Screenings for “The Natural State”

IMG_7876Earlier this year I scored a short film of Mikel Guillen’s entitled The Natural State.  The film takes inspiration from the writings of U.G. Krishnamurti (not to be confused with the more famous Jiddu Krishnamurti).  The score was created simply through multitracking various instruments in my home studio and encompasses quite an orchestral sound palette, matching the film’s rather wide scope.

This weekend the film will be screened at 6:15PM on both Saturday and Sunday at the Lab Cab Festival in Toronto’s Parkdale neighbourhood.  This will occur at the shop at Parts & Labour.   Here’s a link to the festival page for the film, and below is a trailer.

The score is also slated to appear on my album Endless Conjecture which will be released by the lovely Orange Milk label later this year.

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RATIO — a new space / I HAVE EATEN THE CITY tape launch

IMG_7548I have been busy with several different things in the past while.  On top of completing additional material for two forthcoming albums—Endless Conjecture (coming out on Orange Milk) and Exaptations (for Notice Recordings), I’ve also been scoring Terrance Odette‘s new film, Fall, working with Deepti Gupta toward cellocentric music for a new solo dance piece for her, and working as one of seven others open the new venue Ratio.

The new space is a mere few steps west of Spadina on the south side of College on the second floor.  It’s not super large but ideal for intimate concerts — either acoustic or amplified.  And we’re hoping it won’t just be a music venue.  I could certainly imagine it hosting other types of performance, screenings, and serving as a gallery.

Our fundraising event gave us a really strong sense of its potential and we’re really excited to see this carried through.  Here some links to Ratio’s Twitter page, Facebook page, and still-under-construction website.  Keep your eyes peeled for upcoming events!

On Friday July 25th we are hosting a launch for I Have Eaten The City’s tape Secret Paths on Manchester UK label Tombed Visions.  Doors at 9pm.

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Music Gallery Emergents’ series Experiment

IMG_6650On May 15th  the culmination of a curatorial experiment took place.

Late last concert season, I was approached by David Dacks at the Music Gallery to curate a concert for their Emergents Series (which, notably, is funded by the wonderful Roger D. Moore).  As one might surmise, it’s a series that focuses on emerging talent. I gratefully accepted, almost immediately enlisting my friends the Thin Edge New Music Collective, who are rapidly becoming one of the city’s premiere new music-oriented chamber groups, to perform one of the evening’s two sets.  Little did they know they were going to be my guinea pigs.

The other half was given to Jason Doell, who since this booking went on to gain a fair degree of notoriety through his winning of the Toronto Emerging Composer Award administered by the Canadian Music Centre (with financial help from Moore and Michael Koerner).  I figured (correctly) he’d have his own weird scheme to subvert his own role.

Doell’s half was initially going to be a long solo work for improvising percussionist and composer Germaine Liu, who played a prominent role in Doell’s work Delicate Triangles, a piece which made use of several rooms in the Gladstone hotel to create an immersive, frenetic sound environment using a large, mobile ensemble.  But, instead of the piece going along traditional composer-performer lines, the work became a fully collaborative (compositionally and performance-wise) duo work, Wild Bengal Tigers which took over the whole sanctuary of St. George the Martyr church, the home of the Music Gallery.

The pair moved (temporally and spatially) through several stations of different instruments: thali-plate gongs, dinner plates with pebbles, guitar, vibraphone, e-bowed piano, cymbals which were tossed on the floor, paper down the middle aisle… The work brought together improvisation and fully-composed sections with nary a score in sight.  Its playful irreverence and textural depth was quite mesmerizing, but the episodic shifts between different discrete ideas also gave it a strange momentum.  The spatial approach was also effective, Germaine even, at one point, retreating to play drum kit in the green room. A concealed speaker also murmured back a lo-fi recording of one of their rehearsals from inside of piano at the rear of the hall.

While collaborative composition is certain very common in other fields, it’s not something you see that much in the concert music medium and nor does one see it happening so seamlessly.  I’m definitely prone to this myself, but I feel like on the whole composers tend to like making it clear whose contributions are whose.  It was nice to see the two of them taking equal credit and creating a work that so blended their two voices.  Even knowing the two of them as people and musicians so well, I certainly couldn’t tell who came up with what, aside the brief section when Jason was playing guitar, his primary instrument.

