“Sound art” is a performance genre, I think it’s safe to say, that will not ring bells, tuned or otherwise, for the majority of readers of The WholeNote. “We are, as a culture, obsessed with the new,” says blogger John Terauds in a recent entertaining post at musicaltoronto.org, “but it takes only the shallowest scratch on the surface to discover that what we all seek is comfort and continuity — flowers, sunsets, barbequed ribs, cheesecake and a bit of Mozart.”

new_darren_copelandMost of us, maybe, but all? Two mid-career contemporary composers in our midst, both being honoured with significant awards this month, Darren Copeland and Brian Current, would doubtless disagree.

Composer Copeland is probably best known in the new music community as the inspiration for New Adventures In Sound Art (NAISA). NAISA, as their website explains, is a non-profit organization, based at Toronto’s Wychwood Barns, that “produces performances and installations spanning the entire spectrum of electroacoustic and experimental sound art … to foster awareness and understanding … in the cultural vitality of experimental sound art in its myriad forms of expression … through the exploration of new sound technologies in conjunction with the creation of cultural events and artifacts.”

Mind you, Copeland would probably not object to being told that what he does “isn’t music.” In fact you’ll search long and hard for the M-word on NAISA’s own website (among such other terms as noise art performance, soundscape composition, multi-channel spatialization and layered listening excursion). Copeland is nevertheless an associate composer with the Canadian Music Centre, and just this month was selected to receive the Harry Freedman Recording Award by a national jury. Named for a pioneering Canadian composer, the award contributes towards the creative costs associated with making an audio recording of Canadian composers’ music, and is administered by the Canadian Music Centre. In Copeland’s case the award goes toward the recording of his piece called Bats and Elephants which will be published by empreintes DIGITALes. The award will be presented at a performance of the piece, at Gallery 345 on June 23.

The work has an interesting premise: humans can’t hear the full range of sounds uttered by bats or elephants unless these sounds are transposed within the range of human hearing (at which point they start to take on the identity of other animal species, such as birds). Copeland and his guest Hector Centeno play with this concept, using echo-location, the way bats do, to bounce sounds, from two hyper-directional speakers, off the Gallery’s walls. It’s a neat variation on the philosophical question posed at the outset of the column: when does a squeak become a song? Or a bellow turn into a bassline? Or noise into music? I suspect that the answer has as much to do with the tuning of the ears of the listener as the tuning of the frequencies from the source. It should make for a fascinating event.

(A brief digression before moving on to talk about our other award winner, Brian Current: it is entirely unsurprising to me that the Copeland concert is taking place at Gallery 345 — the “little gallery that could” just keeps chugging away with one playfully provocative event after another: “Composers Play” (including the aforementioned Brian Current) Friday June 1; “40 years of Foley” on Sunday June 3; “Art of the Piano” with R. Andrew Lee on June 4; the Architek Percussion Quartet on June 6; astonishing violinist Conrad Chow in his debut CD release concert, June 28; … the list goes on.)

Now, to Current. Just today (May 29) the Canada Council for the Arts announced that seven “mid-career arts innovators” were being honoured with Victor Martyn Lynch-Staunton Awards. The prize carries a $15,000 cash award so it’s “not nuthin,” as these things go. “Sculptor Valérie Blass; contemporary dancer Nova Bhattacharya; interdisciplinary artist Manon De Pauw; playwright, actor and director Denis Lavalou; composer and conductor Brian Current; poet Sylvia Legris; and filmmaker and multimedia artist Graeme Patterson are this year’s winners” the announcement goes. “These seven artists are pushing the envelope in their respective disciplines and are definitely seven to watch” said Canada Council director and CEO Robert Sirman.

