2014 is upon us! (2013 in Retrospect)

IMG_5282I’m really looking forward to 2014.  Glad it’s here.  Not at all because 2013 was bad in any way, shape or form, but just simply because I’m intrigued to see where things go from here.

2013 was a very intense year for me musically, creatively and from career standpoint (yes, ugh the ‘c’ word) so it’s going to be hard to top last year.  That being said, there were some seeds sown this past year that are likely to come into full bloom this year.  So I can’t wait.

I’m going to list some of my own highlights, some things I look forward to and some other work that really excited me this past year.  It is a little bit “me me me”, but I’m genuinely pleased to share this all and grateful for everyone who assisted in making 2013 a wonderful year for me.

Personal highlights:
This year I received/ completed several really awesome commissions from performers and organizations that both understand my aesthetic outlook, and lend something really special to my music.  In February, stalwart Toronto ensemble Arraymusic debuted an Ontario Arts Council- commissioned work called hypnic jerk which they performed with real personality and sensitivity.  I was truly grateful for that opportunity and really pleased with the piece itself.  Later in the year, I completed and debuted a work called Terminal Burrowing at Montréal’s AKOUSMA Festival.  The work was an aesthetic departure for me—grappling with a new take (for me) on the electroacoustic medium that barely uses any processing—and so I was a bit nervous to present it, but it was actually an incredibly heartening evening.  I even heard a few kind words from none other than François Bayle which was a great honour.

I also began work on two new commissions for Eve Egoyan and Stealth (duo of Kathryn Ladano and Richard Burrows), from the Canada Council and Waterloo Region Arts Fund respectively.  These are exciting and uniquely challenging projects which should surface in the coming year.

I also was the recipient of a recording grant from the OAC to create an album of my chamber music performed by my good friends the Thin Edge New Music Collective (under the expert supervision of Jean Martin!)

This year I was grateful to embark upon collaborations in new media (for me)—film and dance.  Although I had done smaller film projects, this year I worked with director Ingrid Veninger on her poignant and funny film the Animal Project which made its debut at the Toronto International Film Festival this past fall.  In November I began work on a score for a new work by choreographer Yvonne Ng.  This will be presented in May this year and I am (thusfar) extremely excited about the music I’m producing for her imaginative and emotionally-resonant dance work.

While I performed, on the whole, quite a bit less this past year, I also formed a new project called Bespoken.  Making our debut in the spring, we recorded an album that was issued by Divorce Records subsidiary Heavy Fog in the fall.  With a string of positive reviews and some performances (our release show and appearance at the January edition of Long Winter) it looks like this group will continue to flourish this year.

I also finally finished Gardens, an ambitious full-length album whose premise of homemade, solo, orchestral-scale instrumental music had been percolating in my mind since late 2010.  It looks as though it will be released in 2014 but details are not yet solid.

It was also a privilege to meet Sharif Sehnaoui who I presented at the Tranzac, and interviewed (along with Mazen Kerbaj, Raed Yassin and others) for a story in Musicworks.  Hearing more from Beirut’s vibrant scene has been an awesome source of inspiration for me.

I’ve definitely left some things out, but I’ll be honest that I can’t for the life of me recall any negative collaborative experiences in the past year!

Things to come in 2014:
Aside from that which I’ve mentioned above, there are a few exciting things on the horizon for the coming year.  Here’s a sneak preview.

I’ll be writing another work for the Thin Edge New Music Collective in their Keys, Wind and Strings quartet arrangement (violin, piano, flute, accordion).   The work is slated for tour in Europe in the summer and I’m thrilled to be working with Ilana and Cheryl again, as well as the two members with whom I have not yet worked, Solomiya Moroz and Olivia Steimel group again in this very special instrumental combination!

I’m creating a cello-driven score for kathak-modern dancer Deepti Gupta.  We met in the summer of 2012 and have elected to embark upon this new collaboration together for premiere in China.

In May, I’ve curated a very special two-part concert for the Music Gallery’s Emergents series. The first half features Thin Edge New Music Collective performing a bill of composition by imaginative musicians who come from well outside of the chamber music world.  It includes pieces by L.A. based composer Sean McCann (no, don’t worry, not the goofy dude from Great Big Sea!), Matthew Ramolo (aka Khôra), Colin Fisher (of Not the Wind, Not The Flag fame), Liz Hysen (Picastro), and Araz Salek (Iranian-Canadian tar virtuoso).  The other half of the evening is a collaborative composition/ performance by Jason Doell and Germaine Liu.

Records I enjoyed that came out in 2013
This year I took the plunge into the world of mail-ordering music directly from labels (and also doing extensive browsing on Soundcloud).  While I love the social dimension of actually shopping at real stores, I discovered a huge number of intriguing small labels from all over this year that I couldn’t access through walking into my favourite stores.  I’ve also interacted online with a community of really interesting artists and labels. Said labels include: Orange Milk Records, Dekorder, Recital, Rel, Copy For Your Records, Avant Archive, Scissor Tail, Black Bough, Desire Path, Irritable Hedgehog, Another Timbre, Notice Recordings and more.  This list reflects some of these discoveries.

