporary life and as such are passionately dedicated to supporting our peers through commissions and performance. Ultimately we aspire to bring innovative and challenging 20th and 21st century music to audiences both existing and as yet untapped.”

By spring of 2012, following a Banff Centre residency with Toronto composer Tova Kardonne, they had mounted an inaugural concert, aptly titled “Premieres,” featuring five newly composed works by emerging Canadian composers: Margaret Ashburner, Aura Giles, August Murphy-King, Nick Storring and Kardonne.

Composer/cellist Storring joins them again October 6 for a concert titled “Unusual Spectrum” featuring works by Sokolovic, Bolton, Nobles, J. TV and Storring himself. And the works are not the only thing “unusual” about the event. The venue (The Placebo Space, Apt. A at 1409 Bloor St.W.) is as unfamiliar to us as Gallery 345 was a handful of years ago. For the other three programs in their 2012/13 season, they will take their act to a range of intimate venues across our catchment area: to Gallery 345 and Hamilton’s Artword Artbar November 22 and 25 respectively; back to Gallery 345 in February; and across town to the Tapestry/Nightwood New Work Studio in the Distillery District in June. As Amici did, a quarter of a century ago, TEMC seems to have cottoned on to the fact that commissioning works for larger combinations of instruments, along with themselves, can be the path to building relationships and bridges as they go. Percussion and cello, accordion and flute already feature in this year’s series plans.

in with the new lawrence cherney and r. murray schafer at soundstreams salon 21Bohlen-Pierce: Speaking of the newest of the new, it’s not often that entirely new instruments come along and even less common when the instruments in question have the potential to reshape entirely the way composers write and audiences listen. So circle Tuesday October 9, 8pm, (at Gallery 345) for a lecture/recital by Nora-Louise Muller on the Bohlen-Pierce Clarinet which, according to its its Toronto maker, master clarinet builder Stephen Fox, is designed to produce “an exotic sequence of tones providing numerous consonant intervals and hence the promise of extensive musical possibilities to those willing to explore non-traditional sounds.” There’s nothing random about it, though. The Bohlen-Pierce Scale, according to Fox “uses an alternative musical system which divides the perfect twelfth into 13 steps.”

This Bohlen-Pierce clarinet project began in 2003, with the goal of designing and building clarinet-type instruments — soprano, tenor and contra — for the purpose of exploring and demonstrating the musical potential of the concept. The premiere concert involving Bohlen-Pierce clarinets took place at the University of Guelph on March 20, 2008, presenting newly composed works by Owen Bloomfield and Todd Harrop, and “future plans involve holding an international composition competition for Bohlen-Pierce instruments.”

New ensemble: Saturday October 27 at Heliconian Hall, the Toy Piano Composers collective unveils something new too, namely its own ensemble. Hence the concert’s title:We Started a Band.” Featuring works by TPC members Brophy, Floisand, Guechtal, Pearce, Ryan and Thornborrow, the concert also will also unveil the TPC Ensemble: Katherine Watson, flute; Anthony Thompson, clarinet; Sharon Lee, violin;Adam Scime, double bass; Daniel Morphy, percussion; and Wesley Shen on piano and toy piano. Watch for the five-year-old collective to flourish as familiarity with a versatile group of core players breeds content.

Soundstreams and Esprit: It’s hard not to draw parallels between two of Toronto’s most venerable presenters this month. Both are 30 years old this season. Both have been led by one individual since their inception (Lawrence Cherney at Soundstreams, Alex Pauk at Esprit). Both opted early on to take the gamble of upsizing their previous venues and moving their main series to Koerner Hall. Soundtreams launches its Koerner season October 11. Esprit follows October 14. Both will feature new commissions by Murray Schafer, himself striding towards an important anniversary in the spring. But the superficial similarities obscure the fact that the two events promise to be as different as one might imagine, reflecting two very different, if equally single-minded, visions.

