Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Emerge on Main at the Fox Cabaret

Music on Main's "Month of Tuesdays" at the Fox Cabaret concluded last night with a concert called Emerge on Main. MoM Artistic Director David Pay's program showcased three Vancouver-based musicians whom he told us we "need to know."

First up was Nicole Linaksita, a pianist of immense talent. Performing Carl Vine's Sonata No 1, and later in the program works by Dorothy Chnag and Nikolai Kapustin, she ranged up and down the keyboard with crackling virtuosity, but also incredible clarity and sensitivity. Indeed, for all of the dazzling speed and fireworks of notes, especially in the Vine piece, it was Linaksita's contemplativeness and patient listening in the slower passages that I was most captivated by. She held the sustaining pedal at the end of Chang's piece for so long that at first I thought she had forgotten the next movement. But, no, she was just waiting for the music and her instrument to tell her--and us--when it had finished sounding.

Liam Hockley is completing his PhD in clarinet performance, and like Linaksita is an amazing solo artist whose interests range across classic and contemporary repertoires. In terms of the latter, Hockley's first set featured new work by Michelle Lou, Ray Evanoff, and Wolf Edwards. Lou's telegrams called for a tin can to be placed in the bell of Hockley's bass clarinet, and additionally sent sounds reverberating throughout the Fox via bluetooth technology. Edwards' Um allein zu kämpfen was a version of anarchist metal clarinet. It was sound unlike anything I'd ever heard that instrument produce, and it was amazing. Following intermission, Hockley returned to play the North American premiere of Karlheinz Stockhausen's FREIA. He did so in three iterative poses: sitting cross-legged on the stage; kneeling; and finally standing up.

The evening concluded with the world premiere of SCA MFA alum and current collaborator Nancy Tam's Walking at Night By Myself, an eight-channel surround-sound composition performed by Tam and Anjela Magpantay that also features an amazing projection design by Daniel O'Shea and a movement score dramaturged by Lexi Vajda. All of this comes together in the following way. Tam and Magpantay, wearing striped dresses, stand on wired pads. Their movements to the right and left, backwards and forwards, trigger different sound loops based on Tam's field recordings. We hear footsteps and the whoosh of traffic and other ambient noises, which are in turn manipulated, distorted and overlain with electronic music recorded in the studio. As the performers are moving, O'Shea's strobe-like projections outline, shade, and travel up and down and across their bodies, sometimes isolating body parts, at other times doubling and tripling profiles and silhouettes. For example, there is a moment when Magpantay, at this point alone on stage, repeats back and forth what appears to be a simple quarter turn, her body at once moving into and out of, with and against, the luminous vertical white lines O'Shea is just then sending across the stage. The effect put me in mind of Michael Snow's iconic "Walking Woman" series, reappropriated here as a reminder of what it means for a woman of colour to walk by herself at night. As with everything Tam does, the piece is just not just an amazingly thoughtful merging of different disciplines, but also an immersive sensory performance that forces you to think.


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