The Thin Edge’s half of the evening, however was the site of the aforementioned experiment on my part.  Essentially I paired them with five composers who had not written for chamber ensemble before, but who all maintained interesting, diverse and accomplished musical practices that related to chamber work.  The premise was that they would compose 8-12 minute pieces for the ensemble (that night, a quartet of Ilana Waniuk on violin, Cheryl Duvall on piano, as well as Kathryn Ladano on bass clarinet, and Nathan Petitpas on vibraphone).  Although some of the participants hadn’t even written anything on manuscript even before, I had a feeling that it’d all work out quite well.

And lo, and behold, to my ears, this inkling was correct.  We ended up with a bill of five distinctive pieces that still managed to be coherent.  Araz Salek, is a virtuoso tar player based in Toronto who’s deeply invested in Iranian classical music, but also has been active intermittently in experimental music circles locally. Despite being one of those more familiar with notation, his piece was likely the most open-ended of the lot. A duet for piano / violin, it mainly prescribed Ilana and Cheryl sets of pitches and some preparations in the piano.  The result was a shimmering surface more reminiscent of spectral music than mode-driven improvisation.

Colin Fisher’s piece, if you’re aware of his reputation for rich, virtuosic guitar playing and ecstatic free jazz sax blowing, might’ve also been regarded as a departure from your expectations.  A slow and spacious piece with large melodic leaps and a slightly-dissonant open-endedness, the work stretched out mysteriously over roughly 15 minutes.  While unfolding in soft ethereal resolve, it also provided some significant moments of surprise.

Los Angeles based composer Sean McCann has been creating a variety of work over the past few years, some of which was inspired by contemporary chamber music, other pieces with a more electronic orientation.  He runs the label Recital, which issued his album Music for Private Ensemble signalling toward an immersion in chamber music instrumentation.  His work Victorian Wind reflected this interest and was presented as a series of interwoven lines that created both a euphonious and slightly tangled aural experience.  Conveying a certain placidity, it also had a muted urgency to it which imbued the work with a sense of two strata of movement.

Liz Hysen, with whom I play in Picastro, has been employing strings and various other instruments into her idiosyncratic music since the band’s inception.  The band is known for its tension, and bold, simple melodicism, aspects which featured prominently in Hysen’s Doors.  The work switched gears several times between driving rectangular sternness which might recall Ustvolskaya, to sweet major key melodies, to Ilana Waniuk creating flaccid glissandi with her tuning pegs.  Liz has a very strong musical sensibility which was in full evidence here.   Joe Strutt’s lovely blog, Mechanical Forest Sound included a recording there.

Matthew Ramolo (who plays under the pseudonym Khôra and as a member of Bespoken and Picastro) contributed the piece If Mind Were Dream of a Greater Here which brought together pulsating, interlocking cells, ever-shifting timbres, and broad, lyrical melodies.  Arguably the most animated work, it made a very suitable closing piece.

I’ve long wondered about the medium of chamber music and the history of elitism around it.  It’s a topic I’ve thought about as an artist and also written about in Musicworks magazine in an article which featured three composers who came from outside of the usual University-educated trajectory into chamber music : Mark Molnar, Sean McCann and Jonathan Pfeffer.  While notation poses some obstacles for self-taught composers or those without a Western-classical music education, after this evening of work, I was left heartened, feeling that this barrier can be overcome with a bit of strategy, resource/ knowledge-sharing among friends, encouragement and of course creativity, in the broad sense of the word.  It also helps to have an open-minded group like Thin Edge who was willing to support that alternative creative process.

The history of classical music is full of pivotal self-taught figures or people who had a different sort of non-institutional training—Charles Ives, Berlioz, Pierre Schaeffer, Bach (apparently), Harry Partch and Richard Wagner to name a few.  Recently however, it would seem that these people are not as a common within that field.  It’s a shame though, because it’s my belief, as someone who works in various fields—notated music, electronic music, improvisation and the in-between world of various experimental practices (noise, weird pop/ rock etc. etc.), that there needn’t necessarily be such a rift between the two worlds.  These two worlds still have a lot to learn from each other, too.

