Fall arts preview: New music critics’ picks: Vancouver's new music is as diverse as the city itself
Two intriguing festivals, newly vital contributions from the academic world, visits by artists from two rogue states, several cross-cultural collaborations, and a rare appearance by a living legend of electronic improvisation: this year’s contemporary-classical and world-music season is as diverse as the city that’s hosting it. And for those feeling the economic pinch, some of the year’s most intriguing shows are free. It’s hard to go wrong at that price.
NU:BC Collective (Saturday [September 17] at UBC’s Roy Barnett Hall)
UBC’s resident new-music ensemble gets the fall season off to an early start by showcasing the talents of founding members Paolo Bortolussi (flute), Eric Wilson (cello), and Corey Hamm (piano).
The Draw: Hamm’s solo rendition of Frederic Rzewski’s Squares, inspired by the poetry of Pablo Neruda—and by the laughing of hyenas.
Target Audience: Students and others in search of intellectual stimulation.
Wednesday Noon Hours (September 21 to March 21 at Roy Barnett Hall)
Something interesting’s happening at UBC: the institution’s once-stodgy music department has turned surprisingly hip. And perhaps the hippest thing it’s doing this year is presenting a series of $5 concerts every Wednesday at noon. Special attention should go to the trio Couloir, which performs music by Jocelyn Morlock and Nico Muhly on October 5, Megumi Masaki’s multimedia piano concert on October 12, and Persian spike-fiddle master Saeed Farajpoory’s kamancheh recital on November 16.
The Draw: It’s free! And good.
Target Audience: Big ears with small budgets.
Modulus Festival (September 30 and October 1 at Heritage Hall)
Music on Main’s fall festival features the return of the remarkable young art-song composer Gabriel Kahane, a late-night remix of Arvo Pärt’s music by ambient-music DJ Michael Red, Boston’s up-and-coming Arneis Quartet playing Benjamin Britten’s String Quartet No. 2, and much, much more.
The Draw: Artistic director David Pay’s impeccable instincts and expansive Rolodex.
Target Audience: Would-be connoisseurs in search of a reliable guide.
Random Elements (September 30 to October 23 at various venues)
Vancouver New Music’s annual fall festival pays tribute to 20th-century innovator Iannis Xenakis, with New York City’s JACK Quartet and Montreal clarinet virtuoso Lori Freedman joining local ensembles Standing Wave and Talking Pictures among the performers. Although Xenakis’s works are often described as complex or forbidding, they’re actually rather gorgeous—but their beauty is that of mathematics, architecture, or the crystalline patterns that occur in nature.
The Draw: A chance to immerse oneself in the late master’s intricate soundworld.
Target Audience: Mathematicians, architects, scientists—and music lovers, too.
Kronos Quartet (November 5 at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts)
There may be better string quartets, but not many—and none of them have pursued contemporary music with the open-hearted passion, exploratory spirit, and one-world idealism of the Kronos Quartet. This time around, the Bay Area veterans are splitting the bill—and performing with—Afghan rubâb virtuoso Homayun Sakhi and his trio.
The Draw: Two great bands, three fine sets.
Target Audience: Anyone wishing to thumb their nose at the Taliban and others who would outlaw music.
Orchestral Evolution (November 12 at the Norman Rothstein Theatre)
The 24 world-class virtuosos who make up the Vancouver Inter-Cultural Orchestra celebrate its 10th anniversary by joining forces with the Laudate Singers for a gala concert.
The Draw: Mark Armanini’s new arrangement of the late intercultural-music visionary Elliot Weisgarber’s landmark composition, Yamato no Haru.
Target Audience: Vancouver residents, in all our multicultural diversity.
Alvin Curran (November 18 at the Western Front)
Living in Rome has its compensations, but the Italian capital is not known as a new-music hotbed—which is perhaps why American expat Alvin Curran is less celebrated than he should be. A good case could be made, though, that he invented ambient music long before Brian Eno named the style.
The Draw: Although Curran’s recognized as an electronic-music pioneer, his Western Front performance will focus on dreamy, quizzical, and deceptively simple scores for acoustic instruments.
Target Audience: Your inner surrealist.
Parvaz Homay and the Mastan Ensemble (November 26 at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts)
Opera’s fine, but for really transcendental singing it’s always worth checking out the Persian virtuosos who occasionally pass through town. Parvaz Homay is one of the best.
The Draw: Homay writes most of his own lyrics, many with a decidedly philosophical and peace-oriented bent; imagine a cross between Rolando Villazón and the late John Lennon.
Target Audience: Farsi-speakers will get the most out of this show, but others will feel it, too.
Shadow Catch (December 2 to 4 at the Firehall Arts Centre)
Four Vancouver composers—Dorothy Chang, Jennifer Butler, Farshid Samandari, and Benton Roark—team up with librettist Daphne Marlatt for a new-music opera based on the experiences of a young runaway in the Downtown Eastside.
The Draw: Noh-inspired theatricality, gritty urban ghosts, and a great band led by former Standing Wave pianist Marguerite Witvoet.
Target Audience: Listeners open to a mythopoetic interpretation of our city’s tangled past.