Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Powell Street Festival at ISCM's World New Music Days

Music on Main is partnering with the International Society for Contemporary Music and the Canadian League of Composers to present the 2017 edition of World New Music Days. As MoM Artistic Director David Pay has put it, the event is sort of like the Olympics of contemporary classical and post-classical music, featuring hundreds of composers from around the world, and traveling to a different host city every few years. It's a rare opportunity for Vancouver audiences to see daring new work and innovative programs showcasing performances by a roster of the city's most talented performers and ensembles.

Such was the case yesterday, when Richard and I attended an early evening concert at the Annex dubbed the Powell Street Festival. It wasn't entirely clear to me if the iconic summer festival of Japanese Canadian art and culture was a co-presenter of this particular ISCM event, but it did culminate in the Canadian premiere of Japanese composer Yasunoshin Morita's Reincarnation Ring II, a delightful work of "surround" sound performed by Ko Ishikawa that pairs the shō, a traditional vertical reed instrument, with five "half-broken" iPods playing similar tunes. The performative aspects of the piece were as fascinating as its conceptual premise.

The rest of the program featured Mark Takeshi McGregor on flutes, Rachel Kiyo Iwaasa on piano (together they perform as the Tiresias Duo), and Brian Nesselroad on percussion performing works by Justin Christensen (Canada), Etsuko Hori (Japan), Murat Çolak (Turkey/USA), and Laura Manolache (Romania). I was captivated by all of them except the first, by Christensen, which employed spoken text in a way that I found knowingly pretentious. But the other pieces, especially those of Çolak (flutes and percussion) and Manolache (flute, piano and percussion), were wonderfully inventive, producing combinations of sounds that were completely new to me, not least for the ways in which they were produced instrumentally.

I guess that's what the world of new music is all about, and I look forward to the other concerts we have planned for today.


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