Given our focus, Current is the one of the seven we’ve been watching this year, both as a composer and as the conductor of the Royal Conservatory’s New Music Ensemble. His composing and conducting seem to feed off each other. Given the economics of concert music, few contemporary composers get to write for large ensembles; fewer still get the opportunity to explore, using other composers’ works, the creative energy that a composer can alternately harness and unleash in a large ensemble. Some of you may have caught parts of his 2009, 12-hour, 200-person installation-performance of James Tenney’s In a Large Open Space, at the opening of the Conservatory’s new Koerner Hall, or taken in his students’ performance, in the dark, of G.F. Haas’s In Vain last December.

It was while doing some research on Current in the context of this award that I stumbled across the comment from Terauds’ blog with which I started this column. (The blog in question was about Current’s and Anton Piatigorsky’s recently completed chamber opera Airline Icarus).

“It’s no surprise that today’s composers feel … compelled towards the new, the unexplored, the unusual,” Terauds went on to say. “In his recently published memoir, Unheard Of, Toronto composer John Beckwith mentions at least a half-dozen times how he tried to not repeat himself in a new work. It’s a mantra for most contemporary composers. It’s also something I’ve heard many times from the musicians devoted to commissioning and performing new music. But there are two prices to pay for this fetish for the new, I think: Superficiality on the part of the composer, and alienation on the part of a potential audience. … So what does a composer do? Either give in and write film scores, or concert pieces at which serious critics will turn up their noses, or bravely go where their instincts and sense of adventure lead them. It’s a crazy tightrope that, most days, is actually quite thrilling to walk.”

Every living composer must discover his or her own balancing act, on this tightrope between superficiality and alienation. Arguably no one has done a better job of it than Philip Glass, whose Einstein on the Beach is undoubtedly one of the musical talking points of this year’s Luminato. One has only to think of the final aria in his life-of-Ghandi opera Satyagraha where the same eight-note phrase is repeated, but where you’d be hard pressed to persuade a mesmerized audience that all they had listened to was mi fa so la ti do re mi (in the scale of C, no less), 30 times in a row.

One of the truly festive things Luminato does, by the way, is to surround a work of art with opportunities to immerse in the context in which the work arose. Check out our ETCetera listings, on page 44, for example, for some of the screenings and colloquia that will surround the opera itself. And, perhaps best of all, the final moment in the festival will be an outdoor performance by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, in David Pecaut Square, featuring a performance of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, paired with the premiere of a new work by Glass, titled The 2012 Overture.

There’s a shiny intelligence in the idea of it, one has to say. How new the adventure in sound art turns out to be, time will surely tell.

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

Sometimes by may the new music season is starting to sputter a bit. But not this year. Thanks in part to an astonishing number of events at the two “Galleries” there’s no shortage of sonic solace for adventurous ears. But even without Gallery 345 and the Music Gallery, there is much on offer. The season it seems is going out like a lion.

24_forty_years_of_foley_24Once again, music theatre columnist Robert Wallace, has scooped me on a story with serious new music credentials, Coleman Lemieux & Compagnie’s From the House of Mirth which runs, with various start times, May 9 to 13. (Wallace’s treatment of the show starts on page 15.) Of particular interest for this column are the Rodney Sharman/Alex Poch-Goldin score and libretto. My awareness of composer Rodney Sharman’s work in the genre goes back to the opera Elsewhereless, with Atom Egoyan in 1999. Librettist Poch-Goldin comes to mind, most immediately, for his work with composer Omar Daniel in The Shadow, probably the most striking full-length work of Tapestry New Opera’s 2009 season. Both Elsewhereless and The Shadow, in fact, are the product of partnerships that were struck in Tapestry’s unique composer/librettist laboratory — the “LibLab” as it is called — and came into being through numerous iterations over an extended period of time.

