Monday, September 04, 2006

Playing catchup, part 2

As promised, here are my blog musings of what's been going on the past few weeks:

August 18 - Matt Haimovitz (cello) and Patrick Wedd (organ) celebrated the life and music of György Ligeti as part of the Jusqu'aux Oreilles festival here. Due to circumstances, I walked in late, just at the end of a new piece written as an homage to Ligeti (I don't remember the composer's name). Whether Matt commissioned it or not, I do not know, but the end section seemed tailor-made for his strength: expressive, dynamic, and utilizing the harmonics of the cello. Also on the program were the sonata for solo cello, a spoken eulogy to Ligeti (author unfortunately forgotten, as well), Harmonies & Coulée (the two études for organ), Volumina (for organ), and Artikulation (a tape piece, created while Ligeti was studying and living with Stockhausen). Prior to my arrival, they had already performed Ricercare: Omaggio a Frescobaldi, as well as Frescobaldi's original theme. My lasting impression is how the electronic music influenced the acoustic music (especially the organ pieces), and how Artikulation, created mid-century with tape and razor splices, sounds as modern, if not more so, than current pieces being created by advanced software capabilities. Ligeti had classical piano training but never felt himself capable enough on the instrument to perform on it, and thus dedicated himself to composition. In doing so, it seems like he spent his time learning the functionalities of every instrument he wrote for, and figured out ways to challenge the performer without writing anything technically "unplayable."

As I attended the concert and read Richard Steinitz's book on Ligeti, Music of the Imagination, it struck me that as much as I appreciate and enjoy Ligeti's work, I'm in doubt as to whether he's an influence on my music or whether I even want him to. I admire his precision and calculation, and it serves his music well, but such structures (and his adamant stance against programmatic music) don't play into what I wish to achieve at this point. Give me ten years and I may have changed my mind.

August 20 - another installment of Dan Thouin's improvisation night at Divan Orange, entitled Sprung. The lineup: Thouin (Rhodes/fx), Martin Lizotte (synthesizers/fx), François Lafontaine (organ), Robbie Kuster (drums), Jean-François Lemieux (electric bass) and Stéphane Boucher (trumpet/spoken word/sampler). My immediate impression was "Three keyboardists! Let the games begin!" My second impression was "Holy shit, this is loud!" It got pretty wacky - the loudest, outest moments of Live/Evil Miles, with a little bit of Prime Time, post-rock, and bilingual slam poetry courtesy of Boucher. It was a great little party, and getting to see three of the best keyboardists around town whose main gigs don't allow THAT much improv: Dan, though a great improvising keyboardist, has become first-call among the Francophone art-pop circuit, playing with Ariane Moffatt and Fred Fortin; François plays in Karkwa, a band that I caught by pure chance at Francofolies a couple of years ago and that has become one of my favourite bands in the city; and Martin plays with world-skipping percussionists/chanteuses Dobacaracol.

August 30 - The premiere of Jon Day's Exhibit A. Now, like most, I know Jon as a fantastic pianist and composer. I also knew he had sung in Effusion before (and was actually a founding member), and had told me a little about this project in conversation. Therefore, I had an inkling of what was bubbling here, but had no idea of the scope or skill of this project. Six singers, including Jon, and five musicians, creating this jazz-gospel-nouveau-Broadway sound. Utterly huge textures, and Jon is a surprisingly good singer, with a very spastic, almost Scott Weiland-esque stage presence. I look forward to what he does with this project.

Grande Bibliotheque acquisitions:
: Haruki Murakami - Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World; Phil Lesh - Searching for the Sound; Ian McEwan - Saturday (in progress).
Music: Osvaldo Golijov/Kronos Quartet - The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind; Fela Kuti - Expensive Shit; Wilco - I Am Trying to Break Your Heart DVD; Henry Threadgill - When Was That?; John Adams - On The Transmigration of Souls.

Note: I'm hosting Jazz Euphorium again this Wednesday (September 6), tag-teaming with the wonderful Andy Williams, whose record collection may just stand up to Ethan Iverson's for battle.

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