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  • Norm Adams

Toronto to Vancouver

I’m on the plane to Vancouver now, which gives me a chance to reflect on the Toronto leg of the tour, and last night in particular.

We arrived at Gallery 345 at around 1pm to load in and get a feel for how the space might sound and feel. There we met Ed Epstein, 345’s proprietor. In this old industrial building on Sorauren Avenue, Ed has built a gorgeous space, with 2 grand pianos and a lovely clean ambience. The sound is reverberant, but warm, not pingy. It was great to play cello there, I felt like I could project well even over the sometimes dense piano and percussion. Ed said my cello sounded like “a cannon”, I assured him it sounded like an empty box until I played it! (obnoxious performers…)

The sound check went okay, we spent quite a bit of time discussing the program: Setting up a program varies with different performers: Some like Pauline Oliveros or Eddie Prevost like to make no plans and play until the piece or concert is finished. Others like Gerry Hemmingway or Jean Derome like to structure things a bit by assigning rough timings to an agreed upon number of pieces. Others like Miya Masaoka like an even more composition-based approach, creating titles and deciding on the kinds of material that will make a piece. For us, the right feel is choosing pieces and combinations. The orchestration of things into solos, duos and trios, helps to ensure variety in the music and a chance to explore some expressive regions that only a solo or duo can navigate. So we decided on a number of shorter pieces to make up our 2 sets.

I had a nice dinner with Nilan Perera, one of the improvising community’s great lights. He was the brains behind the Circuit, which has fed the suddenlyLISTEN Open Source Series with touring improvisers for the past few years. Nilan is positive and generous, giving back to his fellow artists as much as he takes from others. Inspiring for sure.

Then it was show time. The concert started with 2 trios. The first piece wandered a bit perhaps, but as we went on things strengthened and focused. For my solo I decided ahead of time to only tap the strings with my hands and other implements. It went okay, but what was special was that I discovered a new sound! Tapping with the side of my hand, closer and further from the bridge made quite a unique sound. Eddie Prevost once said the goal in every performance is to find a sound we’ve never made before, and I got it! In a fairly tonal environment it’s a challenge to be able to push out, and the discovery fed me for the rest of the show. For our final piece of the first set we decided to play from our internal organs as we had done in rehearsal. We told the audience what we were exploring, (tailbone, liver and throat) and asked them to centre their energies on these zones too. It worked and we made a really nice 3 movement piece.

Oh the audience! They were great, some old friends of mine, and Erin’s, and lots of Pui Ming’s friends and family. I was a little disappointed that more new/improvised music people didn’t show, but I soon realized we were doing something even more important: making new fans! And make them we did. We got a really lovely response from them.

On the second set, things got delightfully crazy, and I heard sounds from Pui Ming that I hadn't heard for years. She really cut loose and let her goofy side emerge! It was a fun night.


Thursday was a travel day to Vancouver, but I managed to fit a theatre performance of Goodness, at the Firehall Arts Centre, presented by my old friend Ross Manson's Volcano company. It was really profound work, and prompted great discussion. I wish music could send clear messages like words sometimes....

Mar 9, 2012 at 06:59

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