It’s not surprising, therefore, to see another Tapestry alumna, composer Abigail Richardson, drafted for a recent “wordy” Toronto Symphony Orchestra commission. “The Hockey Sweater,” based on the iconic Roch Carrier short story, will premiere Saturday May 12 at the child-friendly hour of 1:30pm, with Carrier himself delivering the text. Richardson’s compositional ability to stick-handle music and text is well earned. With librettist Marjorie Chan, she won a 2009 Dora Award for outstanding new musical/opera for Sanctuary Song, inspired by the true story of an elderly elephant’s journey to freedom. While the show officially “premiered” at the 2008 Luminato festival it too went through successive Tapestry-fostered stages of development after Chan and Richardson first met at “LibLab” in 2003.

CONTINUUM: Returning, for a moment, though, to Coleman Lemieux: Laurence Lemieux’s name caught my eye a second time while working on this month’s column, in the context of yet another interesting, musically significant show coming to the 918 Bathurst Centre, which is rapidly coming into its own as an alternative venue for ambitiously scaled productions. In the fall, 918 Bathurst hosted bcurrent’s production of Nicole Brooks’ Obeah Opera, profiled in the November WholeNote. Now, from May 27 to May 29, it will be home to Continuum Contemporary Music’sContes pour enfants pas sages: 8 cautionary entertainments.” (Caution: The middle two of the four performances are daytime school shows.) “Contes” is billed as “wisdom and bewilderness from the animal kingdom: a multi-layered, multi-media setting of all eight fables of French poet Jacques Prévert by Canadian composer Christopher Butterfield.” Not surprisingly the British Columbia-born Butterfield has other operatic and multi-media fare under his composing belt. During 15 years as a performance artist in Toronto, he played in a rock band (Klo) and worked as a freelance composer and conductor.

It is not surprising to see Lemieux involved in the project, either. For one thing she and Butterfield have collaborated extensively before. For another, the show’s combination of zany edginess and potentially cumbersome large forces (Choir 21, Continuum Ensemble, tenor, soprano, light show) make it a perfect challenge for Lemieux’s deftness at mise-en-scene. David Fallis, no mean musical traffic cop either, will conduct.

While on the subject of Continuum, I should also point out that at time of writing there are still two of the four “New Music 101” Monday evening events to go (May 7 and May 14) and Continuum is “at bat” during the May 7 event, along with Contact Contemporary Music. Jointly presented by the Toronto New Music Alliance and the Toronto Reference Library, and hosted by writer/critic Robert Everett-Green, the two music presenters bringing works to each lecture/demonstration as often as not bring slices of works in progress. So no guarantees, but attendees at the May 7 event might just get a sneak preview of Continuum’s ambitious new work.

Contact Contemporary Music also has a show this month, May 12 at the Music Gallery, titled “Short Stories,” and billed as “an exploration of the symbiotic relationship between sound and vision, from narrative to abstract storytelling.” Expect some insight into that one, too.

And speaking of the Music Gallery, check our listings (or their website), for Saturday May 5, Monday May 7 and Tuesday May 15, all at 8pm, for three events, two of them with out-of-town partners, reflective of the Gallery’s mission and mandate.

CHORAL TO THE FORE: One of these years someone better qualified than I will do a thesis on the subject of the role choirs and choral music play in keeping a culture of contemporary classical and post-classical composing alive. So in honour of The WholeNote’s tenth annual choral Canary Pages, here’s a head-spinningly dense list (the “Begats” we call them round here) illustrative of this choral/new symbiosis: May 5 at 7:30pm, Toronto Children’s Chorus’ “Mystery and Mastery” includes works by Daley, Halley and Patriquin; May 5 at 8pm, Da Capo Chamber Choir presents “Celebrating Home,” including works by Schafer, Chatman and other Canadian composers; May 5 at 2pm, King Edward Choir presents “Feathers on the Page” the world premiere of a commission by playwright/composer Leslie Arden; May 7 at 7:30pm, the Elmer Iseler Singers’ “Get Music! Educational Outreach Concert” is largely built on Canadian works; May 12 at 8pm, Bell’Arte Singers present “Communal: Ways of Being” including a newly commisioned work by Sirett; also May 12 at 8pm, Oriana Women’s Choir’s “Earth, Air & Water” includes works by Telfer, Smallman, Daley and Watson Henderson and premiered works by Barron and Sawarna; May 13 at 4pm, the Canadian Men’s Chorus’ “Out of the Depths: An Exploration of Sacred Music” offers Murray’s Book of Lamentations (a world premiere); May 16 at 7:30pm: Toronto Choral Society presents “Civic Spirits,” song and story inspired by Toronto’s ghost tales including a Finley premiere and other new works; June 2 at 7:30pm, Mississauga Children’s Choir’s “City Scapes” comprises music exploring sounds and sights of modern cities including a new work by M. Coghlan; June 2 at 8pm, Jubilate Singers “A World in Canada” is built on music by Canadian composers with various cultural influences, including Glick, Raminsh, Robinovitch and others.

