by Julie Parkins
Private void. Channelling Scriabin. Distance is relative.
These phrases may seem mysterious, but they represent an artistic
challenge to Liselyn Adams and a group of music students from Concordia
and McGill who are involved in an inter-university research project in
music and design.
Rather than working strictly from a composers score, were
asking the musicians to create a collaborative composition based on text,
Musicians take a look at this text and make decisions. They can
make things sound like what the text looks like. They can create something
that would sound like private void. They can go by the meaning,
or create the mood that is suggested by the phrase. They can create background
music to someone reading the text.
Adams began using text to make music with her own musical group, The Blue
Rider Ensemble. This is one aspect of a three-year research program being
undertaken in Concordias Departments of Music and Design Art and
McGills Faculty of Music through a grant from the FQRSC (Fonds Québécois
de recherche sur la société et culture) whose goal is to
break down the wall between acoustic music and the world of experimental
performance and digital media.
The theory goes that true cultural innovation and aesthetic research happen
only when new techniques are fully understood and internalized by artists.
The project acknowledges this theory, and seeks to create a synergy among
a range of artists and researchers, freeing them to explore and connect
with each other.
This is just a new incarnation of an experimental mode that musicians
and visual artists had back in the 50s and 60s, said
Mark Corwin, chair of the department and director of electroacoustic studios
Making noises was one thing, but now its about making sounds
and trying to evoke things. Its about trying to break new ground,
find new ways of doing things that were done in the past because
its just so much fun!
The music created in the program this semester will be presented at a
concert in December that will also feature a visual representation of
the texts and music under the direction of Design Art Professor P.K. Langshaw.
She and Corwin will also document this visual chamber music
with multi-channel recording and mixing techniques, and on video.
The second year of the program will add detailed research on sound reinforcement
and multi-channel sound diffusion. In the third year, computers will be
brought into the mix, both as instrumentation in a chamber ensemble and
as a tool for creating, transforming and controlling acoustic and electroacoustic
Different university students will be involved with this project throughout
the three years.
We wanted to spread the wealth out, get them to think about performance
in a different way because theyve been involved in this project,
Corwin explained. The more people we can get involved at the student
level, the better, because they will then take it into their own classes
and other places.
In addition to the student project in each of the three years, there will
be a larg-scale production by one of the professional groups of the research
In this first year, Adamss Blue Rider Ensemble will finish and perform
their work commissioned by writer Michel Garneau and called Blue Rider
In the second year, Tim Bradys Bradyworks Ensemble, which is ensemble
in residence at Concordia, will work with several composers on works for
string quartet and computers.
Throughout the three years, the recording and sound manipulation research
will be undertaken by Mark Corwin and Philippe DePalle, of McGill. Compositional
aspects will be overseen by Alcides Ianza (McGill), and students will
be drawn from both universities.
The full team comprises Adams, Langshaw and Corwin, the two professors
from McGil, and Tim Brady, an independent musician, researcher and innovative
performer, who was instrumental in organizing this project. The total
value of the grant is $173,750, which includes $20,000 equipment and 51,250
per year operating funds.