Friday, June 02, 2006

FESTIVAL://PREMIERE/Isfahan by R. Murray Schafer

Sounds like a trip to space

Acoustics a priority in avant-garde festival
Grand finale of brass at historic St. Anne's

By John Terauds
From (Toronto Star) - Jun. 1, 2006

Our ancestors were called to the hunt — and the cavalry charge — by the sound of a bugle. Brass instruments continue to musically tell us that something important is about to happen.
That touch of brass runs throughout the first SoundaXis festival, which opens today and runs to June 11 at a variety of venues around the downtown area. It's all about avant-garde thinking as music relates to the space around it, and is presented with a flourish of sonic polish. Approximately 20 music performances and presentations will be staged at a range of sites, big and small.
The Toronto Fanfare Project is likely to be the liveliest component of the SoundaXis festival. Soundstreams Canada has organized a selection of brass-fanfare moments around the city, the biggest involving a number of Canadian players, including the True North Brass, and the Stockholm Chamber Brass from Sweden in the grand finale "MassBrass" at St. Anne's Anglican Church.
Besides works by Gabrieli, Takemitsu, Somers and Arvo Pärt, there is something from Swedish composer Magnus Lindberg and the world premiere of Isfahan, by R. Murray Schafer.
In the spirit of the festival, which wants us to connect the sound we hear and the spaces in which we hear it, the choice of venue is critical. Schafer named his contribution to this concert after a 17th-century mosque he visited in Isfahan, Turkey, in 1969. He was taken with the architecture and the many acoustic possibilities inside it, and found a similarly inspirational place in Toronto — St. Anne's, which is modelled on the domed Hagia Sophia church in Istanbul.
"I wanted to create a piece that would linger in the space as if it belonged there and would remain forever," Schafer writes in his notes. "Architects once created with both stone and sound in a manner that was planned, predictable and effective. It was a glorious time for both architecture and music. Their separation has, in my opinion, left each discipline deficient and incomplete."
Conducting the brass players, who will be placed around the interior of the building that is decorated with frescoes painted by the Group of Seven, is Alain Trudel, Canada's top trombonist.
"It's all the fanfares being presented around the city contained in one concert," says Trudel. "In surround sound. Our senses will be awakened all around us."
Trudel is spending a total of five days with the brass players at St. Anne's, to make sure the elaborate music gets the best-possible airing.
"A lot of the music will be made by the venue," says Trudel. "It will be made by the time between notes."
In the case of Isfahan, Trudel says Schafer "left it to the players themselves to decide when to start playing." Trudel is more coordinator than conductor in this case. But he's not worried. "This is a superstar group of players," he says.

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