All that being said, I’ve not mentioned perhaps the nerviest new music choral offering of the lot, namely a performance in Waterloo, Saturday May 5 at 8pm, of Christine Duncan’s Element Choir. The ensemble sometimes consists of 75 singers or more, augmented by percussion, bass, trumpet and organ. For those who think that “choral” and “improvisational” go together about as well as a fish and a bicycle, this is a performance not to be missed. “With these extraordinary sonic resources in these capable hands, the Element Choir promises to be a spectacular experience, a joyful celebration of the human voice in creative music” says NUMUS’ own blurb about the event. And they’re probably right.

GALLERY 345: last, I want to return to a topic I started the “regular” season with: kudos to Gallery 345 at 345 Sorauren. Between Friday May 4 and Sunday June 3, I count no fewer than ten events (May 4, 9, 11, 13, 22, 24, 25 and 26, and June 1 and 3), that are likely to be of interest to readers of this column.

Again, check our listings for details, or scroll the Gallery 345 website. It’s very functional. You will find yourself viewing in microcosm the astonishing range of performances and events that keep the new music scene ticking along. I will single out only one, because it exemplifies the aspect of community that places like Gallery 345 serve to foster: Sunday June 3, at 8pm, in celebration of composer Daniel Foley’s 60th birthday, Gallery 345 presents “40 Years of Foley” featuring chamber works by Daniel Foley composed over the past four decades, in celebration of his 60th birthday, and performed by the likes of Robert Aitken and Dianne Aitken, flutes; Scott Good, trombone; Joseph Petric, accordion; Trio Poulet (violin, cello, piano); Tiina Kiik, accordion; Richard Herriott, piano; and others. The event is free.

David Perlman can be reached at publisher@thewholenote.com.

Composer ann southam, who died November 25, 2010, continues to live through her music, appearing on concert programs with an insistent frequency far beyond the initial spate of “tribute concerts” one might have expected. What is becoming clearer with the passage of time is that the music, as much as the memory, is of enduring value. That being said, two gifted pianists in the community, Christina Petrowska Quilico and Eve Egoyan, are doing much to keep the Southam legacy alive, both through their recordings and through live performance.

for_uno_in_with_the_new_tdt_-_company_members_in_rivers_rehearsal._photo_by_guntar_kravisThis month, for example, on April 1, with the Kindred Spirits Orchestra in Markham, the indefatigable Petrowska Quilico performs three Southam works as part of Kindred Spirits’ one-night “New Music festival” concert. And then, April 25–28, she provides the entire accompaniment to a new ballet, Rivers, choreographed to Southam’s music by Toronto Dance Theatre’s Christopher House. Egoyan, meanwhile, brings Southam’s Simple Lines of Enquiry to a benefit concert for MusicWorks magazine, April 19 at Gallery 345. Both are events worth saying more about.

I first became aware of the TDT Rivers project last fall during a 20-minute video interview I did with Petrowska Quilico for The WholeNote’s ongoing video interview series, Conversations@TheWholeNote.com.