The October 11 Soundstreams event offers a veritable smorgasbord of performers, drawn from a wide range of sources specifically for this event. Among them: David Fallis and Joaquin Valdepeñas, conductors; Ryan Scott, percussion; Shannon Mercer, soprano; Julie Ranti, flute; Choir 21; the Gryphon Trio; and NEXUS, in works by Frehner, Llugdar, Pärt; Fuhong Shi and Schafer. Cherney’s presence as artistic director will be almost entirely behind the scenes, evidenced in the careful shaping of the event.

October 14, at the Esprit concert, the surprise will not be in the players, the vast majority of whom are the backbone of the orchestra, appearing year in, year out in almost every Esprit event. Pauk will lead from the front, on the conductor’s podium and the overall thrust will be much more strongly large scale, as befits Canada’s only orchestra solely dedicated to the commissioning and performance of new orchestral works. Schafer’s new work for the concert is titled Wolf Returns, and will feature along with the orchestra a chorus drawn from participants over the years in Schafer’s annual summer Haliburton wilderness project, And Wolf Shall Inherit the Moon.

Works by Esprit perennial composers John Rea, Alexina Louie, Iannis Xenakis and Colin McPhee will round out the event, and Schafer himself will be there in the lobby for the official launch, and signing, of his newly released memoir, My Life On Earth and Elsewhere.

All too briefly: the above barely scratches the surface of an extraordinarily rich month of music which also includes the following, each in its way worthy of an article all on its own (and all referenced in our listings so that you can begin supplying for yourself the missing details in this hasty list):

October 25 4:00 to October 28 1:30: Jackman Humanities Institute, University of Toronto. Future of Cage: Credo. A spectacular conference to mark the 100th birthday of composer John Cage, featuring performances, panel discussions, keynote addresses, lectures and installations. “This interdisciplinary conference is both a celebration of John Cage, 100 years after his birth, and an opportunity to explore Cage’s influence on music, writing, performance and critical scholarship,” says their press release. “Fundamental to the development of innovations in performance art, contemporary music, graphic notation, audience reception and theories of social practice, Cage remains one of the most, if not the most, influential figures in 20th- and 21st-century art and performance. Such a legacy necessarily resonates beyond any single artistic or historical trajectory, and “The Future of Cage: Credo” will explore not only Cage’s output, both artistic and philosophical, but its after-effects through a variety of fields, genres and modes of presentation.”

Monday October 22 8:00: Continuum Contemporary Music. Finding Voice. “Another season of musical and extra musical exploration: influential works reconceived, new works on their way to being influential, revelatory performances, discussion among friends new and old” starts with a concert featuring, at its outset, an old friend of ther ensemble, Dutch composer Martijn Voorvelt and rivetting mezzo soprano Marion Newman. “Finding Voice” is a concert of vocal music about the voice and about communicating. It is also about history, the past given contemporary voice.”

Friday October 12 to Friday October 19: Music Gallery. X Avant New Music Festival VII: Expanding Circuits. Fortunately fellow columnist Andrew Timar has turned some of his erudite attention to this event, in World Music on page 28 and the Music Gallery’s own website gives a very detailed overview of a boundary-testing event that goes from strength to strength every year.

Friday October 19 8:00: Arraymusic. The Poets. A mix of words and music by poets and members of Arraymusic. Fides Krucker, mezzo; Phoebe Tsang, violin; Lydia Munchinsky, cello; Stephen Clarke, piano; Nilan Perera, guitar; Rick Sacks, percussion. and Ideas Studio, 980 O’Connor Dr., 416-778-7535. $10; $20(workshop and evening concert, see listings section A, Oct.13 at 8:00). 

David Perlman has been writing this column for the past season and a bit and is willing to entertain the notion that it’s someone else’s turn. He can be reached at

To have lasted more than 40 years, any musical organization must be doing something worthwhile. To do so under the same leadership is even more remarkable. Flutist/composer/conductor/teacher Robert Aitken has been at the helm of New Music Concerts since its inception in 1971 and when the lights go up on NMC’s September 23 season opener at the Betty Oliphant Theatre all the trademarks of Aitken’s NMC stewardship will still be on display.

