Guest Blog Day 5: Michelle Bush

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….


Guest Blog Day 4: Michelle Bush

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: Davida Monk & Bill Horist; Paul Bowdring; Vertical Squirrels // LSPU Hall

by Michelle Bush, July 7th, 2014

Mack Furlong and his Monday night intros at the LSPU Hall were fun and I think I’ll have to steal the term “limited boatage” that he used regarding the exceptional Harbour Symphony from earlier that day.

Davida Monk and Bill Horist entered the stage in the dark with only a pathway made of a paper-like material glowing slightly of ice and emptiness. Shadow cracks played on the grey whiteness. Sounds from Bill’s uniquely foil-covered, bow, finger and metal-slat played prepared guitar varied exquisitely from crinkles, cracking, spastic, anxiety ridden quick jumps and skips to resonating whale songs and thunderous crashes.  [pullquote cite=”Michelle Bush” type=”right”]Sounds from Bill’s uniquely foil-covered, bow, finger and metal-slat played prepared guitar varied exquisitely from crinkles, cracking, spastic, anxiety ridden quick jumps and skips to resonating whale songs and thunderous crashes.[/pullquote] In the midst at times robotic ticks and clicks would entangle Davida in anxiety-ridden quick and abrupt movements of all her articulations. She seemed anxious, jittery, never at ease. Soundless screams – What did she scream with no voice? Jittery movements turned into animals in my mind; moose, caribou, whales swimming, taking up large amounts of space, volume. Her looks of concern, of uncertainty would end in moments of rest on the ground.

She explored the paper, creating her own sound of ice cracking slowly, wrapping itself around her until the paper, blue on the underside wrapped itself into an iceberg around her, clothed her with cold and she emanated a frozen strength with the music crescendo of ice shaking and crashing and ground being crushed.

My attention wavered from one to the other and at times the performance came as a whole; the artists, the set, the lights, the sound. It was an interesting feeling as audience member seeing these moments of separateness compared to togetherness. As Lori mentioned the moment in silence was such a contrast to the movement taken in with the soundscape being created that the strength and simplicity of that section of dance stayed with me. I was fascinated, completely submerged in her moves.

The shadow play she generated behind Bill was equally mesmerizing at times.  She, a larger-than-life creature coming from the shadows above him, so small focused on his instruments, his creations and each individual sound, creak… two-handed bowing like a violin until his deafening crashes and dark noise crashed in on her.

A little history and language lesson ensued with the entrance of Paul Bowdring on stage. Even after 10 years I had not heard the term cuffer….

The dog hecklers; Michael Chaisson and Frank Holden were very entertaining. And here’s to all the empathetic dogs!

Quick intermission switch over and there appeared an extremely intriguing piano player (Ajay Heble) and Vertical Squirrel friends (Daniel Fischlin, Lewis Melville). Back on to the audience, right shoulder higher than the left, slack jacket and rare sightings of the hands bounding on the keyboard… he captured my attention and though I would be drawn to the other three, in particular hand percussion and water cage playing of Jesse Stewart.

There was a mystery to this piano player, with squeaky hall chairs adding to the sounds generated, I was glued to what came next on the keyboard.

At times Pink Floyd-esque, with lights on in the audience (a challenge or command to stay participatory after the initial commands of the ring leader to clap and snap louder and louder until dimming was requested), there were moments of fluidity and obvious great friendship between musicians.

On to Night Music, a MUSICNL hosted by Roz MacPhail evening with a charming and personal improv about moving north, worries and solutions between Mark and Alison Corbett, Eric and Craig playing small sounds on the trumpet and alto sax that filled the space – so large. John Kameel Farah was an electronic Twin Peaks (and this is a good thing), laptop, keyboard, star of the night with his ambient and not-so-ambient playing.  As I was leaving a dynamic group got up playing a nord electric, omnichord, flute and guitar (so Alison told me – cause I am not a musician – so you all know and pardon any errors…) hints at what can be heard later by the IICSI Participants (International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation.

Went home late – for me, full and looking forward to Tuesday’s adventures in sound!


Guest Blog Day 4: Lori Clarke

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: Davida Monk & Bill Horist; Paul Bowdring; Vertical Squirrels // LSPU Hall

by Lori Clarke, July 7th, 2014

Okay folks, day four of Sound Symposium! We can do this- go team! Catch a few winks of sleep, have a healthy breakfast and dive back in. Quiet music last night was stunning with Marie-Anne Trudel and William Parker.  There are still tickets for Wednesday’s quiet music concert so get them while they last!

