The clichés surrounding the universality of music are endless. Most of us know and damn near worship the raw power of song. Ever since that time in childhood during social studies field trips where we sat in a group, fixated on the walloping wails of Inuit throat singers, or perhaps upon hearing the first album that tether hooked directly into our developing brains, we understood. Studies from a plethora of scholars confirm these findings: music is unanimous.
This commonplace knowledge is the partial inspiration behind the High Performance Rodeo’s SonicWaves project. Running at the tail end of One Yellow Rabbit’s annual event, the concert series will involve collaboration between four past-and-present indie musicians from Calgary and two Icelandic participants. Gothic folk troubadours Clinton St. John (formerly of the Cape May and Pale Air Singers, currently of Dojo Workhorse and solo artist), Mark Hamilton (Woodpigeon), songstress Samantha Savage Smith and multi-instrumentalist Laura Leif will transplant the Prairies into Iceland’s rugged landscape, collaborating with quiet indie act Benni Hemm Hemm and the whimsical Prins Póló. After perfecting their wares, all participants will return to Calgary for three performances.
“The actual experience of each location, the geography and landscape, is a really important part of what they are trying to get at, it’s at the heart of the exchange experience,” explains Erin O’Connor, the executive director of One Yellow Rabbit and managing producer of High Performance Rodeo. She explains that Hamilton spearheaded the event after receiving funding through Calgary 2012, the cultural capital project. After a series of changes and opportunities missed, changed, and transformed, Hamilton partnered with the Calgary Folk Festival and SonicWaves was born. Unfortunately, given that the singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Hamilton was currently in Vienna, BeatRoute was not able to connect with him. However, we did learn that, aside from the performance, the Calgary quartet will be photographing and blogging about their experience in the Nordic island nation, which is intended to result in original music for the performance.
“I’ve wanted to travel to Iceland for a number of years. I’ve always been intrigued by the landscape and some really amazing music comes out of there that is just so unusual,” enthuses Clinton St. John, citing Bjork and Sigur Ros before expressing excitement at the lack of strict parameters surrounding the project. Musicians may be performing on instruments other than their standard, or maybe not. All that’s been determined are the official details. Everything artistic is being left to collaboration, chance and creativity.
“Calgary, the Prairies and Alberta are an open winter landscape and Iceland is the same, but it [does] have a lot more water and ice attached to it than our prairie situation,” suggests O’Connor. She concludes, “I think the music will be quite haunting and lyrical and they wanted the musicians to actually experience and be in the culture of the place in order to aid the compositional aspects of the project.”
Let the SonicWaves wash over you on Thursday, January 31, Friday, February 1, and Saturday, February 2 at the Festival Hall during the High Performance Rodeo.
By Sarah Kitteringham