LSM Newswire

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Array Ensemble At EMPAC

Canada's Acclaimed Array Ensemble To Perform At EMPAC

With a reputation for being a "music machine that prevails and breathes life into a performance" and praise for playing with 'enviable precision', 'sophistication' and 'absolute accomplishment,' Canada's Array Ensemble wears its mantle of being "a model for all musicians - contemporary or not" comfortably. And, so it should.

After 37-years of securing appreciative reviews, responsive audiences, government grants and over 300 commissions of new works written for its group by in-demand composers hailing from the world over, Array's musicians face just one really vexing challenge -- how to get beyond its Toronto home base to again strut its stuff on the international stage?

With this Saturday's concert (November 8th, 8PM) at the remarkable new EMPAC (Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center) building in Troy, New York, The Array Ensemble embarks on a renewed period of activity that intends to see the group more in demand and traveling.

"This past season, The Array Ensemble received a major grant from a top foundation, The Metcalf Foundation, to do something we rarely can... rehearse, rehearse and then rehearse some more," says Array's artistic director Bob Stevenson. "Tight budgets typically mean that we have to shine on our own dime to some extent, but with this grant we're now in a position to prepare three concert programs of 'core repertoire' that we will cull from Array's extensive library to sell to new presenters. EMPAC is the first to present Array's ensemble under this new innovative program and we couldn't be happier."

Array's general manager, Sandra Bell, says expanding the organization's (primarily) self-presented home-based concert model was inspired by the U.S. new music group Eighth Blackbird, known for re-performing programs until they are practically embedded in memory and performing for many different presenters, particularly on the festival circuit.

"Hiring Array's Ensemble just came into reach for many new concert presenters because we've significantly lowered the cost of hiring our group as a result of so thoroughly pre-rehearsing set programs. We're now looking past the traditional self-presenter and touring models, which are both costly and increasingly complicated, and believe this novel approach will continue to pay off, particularly once the 'economic tsunamis' recede."

Saturday's concert at EMPAC presents two works of startling originality written for The Array Ensemble by two of Canada's most celebrated composers, Claude Vivier and James Tenney, as well as a handful of compelling 'miniature' pieces written for Array by composers long associated with the group.

While Vivier amassed a modicum of respect and success during his short but prolific lifetime, since his violent murder at 35 on a Paris street one night in 1983 - depicted, as if by premonition in a final unfinished work - his music has become widely celebrated for its power, preternatural beauty and highly personalized language. The Array Ensemble performs a work that Claude Vivier wrote and completed for its group in 1982, 'Et Je Reverrai Cette Ville Etrange,' subsequently recorded and presented many times throughout its performing history. Vivier worked closely with The Array Ensemble in preparing its world premiere and was in attendance for the first performance. Inspiration for 'Ville Etrange' came from instruments which then Array percussionist David Kent had collected in Bali and the composer constructed the work around these.

Upon completion of the piece, Vivier informed Array "it may be that I have reached the purest type of melodic form with 'Et Je Reverrai Cette Ville Etrange.' As the title suggests, this piece is a return to a certain spot in my life, certain melodies," he said. "Melodies that are somehow part of my past."

While it might be supposed that the work referred to one of the exotic locales the composer frequented, in fact he wrote the work about the city of Toronto. Vivier hints at essences of the music of the East in his choice of melodic treatment, which as in Balinese music is repeated, creating the sense of a ritual search for purity - a key area of interest for Vivier. "Melancholia derives from my taste for past stories," he wrote about the work. "My own stories, few melodies embedded into silence, into the time continuum. This piece is an act of despair in so far as creation is always trying to link past and future, 'melancholia and hope,' to recreate the time continuum that human life has disrupted."

Paul Griffiths once aptly wrote of Vivier in The New York Times: "In his short life and his art, the French Canadian composer Claude Vivier was a man diving, often recklessly, into the ultimate... And from the edge of experience, he began to bring back, in the years leading up to his death... a new sound."

James Tenney wrote several new works for The Array Ensemble prior to his death in 2006 and was considered a friend and mentor by the ensemble's members, who have performed his intricate work often. Considered a music pioneer, Jim lived and worked in Toronto, Canada, for many years as a composer, teacher and mentor, holding weekly salons in his home, inciting lively debates about a spectrum of issues. It was not uncommon to see Jim at new music concerts then, looking formidable and sporting his trademark cowboy hat. The first to use popular music sources in electro-acoustic music, Jim Tenney was also the first to work by invitation at Bell Labs developing new music software.

Tenney wrote 'Spectrum 1' for The Array Ensemble, which it presents at EMPAC this Saturday. It was the first in a projected family of pieces for various instrumental ensembles, all of which used the same notation and playing procedures and same, or similar, sets of pitches. Array performed its world premiere in 1995, then later recorded the piece on its 'Array Live' CD, recently released on the Artifact label.

Best known for writing music that does not intend to express an inward emotional state, but rather to satisfy some scientific or other conjecture on the part of the composer, Tenney has said that "communication for me is something that I certainly do with the music -- afterwards, that is. I want other people to hear it. I enjoy having other people hear it again, and so forth, but I'm not communicating something to them when I write a piece of music. That's an irrelevant notion for me. So, I sometimes think that what I am doing is none of the things it used to be that music was doing, but rather, satisfying my curiosity, or trying to."


Post a Comment


Create a Link

<< Home