Innovative Gemeinhardt Artist/Clinician, Rozalind MacPhail recently took home an East Coast Music Award for Electronic Recording of the Year and MusicNL’s Female Artist of the Year. One of the world’s leaders in flute looping and live film scoring, this classically-trained flutist blends effected flute, electronics, voice, omnichord, field recordings and silent film through Ableton Live. MacPhail creates music for film and live performance and has released several albums of original work. She explores new ways to combine image and sound, in works that speak honestly of place, person and the human experience.
Macphail will preform her new album of meditation music, SUNSET SUNRISE, at Sound Symposium XIX. Along with collaborators Kim Henninger and Shawn Parke, MacPhail composed it in February 2018 for the RPM Challenge. SUNSET SUNRISE was nominated for an ECMA (Electronic Recording of the Year) and MusicNL’s Instrumental Recording of the Year.
This interview has been edited for length and concision.
Annie Corrigan: I know this is a question with a huge answer, but briefly describe your journey from classically trained flutist to looper.
Rozalind MacPhail: It’s been quite the ride! I absolutely love playing in the orchestra and as a soloist but what really excites me is getting away from the printed page and connecting with my audience through improvisation and writing original music. I began writing my own songs when I turned 30 and I’ve been documenting my songwriting journey ever since. I was living in Ottawa when I first began exploring composing. I started out teaching myself guitar and singing and after seeing indie musician / composer, Owen Pallett perform at Osheaga in Montreal, I thought to myself, “If he can loop his violin, I can loop my flute!” I first began performing with a simple looping pedal and eventually made the switch to Ableton Live after attending the Atlantic Center for the Arts where I studied with the Jimi Hendrix of the flute, American flutist, Robert Dick. I love working with electronics, silent film, field recordings and effected flute. I also love composing with the omnichord and incorporating my vocals into the mix. Looping is great for composing, film scoring and live performance. It’s also a great tool for teaching.
AC: I imagine your two concerts at Sound Symposium, while both celebrating the sun, feel very different. Can you describe the different feelings you get when playing at sunrise vs. sunset?
RP: The sunrise is energizing, uplifting and inspiring. The sunset soothes, relaxes and helps us release what no longer serves us. I imagine that these two performances will be very different from one another and complimentary. A little bit for everyone. It’ll be neat to see what the sky looks like for both experiences.
AC: Describe the experience of creating your album for RPM Challenge.
RP: They say that people come into our lives for a reason, a season and if we’re lucky, a lifetime. On December 10, 2016, we lost a dear friend in our community, stained glass artist, Graham Howcroft. Graham was a brilliant artist, an insightful intellect and an inspiring mentor to many. He was also my housemate. We only knew each other for one short year but his death had a profound effect on me.
After Graham passed, I couldn’t believe how the world kept moving so fast while my world seemed to stop. It wasn’t the first time I had lost someone close to me but it was the first time I observed an artist who I greatly respected deteriorate from disease in old age and it troubled me to my core. Losing Graham made me take a good hard look at the direction my life was going. My eyes were forced wide open. I could see that I had two possible paths ahead of me. One led me in the direction of abundance, joy, vitality and connection and the other led me to poverty, disappointment, dis-ease and isolation. It was during these reflective moments I decided to create an album that could be used as a tool to help others cope with loss, addiction, stress and the process of letting go. Meditation has gotten me through some of my darkest moments. There is a great need in our world right now to find ways of tapping into our inner peace while being in the midst of so much uncertainty.
SUNSET SUNRISE is a homage to our great life teachers. Graham savoured the breathtaking sunrises and sunsets from his St. John’s apartment each day and this space is where I composed and recorded the flute and bansuri tracks, accompanied each morning by the sunrise over the Narrows. I wanted to create music inspired by the same beautiful view Graham had enjoyed and I used the RPM Challenge as my catalyst to create and complete the project during the shortest month of the year.
It can be so unsettling when we are forced to let go of loved ones, get rid of bad habits, deal with painful memories or change unhealthy life patterns. We hope this music will help you cope with life’s unexpected moments. May it ease you into the present moment, help you feel grounded and capable of facing any challenge that comes your way. Thank you to my friend and mentor, Stephen Vardy for these beautiful teachings.
Rozalind MacPhail At Sound Symposium XIX*
- Sunrise Meditation — Tuesday, July 10 at 4:30am (Atlantic Place Performance Space)
- Sunset Meditation — Sunday, July 15 at 8:00pm (Signal Hill)
*Times and locations subject to change.