A preview of Paul Bendsza and Krista Vincent’s collaboration was in the second space at the Hall before tonight’s show and Paul was inviting people to contribute to preparing the piano with him by bringing in meaningful and ritual objects, suggestions and notes to share in the happiness pursuit for their show Tuesday night.

Davida Monk and Bill Horist: Putting On the Ice Shirt

“Interactivity” means a few different things, sometimes referring to digital environments and individuals, or spatial triggering by bodies of audience effecting sound and light.

My favourite kind of interactivity is when an artist invites audience to engage, and really listens to their response, allowing it to change the work, and perhaps, even the artist. I also like when the audience is asked to engage (if they like) and they then wander in thought, considering the meaning of the invitation and what a response might mean. A kind of geometry of response is triggered and it moves in many directions, rippling out and returning in complex patterns. I look forward to Krista and Paul’s performance on Tuesday.

The main program at the LSPU Hall moved from the Ice Shirt through hair shirts and significant Newfoundland dogs and into a kind of sophisticated Joe’s garage with a group of friends who clearly love to play together.

Davida Monk and Bill Horist take on the commitment to improvising together in Putting On the Ice Shirt. Being together for 13 years does not mean that improvising together is made easier- it may make it even more demanding as we are sometimes, ironically, less aware of our close partners, daily intimacy giving away to habit, listening to each other disappearing into our own projections. These artists are clearly up to the task of listening to each other, deeply.

I didn’t experience the elemental spaciousness of sky and majesty of the glacier in this work, which I longed for. The character’s trapped and tortured screams and aloneness and fear in the north came through for me and a kind of contained fire in the belly and ground of earth which allows Eriksdottir to greet the demon and enter her power. Of course the power is already hers and the journey is about remembering. I know nothing about this duo’s process but I hope they are able to continue to explore this work and the energies that emerge from it. I loved the sound when Horist used two bows simultaneously and many of the gestures and sounds. I felt that more spaciousness and breath would be something to explore in the overall composition in keeping with glaciers, icebergs and sky. The small break where Davida moved in silence was beautiful but felt very short.

Michelle Bush and I had great fun at Night Music after the main show where Craig Squires, Roz McPhail, Ken Aldcroft and many other local and visiting artists took the stage.  Good vibes, good times and a variety of beer on tap!


Looking forward to Michelle’s blogging which starts Tuesday!

Guest Blog Day 3: Lori Clarke

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: Trifolia; Ken Aldcroft & William Parker // D.F. Cook Hall, MUN

by Lori Clarke, July 6th, 2014


Last night after a demanding day I finally arrived in my seat at the D.F. Cook Hall alongside my dear friend Louise Moyes (who this year is performing in Boreal Breaths and Steps on Monday and Friday afternoons). We were looking forward to hearing William Parker, who I have enjoyed in past performances in Montreal and San Francisco, contexts and details blurring in my mind but an emotional, guttural memory somehow intact. I hadn’t heard Marianne Trudel live before tonight nor her trio Trifolia. Trudel arrived on stage and talked to the audience as though we were in a more intimate setting, sharing details of her day and connecting. Trudel opened, giving thanks for the opportunity to be here and for the privilege of playing with bass player Étienne Lépine-­LaFrance and percussionist Patrick Graham.

Then the three led the audience on a hike, climbing in and around and through structured and open improvisations and compositions. Later Trudel invited us to name the pieces ourselves, partly in jest, partly as a way to balance talking about work and throwing out the verbal, allowing rhythm, texture, space, tension and harmony to be without further signs.

I take Trudel up on her offer and name their second composition Traces d’Horace as it brought to my mind the aura of pianist Horace Silver, in terms of its deep groove invoking movement of bodies. This piece brought up Horace Silver not in terms of a “sounds-­like” but as traces­ – traces authentiques (Levinas). Trudel’s playing and composition honour the traditions and sounds of her teachers and fore­players across time and culture, while revealing and revelling in new voices and implications. In this piece Trudel’s percussive hammering, both strong and tender was held in tension with the sensual touches of Patrick’s hands against metal, wood and skin and the alternately unison and laid down counter­grooving of Étienne’s bass.

