Concert: Sound Symposium XVIII: July 12, 2016

By Sara Pun

4-soundsymposium2016-3748-lowresWhere do I begin? I was immediately intrigued by the thought of listening to a performance that incorporated 3D printers, live electronics, and a celletto?! Little did I know about the enormous creative power these artists – Chris Chafe, Fernando Lopez-Lezcano and John Granzow – embodied. They were able to transport the audience from the concert hall to another universe. 3, 2, 1… blast off!

Aliens? Fuzzy furbies?  “Hidden Values” (first movement): electroacoustic composition by Natasha Barret with sound diffusion by Fernando Lopez-Lezcano

We were first introduced to a world of droplets with a complete surround sound effect. The electronic sounds grew faster and slower, louder and quieter, all manipulated with high pitched voices racing in and out of the different speakers on stage as well as in the back of the hall. I closed my eyes for a moment and imagined a cartoon like furby (you know, the big glassy eyed, fuzzy thing for kids) bouncing up and down, playful, mysterious, and taunting. The sound furbies multiplied in number and then completely overtook the musical space. They were everywhere, darting in the darkness and into the shadows. Then, the sound furbies disappeared as fast as they came, their vigour and zest morphed into blackness, once again. Where did they go? I was at the edge of my seat, itching for more.

The music machine – John Granzow’s music for 3D Printers

Off we went to another galaxy, where humans play 3D printers with violin bows to make music. Come again? Yes, you heard me right. I watched, mesmerized with John and Fernando creating their art and manipulating the sounds. This time the visual artistry of moving between the machine parts was just as important as the sounds and music itself. John was playing the machine as if it were a cello or violin, exploring its every crevice and expressing its every nuance. Structurally, the music followed a typical classical practice of the first theme on one instrument and the second theme on the other. The first 3D printer continued to buzz in its idiosyncratic voice while John played the second machine as a countermelody. There was also a moment of silence from John, as his part ended and the two machines took over. It was a beautiful performance of human and machine, together and apart, negotiating and waiting. This strange friendship was realized when John took the reed made by the 3D printer and played it on his makeshift instrument. At that moment, they became one.

Introducing the celletto – David Chafe and Fernando Lopez-Lezcano

On this planet, a cello does not exist, but a celletto does. A man appears in jeans and a loose-fitting shirt. He sits down with purpose and intensity. The audience hushes. He prepares his hand position for his first note. With bated breath, his bow makes contact with the strings as he slowly brings his arm across the body of the cello. But the body of the cello is absent. In fact, the celletto is a skeleton of a cello, with the bare essentials of string and a central body made of maple wood. His gorgeous sounds are amplified electronically and intermingle with the live electronic sounds being generated in the moment. These new sounds tickle the ears, sprout the imagination, and tug at the heart strings in astonishing depth. The classical lover in me rediscovers the passion of the cello in an alien context… and I like it.

Overall, the concert was a smashing success of the new and the weird being played and expressed in multiple ways. I was impressed at the technology behind the music paired with the virtuosic artistry of these fine performers. These three exemplify how the human is the ultimate creator and anything can be his or her instrument; it’s all a matter of approach and perspective. Their sounds push the boundaries between human and machine, technology and sound, and instruments and maker. Lastly, music is creative as it is playful, and for those of you at the concert, I leave you with two words in a whisper: Kit Kat.