I have to admit, the scope of the undertaking didn’t fully register at the time. House has worked for a year with Petrowska Quilico and then TDT’s ten dancers to create what he calls “a fluid and unpredictable counterpoint to the music, reflecting the rushing cascades, luxuriant eddies and attentive stillnesses in the score … alternating between large-scale, kinetic strokes and intricately-crafted movement conversations. I hope to build a work” he says, “in which both music and dance retain autonomy yet their marriage feels surprisingly, deliciously inevitable.”

“I think that is a brilliant quote” says Petrowska Quilico. “Christopher and I have met many times during the year and began with a first rehearsal in September. It was a revelation for the dancers to perform with live music. They had previously been using my Centrediscs CD of the complete Rivers. I felt an unbelievable electricity while playing. Although I couldn’t really watch the dancers I felt the vibrations of their movements or their stillness. This is real chamber music, intimate, structured yet spontaneous in a mutual give and take. The dancers take their cue from my music and tempo and I adjust the music and tempo to their movements.”

Southam’s music, she says, is what makes it all possible. “I believe that this is her masterpiece, written in her prime and showing her mastery of fast and slow music. I love performing these pieces more than any other of her works. I never tire of the changing patterns and the spontaneous and improvisatory mood of the music.”

House and Petrowska Quilico collaborated on the choice of music structuring it so there is an ebb and flow. Rivers will play as an hour long piece “with swirling fast sections and reflective intimate and introspective segments” Petrowska Quilico says. “I can’t wait to perform with the dancers.”

As mentioned, Rivers will play at the Fleck Dance Theatre, Harbourfront, April 25–28.See the listings for details.

By comparison, Eve Egoyan’s evening of Ann Southam this month will be a very intimate affair, with all eyes on the piano, and in a venue entirely befitting the piece. Of Egoyan’s earlier performance of Simple Lines of Enquiry in November 2009, reviewer Stanley Fefferman wrote, for showtimemagazine.ca, “being in the concert hall while Eve Egoyan plays the 12 movements of Ann Southam’s Simple Lines of Enquiry for solo piano is like being in an art gallery where 12 abstract canvases hang on white walls. Just as the experience of visual art occurs in a silent gallery, so these sound paintings generate an atmosphere of silence. This results in a kind of melting of the affections, as if Ms. Egoyan’s concentrated discipline develops a musical posture that enables a sense of fluidity to flow towards relaxation and the possibility of bliss.”

Fitting, then, that this performance should actually be in a gallery, with paintings on the walls. Gallery 345 continues to develop as a musical venue, attracting an eclectic range of performers with its intimacy and (literal as well as metaphoric) lack of veneer. Great, too, that the event is a benefit for MusicWorks magazine, a true original and one of the best little magazines around.

Speaking of intimate events, I’ll be holding my breath that the Toronto Public Library labour dispute resolves itself speedily (and satisfactorily), because the Toronto Reference Library is getting set to host the second annual New Music 101 — four consecutive Monday evenings, in the Elizabeth Beeton Auditorium, commencing April 23. The series, devised and curated cooperatively by the Toronto New Music Alliance, was hosted last year by music journalist John Terauds, formerly a Torstar standout, and now, among other things, the host of one of the better (and busier) musical blogs around — musicaltoronto.org. “The only reason I’m not back this year is that I’d committed myself to teaching on Monday evenings before they asked me to return for this year’s series” Terauds explained. “I thoroughly enjoyed last year’s series. It ended up providing a cross section of new music genres and performance styles while also providing people with an intimate setting in which to interact with the artists.” (This year’s host will be another Toronto journalistic standout, Robert Everett-Green.)

Format this year will be the same as last year: the events run for one hour, with two new music presenters sharing the time. A short work, or work in progress, is introduced and performed, with time for discussion afterwards. April 23, for example, New Music Concerts will reprise a commissioned work for two accordions, performed by Joe Macerollo and Ina Henning, from their opening concert of the season. And the Array Ensemble will serve up selections still being rehearsed, for an upcoming concert (in partnership with Toy Piano Composers), April 28 at the Music Gallery.