Traces of Ornette appeared in another piece in which Trudel limited her approach to a mounting counterpoint between left and right hand;­ an exercise in harmolodics and the heart. At all times the communication between the bodies of the Trifolia three were seen as beams between eyes and faces, the joy of the endeavour palpable.

The second to last piece was an organic ever-building groove celebration that, as I reflect this morning, reminds me of the question “Can we handle the powerfulness that we are?” The suggestion that comes to mind in reflecting on increasing joy, energy, well-­being, love, is what we most fear is not failure, but success. Can we let the groove build?

The “set” was not set by Trudel in advance­ she is experimenting with throwing out the set list. The arc of the concert works, the work sets itself. The final piece was a short, tender piece of water and the heart, a clear ending.

William Parker and Ken Aldcroft

From where I was sitting, Ken Aldcroft’s amp was much louder than William Parker’s and I was straining to hear what I knew were nuanced articulations of Parker. I was frustrated – ­my experience of the performance was that I didn’t connect to Aldcroft who seemed removed. Stay with it, Lori. Stay with the feeling, which is yours.

When Parker danced from his double bass into his two­string, African (skin?) bass Kora/guitar there was an energy shift. He jumped the energy up to another level, by moving his body consciously, weight in the ground, aware of the music as it exists beyond the realm of perceivable sound. I could drink in the next section a little more­ there was a shift in the balance between the two musicians. A crack formed in the resistance, an entryway to the edge of the fire. Not an easy set. But ease is not the point­ improvisers deal head on with resistance, conflict and suffering.

They also enter into a whole lot of unspoken, unconscious material, enter into the dark and move around, cracking it open. Our world is beauty and suffering and this music is a spiritual work­ a truth work seeking freedom.

Parker is a master and teacher of this work.

“Music is silence. There is no music in capitalism and imperialism. Music is the answer and the question. Particles of music cannot be measured by scientific instruments. Music vibrates. Not all music vibrates at the same rate. Music is radiant. The blessing, the understanding, the fundamental eye revealing the surrender in the realm of brightness. Music sometimes manifests itself as sound.

-from William Parker’s Music Is

William Parker is leading a workshop this afternoon and I expect that the Trudel and Parker Quiet Music concert this evening will be magical and well worth making the effort to attend.



Guest Blog Day 2: Lori Clarke

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 // Eastern Edge Gallery

by Lori Clarke, July 5th, 2014

Andrea Cooper’s Too Far North

I’ve been involved with Andrea Cooper as a sound design collaborator since 2002 when her video installation work featured giant, heroic women appearing in unlikely Newfoundland landscapes. My perspective on Andrea’s work, therefore, is biased. I am, however, privileged with some insider micro-scoop while also being able to back up and see Too Far North in the context of a large body of work, a continually evolving art practice and nuanced gaze that comes from life experience.

Andrea’s work articulates a difficult edge between the emotional heart of intimate human connection, and the struggle to make sense of our complicity in the destruction of the earth. She doesn’t do this by leaving town. She engages habitats and species, and people grieving amidst the onslaught of those images of the cutest cats (aww), hyper-sexualized bodies, guns, disappearing landscapes and disintegrating personae.

Her participation is not psychoanalytic, but does move from self-consciousness to a deepening of awareness of the hidden undergarments of psyche, of soul.

In Too Far North, Cooper is unapologetic. Humans use anthropomorphism. We do it all the time. We see nature and project ourselves and invest meaning. We make metaphors, almost always through some kind of improvisational process, whether with words, images, whether alone with paper, at a computer, or in a room with another person using instruments of wood, metal and skin. Cooper’s improvisation occurs in the writing, and later in the editing and juxtaposing of images, it is not linear but emerges from a deeper narrative from the underbelly cut open, climbed into and scraped for meaning. It is deliciously ambiguous. Too Far North is about longing, about grieving missing (misplaced?) intimacy. We remain removed as audience and possibly uncomfortable, reminded of our separation and longing. It does not fall into cultural nostalgia nor the recapitulation of activist stances dug in- this would be unbearably dull.

Voices of lovers invite us to engage as lovers who be/long. Ice, like liquid water, is characterized by its movement (which is change), and its sound or voice. Liquid takes the form of its container until it bursts the banks, while cold ice pans and the architecture of icebergs change violently. Suddenly the key doesn’t fit the lock anymore- we are “no longer welcome here.” “Listen” the polar bear whispers.

Guest Blog Day 1: Lori Clarke

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.