By Alex Meyer
CALGARY — In the beginning of February, the University of Calgary’s School of Creative and Performing Arts, in conjunction with New Works Calgary, will be hosting the Forms of Sound Festival: a collection of international and local artists premiering and playing compositions for students, as well as the public, across four nights at the Eckhardt-Gramatté Hall. The venue is an acoustic marvel, and a sonic gem in Western Canada, designed to project the sound onstage into the audience with perfect clarity and resonance. BeatRoute sat down with event organizer David Eagle and Calgary New Works’ artistic director Laurie Radford for more info on a festival steeped in innovation, radical artistic expression, and connecting high art with the wider community.
“The field of new music is expanding and changing so quickly,” Eagle says. “The Forms of Sound Festival is a way to bring some of the new activities to the larger public.”
The festival succeeds in this by hosting midday workshops with the artists themselves. These workshops, which take place every day of the festival, allow those curious about the artists’ techniques and ideas can sit down and engage in dialogue in tandem with hearing some of the compositions in a more personal setting. This culminates on February 7th, when Berlin’s esteemed ensemble mosaik (lowercase and misspelling intentional) ‘reads’ short compositions from students and provides feedback.
In addition to the daily workshops and evening concerts, the festival will host interactive sound installations featuring sound clips from U of C music alumni along with what is being dubbed Soundscavenger: guests are invited, with the help of an app and a pair of headphones, to wander around the Rosza Hall and have small pieces play in your ears, dependent on where you are. In doing so, you can compose your own piece of music merely by walking through different places.
The Forms of Sound Festival has brought together a wide variety of local artists along with a series of guest composers from places like Toronto, Montreal and Berlin. “These pieces are meant to stretch our understanding of music and sound,” Eagle continued. “It is, in part, an exploration into sounds you just can’t imagine coming out of instruments.”
From January 31st to February 3rd, wildly innovative musical journeys will be performed, often with inventive and interactive multimedia accompaniments.
Original pieces will be performed by Land’s End Ensemble and U of C’s Wind Ensemble, and also include a five-channel, electro-acoustic performance from David Berezan, compositions from Anna Pidgorna & Analia Llugdar, and an operatic performance where the singer’s movements will trigger sounds that play around the audience and complement the live musicians on stage. It also includes a piece by Ilkim Tongur, who travelled to Istanbul to record pieces in the acoustically rich archways and ancient architectural wonders found there. These recordings, which will play alongside a live performance, were meant to convey the rich multicultural history of Istanbul, which for many centuries has been the confluence of ancient civilizations, ideas, and cultures.
The festival culminates on February 8th with Berlin’s prestigious ensemble mosaik. A brazenly experimental septet of virtuoso musicians who ceaselessly push the limits of what music is, they pluck and strum and blow their instruments across new sonic landscapes and evoke a wild spectrum of emotion. ensemble mozaik will play six different works written by Canadian and German composers, including a world premiere by Canadian composer Michael Matthews. Along with works from Max Murray, Annesley Black, and German artists Benjamin Schweitzer, Stefan Streich, and Gordon Fitzell.
Forms of Sound delivers on its titular promise, showcasing multi-disciplinary acts more interested in what sound can be than what it used to be, has been, and is. The most important criteria for performers and composers are that they be visionary, exploratory and interested in the way music intersects. It ain’t yer grandpappy’s classical fest.
Forms of Sound runs Feb. 1-8 at various venues in Calgary, with a focus on the U of C campus having access.AB, Alberta, classical music, ensemble mosaik, Forms of Sound, Forms of Sound Festival, U of C, University of Calgary School of Creative and Performing Arts