“This [approach] is, in my opinion, the best way to break down many of the inhibitions people have about sampling new music,” Terauds says. Best of all, because the Library itself does the outreach to its members, the series reaches a genuinely new audience.

So, as I say, I’m holding my breath that the current ugliness of city hall politics doesn’t cut off at the knees a truly hopeful initiative.

for_uno_in_with_the_new_groupshottpcGetting back to the aforementioned Array/Toy Piano Composer concert at the Music Gallery April 28, Toy Piano Composers may sound like a flippant name, but the collective’s intentions, while infused with light-heartedness, are certainly not flip. Formed by Monica Pearce and Chris Thornborrow in July 2008, TPC is now a a ten-composer group, has presented 12 concerts and 85 new works, and has collaborated with TorQ Percussion Quartet, junctQín keyboard collective, and the Sneak Peek Orchestra to name a few. Co-Founder Thornborrow had this to say about the upcoming Music Gallery event. “We are honoured to be collaborating with the Array Chamber Ensemble. They have been dedicated to the performance of new music for 40 years and it’s very exciting for us to be writing for an ensemble that has been so inspirational with their daring concerts and composers’ workshops. I think the audience is in for quite a memorable evening.”

David Perlman can be reached at publisher@thewholenote.com.

Peter Eötvös

If you are a follower of new music but didn’t know the name of Hungarian composer/conductor/educator Peter Eötvös till now, don’t be too hard on yourself. According to Robert Aitken, “There are many like him, with huge careers in Europe, and correspondingly busy, but they have no reputation on this side, until someone invites them here, and sometimes not even after that.” New Music Concerts artistic director Aitken extended such an invitation to Eötvös more than three years ago to come and do a concert, of Eötvös’ own devising, for NMC. “I’d have liked him to come in 2011,” Aitken says, “but when I reached him I was told there were already plans under way for him to come in 2012, and there was a very slim chance he would have time for both.”

Those “plans under way” were for Eötvös to play a leading curatorial role in this year’s TSO New Creations Festival, a series of three concerts, March 1, 3 and 7 at Roy Thomson Hall.

With the same blend of pragmatism and cooperation that manifested itself between Soundstreams and the Canadian Opera Company during composer Kaaija Saariaho’s visit last month, Aitken hitched the NMC wagon to the TSO calendar. The upshot is that three days after the March 7 final concert of New Creations, Eötvös will also do a concert with NMC, on March 10, at the Glenn Gould Studio.

Aitken’s connections with Eötvös come from Aitken’s many years teaching in Freiburg, Germany, with Eötvös based in Karlsruhe, “one town away.” Aitken is looking forward immensely to the whole visit, not just the NMC leg of it. “He [Eötvös] is well respected as a composer in Europe, and it is deserved. He just doesn’t make mistakes. Clever like a fox, is what I would call him, a French expressionist but with an absolutely distinctive Hungarian accent! And his conducting is as good.”

18-19-New-Music_peter_oundjian_formal_08It’s interesting to compare the role of Eötvös as “curator” as it applies to the NMC and TSO legs of the visit. The NMC concert is very tightly knit, as befits its smaller scale, and it’s possible to see how each of the choices on the programme comes directly from Eötvös himself. But in the case of New Creations, with the best will in the world, there are many more factors at play. There are works that have been commissioned from local composers to fit in with a theme. There are the happy accidents arising from meetings on the road. The significant presence of clarinettist/composer Jörg Widmann in the series, for example is as likely to have materialized from Widmann’s playing a Mozart concerto under Oundjian’s baton somewhere in Europe, as from a connection between Eötvös and Widmann. But of such happy accidents is true creative ferment born. Every year Oundjian’s and the TSO’s genuine commitment to the New Creations Fedtival as a significant part of their cultural mandate becomes more clearly defined. And the event itself becomes more focused and exhilarating. With the steeply reduced ticket price at RTH, there’s no reason the Hall shouldn’t be rocking for three days with symphonic sound that invigorates the players’ and the audience’s ears.