I will return to the topic of NMC later in this column. But September 23 is, after all, well into the month. And unlike some years when Toronto’s new music presenters step deferentially aside till the Toronto International Film Festival train has roared through town, this year, the city’s contemporary music presenters are managing to maintain, if not a roar of their own, at least a very healthy murmur of new music throughout the month, right from the get go.

26 new robertaitken 1 photo by andre leducINTERSection: On Saturday September 1 for instance, Intersection hits Yonge-Dundas Square from 2pm to 10pm. Previously dubbed the Toronto New Music Marathon, this sixth annual installment of the event, hosted by Contact Contemporary Music, will feature on its main stage, among others, New York’s Bang on a Can All-Stars, an ensemble Contact artistic director Jerry Pergolesi considers to be his own ensemble’s most important influence. The following day, Sunday September 2, Bang on a Can and Contact will take their act to the intimate surrounds of the Music Gallery for a concert titled “Ambient2 — The Music of Brian Eno.” Bang on a Can will perform their groundbreaking arrangement of Brian Eno’s classic ambient record, Music for Airports, with film by Frank Scheffer, and Contactwill perform their arrangement of Eno’s Discreet Music, with film by New York artist Suzanne Bocanegra. 

Special as that more intimate September 2 event may turn out to be, it’s the Saturday Yonge-Dundas affair that is at the heart of INTERsection’s special role in kicking off the new music season. The eight to ten hours in Yonge-Dundas Square bring new music to new ears, throwing up all kinds of interesting sonic juxtapositions, some intended, some accidental, as part of the merry mix. You will find this mix both on the main stage and in the event’s “Marketplace,” which features booths by organizations involved in new music. You never know what you will find. For example, at The WholeNote booth, if you are the first one at the event to actually wave this article in my face and point to this paragraph, I will arrange for you two tickets to any one of the concerts mentioned in this column! (For more detail on INTERsection, visit

Gallery 345: From Yonge-Dundas on the Saturday and the Music Gallery on the Sunday, the new music action then shifts to Gallery 345 on Monday September 3 where Canadian pianist Vicky Chow, a Bang on a Can ensemble member since 2009, lays on an evening of new music of breathtaking variety and scope. Dubbed “a monster pianist” by Time Out New York and “one of the new stars of new music” by the Los Angeles Times, Chow, according to her bio, “also produces and curates ‘Contagious Sounds,’ a new music series focusing on adventurous contemporary artists and composers at the Gershwin Hotel in New York City.”

It will come as no surprise to readers who followed this column last season that Gallery 345 is hitting the ground running, right from the beginning of September. Including Chow on September 3, I counted no fewer than six concerts at Gallery 345 that would qualify for a NNN (Triple N for New) rating in this column, along with a whole handful of others where healthy doses of new music are intermixed with other repertoire.

Friday September 7, for example, it’s the German-born accordion/piano duo DUO+for+CANADA (Ina Henning and Stefan Schreiber) in a program of works by Ives, Kagel, Anna Höstman, Lan-Chee Lam, Andrew Staniland and Hans Joachim Hespos. And on Friday September 21 it’s a program titled “Alone: Contemporary Work for Solo Clarinet and Bass Clarinet,” performed by clarinettist/bass clarinettist Bob Stevenson. The versatile Stevenson has been active in the new music community since the early 70s, including a stint as artistic director of ArrayMusic. His September 21 program (George Perle, Salvatore Sciarrino, Alexander Goehr, Pierre Boulez, Daniel Foley, James Tenney, Elliott Carter and Vernon Duke/Ira Gershwin) only partially reflects the wide-ranging versatility of this interesting player.

And there’s more: “The Art of the Duo Piano” with Piano Pinnacle (composer/pianist Iman Habibi and pianist Deborah Grimmett) on Saturday September 22; and a program titled “Ballades From The North” by pianist/composer Adam Sherkin on Sunday September 30, that ranges from Hétu, Saariaho and Sherkin himself, to Chopin, Barber and Liszt.

