New Sounds for 2014

Last night’s concert at the Music Gallery, featuring Montreal-based Ensemble Paramirabo, as well as quite a few others, was definitely one of the most interesting concerts I have been to in a long time.

It started with Canadian sound artist and composer Christopher Willes, who has had exhibitions in Finland, New York City, and Toronto, to name a few. The only piece on the first half of the concert was Willes’ immersive Blow/Draw. The performers, and there were many of them, positions themselves around the hall and began to play long sustained tones. I’m told the direction of the piece resulted from following the harmonic series, but I wish I could’ve had a chance to talk to the composer about this piece. It seemed everyone had a different reaction to the piece, given that it was those long notes for almost 45 minutes. I’m not the first to admit that my mind wandered off for a while in the middle of the piece, but, then, maybe that was the point. Different colours, textures, and effect kept appearing, and the overall impression I got was that of the world’s most colourful slinky.

After an intermission, Ensemble Paramirabo stepped up to performer Willes’ Receding Background. A work made of seven miniatures featuring the instruments and electronic sounds via speaker. Most were good, some were fantastic. There was a constant shift in mood between playful, serious, exciting, and back again.

Canadian Scott Rubin’s interestingly titled work the Torn Cubist felt like a piece that progressed from abstraction into something more or less solid. In the later parts of the piece especially, when the music adopted a driving rock and jazz derived set of rhythms, did I feel like this was a piece that I would like to hear again.

Composers Robert Hansler and Rodrigo Bussad had brand new offerings. In the former’s case, a work titled In Every Place, Incense and in the latter’s, Loin.

In Every Place, Incense felt like a piece whose name really fit. It was a great combination of fragility and strength. The musicians seemed to really be in their depth during this piece, and it came out in the music.

Loin was another interesting piece. Perhaps not my favourite sort of work, but it had its definite moments. Roaring at a rapid pace through sections, with dark textures and a fantastic use of the instruments and their less conventional techniques, I would very much like to hear this piece again, as I don’t feel ready to give a complete opinion on it with just one listening.

There were also two Frank Zappa arrangements,  I’m the Slime and Fifty-Fifty,  on the program (arranged very well by Symon Henry). I’m not convinced that they were completely necessary for the concert, and they did stand out a little bit, but I enjoyed them nonetheless, and so did the audience and the performers.

This was my first concert of 2014, and casting aside the fact that I’m pleased to finally get back into things, the concert was enjoyable and a success. A full house with an enthusiastic audience and great performers is great to see, and it’s always nice to see familiar faces.

A final note. A word of advice to the man and woman who were lying spread eagle in the aisle during the concert: Don’t. It’s incredibly unbecoming, makes the audience look bad, and makes you look even worse.

Have a good weekend.

– Paolo Griffin

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