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!

Installation: Andrea Cooper’s Too Far North
Installation: Gerard Neil’s /particles .014/instalado
Concert: Krista Vincent & Paul Bendza; Stanley Braxton; Steven Naylor & Jeff Reilly // LSPU Hall

by Michelle Bush, July 8th, 2014

Tuesday afternoon I had some time to roam around downtown St John’s exploring sound installations.

Andrea Cooper’s Too Far North at Eastern Edge in a cave-like, cold and crisp setting in ways yet soft and inviting lures you in with soft voices of longing, sadness and nostalgia. I stood next to her polar bear, beside icebergs under the sky tent listening to words (Andrea is, and always has been a beautiful poetic and often incredibly funny writer with her own unique twist of words) and watching while a woman/bear covers themselves with a blanket, folding in on themselves, never seeming comfortable. And beside them a man/bear speaking as well about love and loss and polar bears and ice melting and cold that is desired but at the same time being protected against with coverings.

The sculpture seemed so small and vulnerable with a majestic head of a polar bear and the lovers so distanced but both questioning, trying to understand the palpable loss, feeling the expanse and the sounds; spoken and textural. I stayed through several repeated soundscapes and then moved back out into the sunshine.

On Water Street at the /particles.014/instalado installation I walked into a completely different sensation of frantic, disjointed, confusing yet mesmerizing quest for understanding of an obvious story being reported or told through too many quickly changing repeating glimpses and segments of disturbing, harsh, incoherent, out of focus, digitally tempered to take away information rather than offer a key. I tried focusing on individual monitors, there were several on each side of the corridor and then the projected screen of several particles together. I didn’t leave knowing what I felt like I should be understanding through these insisting images. One part had a man bringing a needle to his eye – this has remained with me and makes me shiver still – repeated and repeated and then his face, condemned, strung out, tired, doomed. Danny Keating and Gerard Neil have created an anxiety filled space with a longing as well, for sense, for linearity and clarity and slowing down of pace.

And on a tangent, there was a sound so very much like the Tardis that would come through at times….

At the Hall for the evening show, once again I was in an installation. Starting in the bar area with a room filled with people and a wonderfully decorticated piano with colourful strings attached to keys, various musical items/ toys/instruments and a lot of invitations to “be happy:, to who is the “happiest”. Krista Vincent and Paul Bendza created energy for everyone to join in, to touch it, to play it, to take various noise makers toys and threads and make something together. A great participatory and interactive moment with the inclusion of a “selfie”. The camaraderie and joy of the group no matter how quietly involved an individual was, was palpable and HAPPY.

Upstairs we entered to a piano, a ghostly draped shape and a couch where Krista in jogging suit and Paul relaxed on a couch, not really speaking to one another, while a wonderful video of them in the park, laughing, doing happy, feel good things, playing hide and seek, rolling in the grass, eating ice cream, played until they walked off down the path happy.

Vincent put on running shoes, picked up her gym bag, and went to the piano. A beautiful pianist, she played The Body of Your Dreams. Her hitting of keys was timed so well with a recording playing simultaneously, was in such perfect synch to clips of how you can attain the perfect body through some advertised product or plan or infomercial-type commentator. The combination of her composition with these snippets of text was excellent. I could never follow a whole section of the recordings but the repetition and timing was so engaging and her gym pony tail bouncing with her playing, her feet on the peddles, I spent the whole performance believing she had rigged each key with the sound bites and had a switch hidden somewhere to activate the different components. I was so invested in her piece. And afterward when she told me it was recorded sound I bowed down to her impeccable timing.

Part 2: Paul reveals his striped shirt and suspenders, and while starting to play, reveals the mannequin beneath the sheet wearing similar dress. His tender interactions while playing, as he makes the mannequin hug him, pat him, hold his waist, comfort him – creating The Dream of My Body. Playful and funny in parts, gentle and wonderful, I was wrapped by the sound and the interaction of this ideal suspendered statue look alike of him.

You-Me-We then was what seemed like an improvisational piece between Krista and Paul, wonderful, nuanced, ease playing together with nods to one another and quizzical looks and responses, amazing playing, flows and ebbs and diversity. Completely captured in the spell throughout.

Happy with the result they hug and sit down and take off their shoes, get comfortable, socks and slippers, water, toast one another and the final soundtrack of people talking about what it is to be happy – “Happiness is a choice, you chose to be happy, right?”

A GREAT piece, a great mix of video and props and composition and very talented and thoughtful musicians.

Dead Whale the improvised musical – that says it all right? Um no… I have a lot of admiration for improvisers already, I think you have to be a very quick thinking, intelligent, sensitive and really really smart and self assured person to do this – then add singing, comedy and very few props… Kudos to the Stanley Braxton Improv Theatre.

Father and son go on a boat trip to watch/harpoon a whale, make a man of boy/hang out with dad.
School biology teacher sets out with like-minded group to knit sweaters for the cold cold whales in the ocean “Toasty Whales project”. Hilarious already. Best line – “They don’t blow whales at Walmart!”. One actor was pretty deadpan, quieter with amazing key punch lines.

The piano player was reading the silences and the starts and ends of musical moments, moving it all forward, driving the scenes. The whale impersonations were riveting, and the interchangeable father too. There was more laughter in the crowd than quiet listening. The interesting thing is that the improv started with opposing ideas on killing a whale – violence – to everyone being violent, and then back to “they’re just our friends”/let’s be kind.

The moral of the story: knit sweaters for prisoners, “they’re cold from the inside out”.

Badum… ching!

Mack’s dancing interlude after intermission, then an absolutely stunning “terra incognito” performance by subSet – Steven Naylor and Jeff Reilly.

I am a bit at a loss for words with this one. It was just beautiful, perfect and such a great contrast to the slapstick nature of the improv musical.

These two know how to listen, to bring about the quiet moments, the slow, the smallest sounds, to make an audience listen to and get so wrapped up in these without even thinking about it.

Mesmerizing, I sat so beyond contentment, relaxed, absorbed by the short pieces, the meditative, the quirky, the immaculate blend of laptop, digital, instruments and the insides and imaginative ways of playing instruments. Amazing control and ability to listen to bring out this wonder for the audience – and themselves.

I loved the way Steven jumped right up in his piano bench and his comment in regards to starting with the extensions – “I’ve already extended. I’ll extend my extensions”, and their ease and joy and wonderful shared Therapy Session.

I have so much admiration for these makers of sound, of vibrations, music and noise, that allow me to sit for hours and feel through all my senses.

I couldn’t stay long at Night Music but unforgettable was the moment in Chris Tonelli’s vocal art where he said “Unable to be A, be B”

H and the band played….



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  1. Pingback: Great visit to the Sound Symposium 2014 | Jeff Reilly