November 2008

Ensemble contemporain de Montréal Generation 2008
presented by New Music Concerts
November 1, 2008 The Music Gallery Toronto
Report by David Fujino
Ensemble Contemporain de Montréal (ECM) has been commissioning new compositions from young Canadian composers since 1994.

But for several months before each selected composer starts writing a piece, they're invited to participate in sound workshops with the ECM ensemble.

When the compositions are completed, they're toured across Canada, and this evening in Toronto represented one stop in the ensemble's 5th Canadian tour, Generation 2008.

In her effort to make the audience more comfortable, conductor Véronique Lacroix spoke to each composer about their piece before commencing. While these talks were appreciated, this niche audience likely knows that modern and new music compositions are best understood and enjoyed when they are listened to and directly experienced, and all the explanations and descriptions don't change the first-hand experience.

Brian Harman, Michael Berger, Fuhong Shi & Scott Good
It seems a listening, non-verbal approach is best taken to Fuhong Shi's "Kaleidoscope", which she said deals with music, nature, and humans through a series of kaleidoscopical sound frames. The sound of cicadas (the sound of autumn) she added in. We didn't really hear cicadas, but we did hear those lonely, audibly rising, long drones curving out into a stark space that has the shimmering tone of a vibraphone, ringing inside. I thought about Takemitsu and Ichiyanagi.

What identifiably linked Michael Berger's "Skelelton" to the preceding "Kaleidoscope" were the long sliding portamento tones soaring in space; but "Skeleton", conceptually speaking, was also about the idea of bare bones memory as played out musically with the effective repeating and varying and elaborating and embroidering of a simple motif.

After Intermission, Brian Harman's lengthy feeling "Gregarious Machines" posed the metaphor of technology versus acoustic music and employed guitarist Tim Brady to fill the role of technology. Ranging in volume from abrasively loud to the workings of subtle quiet "machines", Harman's multi-part composition was otherwise built firmly upon pulsation. Soloist Brady was limited to mostly playing parallel lines with the ensemble.

Scott Good's "Shock Therapy Variations" was music inspired by Naomi Klein's book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. Where the book examines the stages of shock that societies go through when a disaster strikes, the composer/trombonist explored the area in between notated and improvised music with his wildly wooly and free solos. Here, Tim Brady's guitar projected through the sounds of sliding strings, and after successive episodes of hearty outbursts and heavy smears, Brady emerged very Arabic and scalar in the last peaceful moments of this outsized composition, a rambunctious example of freedom within form.

Generation 2008 Compositions
"Kaleidoscope" 2008 – Fuhong Shi (China/Canada, b. 1976)

"Skeleton" 2008 – Michael Berger (Canada, b. 1980)

"Gregarious Machines" 2008 – Brian Harman (Canada, b. 1981)
Soloists: Tim Brady, guitar

"Shock Therapy Variations" 2008 – Scott Good (Canada, b. 1972)
Soloists: Tim Brady, guitar; Scott Good, trombone

ECM Musicians
(Ensemble Contemporain de Montréal)
Véronique Lacroix – conductor/artistic director
Jocelyn Roy – flute
Martin Gauvreau – clarinet
Sarah Gauthier-Pichette – bassoon
Louis-Pierre Bergeron – french horn
Philip Hornsey – percussion

We welcome your comments and feedback
David Fujino
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