Sean McCann Music For Private Ensemble (Recital); Ashley PaulLine The Clouds (Rel); Anna SiddallThe Day (Independent); Ryuichi SakamotoThree (Universal); Tim HeckerVirgins (Paper Bag); Arve HenriksenPlaces of Worship (Rune Grammofon); Laura MvulaSing To The Moon (RCA); DrumhellerSometimes Machine (Barnyard); CoppicePied (Notice Recordings); Duane PitreBridges (Important); AutechreL-Event (Warp); Peter Hatch & Blue Rider Ensemble History Is What It Is (CentreDiscs); Susanna & ensemble NeonThe Forester (Susanna Sonata); Rabih BeianiAlbidaya (Annihaya); Nathan McLaughlinKaren Studies (Scissor Tail Editions); Richard GloverLogical Harmonies (Another Timbre)

Reissues/ Compilations
Various I Am The Centre (Light In The Attic); François Bayle50 Ans d’Acousmatique (GRM); Molly Drake (Squirrel Thing); Zacht AutomaatZA (Calico Corp); IasosCelestial Soul Portrait (Numero Group)

Records I enjoyed that I heard for the first time in 2013
Sarah Vaughn & Michel Legrand (Mainstream); Bill EvansConversations With Myself (Verve); Christian Wolff10 Exercises (New World); Eloïse Decazes & Eric Chenaux (Disques Okraina); TomitaThe Snowflakes Are Dancing (BMG); LewisL’Amour; ContinuumSea Change (Independent); Susan AlcornAnd I Await the Resurrection of Pedal Steel Guitar (Olde English Spelling Bee); Jürg Frey Piano Music (performed by R. Andrew Lee) (Irritable Hedgehog); Isaiah CeccarelliBréviaire d’épuisements (Ambiances Magnetiques)

Shows I really, really enjoyed:
Flux Quartet performing Morton Feldman String Quartet No. 2 at the Music Gallery:  Feldman’s Second String Quartet is, quite simply, nothing short of a modern masterpiece.  Not only is its strange rarefied world so incredibly compelling, it’s mind-boggling that something can be so engaging, beautiful, hypnotic and witty that it sustain your interest over six hours.  And yet somehow it’s still such a humble piece of music—completely inconspicuous in its unfolding and also strangely disorienting.  The tickets were a birthday present from my partner, Nicole Cultraro, and we were both really grateful that we attended this life-changing concert, and also for the fact that the Music Gallery had the insight to put it on!

François Bayle at AKOUSMA: In my education, I was not immersed in electroacoustics the way some in, say, Montréal’s top music schools are, and because of that I was a bit naïve to Bayle’s work prior to the 2013 edition of AKOUSMA.  But after meeting the composer and hearing his work at excellent Montréal festival, he’s become one my favourite musicians.  The way he employed AKOUSMA’s extensive multichannel system was one of the festival’s many highlights for me, and the work he presented, while several years old, remained fresh, inventive and devoid of musique concrète clichés. To me his work represents an ideal marriage of almost-traditional musicality (he trained with Messiaen after all!) and the vast possibilities of signal processing.  I was also heartened by the fact that in spite of his elder-statesman status in electroacoustic circles he was present at every concert at the festival.

Matteo Marangoni and Angel Faraldo ‘City Sondols’ along St. Clair West in Toronto (presented by New Adventures In Sound Art): I went to this concert on a whim, but was very pleasantly surprised — it was a perfect testament to NAISA’s consistently intriguing and diverse programming but consistently low-profile in Toronto.  The two Netherlands-based artists performed a site-specific piece using simple adapted megaphone/ pulse generators and wireless technology which activated the surfaces of our surroundings.  Shooting these pulse sounds off buildings, cars, and other things and also feeding the sounds back out into the space again, the pair created a thoroughly immersive and beautiful experience which implicated an urban landscape in a unique listening experience which had meditative qualities but also shades of interventionist foreboding.  Here’s a video of them doing something similar in Delft

Philip Thomas at ArraySpace and Gallery 345: On the first night, Thomas (an amazing UK-based pianist) played two longish pieces, one by eccentric English composer Laurence Crane, and another by equally idiosyncratic Torontonian eldritch Priest (author of the brilliant Boring Formless Nonsense).  On the latter he played a similar, but longer bill featuring work by Martin Arnold, Linda C. Smith (with gorgeous delicate singing in the
score!), Michael Oesterle, Cassandra Miller, Christopher Fox and Bryn Harrison.  It was great to encounter Thomas who’s a champion of some of my favourite music.

About Nick Storring

Nick Storring is a Toronto based composer, cellist and electronic musician with a wide palette of interests. Awarded the Canadian Music Centre's 2011 Emerging Composer Award, his broken-violin-based electronic piece Artifacts (I) also won first place in the 2008 Jeux de Temps/ Times Play competition for emerging Canadian electroacoustic composers. His chamber music has been performed by the Quatuor Bozzini, Arraymusic, the Madawaska String Quartet, the Esprit Orchestra, and Thin Edge New Music Collective. He also regularly creates incidental music for theatre, film and intermedia projects, including for the MT Space's Last 15 Seconds which toured through Canada and the Middle East, ambient gaming installation "Tentacles" which was presented at MoMA in 2011, and Ingrid Veninger's feature film "The Animal Project" an official selection at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival. Apart from making regular solo appearances, he also plays in Picastro (Polyvinyl Records), I Have Eaten The City and improvising cello duo The Knot with Tilman Lewis. He has collaborated live and in the studio with Nadja, Sandro Perri, Daniel Johnston, Araz Salek, Laura Barrett, Rhys Chatham, Wyrd Visions, Andrew Timar, Castlemusic, Eddie Prevost, Diane Labrosse, and Damo Suzuki (of Can).
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