My hope is that there’ll be more of these events and that the dialogue can continue and expand.

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May is here!

IMG_6530May is here and it has a lot in store for me!

First of all, I’m pleased to announce that Yvonne Ng‘s new show SoloDuet will be going up TOMORROW (May 6th) at the Theatre Centre and runs until the 10th. I composed original music for the duet piece Magnetic Fields (and also played all of the instruments!), and the whole show features my sound design in a pentagonish-5.1 setup.  Below is a short sample of the music and you can purchase tickets here.

On May 15th I have curated a lovely little show at the Music Gallery’s Emergents Series featuring some of my favourite muscians.  One half of the bill features the wonderful Thin Edge New Music Collective play new works by people who don’t normally write for chamber ensemble: Araz Salek, Liz Hysen (of Picastro), Colin Fisher (Not The Wind, Not The Flag, Many Arms, I Have Eaten the City etc.), L.A.’s Sean McCann, Matthew Ramolo (aka Khôra) and Ido Govrin.  The other half of the bill features recent Toronto Emerging Composer Award winner Jason Doell in a collaboration with exceptional percussionist/ composer Germaine Liu.

Finally, on Saturday May 24th I play in Halifax opening for Tim Hecker at the delightful Obey Convention.  It’s my first time in that city and at that festival. I’m curious to see how Hecker does his newest album Virgins live. I really felt strongly about this record, and think it’s easily his strongest effort to date.

In addition to all this I have starting working on the score for a new feature film by Terrance Odette (of Heater fame) entitled Fall.  Having seen an early cut of the film, it’s a very delicate and personal picture with a lot of nuance. I’m honoured to be a part of it!

Stayed tuned for some more news regarding new solo releases and I Have Eaten The City’s first release in seven years.



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Oh … hi! (Updates)

IMG_6679Hello.  Again, I’ve been neglecting this site a bit… Oops.  But I’ve been busy with a few new projects.  Starting some collaborations with experimental filmmakers Eva Kolcze and Mikel Guillen, and working with choreographer Yvonne Ng on one of two pieces she’s debuting in May (one that I’m scoring and another that I’m sound-designing).

I was also in Edmonton and Whitehorse (pictured above), where I was touring the piece Body 13 with MT Space (and with co-composer/ musicians Germaine Liu and Colin Fisher).  In Whitehorse we also teamed up with Gwaandak Theatre to workshop some of Patti Flather’s play Paradise a disturbing yet humane, nuanced and intelligent piece.

At any rate I thought I’d share some various pieces of news.

1) My album Gardens will be coming out later this year on Scissor Tail Editions (owned / operated by the excellent Dylan Golden Aycock (AKA Talk Westcheck out his new album on Preservation).  Here’s a video teaser I made for the third track:

2) March 9th I’m playing with my good pal John Kameel Farah at Marcel Aucoin and Michael Holt’s roaming house concert series the Piano Salon.  Here’s a Facebook event with all the relevant info.

3) March 22nd I have a new piece being played by up and coming Toronto ensemble Musica Reflecta at the Tranzac.  The bill also features work by some of my favourite musicians — Thom Gill (writing for chamber orchestra!), Jason Doell, Christopher Willes.  The show will also feature performances by Colin Fisher and Ryan Driver Event invite is right here, and unlike many chamber-type concerts the door is CHEAP.

Coming up I’m also playing a show at with Ido Govrin, Christine Duncan and Tilman Lewis at Hart House, the New Harbours series in Hamilton, curating a show for the Music Gallery … Stay Tuned!

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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.

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Bespoken has its own site (plus some reviews)

IMG_6055Bespoken,  my band with Matthew Ramolo, Cheryl Duvall, Ilana Waniuk and Brandon Valdivia has become such a “real” project that we’ve put together our own website, which can be found here:

Stayed tuned, we will be recording and releasing more music this year—both by group members, and members of our community.

For now, you can check out some reviews of our album Plays Nick Storring and Daniel Brandes on Halifax’s very own Heavy Fog.

Brian Olewnick, Just Outside
Andrew Patterson, The Coast

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