Appetite whetted? Visit for details on all these, and much more besides.

26 inwiththenew james rolfe  no credit From Gallery to Gallery: Heading back towards town from 345 Sorauren to Queen and John, Sunday September 2’s Contact/Bang on a Can concert is not the only noteworthy early September event at the Music Gallery. As part of an initiative they are dubbing The Post-Classical Series, September 8 is the date for a concert titled “The Canadian Art Song Project.” The concert features William Shakespeare – Five Shakespeare Songs (2002) by Colin Eatock (recently released as a CD), Beloved (2005) by James Rolfe and Dennis Lee, and a work titled The Colour Blue by Erik Ross/Lorna Crozier. Performing will be two stellar alumnae of the COC’s Ensemble Studio, both now mainstage regulars, soprano Virginia Hatfield and mezzo-soprano Lauren Segal. Gregory Oh, the Music Gallery’s post-classical curator, accompanies.

The Canadian Art Song project, according to information from the Music Gallery, was founded by tenor Lawrence Wiliford and pianist Steven Philcox, to advocate for the performance of Canadian song repertoire. It’s an initiative we’ll be keeping an eye on.

The involvement of tenor Wiliford and composer Rolfe in the project also serves as a neat segue back to the September 23 launch of New Music Concerts’ 42nd season, because Rolfe will have two works on the NMC program, the second of which will be sung by Wiliford.

“I met Lawrence when he sang a role in the COC’s production of my Swoon in 2006 — he was part of their ensemble,” recalls Rolfe. He was a great presence vocally and dramatically; he later sang with the Toronto Masque Theatre in their revival of Orpheus and Eurydice in 2010. Beloved was premiered in 2006 by Toca Loca, who commissioned the piece, courtesy of Greg Oh, their co-artistic director. (Nice that he’s accompanying them this time too.)”

The first Rolfe work on the NMC program, Worry,which opens the concert, was written in 2001. The second, Winter Songs (2012), is an original NMC commission. “Worry was a Continuum commission originally” says Rolfe. “They put together an 8-cello show, and Mark Fewer played the solo violin part. They also issued a CD of that program. Curiously, this is my very first commission from NMC, and their first performance of any piece of mine, though I think I’ve been performed by everyone else in Toronto. Never too late!”

Though he hasn’t been on NMC’s programs, Rolfe is no stranger to NMC’s concerts. “I have attended many of their shows since coming to Toronto in 1979, including some with personal appearances by the greats: Cage, Berio, Xenakis, Andriessen, many others. I think Bob [Aitken] forged a vital connection to the wider new music world, one which helped me develop my own work and aesthetic.”

Talking to Aitken briefly on the phone in preparing this column, we joked a bit about the numerology of the fact that this is NMC’s 42nd season. “The bible says that seven fat years are always followed by seven lean ones, so you’re going into the last of seven lean years,” I told him. True to the man, what it sparked from him was reflections on the difference in curatorial approach when budgets are tight, for example, programming concerts that are built around repeated clusters of instruments— such as this one, where cellos, solo or multiple, feature in all but one of the works. But with Aitken the financial tail doesn’t wag the artistic dog. Expect a concert as carefully crafted as any, and here’s to the return of the fat years!

David Perlman has been writing this column for the past season and a bit, and is willing to entertain the notion that it’s someone else’s turn. He can be reached at

Let me say at the outset that it has been a great pleasure to have had custodianship of this column for the past season, not least because it has drawn me out to a considerably broader range of musical events than I would, by default, have tended toward. I think this is because human nature is both inherently spiritual and very timid. Most of us, individually, hunger musically for some highly personal mixture of continuity and change — enough of the former so that we itch for the latter; enough of the latter to able to listen fresh, over and over again, to the tried and true.