Esprit Orchestra

At the other end of the month, March 29, Alex Pauk’s Esprit Orchestra continues its drive to bring symphonic music to a hall large enough to handle an orchestra with serious new music chops. “Turned On By Texture” is their fourth and final Koerner Hall concert this season, featuring, among other works, Jamie Parker in Harry Somers’ Third Piano Concerto, and Xenakis’ Jonquaies. (If it wasn’t too late to organize, I’d suggest that Esprit offer half price rush tickets to anyone who shows up with ticket stubs from any two of the three New Creations concerts that kicked off the month!)

By the way, for a really interesting insight into what keeps Pauk motivated, check out Jack Buell’s Q&A with Pauk in “We Are All Music’s Children” this month (page 68). What’s in the magazine is just part of a much longer piece on the web.

The Classical Continuum

Returning to Eötvös’ concert with NMC March 10, it was interesting to me that he chose to programme Stravinsky as part of the mix. There’s a striking number of concerts this month where to a significant extent presenters seem to be emphasizing the classical/post-classical continuum, rather than the great divide. March 11, for example, the Stuttgart Chamber Choir and Soundstreams Choir 21 are bringing a programme to the Carlu that includes Ligeti, Mahler, Bach, Penderecki and a Frehner world premiere. And on March 22, in a Music Toronto Discovery Series concert, Véronique Mathieu, violin, and Stephanie Chua, piano, present a programme of works that includes, among others, works by Sokolović, Clara Schumann and Heather Schmidt. And another example: Kindred Spirits Orchestra’s Markham New Music Festival on April 1 offers Stravinsky, Current, Bartók, Honegger, Richard Strauss and Southam.

Straight Up

And, all too briefly for those who prefer their new music straight up, check out:

• March 9: Music Gallery. Emerging Artist Series: Emergents II: Ina Henning, accordion and Marc-Olivier Lamontagne, guitar.

• March 12: Arraymusic. Array Session #11: An Improv Concert.

• March 16: Toronto New Music Projects. Stefan und Steffen: The Music of Wolpe and Schleiermacher.

• April 3: Canadian Opera Company. Chamber Music Series: Primitive Forces.

And finally a reminder: details on all these, and a whole lot more new music, can be found in our magazine listings, or, even more readily by searching “New” in the listings on our website.

Cage Watch: 180 days & counting

18-19_New_Music_JohnCageLast issue I pointed out that although the 100th anniversary of John Cage’s birth will not be until September 5, 2012, among presenters of music, large and little, the celebratory clock has already started to tick. So, from now, and for the next 180 days (February 29 to September 5), let The WholeNote Cage Watch begin.

(Bemused readers should take a moment to read Pam Margles review, on page 69, of the reissue of Cage’s seminal book Silence for a visceral sense of what the fuss will be about.)

March 2 at Koerner Hall, Soundstreams/Royal Conservatory present “So Percussion: Cage@100,” works by Cage and a new work by turntablist Nicole Lizée.

March 22 at Gallery 345, Daniel Gaspard, piano, and Ellen Furey, dancer, present “John Cage, Sonatas in Movement.”

October 25 to 28 a conference,“The Future of Cage: Credo,” will be presented at the Graduate Centre for Drama, U of T. Details to follow.

The lack of space for a full-out “In With The New” column this month is more than somewhat offset by the fact that several of our other columnists in the issue have stolen my thunder anyway!

