October 2008

Aidan Baker Liminoid
at the third annual X Avant Festival of New Music
October 25, 2008 The Music Gallery Toronto
Liminoid Trips Out
by Tova G. Kardonne
The Music Gallery was encouragingly full of young, idiosyncratically attired people on Saturday night, October 25th, of the general type whom, when they claim to not have the money to come out to shows, one is inclined to believe. “Space is the Place,” the theme of the third annual X Avant Festival of New Music, was proclaimed by the shifting projections of spacescapes projected onto the ceiling of St. George the Martyr’s Church Fellowship Room, as well as by the eerie moods of DJ Craig Dunsmuir’s ambient noise. Of Aidan Baker’s Liminoid piece, the program says it will “attempt to create a liminal or numinous state”. Now I’m nervous about critiquing it. If it succeeds, it may be impossible to describe.
Well, for all the numinosity it succeeded in provoking, it wasn’t impossible to describe. It was a 45-minute cycle of moods, generally euphonious, with a cathartic rock-metal-ish peak whose lyrics were a chant that revolved around ‘the glory of the sun.’ Between the two cellos, violin, two drummers (on kits) and three FX-laden electric guitars, the palette was by turns soothing, goading, frenetic, chilling, and tensely held. Clara Engel, on guitar and voice, took the rich and tortured lead vocals most convincingly, and the transitions were aptly managed by the tight group-synchronicity. Droning strings predictably produce quasi-religious experiences for me — this time, the hand of the nearest cellist momentarily appeared to produce the sound and motion of a calico cat, batting at a butterfly on the page of sheet music. Of course, one of my gravest defects as a surveyor of contemporary music is an inability to enjoy excessive volume. Although this performance was far from among the loudest, a certain level of pain in the old brainbox did nicely redefine the boundaries that had been so deftly blurred. Nothing like discomfort to show where the self begins.
Aidan Baker
One of the greatest things about listening to a piece of genre-bending music for the first time is the necessity of taking it as a raw individual object. The ear does its thing, trying to predict what’s coming, but can’t, because the musical structure was made just for this one piece. Liminoid didn’t have that. It was entrancing, impassioned, and skillfully executed — but not unlike anything I’ve ever heard before. I enjoyed it the way I enjoy the symphony, which I love. It’s not that I’ve never heard this before, it’s not that I couldn’t get recordings of similar work, it’s not even that I don’t sometimes prefer to hear it at home or through wires. The rare thing about it is the live experience, the being-there while the magic alchemy of wood and metal and electron bring it into existence. The immersion and focus of live performance of a familiar tonal blend, welcoming and subsuming all the human passions of the people in the room; that was truly valuable and unique in Aidan Baker’s Liminoid at the Music Gallery.
We welcome your comments and feedback
Tova G. Kardonne
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