Wednesday, March 28, 2018

De Souffles et de Machines at the Fox Cabaret

Music on Main's A Month of Tuesdays series is back at the Fox Cabaret. This weekly, one-night only presentation of the best in contemporary new music launched last night with the Montreal saxophone quartet Quasar. If you're thinking big band swing sound or jazz riffs or even Kenny G, think again. Quasar specializes in avant-garde mash-ups of acoustic and electronic sounds: hence the evening's title, De Souffles et de Machines.

I'll admit that much of the work was challenging, especially the first half of the program, which ended with Solomiya Moroz's On Fragments. The piece is based on her field recordings of the Griffintown area of Montreal, then (as it is still, I gather) in the midst of massive redevelopment and construction. Some of these sounds Moroz asked the members of Quasar (Marie-Chantal Leclair on soprano saxophone, Mathiew Leclair on alto saxophone, André Leroux on tenor saxophone, and Jean-Marc Bouchard on baritone saxophone) to imitate; others that she had herself manipulated electronically were looped in and out. And overlaying all of this was a bizarre movement score that saw the musicians ambling every now and then out from behind their music stands and turning their instruments this way and that in what I took to be a mimicking of heavy construction equipment.

I much preferred the two pieces on the second half, which began with Pierre Alexandre Tremblay's Les pâleurs de la lune, an award-winning chamber work that ended with a burble of ghostly sounds that were amplified from the back of the Fox space, so that it almost seemed as if the moon was itself seeking to come inside the room. The last piece on the program, Alexander Schubert's Hello, was accompanied by a witty video that featured the composer more or less accompanying the ensemble from the screen. It was a clever conclusion to the evening.

MoM Artistic Director David Pay himself plays the saxophone, having earned a Master's in Music from UBC in the instrument. At intermission he told Richard and I that he rarely plays anymore, but that he's been coaxed by friends to perform for them in the near future. That is an event I would definitely attend were tickets being sold. In the meantime, A Month of Tuesdays continues through April 24th.


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