20Robert Wallace, page 8, talks about Obeah Opera, Nicole Brooks’ new work, as well as about Queen of Puddings’ Beckett Feck-it, at Canadian Stage. Chris Hoile, pages 18 and 19, talks about two works I would otherwise have drawn attention to: the COC production of Kaija Saariaho’s opera, L’Amour de loin, playing at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts; and Toronto Operetta Theatre’s first professional rollout of the John Beckwith/James Reaney opus Taptoo!

And there’s more. Pamela Margles, in the concert notes to her review of Kaija Saariaho: Visions, Narratives, Dialogues (“BookShelf,”) draws attention to four other concerts that will feature Saariaho’s music during the composer’s visit. (Three of these, by the way, are under Soundstreams’s auspices — and I will return to a discussion of Soundstreams.) Even our CD reviewers get into the act. Andrew Timar’s review of a Finnish Radio Symphony recording of Saariaho’s music, page 62, references L’Amour de loin. And a Leslie Mitchell-Clarke review, on the same page, of two + two, a new release by TorQ Percussion Quartet, is followed by a note pointing out TorQ’s appearance in the final concert of the U of T New Music Festival (February 5).

Of Toronto’s major presenters of new music (Array, Contact!, Continuum, Esprit, Gallery 345, Music Gallery, New Music Concerts, Queen of Puddings, Soundstreams and Tapestry New Opera), Soundstreams is the one to which we have, so far this season, devoted the least ink in this column. This month is as good as any to redress that, because the company has an extraordinary diversity of material on offer. In addition to the three Saariaho contributions referred to earlier, Soundstreams also presents two full-fledged Koerner Hall productions. The first of these, The Sealed Angel, billed as a music drama, is the work of Rodion Shchedrin, a Russian composer born in 1932. In typical Soundstreams fashion, this concert is an intensely collaborative project, involving the Amadeus Choir, Elmer Iseler Singers and ProArteDanza dance company. And then, book-ending the current listings period, Soundstreams is, as far as I can tell, the first of the aforementioned major presenters out of the blocks with a concert celebrating the 100th anniversary of composer John Cage’s birth. Titled “So Percussion: Cage @100” the concert will feature works by Cage and turntablist Nicole Lizée.

With the 100th anniversary of Cage’s birth not till September, pianist Kate Boyd is also fast off the mark, with back to back performances Thursday, February 16: first a noon hour lecture/recital on Cage’s Sonatas and Interludes at University of Waterloo; then a concert the same evening of the complete Sonatas and Interludes, for the Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Music Society. Not to be outdone, the Music Gallery, a week earlier, on February 10, presents a programme titled “Post-Classical Series: The Cold War Songbook – Pilgrims and Progress” which also features Cage’s Sonatas and Interludes (1948) performed by Vicky Chow, piano. The “Cold War Songbook” then continues February 11 with a programme of piano works by Ustvolskaya, Carter and Feldman, featuring the pianistic post-classical virtuosity of Stephen Clarke and Simon Docking.

The next day, February 12, at the Music Gallery, it’s Continuum Contemporary Music back in action with a a programme featuring music by Ligeti, Oesterle, Current, Klanac and Richard Marsella, who also guests on the barrel organ. And it’s busy busy as usual all month at upstart Gallery 345, with concerts worth noting on February 19 (pianist Adam Sherkin), 20 (soprano Xin Wang), 25 (mezzo Marta Herman), and 28 (Les Amis Concerts); and on March 7 (Norman Adams, cello; Lee Pui Ming, piano; Erin Donovan, percussion).

It’s a bit ironic to be giving the city’s largest ensembles the shortest shrift in this column, but that’s sometimes the way things fall out. First, Esprit Orchestra continues the season’s torrid pace with their third, full-scale Koerner Hall concert, on February 26. Titled “Gripped By Passion,” it features works by Vivier, Scelsi, Rea and Schnittke, the vocal magic of mezzo, Krisztina Szabó and dazzling TSO violist Teng Li.

And March 1, 3 and 7, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra presents its eighth annual New Creations Festival of which we will have much more to say in the coming issue.

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