The Official Sound Symposium XVII Blog is live! Throughout the festival, we’ll be posting reviews and musings about some key events, written by our guest bloggers Lori Clarke, Kevin Hehir, and Michelle Bush. Stay tuned!
Concert: Black Auks; Patrick Boyle & Greg Bruce; ArKora // LSPU Hall
by Lori Clarke
The Black Auks: Improvisations
The music of the Black Auks emerges from many years forged together, playing and listening. Wallace Hammond, Mack Furlong, Neil Rosenberg and Craig Squires, are playful, sometimes (rarely) solemn- that is to say they’re present with what is happening. They are listening and moving with each other through the space between and around them. Each brings to the ensemble his incredible breadth of listening, playing and careful consideration of the poetics of improvisation.
And I don’t mean “careful consideration” in the sense of carefulness at the expense of rawness or dropping into a groove. Improvisers carry responsibility in engaging with the space between us, sometimes lightening the load of seriousness, sometimes calling attention to the sufferings of the human heart and layerings of emotion. The Auks are more on the side of lightening the load with their playfulness and this is what audiences know them for most. To improvise means to be present and to allow the meanings in the room (and afar) to condense, like sweat on the skin, as a vibration in the air, as a sound, sometimes laughter rising from the belly. Another time a tear.
When Neil Rosenberg shook a rattle (away from his microphone) to each direction, above his head and towards those around him, it was clear to me that the Black Auks played more than a set- this was an invocation. The Black Auks’ invited the audience to join in opening this, the seventeenth Sound Symposium. This ensemble composed of some of the backbone of the Sound Symposium community, since the beginning call into presence those who we remember and whose lives we celebrate.
Don Wherry, Mike Zagorski, and most recently Edyth Goodridge (who I learned tonight was integral during the labour and delivery of the first Sound Symposium in 1983) are no longer with us. We honour their presence, not through nostalgia but through a celebration of improvisation and the ways of knowing that it generates for generations of artists.
Patrick Boyle & Greg Bruce: 10-4 Standby
Patrick Boyle and Greg Bruce are each prolific, hybridized interlocutors. 10-4 Standby is a trio for trumpet, saxophone, and live emergency response radio feed. Patrick opened by asking if there were any emergency responders present in the theatre. There were at least two. The piece bridged the space between real emergency responders in North American urban settings, the audience and the breath of the improvising responders in the room. Exploring assumptions about empathy is the conceptual framework suggested in the program notes for this piece, and not having read the notes before the show, I would suggest that an empathic field was generated. What I noticed was a communal response amidst textures, spacious close harmonies, gentle tasty flourishes and the coded dialect and meanings of the emergency radio voices.
This piece sounds in contrast to a mass media proliferation of emergency response sounds and images. The improvisers’ commitment to exploring the heart of the matter opens the space for contemplation- a deep listening field in which non-verbal intimacy is possible. Here, emergency responder sounds are rendered transcendent as metaphors for our empathy and for our absence from the scene of those social emergencies in which we are complicit.