Terri Hron performs and creates music in a wide range of settings, often in collaboration with others. Since 2006, Bird on a Wire has been her solo project, where she uses collaboration to integrate new skills into her practice, from live electronics in absorb the current (2008) and immersive environments in flocking patterns (2011) to embodied practices in NESTING (2017). She regularly collaborates with other composers, performers and artists from other disciplines. Terri studied musicology and art history at the University of Alberta, recorder performance and contemporary music at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam, and electroacoustic composition at the Université de Montréal. She investigates collaborative practices in the creation of electroacoustic music. Her work is supported by the Canada Council for the Arts, the Fonds de Recherche Société et Culture du Québec and the Conseil des Arts et des Lettres du Québec, among others.
This interview has been edited for length and concision.
Annie Corrigan: Sound Symposium blurs the boundaries of music, and we like to challenge labels. Since you do so much artistically — performer, composer, artist, etc. — what label best describes what you do?
Terri Hron: I don’t ascribe to this notion of labelling and differentiating between practices. The notion of a separation of roles is a pretty recent development even in Western European musical practice and is pretty much non-existent in other cultures, where what we call performers are also composers. Increasingly, I see the hierarchical and patriarchal structure of the composer (still overwhelmingly, systematically and systemically male-dominated) as the maker of the blueprint and the performers as the ones carrying out these instructions. As the “creator” of these instructions, he is invariably given most of the credit for the “creative work” involved, and is elevated to the highest position in the music-making totempole. Obviously, since the sixties, and especially in places further away from the center of that practice in Western Europe, there have been whole movements that have called that division of labour and the attribution of creativity into question. I do not find it surprising that those shifts were strongest in cultures further away, like the American minimalist movement or the experimental ideas of Cage, Tudor, Wolff, etc. I refuse to label myself, and if I have to check a box, I check musician. Or just artist.
AC: Describe what it was like collaborating with Hildegard Westerkamp on Beads Of Time.
TH: The project with Hildi was a long time in the making. It started out as a commission where she was to make me a piece with surround electronics, and I would play what was likely to be quite an improvisatory score. She had a lot of hesitations and concerns right from the start about what that score was going to be. Basically, after a period of hiatus, I came back to Hildi and proposed we work on the piece in such a way that I’d also contribute to the electronics and that I create and write the score myself —with her input of course. I lived with her for three weeks, over the course of which we both produced different electronic sections and had exchanges about them. Hildi was just getting back into the studio and I was happy to be a support in that, both morally and also with a few digital tools which I thought would be helpful for her way of composing. The material she presented me with was always so inspiring too. Once we had a bunch of material, I suggested an order for it and we wove the bits together. The initial work was 30 minutes long. We’ll be presenting a shorter version at the Symposium.
AC: The recorder is a very old instrument, but you play very new music with it. What is it about the recorder that makes it s good fit for a variety of musical styles?
TH: It’s hard to say how old the recorder is, since fipple flutes with thumb holes (which I see as the definition of a recorder) might go back to very ancient times. There are some things about it that make it interesting to me, I can’t really say if it’s suitable for a variety of musical styles. There are many recorders, so I have a wide range of possibilities. They differ depending on their size and on what kind they are (copies of medieval, renaissance or baroque models, newly invented models). They have open holes, so there is a lot that I can do with leaking air from partly opened holes, which make glissandi interesting. They have interesting harmonics and multiphonics that can be produced by overblowing certain fingerings. They are each different and so I have different strategies and tricks with different ones. They are primitive and have an open and yet sometimes wild sound. What they are also is generally very soft compared to more modern instruments, and they have a limited dynamic range if they are to be played in a specific tuning. I see that as a limitation that engages my creativity, and that also led me to explore amplification and eventually electronics.
AC: What can we expect from your performance of NESTING at Sound Symposium?
TH: NESTING is a very personal work not only in that it is a solo show where I made the sound and the video and perform while moving. For me it is very risky to present myself not only as a source of sound, but to invite people to look at me as I move and interpret this relationship to building nests and to inhabiting natural spaces. Many people who have seen the show ask me what the nests mean and I really don’t have much of an answer other than that I started building them spontaneously as a way to deal with huge amounts of deadfall in a forest I maintain. They just kind of emerged and only later did I think about them as places of possibility, invitations to rest, to dream, to create, to feel safety.
Terri Hron At Sound Symposium XIX*
- Concert, Nesting — Thursday, July 5 at 8:00pm (LSPU Hall)
- Concert, Beads of Time — Tuesday, July 10 at 8:00pm (LSPU Hall)
*Times and locations subject to change.