I had an interesting chat, June 20, for The WholeNote’s video series, with Josh Grossman, whose own musical practices and pursuits are an interesting amalgam. He is, as you may know, the artistic director of Toronto Downtown Jazz, long-time presenter of the TD Toronto Jazz Festival, and the founder/artistic director of the Toronto Jazz Orchestra. (And the video chat is mostly about these aspects of what he does.) But he has also been for five years or so, involved administratively with Continuum Contemporary Music, one of the city’s most consistently innovative new music ensembles, and as far from his jazz roots, at least at first glance, as you might imagine. In the last five or six minutes of our conversation, he talked a bit about where the two passions intersect. Jazz, his first and abiding musical love, gives him a frame of reference (albeit not necessarily the “right one”) for listening to a genre that for him is less visceral and immediate. But his work in new music has given him a much stronger perspective on where the two musics most clearly intersect, in the realm of improvisation. And, more mundane but no less important, he is better able to see how jazz and new music both must struggle endlessly upward on mainstream music’s relentless down escalator. Consequently, he can see ways for the them to collaborate on a whole range of sensible topics, such as space sharing and building various common resources. Have a listen to the chat. It is one of a number of such conversations with musically interesting people accruing on our YouTube site (

Still on the topic of intersections is the annual new music festival/event that actually goes by that name. It’s awfully early to be talking about it now (it takes place in and around the September 1 weekend). But if I don’t give it a decent plug now, it will fall through the cracks of this column. Intersectionsis an annual event, brainchild of Contact Contemporary Music’s Jerry Pergolesi, that centres, first Saturday of September, on Yonge-Dundas Square, Toronto’s mother of all intersections.

For a venue that thrives on such mass spectacles as rock band singers being crowd-surfed in hamsterballs by screaming fans lined up in the tens of thousands, a new music marathon requiring a certain amount of focused listening seems a bit of a stretch. But in the interplay between people’s usual expectations for the venue, and what Intersections brings to the place, the sparks can fly. Well-supported by Toronto’s New Music presenters and fellow travellers such as The WholeNote, there’s much in the event to see and hear, onstage and in the temporary new music marketplace that will dot the square.

And since we are on the subject of outdoor venues, a tip of the hat to Tamara Bernstein, mentioned also in our cover story, who curates another of Toronto’s signature outdoor series namely Harbourfront’s Summer Music in the Garden, at the foot of Spadina Avenue. “By now you should have received Harbourfront’s media release about this year’s Summer Music in the Garden,” she writes. “I just wanted to follow up with a more focussed list of the new music on this summer’s roster, as it’s a very rich season in that regard, with performances ranging from Rick Sacks’ playful “En Bateau,” to a new work from Linda C. Smith inspired by the baroque tune “La Folia” (“madness”) and music by David Mott inspired by the Toronto skyline, to world premieres by Norbert Palej, and Carina Reeves, and works by Michael Oesterle (two works!), Katia Tiutiunnik, Eric km Clark (b. 1981), Emily Doolittle (b. 1972) and Kevin Lau.”

What Bernstein has observed, and indeed helped to inspire, is the extent to which the summer itself encourages performers and audiences alike, to modify their usual balance of continuity and change, to indulge the unexpected, to linger longer at unfamiliar intersections of sound. Consult the GTA Listings in this issue (Thursdays and Sundays) for Bernstein’s intriguing take on where the familiar and the new best intersect when summer’s spirit of adventure is in the air.

You may recall that last month I talked about New Adventures in Sound Art as an organization walking a compositional and artistic tightrope, somewhere at the intersection between music and noise. No coincidence that the summer is one of their favourite seasons. Too late for our listings, but too good to overlook came word of this summer’s NAISA activities. So I recommend that you visit for a comprehensive overview of their doings, including their annual Toronto Island installation, this year featuring a piece called Synthecycltron by Barry Prophet, their Sound Travels Festival of Sound Art August 4 to 31, 2012, and this year including the Toronto Electroacoustic Symposium (August 13 to 18). 

David Perlman has been, for this past season, the patroller of The WholeNote’s new music beat. He can be contacted at


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